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What is the cue for someone on a Rick Steves tour to test for Covid?

The information about when to test for Covid on a Rick Steves tour seems to be scattered in a variety of places. I'm hoping it can somehow be gathered together here.

We know that we must provide a negative Covid test to start the tour. We know that no matter when we test, if the test is positive, we will have to leave the tour. We know that even if we test negative later, we cannot rejoin the tour wherever it is at that time.

What I'd like to see clearly spelled out is exactly what circumstances create the need or requirement to test on RS tours. Besides the obvious concerns about getting sick or infecting others, I'd like to have a clue as to how many tests I might need to pack in my carry-on.

We also know that different countries have different requirements about isolation after testing positive. The ones I've seen seem to range from 0 days to 7.

So it would also be helpful to hear from anyone who has had to leave any RS tour and had to isolate, or not, especially since 1 July.

Posted by
1391 posts

“ We also know that different countries have different requirements about isolation after testing positive. The ones I've seen seem to range from 0 days to 7.
So it would also be helpful to hear from anyone who has had to leave any RS tour and had to isolate, or not, especially since 1 July.”

Different countries have different rules when it comes to isolation after testing positive. Also rules can change at short notice, especially now that cases are rising. So the best thing to do would be to check the websites of the health authorities of the countries you plan to visit to see what their current isolation requirements are.
I could post here today that the Netherlands requires a minimum of 5 days isolation, but that information could be outdated tomorrow. And someone reading it next week, might act upon that possible outdated info. That’s why I think it’s better to post a link to the website where actual up to date information can be found https://mijnvraagovercorona.nl/en

Posted by
7653 posts

Not a tour taker, but I suppose it comes down to personal preference and, frankly, honesty and concern for others.

I suppose you could just look at a two week tour, and take tests enough to test every 3-4 days...so about 5 tests, minus any you do at a Pharmacy.

Test are available there as well, but you could also take 2-3 tests, to have in case you are exposed or have symptoms.

But sadly, for some, the cue will be if they have symptoms visible to others (Obvious fever, coughing, etc.) and the guide has to ask them to test. I am sure, given the cost and looking forward to the tour after 2 plus years, that if someone suspected they were ill, or even tested positive, but were asymptomatic, they would choose to soldier on. (Not everyone, but it will happen, or likely already has)

Posted by
2977 posts

With the amount of money and time invested in a tour, I would suspect that most people would soldier on, hoping they just had a bit of a cold. That would work as long as the symptoms are mild and you can somewhat suppress them.

Posted by
4853 posts

Several of our Best of Turkey tour members decided to test themselves when they had noticeable allergy symptoms in early June, mid-tour.

One of them told me she knew it was allergies but decided herself to take a test to put other tour members at ease.

I also have spring allergies and took allergy meds daily to limit those symptoms.

For my 3+ week trip, I brought 2 home tests, as required for the start of my 2 tours, plus 4 or 5 extra. The tiny FlowFlex (bought at CVS) boxes fit nicely between the rails of my wheeled luggage.

Posted by
8590 posts

I don't care if it is "just a cold or the flu" I don't want to get sick from someone on tour who's not well and contagious. Neither colds or influenza (or TB) are innocuous, and people do get very sick and die from the flu every year. Heck all the prior decades of pandemic planning were based on assumptions of dangerous influenza virus variants appearing. I have allergies too, but I would want to test myself for COVID, not waiting for the guide to make me test.

As an American, I'm always anticipating that somewhere, somehow, there are lawsuits forming up as we speak..

Posted by
8520 posts

I think there are various sorts of “cues.” The primary is if you, yourself, are experiencing symptoms. The next would be if a travel companion or close contact tests positive. Finally, the guide may ask you to test. The guide is going to respect the privacy of others, so you may not get more info than a request to test.

Posted by
7653 posts

Regarding Stan's point, then I guess my advice for those going on a tour would be:
- Ask if a guide can reasonably demand someone take a test, if they are exhibiting symptoms of any type, and present evidence of a negative test.
- Ask if there is a known exposure (someone tests positive) is the group required to test?
My suspicion is that they are relying on peoples good judgement with guides offering advice, but not demands.

I know prior to the pandemic this general issue came up on this forum, someone catching a cold or the flu on a tour, and not taking themselves off, and RS tours not really being able to "kick" them off. Of course we all had less experience with the impacts of communicable diseases at that point.

Posted by
8206 posts

High temperature, coughing, runny nose, headache and loss of tastes are prime give a ways that you could have Covid. You could also have the flu.

I tested negative for Covid in Heathrow Airport 3 weeks ago, however I came back home with the above symptoms except loss of taste. And I got laryngitis too. I'm just glad I didn't have to send the family on home--and stay back in a hotel.

Posted by
2977 posts

It seems prudent that within an enclosed environment like a bus that if one person tests positive, then everyone should test to assess the spread of the virus. It might be a bridge too far to ask someone with a cold to leave the tour, but I don't know where you draw the line. Fever? Obviously it would not be much fun to be near someone who has any virus, wondering if or when you'll get sick.

Posted by
8520 posts

A little surprised by some of the responses here. Each person on a RS tour signs a health and safety pledge agreeing to be honest about his/her health and notify guide if he/she has symptoms. They also agree to follow tour rules regarding health precautions and the rules of the host country.

I realize that there are people with low integrity out there, but I am not going to immediately assume the worst of my tour companions. I will expect them to follow the rules they agreed to and I will do the same.

Posted by
7395 posts

“ What I'd like to see clearly spelled out is exactly what circumstances create the need or requirement to test on RS tours. Besides the obvious concerns about getting sick or infecting others, I'd like to have a clue as to how many tests I might need to pack in my carry-on.”

Probably best to contact the RS office vs. receiving a variety of responses. I know that the tests are fairly easy to purchase in Europe, and your guide could help, if needed. I just returned from a solo 3 1/2 week trip, and I packed the free 2-pack tests inside my suitcase between the bottom ridges from the extended handle.

Posted by
13 posts

I tested positive in Portugal and only tested because my husband thought he had allergies and tested himself and it was Covid. i hardly had any symptoms, so if he was not positive, I would not have tested myself and known I had Covid.

Posted by
138 posts

Lo
Great question! I’ve been wondering that same thing as I read the forum and sadly hear about those who’ve had to be isolated from their tours because of Covid. What is the format exactly? I totally agree with Jean. I would contact RSE and ask and get all the info you can. If no particular format exists then at least you may find out how many tests to pack. Good luck to you.

Posted by
6788 posts

Not a tour taker, but I suppose it comes down to personal preference and, frankly, honesty and concern for others.

Yup.

I'm not traveling internationally this summer (for a variety of reasons). I'm at home, doing ordinary stuff. And I'm testing myself every 2-3 days. Because COVID is out there, everywhere, and spreading.

If I were in any environment where I was in close quarters with others (being on a bus or riding any public transit certainly qualifies) I'd be testing myself every day.

Posted by
119 posts

I had an RS tour in June. I brought one 2 pack of tests and took 1 test right before the welcome meeting. I never used the other one. Our tour guide said she had several self-tests if anyone needed one during the tour, and to my knowledge, no one did.

Posted by
4171 posts

Thanks for all the responses so far. They are pretty much what I expected.

I'm much less likely than my husband to catch any upper respiratory illness, so my cues will more likely be if others get sick or test positive on the tour. Fully vaccinated and boosted, all 4 shots with the Moderna vaccine, and well-supplied with KN95 masks which I'll wear with gusto, I hope I can avoid getting sick as well as avoid passing it on if I do.

BTW, he stopped going to Europe with me in 2014 when he caught such a bad cold from someone on the Istanbul tour that he stayed in bed and couldn't leave our apartment the whole time we were in Athens after the tour ended.

On my back-to-back Portugal and Spain tours in 2019 I got what I thought was bronchitis. It was debilitating and I coughed a lot, but had no other symptoms. It started about 4 days after I arrived in Lisbon, seemed to wax and wane, and didn't begin to abate until the drier parts of western Spain.

After getting home, I stumbled on information about how some people in Mexico have such bad allergies to Jacaranda trees, including the upper respiratory symptoms I had, that they have to get shots. Can you guess what was blooming beautifully in Lisbon and almost everywhere else in Portugal, as well as in most of Spain? Do I have proof that a similar allergic reaction caused my symptoms? No. Have I ever in my life had those kind of symptoms for 3-4 weeks? Also no.

I have an app on my phone and tablet called Covid Watch which works both in AZ and WA. But it only works if another participant who has tested positive provides the data.

When I got notified of a significant exposure, it knew exactly when I was exposed and told me to wait 5 days before testing. I did and was negative. When I got notified of a minor exposure, it said not to test at all unless I had symptoms. I didn't and I didn't. Of course, it won't work in Europe, but I found the difference in advice interesting.

I have 7 packages of the self-test at home iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Tests FDA approved and sent through the USPS. I ordered them every time that was possible. I hope that will be enough. 🤞

Posted by
1224 posts

We were on the BOEE tour in June and only used 2 tests right before the welcome meeting. Our guide had tests should somebody need them.

Posted by
1 posts

Just got back from a My Way Alpine tour where one couple tested positive the day after our whole group had dinner inside with each other. My wife and I were the only couple to dine outside that evening. Nobody else dropped out of the trip after that evening which seems remarkable. Needless to say the day our tour ended my wife and I both came down with a tickle in our throat and we eventually tested positive upon returning home.

The coughs definitely increased on the bus by the end of our tour, but nobody ever said they tested positive. I honestly have no idea where we caught it as there are so many possibilities, so please do not take this as an implication that we got it on the bus. I’m just observing that I didn’t ever see anyone asked to take a test other than at the start of the trip.

Posted by
2145 posts

I would only test if I had cold symptoms or if I had been in close contact with someone who tested positive. Same as I do here at home.

Posted by
4171 posts

Sounds like a good strategy.

I haven't had a real cold since 2014 when my husband caught one from someone on our RS Istanbul tour. I finally succumbed over a week later and was done with it in less than a week while his lingered on.

I have had some surprising allergic reactions that mimicked a 24-hour flu (cedar pollen in Texas in January 2016) and one that mimicked bronchitis (blooming Jacaranda trees in Portugal and Spain, summer 2019).

I think I can tell the difference between those symptoms and Covid ones and will definitely test at the 5-day point if others test positive. Why 5 days? After experiencing a significant exposure on 30 May according to the app on my phone, I was instructed to test 5 days after the exposure and told that any earlier would be less likely to be accurate. I followed their instructions and I was negative.

If anyone has a different take on the timeline, I'd sure like to know what it is.

Posted by
8520 posts

Just a quick reminder that the health and safety pledge signed by all tour members should be followed.

Posted by
4427 posts

Based on my experience at the end of May, if you have any symptoms, no matter how mild, you should test. My symptoms were exactly like any cold I ever had pre-Covid-no headache, no fever, no loss of taste, fatigue same as a cold, and I mistakenly assumed it was just a cold like the ones I had after two plane trips in Oct and Dec 2019.

Posted by
740 posts

If we've learned anything from the pandemic it's that people don't really care if they infect others if it means personal inconvenience. It started with "vaccinations are a personal choice". Now it's "can keep others from finding out that I'm infected." Sad.

Posted by
2122 posts

I think Eric (sadly) "hit the nail on the head." And, we all need to keep in mind "the nature" of human nature.
Do you trust "everyone" else? Do you trust that those people will truly follow their signed health pledge? Or will they "fudge"? Or will they just be truly optimistic that their symptoms are not "those" symptoms?
EDITED TO ADD: And, I am not just talking about tour goers, but those on your flight, the person who serviced your room, etc. Covid particles do linger for several hours in the air.
Decisions of others can and do affect you.
There is a reason companies and the IRS have auditors.

Posted by
1 posts

Other than the required covid test at the very start of the tour, I think testing requirements vary by guide. We just returned from a 2wk RS tour in Europe and our guide was very cautious regarding covid restrictions. Masks were required not only on the group bus, but also anytime we were inside as a group (museums, public transportation, hotel lobbies, restaurants when not eating, etc). Half way through, someone who did not feel well tested positive for covid, and our guide had the entire group test the next morning before getting on the bus to the next location. A few more people were found to be positive after this test. He had us test again two days later before boarding the bus to our last destination. I would be sure to bring 3-4 tests per person, because those that didn't have them had to buy them at a local pharmacy.

Posted by
1 posts

I would like to see RS change the policy from testing only on the first day to testing every morning or at least every other day. Just finished a RS tour and one person tested positive on the 2nd to last day. This person was coughing for at least two days prior to testing that the person attributed to allergies. By the day the person tested (end of the day when we got back to hotel after being on a bus all day) we were all extensively exposed. The mask the person was wearing was NOT N95 and the nose was running so much of the time their nose was exposed.
Basically, we all provided testing results on the first day and nothing required after that.

Posted by
48 posts

eaf123, I am curious which tour was this? RSE really needs to update their tour conditions if we are expected to bring enough test kits to test every day or two!

Posted by
141 posts

Just finished a RS tour. Blatant ignoring of the KN95, KF94 or N95 mask requirements, lots of surgical masks, some cloth masks. Surgical masks reused (stains prominent) frequently used as neck covers. Tour members (TM) had to wear the mask on the bus, be reminded to put them on. Many frequently did not wear masks on public transportation (Metro), in crowded public places where people were stacked wall to wall. When the coughing and nose running started, claimed it was allergies. No social distancing practiced, no hand washing after nose blowing, etc.

In my opinion, tests should be required as soon as the coughing starts. If it's negative, fine, no harm, no foul. If it's positive, then the risk to others is minimized. The tour guide was aware of coughing but was not able to discern where/who it was from until a complaint was made by another TM - four days into the coughing. This TM exhibited no insight into their behaviors of exposing others - frequently would come and stand next to others while touching them to make a comment. TM and TM's spouse sat next to us, outside at a restaurant - about 2 feet apart on day 2 - after we were seated and we were unable to move. The TM was attempting to suppress the coughing but unable to do so by day 2. On the 4th day, the TM stated that he/she would test AFTER spending ALL day on the long bus ride and exposing ALL of us - for the 4th day. Of course the TM tested positive and was ejected (next to the last day of the tour). BUT THERE IS NO AUTHORITY OR REQUIREMENT THAT THE TOUR MEMBER FOLLOW THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE TOUR COUNTRY! The TM traveled the next day and checked into the tour hotel just after we finished checking in, hung out in the lobby mask-less, then went out sight seeing as if nothing changed. Our tour country requires 5 days quarantine after a positive test, no travel, no visits to pharmacy, restaurants, etc. It is my understanding that this TM took the flight home day 3 after testing positive, along with the spouse - not clear if the spouse also ended up testing positive.

The last night of the tour - group tour dinner - several TMs did not attend because they were not feeling well. Learned the next morning that one TM tested positive who frequently ate with COVID TM. The 2nd COVID TM's spouse was very upset and in the breakfast room, without a mask, confused and nervous about what to do. We attempted to provide information, suggested they contact hotel reception, who would contact pharmacy and coordinate meals, etc. Also learned that they had travel insurance so suggested they contact the insurance company who could assist them in making alternate travel arrangements for the flight home. TM spouse has co-morbidity factors, and we provided the spouse with a mask and advised spouse not to be without a mask in same room as COVID spouse. Saw TM spouse later in the day and TM spouse was happy because TM COVID spouse felt better in the afternoon, got dressed, and they went about town spreading their COVID around. Were planning to get on the plane the following morning. We expressed that they were not following the requirements of our host country, were glad COVID TM was feeling better, but that it was irresponsible, make that, beyond irresponsible, that they felt they could just board the plane the next day and potentially infect others who were relying on them to be personally responsible and follow the requirements of the host country. They got on the plane the next day. TM spouse tested positive upon arrival in the USA (surprise).

I wanted to believe that RS TM's were a different breed, that they would exercise personal responsibility and follow the rules and protect others, but I was wrong. This is extremely disappointing and disturbing. Just assume that anyone who coughs has COVID-19, socially distance from them, wear your mask. I don't know how many others on our tour tested positive after, but we followed those guidelines and are fine.

Posted by
546 posts

Diane, what a horrible experience. I'm so sorry your tour turned out like that. I hope that the Rick Steves office takes note and doesn't let that guide do any more tours!

Posted by
2095 posts

I’m so sorry this happened on your tour. I’m not sure why the guide allowed such disregard of company policy. What tour did this happen on? I’d give the office a call and let them know as well. I flagged your post so admin will definitely see what happened. I’m not sure if they read every post? I called them a few years ago to warn them about a room we had that smelled of mold as soon as you opened the door. The bathroom was covered in black mold.

Posted by
2456 posts

Diane, I am so sorry this happened to you. Which tour was this? We have been on three tours this year. On the first tour to Costa Rica, four out of the six tour members got covid including my husband. It started with one tour member coughing, testing positive in the morning, testing negative in the afternoon and being allowed to remain on the tour and subsequently infecting three others. What I learned from that trip is that the tests can be inconsistent. You test positive on one test and negative on the next. Sometimes it can take a while between having symptoms and testing positive. Our next two trips were to Italy were with RS. On the Sicily tour everyone was good about proper masking and no one got sick. At one point, one tour member didn’t feel well and our guide got her to a doctor and tested immediately. On our second tour (Southern Italy), masking was not taken as seriously. Luckily none of us got sick. There were four problem tour members and the rest of us were really annoyed. We are getting ready to go on two more RS tours in less than two weeks. I plan on being very proactive and insistent that proper masking is followed. If I see something such as someone with symptoms, I am going to say something to the guide in private. These tours are not inexpensive and all it takes is one selfish person to ruin it for others. That being said, that shouldn’t be our role on these tours. I am surprised that this stuff is continuing to happen on the tours. Hasn’t the RS Tours learned anything at this point?

Posted by
14159 posts

My word, Diane. What an awful experience.

I understand your thought behind coughing individuals. There really are people that have allergies, though. I had a terrible allergy time in Paris this spring. I DID test often (12 time over a month) due to allergy symptoms, all negative. I was not on a Rick tour, I wore an N95 all the time I was out of my room (except eating) and just tested frequently because I did not want to infect anyone else.

I've got 2 boxes left of the free Covid tests and will take more. I'm headed to Italy for a RS tour and will probably buy more at a pharmacy there before the tour starts.

Posted by
329 posts

Great. I always love when someone flaunts rules and common sense. I'm on an upcoming tour, I'm stressing over that this covid crap is still creating uncertainty, and now I have to wonder if there are going to be more controls and stringentcy because the inconsiderate couldn't follow the simple and basic rules.

Posted by
6788 posts

No, the staff at RSE do not read every post (nobody has time for that) -- though I would hope (and assume they are) keeping an eye on this thread, and responding appropriately. I'd expect to see an official response from staff here soon (it's busy times for them).

As a fan and longtime admirer of the company, I'm very sorry to hear about your recent experience, Diane (though, I'm not exactly shocked...what you describe is the same way people act everywhere; it's disappointing, but not surprising). I think we all expect better, but tour participants are just a subset of our society, and we know that has its...imperfections.

From a business perspective, what's reported here is not sustainable, and it's in their own best interests to ensure that all their stated rules are enforced (they're out of business if COVID blows up enough to have bus tours shut down -- they've been there, lived through that, surely do not want to go back to those dark days). And as an ethical company, I expect they will do the right thing, even if it results in the loss of a few seats on a tour. There's more to lose by not enforcing rules strictly than there is to enforce them (in a friendly way, but without exceptions...COVID thrives on exceptions).

The pandemic is far from over. How badly it continues to impact us going forward depends on every one of us behaving responsibly.

Posted by
7395 posts

Wow, Diane, that is unbelievable! “ The tour guide was aware of coughing (INSERTING comment here below) but was not able to discern where/who it was from until a complaint was made by another TM - four days into the coughing. ”

I have a difficult time thinking that the tour guide, if they cared about their Top 3-4 priorities of their current role, wouldn’t be walking around the group during the group walking tours or group dinners to observe who is coughing the first day it’s occurring. Of course, there’s other medical conditions that can be the cause of coughing, but that’s a lot of other travelers who are depending on each tour member to not blatantly disregard a potential sign of Covid.

So sad this happened during your trip!

Was the RS office contacted at any point during the blatant issues timeline?

Posted by
238 posts

My wife and I just finished a RS tour mid-July. Our guide (Peter P-- fantastic) noticed coughing/respiratory issues with some our tour members and had them test. Fortunately nobody had COVID. I am sorry your tour wasn't as lucky.

Posted by
141 posts

We had a large group (29 TMs) and no assistant guide (which would have helped immeasurably). I suspect the guide believed that, after lengthy remarks made the initial evening of the tour about every tour, except one, that the guide conducted, had positive COVID TMs; that the guide believed TM's would exercise personal responsibility, and if symptoms arose, notify and test, wear the appropriate mask and socially distance. Nothing was said publicly about the cloth masks, but they were replaced several days later by surgical masks, (although they were worn on consecutive days), so I'm assuming that the guide said something privately. In the Metro, the guide made an impassioned and frustrated plea for compliance with mask wearing in public, especially in the Metro since France was now experiencing its 7th wave. I suspect at some point the guide had so many other details to take care of, and was somewhat "COVID police" weary that this wasn't the guide's top focus. I was very focused on this as I needed to be in contact with family members who are immuno-compromised (cancer treatment) and in assisted living upon my return, plus I'm self employed and did not relish the thought of having to close my office if I had acquired COVID. I stressed over these issues repeatedly before the tour -- but wanderlust was calling my name, I was fully vaccinated and boosted, and aside from this, had a marvelous time.

I have met so many wonderful people on RS trips that I assumed the individual TM behavior would have been better. That was my mistake. Just as there are people with varying levels of risk tolerance outside of RS groups, so too are there TMs on RS tours. I'm just angry that after the first day or two of coughing, that COVID TM #1 didn't test, and continue to test because we know by now that you can show symptoms and test negative for a few days and then poof, test positive. Pam, I'm sorry about your allergies, but also think you are a rock star because you do test just in case it is COVID. Thank you!

What really infuriated me was that, upon gaining confirmation that it was COVID, they completely ignored the requirements of the host country -- and after the tour was over and RS has no control -- they chose to walk around town, travel, and fly back to the USA on the day or two after testing positive. That selfishness, that lack of personal accountability, the lack of consideration for anyone besides themselves - blew my mind. Then I remembered that for a short period of time, there was no requirement that people test negative before starting a tour and RS quickly reinstated the requirement because people were attempting to sneak in and "hide" their symptoms.

In the meantime, I'm staying away from my family members I could put at risk for 10 days as recommended by the CDC and wearing my mask. I'm symptom free, COVID-free (so far - day 8) and looking forward to this Saturday when my family can get together and celebrate a milestone family birthday!

Posted by
294 posts

Diane, I’m so sorry that you had those experiences. Thanks for reporting on those on the forum. I hope that you continue to be symptom free and COVID free and can go to that important family event!

Posted by
7 posts

I know I am allergic to jacaranda, and will be traveling to Portugal and Spain in October. Could I ask you, Lo, what time of year you had a problem. Because I have allergies I take my Claritin and nasal spray when I travel, and if I forget to take them, I am rewarded with more coughing to remind me.

Posted by
14159 posts

Diane, thank you for your comment. And I want you to know I also was in no way trying to diminish your experience by mentioning it. I had a similar experience this spring on a Road Scholar tour although they did not require masks AT ALL nor did they do the due diligence Rick is doing on having the pre-tour testing. I, too, was exasperated at the lack of mask wearing and lack of responsible behavior of TM's. The spouse of the 1st member who tested positive came to the next activity wearing a VENTED mask. She was shocked when I pointed it out and asked if she had an N95. She did not so I gave her one.

I just don't know what people are thinking. Are they just covid deniers? Clueless? All rhetorical questions....no responses needed, lol.

Posted by
961 posts

Hey folks, this is a quick message to say that I've informed the appropriate RSE managers of Diane's experience. I don't expect further follow-up in the forum as I expect any resolution will be private with those individuals. And a 'thank you' to Diane.

Posted by
2095 posts

Thank you! Looking forward to company policies being followed for our two tours in September.

Posted by
4171 posts

Chrisdon51 -- According to my picture details, I was in Portugal and Spain the month of June, 2019. I remember the Jacaranda trees as being lush with lots of purple blossoms, but little or few leaves. I'd guess that I was there at prime blooming season. I'd also guess that October would not be an issue unless there's something related to them losing their leaves in the fall.

Posted by
4171 posts

I'm on a tour right now and the guide is very good about reminding people to wear masks on the bus and inside venues when not eating or drinking and people do seem to be compliant.

However, I guess not everyone read the 2 emails I got from RS Tours specifically mentioning medical grade N95, KN95 and KF94 masks. I've noticed that some are wearing surgical masks. As I said up thread, I'm consistently wearing the KN95 masks that I finally found worked for me.

We are now halfway through the tour and so far, no one's gotten sick. Fingers crossed here. 🤞

Posted by
4171 posts

Updated to change the date of the CDC update in the body of this response.

Update. My turn!

We lost one couple shortly after I posted the response just above. Then another one had to leave just a couple of days before the end of the tour. In both cases, at least initially, one person tested positive and one tested negative. I don’t know what happened later.

I was particularly concerned about the 2nd couple because I sat at lunch with them a couple of days before they dropped out. Their cue to test was flu-like symptoms.

I should've been concerned. It's been 2 days since the tour ended and I tested positive today. There's no guarantee that I got it from them. In fact, we could've been exposed at the same time and it took longer to show up in me.

Fortunately, I'm fully vaccinated and boosted and on my own at a B&B in a self-planned part of my trip. And I'm feeling better than I did on the day the tour ended. I stayed "home" and rested in my room all day today. I should be able to go out for a bit tomorrow.

From the CDC:
COVID-19 Symptoms
Updated August 11, 2022
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms.

People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

Fever or chills.

Cough.

Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

Fatigue.

Muscle or body aches.

Headache.

New loss of taste or smell.

Sore throat.

Congestion or runny nose.

Nausea or vomiting.

Diarrhea.

I didn’t have all these and according to the CDC, there can be other symptoms. I was ignorant of some of them and some are similar to those I have for other reasons.

Here's a link to the CDC Symptoms page for more detail including the differences between COVID-19 and flu:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

I hope it will be helpful for anyone on an RS tour or traveling on their own.

Posted by
2456 posts

Lo, I am so sorry you got sick but are able to isolate comfortably. It sounds like hopefully your case is going to be mild. My cousin and his wife were not so lucky after their recent month in the UK. They both tested positive when they got home and my cousin’s wife is now in the hospital. They were not careful about masking while there or eating out and were not fully boosted. I realize that masking isn’t 100% but we should all be wearing the best masks we can get. Not surgical masks. I hope you reported the lax masking situation to RS. Of course, what tour members do when they are out of sight is another matter entirely. We are only as strong as our weakest link.

Posted by
14159 posts

Lo! Sending you heaps of good wishes for a speedy recovery and to feel better soon. I am glad you were in your own place at the time you tested positive and are able to take care of yourself!

Posted by
37 posts

This has been a good thread for me. I'm due to go on a Spain and Portugal trip in a few weeks. So far, I've been on 2 trips this year. On the first, the host country was really low on Covid and no one in our group got it or had any symptoms. It was great. On the 2nd trip, a TM tested positive and thought that he probably caught it on the way there. That country had very low transmission rates at the time and strict masking rules. However, on the planes and in the airports coming from the US, people were not very safe with masking at all. That was probably the most dangerous part of the trip for him. A few days after he tested positive, another TM tested positive. She and her husband flew home, and he tested positive after they got home. We didn't have any more cases while the trip was in progress. However, we did suspect that another TM had it and wasn't saying anything. My traveling buddy was fine when we boarded the plane to fly home, but mid flight, she started having symptoms. She tested positive after returning home. I had several PCR and antigen tests after returning home, but never tested positive - amazingly enough. I lucked out.

Anyhow, what I am thinking, and what this forum is showing, is that once Covid gets into the trip bubble, it's difficult and not much fun to keep it from spreading within the bubble. Americans, as a whole, are very casual about masking properly, and certainly do run the risk of catching Covid on their flights to the start of the trips. I'm happy that RS warns everyone to mask carefully on their flights. It would be great if everyone did. I think that's a major danger point for the group tours.

Posted by
2456 posts

We started our tour last night. At the group meeting, four of us had masks on and no one else did. The guide did not say what type of masks we needed to wear but that we did have to wear them on the bus. He said if we wore them other than that it was up to us. He also said he has done two tours already and no one got sick. The attitude seems to be if you get sick that’s the way the cookie crumbles basically and you are on your own. Call Rick Steves office and Travel Guard for help. Right now we are all testing negative. We have been in the country for 5 days now and being as careful as we can be with masking, dining outside or in our hotel room. We’ll have to wait and see how this goes. My husband and I sat alone at the first group dinner last night thankfully. We are due to start another tour immediately after this one. I am fed up with RS tours at this point and sincerely doubt that I will ever book another one again.

Posted by
4427 posts

The bottom line right now is you can get it anywhere any way. This summer, my husband has flown to London, Boston, NY, and Birmingham on multiple occasions without getting sick, even when I had it and he was with me 24-7 in a hotel room. Last week, when he had literally been nowhere except the grocery store and Target, he got Covid. As I've said before, assume that any symptom, no matter how mild, is Covid.

Posted by
8 posts

I hope this doesn't get lost in the many comments in here!
I did dig through the Travel Forum specifically for this and didn't see it. A bit off topic....
Has anyone on a RS Italy tour needed to fill a prescription for Paxlovid while on tour and isolating? I had hoped my doctor would fill a prescription "just in case" but she will not. I didn't find any current or helpful information on the CDC website. We are leaving on September 30th so information could change by then. We have read and understand that RS requirements and hopeful we will be O. If we do get sick, we would want to get well ASAP. Thank you everyone!

Posted by
8590 posts

Valid use of Paxlovid:

Authorized Use

The FDA has authorized the emergency use of PAXLOVID, an investigational medicine, for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and children (12 years of age and older weighing at least 88 pounds [40 kg]) with a positive test for the virus that causes COVID-19, and *who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death*, under an EUA.
​​​​​​​PAXLOVID is investigational because it is still being studied. There is limited information about the safety and effectiveness of using PAXLOVID to treat people with mild-to-moderate ​​​​​​​COVID‑19.

Pretty unethical for any doctor to prescribe it "just in case". If you get sick over there, go to a local doctor for your care, and if they think you need it, they can prescribe it.

Posted by
10 posts

This is very informative, thank you. We're looking forward to our September RS tour. Based on what I've read, I think a good strategy for mitigating risk and enhancing group safety will be to pay careful attention to how others are masked during that first evening meeting, as well as signs/symptoms of illness on the tour. If I see tour member noncompliance and/or a laissez faire attitude by the guide, I will make my concerns known to the guide and my expectations for compliance.

Posted by
47 posts

Jeff Norman: Which tour will you be on for September 30th?

Posted by
8520 posts

Whoa, give the guy a break. No reason to purposefully misinterpret what was said.

I also was a little worried due to some of the posts here. I wrote RS tours in advance of my upcoming tours. I received an excellent reply stating that they had an all guides meeting last week in which RS tours protocols were covered again and guides reminded it was their responsibility to monitor and enforce compliance including masks on bus and public transit.

That is pretty much all one can expect. Most people will not be masking in the general population. I will be responsible for my actions and as long as the stated protocols are followed in the tour I will have no issues.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I hope my fellow tour mates are taking some preventative measures. I think our tour will be better if we can collectively work for the health of the group.

Many factors are way beyond my control and I accept that. I am committed to doing my best to do my part for group health and well-being .

Posted by
2095 posts

I agree with Carol. I will be well masked on our two tours even on our free time. We leave 9/7.

Posted by
38 posts

I travelled for 2 1/2 weeks before joining my Village Italy tour in June. My allergies were bad the whole time. I brought 5 tests with me, all in one container. I used one early in my trip to be sure it was just allergies. I used a second the evening before my tour, both negative. The afternoon before my tour I tested positive.

Rick Steves very generous policy to refund any parts of the tour you miss, took the “sting” out of not being able to join. When I went to get an official test (needed for my Covid Isolation insurance) I was told Official Quarantine could be up to 21 days after receiving results, if I continued to test positive. At 21 days a Doctor could release me from quarantine. I would have to pay for official tests every 7 days. This was all linked to my passport. It is very common for some people to continue testing positive long after having Covid.

Instead, I did not take an Official test (no requirement to do so), did not use my Quarantine insurance, did the right thing and self-isolated for 6 days, not leaving my room for anything, until I was symptom free for 72 hours. I then left my room and masked up until day 14. I continued on with self -travel until my flight home.

In spite of this, I had a wonderful vacation and I have no regrets! It felt so good to be travelling again!

While I was at the pharmacy that 1st day, I purchased 4 more Covid tests at a cost of 15 Euros each. I tested every 3 days until I tested negative.

My tour guide arranged for me to stay in my same hotel room as long as I needed it. I was travelling alone so they brought me a large tray of food every morning and left it outside my door. I ordered dinner from Uber Eats and the hotel ran it up to my room and left it for me.

I want to give a huge shout out to the Hotel Al Fagiano in Padua. A family run hotel with amazing personality! I will never forget how wonderful my room was, and how well I was treated during my 9 nights I was there.

I am leaving in 13 days for another Europe adventure ending with a RS Greece tour the last 2 weeks of my trip. I will take 6 tests with me and be even more vigilant about staying outdoors, masking up indoors and hopefully, finally doing my 1st RS tour!

Posted by
14159 posts

PreschoolPat, thank you for your report! I am so sorry you tested positive but it sounds like you made good decisions on things. Based on your experience, I, too, will pass on getting an official test in Italy under those parameters, should I test positive on the home tests.

Also, good to know about the cost of the test kits there. Was that 15E for a 2-pack or just one test?

Fingers crossed you will make it on your "first" RS tour!

Posted by
8520 posts

@ Pam. Bring a proctored Covid test kit with you. You can still have an official test for insurance without having to take a government test. You don’t need to give up travel insurance coverage in this situation, just test wisely.

Posted by
4171 posts

This is Lo, reporting back in from Cardiff with my recent testing history.

After 3 nights in Dublin on my own, I was negative the morning of 7/24, the first day of my RS tour.

I had a strong positive on 8/7, the 2nd day after the tour ended in Belfast. By that time I was at a B&B in Llandudno Wales, the first stop on my self-planned 2.5 weeks in Wales.

A week later, I had a faint positive on 8/14 in Aberystwyth, Wales.

And I was negative today, 8/22, in Cardiff, Wales.

Although the UK in general is less restrictive about staying isolated and quarantined, Wales has kept the safety reminders other places have removed. They include social distancing footprints and hand sanitizer dispensers literally everywhere, as well as masking signs indoors and on public transportation.

Of these, masking seems to be the thing least done. Very few wore masks indoors. I was one of them.

I used many local and long distance buses on this trip. One thing thing I found interesting is that no matter the weather, the little ventilation windows were open on all of them. To help prevent the spread of COVID, some had signs that essentially said to wear layers and to not close those windows.

I fly back to Seattle on Wednesday, 8/24. I'll be masked and taking home 3 of the 7 tests I brought. I also hope I'm not infected again, anywhere, anytime.

You probably already know that the UK has approved the new Moderna bivalent booster (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/first-bivalent-covid-19-booster-vaccine-approved-by-uk-medicines-regulator).

I'll be rolling up my sleeve for it in the US as soon as I can. I had only a couple of days of mild symptoms with my infection over 2 weeks ago, but I hope that I'll be able to avoid COVID-19 in the future completely in the same way I have avoided the flu for decades in the past, by getting an annual vaccine targeted to that year's potential version.

Need I say it? That's largely so I can stay as healthy as possible and keep on travelin'. 😉

Posted by
11385 posts

had a strong positive on 8/7,

A week later, I had a faint positive on 8/14 in Aberystwyth, Wales.

I was unaware the tests indicated a degree of 'positivity'. Which kind of test did you use?

Posted by
14159 posts

Lo! I am glad it did not make you too ill! Happy you are positively headed home, lol!!

Posted by
4171 posts

I used the iHealth COVID-19 tests that were free from the US government through the USPS. They have a chart that shows the C(control) line and the T(test) line.

There are 5 levels of brightness for the T line on the plastic test card, from very dark to very faint. The darker the T line, the stronger the positivity. No T line at all means Negative. If the C line isn't there, the test, or your use of it, is a dud.

Below is a link to a short video on how to do it. There are printed instructions in the boxes, but you can sign up online and get them that way. I prefer that using my phone because they automatically count down the time and ring when the results are ready.

Now, here's that video:
https://youtu.be/qBt_H4Gc-rU

There are tons of results when you Google iHealth COVID-19 test so be sure to look at the most recent ones.

Posted by
11385 posts

Happily I have not had occasion to need to test so have never gone through the contents/instructions of the test kits.

Thank you for the info and happy travels. ( Seattle projected for mid 80s on Wed.) Happy travels and a boring uneventful flight.

Posted by
89 posts

May I suggest to anyone trying to keep themselves safe on a tour, the most important thing is a properly fitting mask o yourself. Guys, if you have facial hair- unless closely trimmed and you are wearing a two point behind the head elastic n-95, you e we I’ll not have a good seal. To all wearing a K-95 (or f a imitation with ear elastic, consider user using a paper clip or specific mask device that goes around the back of your neck for a tighter seal. Many people have a gap at the nose. Bend the metal yo fit, or even better add a layer of thin self adhesive window insulation along the nose bridge. The Arora N-95 has this seal already in place.

Remember, a leaky mask won’t stop Covid. In healthcare we take care of patients all the time with a tight fitting, no leak mask.