With my trip through Bhutan suddenly cut short due to the pandemic that exploded around the world in early March of 2020, I had to rush to get out of the country and make it to India, Qatar, and then home to the U.S. before international borders closed. This is me flying home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
My morning began in Paro, Bhutan on March 13, 2020. I entered Bhutan on March 5. That night, a 76-year-old American man in the country tested positive for COVID-19. He’s better, but the situation around the world escalated, and the U.S. closed flights from Europe on March 13.
India also decided to close their borders to foreigners on that day. I had to fly through India to get back home, so I had to cut my time in Bhutan short by two days in order to make it. I changed my flight to Kolkata to this morning so I could fly to Doha and then Miami as fast as possible. While I was in Bhutan, I wore my Respro mask and used hand sanitizer often. I also wash my hands for 20 seconds and used Clorox wipes to clean everything on flights, including my seat, the TV, the table, and the seatbelt.
I headed to Paro Airport, which was right across the street. From there, I’d fly to Kolkata, India, where I had a 16-hour connection, so I booked a hotel room. Then, I’d fly to Doha and back home to Miami. I was trying to stay calm but I couldn’t wait to see my kids.
My driver from MyBhutan, Nidup, and my guide, Tsheten, met me to take me to the airport. I was going to miss them! I was sad that my time had been cut short, as there was so much left to do and see and eat. I arrived at the airport and put my mask on. I checked in. At the gate, everyone had a mask on.
Then, I boarded my flight to Kolkata. I used my Clorox wipes to clean everything, including my seatbelt, seat, and armrest. Paro Airport is the most dangerous airport to land at in the world. I could see Mount Everest after we took off. The views were epic. They were probably the prettiest I’ve ever seen on a flight.
I landed in Kolkata just an hour later and went through Immigration. Because foreigners were banned, it would be trickier for me. I had to answer a lot of questions, including where I was going and when I’d be leaving. It was so scary and everyone was shunning me. Then, I ordered an Ola, which is the Indian version of Uber.
This was my fourth time in Kolkata, but I wasn’t planning on going anywhere. I’d definitely quarantine after I got home. I arrived at the Oyo Townhouse. It wasn’t a bad hotel—it was clean and secure and only 15 minutes from the airport. I wanted to relax and stay away from people as good as possible. They had lots of food options.
I tried to sleep but couldn’t, and then my boy Carlos from Volpe, Where Are You contacted me. We went out with masks and hand sanitizer and filmed a few videos before going back to my hotel. At 11:30 p.m., I headed back to the airport. I paid a few thousand dollars for flights home, so I was hoping to get upgraded to business class to be away from everyone.
I caught my Ola to the airport, which was just 10 minutes away. I saw there were a lot of cancelled flights as I got to the terminal. I had to have my passport and ticket on hand. Inside, there were almost no people. It was almost midnight and so many flights had been cancelled. What a crazy day! This is what travel in 2020 with the virus out there is like, a nightmare!
I didn’t get upgraded, but I did get access to the business class lounge, which I didn’t even know existed. I went up to the lounge, which was sick! It had two dining halls, including a buffet and a bar. There was only one other person there. I got a Kingfisher beer and then got Lahori chicken, mustard paprika chicken, Shanghai chicken, and paneer tikka masala.
The paneer was excellent. I also loved the Shanghai chicken, which was dry, crunchy, and sweet, almost like a sweet and sour chicken but less sweet and a little spicier. The mustard paprika chicken was just OK. I loved the paneer with the chicken. The perfect combination of veg and non-veg! Then, I got more paneer and a creamy veg curry.
I had priority, so I would board first. Then, I went down to the gift shop to get a few masks for my kids for $24 USD. Then, I headed to my gate and boarded. I had a row all to myself on the plane. I needed to sleep and slept the whole 6-hour flight. We landed in Doha, Qatar, which was foggy. It looked like it could have been a sandstorm! From there, I went to two counters and paid $1,000 to upgrade. I wanted to take a shower in the lounge, but I didn’t have time.
I boarded and had a whole row to myself again. I disinfected my TV, tray, and armrest. Everyone had a mask on. I didn’t see anyone cleaning the plane. Seven or eight hours in, I still had 7 hours and 20 minutes to go. It was tiring. I had a quick snack.
I made it to Miami after 50 hours of traveling. It was my longest travel day ever but I was so glad to be home. I was going to quarantine in my house for the next 14 days and not even see my parents. What an insane experience flying home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I hope you liked coming with me to see what flying home during the COVID-19 pandemic was like. If you did, please give this video a thumbs up and leave a comment below. Also, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and click the notification bell so you don’t miss any of my travel/food adventures around the world!