Revealed! What it's really like to be stuck abroad during lockdown
What it’s really like to be stuck abroad during lockdown: Brits say they have spent THOUSANDS getting flights home – only to have them cancelled, while others have been shouted at by locals who fear they are ‘infected’ just because they are foreigners
- Holly Lacey-Freeman, 29, was travelling with her boyfriend Tom Robinson, 32
- They are in New Zealand and but have had a return flight to the UK cancelled
- Tonicha Spencer, 23, Nottingham, is worried about father Malcolm Spencer, 59
- He has been stranded in Sagay City, Philippines for more than two weeks
- Chelsey Pollard, 31, from Manchester, spent £3000 getting home from Bali
- She had five flights cancelled and managed to get the very last boarding pass
- Joe Caswell, 24, from West Kirby, can’t afford to pay £4,500 out of Philippines
Those among the million of stranded Britons abroad who are desperately trying to return to the UK have revealed what it’s really like to be in lockdown without their friends or loved ones nearby.
While the government have been urging British people to fly back home for over a week, many have found it challenging and near-impossible – having forked out thousands of pounds on flights, only to have them cancelled.
Here, FEMAIL speaks to those who are either stuck themselves, or have family members who are still trying to make a desperate bid to get themselves home – including one Brit who spent over £3000 on five cancelled flights, but managed to get the last boarding pass out of Bali.
Elsewhere, a concerned daughter told how her father, who has been stuck in the Philippines for two weeks, visited a medical centre, where local nurses started screaming ‘infected’ and running away from him out of fear he had the virus, while another revealed he couldn’t afford to pay the £4, 500 for a flight home.
Holly Lacey-Freeman (pictured), 29, was travelling with her boyfriend Tom Robinson, 32 – and theey were about six months in before the coronavirus pandemic struck in New Zealand
Holly Lacey-Freeman, 29, and her boyfriend Tom Robinson, 32, quit their corporate jobs in London on September 19 to take a year out travelling – and were about six months in before the coronavirus pandemic struck in New Zealand.
‘Being British is a complex issue at the best of times- remember Brexit? Seems so simple these days. But a global pandemic combined with a distance of 11,426 miles, no route home due to transit restrictions and a New Zealand Level 4 ‘State of Emergency” and things get really complicated.
I’m writing this from one of the last ‘freedom’ campsites that remain open, although in a matter of hours it will be closed.
There are others around me attempting to comply with the New Zealand governments (rightly) strict self-isolation policy whilst in their camper vans, but the majority are German citizens going about their daily COVID-19 routine knowing their government has pledged nearly €50 million on rescue flights – some of which have already left this weekend.
For us Brits, it’s not that simple. In fact, it’s pretty desperate. For the estimated thousands of us stuck in New Zealand during the lockdown, we feel pretty much deserted.
Holly and Tom (pictured together in New Zealand), from London, booked a flight to leave Auckland on the 24th March via Dubai – only to be refused boarding at the airport as she wasn’t an UAE citizen
Holly says she is in various WhatsApp Groups filled with stories of nurses trying to return to the UK to help the overstretched NHS, vulnerable Brits running out of essential medication. Pictured, with boyfriend Tom
A form has been sent around by the consulate to gather our details, but daily updates consist of ‘we are doing all we can to support you,’ with little evidence to support this is the case so far.
We didn’t leave earlier as we rather naively followed the FCO’s travel advice, and were only advised to return to the UK once it was too late.
In the end, with the coronavirus pandemic developing by the hour in New Zealand -the country progressed from Level 2 to the most severe Level 4/National State of Emergency in around 48 hours – much quicker than any changes implemented in the UK – I booked a flight to leave Auckland on the 24th March via Dubai. Only, I was refused boarding at the airport as I wasn’t a UAE citizen.
Unfortunately, I am not the only Brit in this situation. Far from it. Three WhatsApp Groups, a Telegram Group, Twitter accounts and a signed petition with over 10,000 signatures prove that.
They are filled with stories of nurses trying to return to the UK to help the overstretched NHS, vulnerable Brits running out of essential medication – and that’s without mentioning those of us who have bankrupted ourselves paying for flights that will never run.
Holly says that she, who is one amongst thousands of others stuck in New Zealand, is feeling ‘pretty much deserted.’ Pictured, with boyfriend Tom during her travels
The New Zealand Civic Defense were here yesterday, to take down our details and check on our welfare – did we need clothes to keep warm? Counselling in this stressful time? Reassurance was provided there would be help finding accommodation.
Locals in our rural town of Onewhero showed up last night offering space to park our campervans, providing numbers to call if we were stuck. I am not ashamed to say the level of compassion brought tears to my eyes at a time when I feel desperately overwhelmed.
Now, following the cancelled flight previously mentioned, we are looking at getting home next week on a commercial flight – but all of the prices are hugely inflated. Right now there is no solid guarantee the flight or route will remain open – some people have either had their flights cancelled (again) or been unable to board the plane due to the airlines overbooking.
We will survive, but it will be through the support that stranded British nationals show each other, combined with the generosity of the New Zealand government and its people that will ensure we handle this lockdown and get a grip on coronavirus.’
Tonicha Spencer, 23, Nottingham, says her father Malcolm Spencer, 59, has been stranded in Sagay City, Negros Occidental, Philippines for over two weeks and currently, cannot get a date as to when he can return back.
‘My father visited Negros to see his mother-in-law during a tour of the Philippines. A few weeks ago, domestic travel between towns and consequently, between islands in the Philippines by plane, boat or automobile were banned overnight, which means my dad had no way of reaching an international airport for the flight home.
On the 26th March 2020, a large majority of airlines suspended international flights out of the Philippines – leaving him with no options.
Tonicha Spencer, 23, Nottingham, says her father Malcolm Spencer, 59, has been stranded in Sagay City, Negros Occidental, Philippines for over two weeks (pictured, together)
He is stranded 70 miles from a domestic airport, 450 miles from an international airport and 6, 650 miles from his family and his home.
Sagay City is not a regular tourist destination; it is not filled with backpackers or honeymooners. Therefore, any tourist sticks out like a sore thumb and is very often singled out by the local inhabitants.
Within the past few weeks, my dad has been victim to many scapegoat scandals, based on the misconception that ‘as a foreigner, he must have coronavirus.’
Due to the strict measures introduced by the Philippine government, the government officials and police officers have asked him to self-isolate for 14 days; even though he has been in the country since January.
Yesterday, following the completion of his 14 days in isolation, he visited a local healthcare centre to obtain medical certification showing he is coronavirus-free.
Malcolm (pictured right) has sought out every avenue to try and get him home as soon as possible and has been doing so for more than three weeks
Upon arrival, nurses were screaming and running away from him out of fear as they had branded him ‘infected’. Understandably, anxiety and fear consume everyone’s minds at this current time, however, no one should be subjected to this form of discrimination, let alone be stranded in a place where you are feared and judged by everyone around you.
Due to development of coronavirus, my dad has sought out every avenue to get him home as soon as possible and has been doing so for more than three weeks now.
For those of you who are lucky enough to have your loved ones home and safe during lockdown, hold them close and appreciate this time spent together – whether or not it is government enforced.’
Joe Caswell, 24, from West Kirby, Wirral is stranded in The Philippines with four companions – 760 miles away from Manila on the remote Siargao Islands, with no prospect currently of getting off
‘It’s been a very strange situation as we had intended to travel for about seven months, and were only about seven to eight weeks in when it all started unfolding.
My two friends and I left the UK on the 27th January to travel South East Asia for seven months. We had decided before we set off to go to the Philippines to meet three other friends who flew in from Melbourne.
Joe Caswell (pictured), 24 from West Kirby, Wirral is stranded in The Philippines with four companions
Joe says with so many flights being cancelled at sky high prices and no guarantee of a refund, she didn’t know where to look. Pictured, the road Joe is currently living on
We all arrived in the Philippines on the 4th March and had spent 10 days moving from island-to-island before we got to this island we are currently on.
We set about planning where we wanted to go and organsied to stay in an Airbnb for four days. However, we were told on the evening before our planned check out that all ferries and planes were being suspended indefinitely, the local town (General Luna, which were we are currently situated) was being placed into lockdown and unfortunately, he couldn’t let us extend our stay to protect his family.
Along with that, the WiFi wasn’t working very well and none of us had an international Sim card, so we wouldn’t speak to the Embassy or anything. The next day we checked out and asked our taxi driver to take us somewhere to get some WiFi so we could make some contact, and also find somewhere else to stay.
On the 18th of this month the general consensus from the UK Embassy on the government website was to speak with our airline on possible solutions. But this wasn’t an effective solution for us, we needed to know how to get off the island if everything was suspended indefinitely.
It wasn’t until the 24th that we received any sort of information deemed valuable which was an official announcement made by Dominic Raab urging Brits home. But by this point it was much, much too late.
The 24-year-old says a checkpoint, stop and interview system is in place in General Luna which means only one authorised individual can make the trip to the market to collect essentials. Pictured, Joe and the two companions he went travelling with in Singapore
We know that other European countries helped stranded nationals get onto three repatriation flights, but with so much unreliable information being passed around a WhatsApp group, we didn’t know whether to risk going or staying.
There were people talking about others sleeping on cardboard outside the airport, and others saying there were no shops open meaning no food or water, as the airports were only open for flights. And with so many flights being cancelled at sky high prices and no guarantee of a refund, we didn’t know where to look.
A checkpoint, stop and interview system is in place in General Luna (the town we are living in) which means only one authorised individual can make the trip to the market to collect essentials. Legally the other four are not allowed to leave until the lockdown is finished and we don’t know when that will be.
Our day-to-day lives really involve, reading new books, learning a new hobby, cooking new dishes, exercising and lying in the sun, so in the grand scheme of things it’s not too bad. The stresses we find ourselves in thousands of miles away from home is the feeling of entrapment.
Joe’s day-to-day life now involves reading new books, learning a new hobby,and cooking new dishes. Pictured, Joe with the five people he is currently living with in the home-stay
Taking each day as it comes and consistently having to email and follow Embassy news feeds is draining.
The flights from Manila are now about £4, 500, but a lot of them are being cancelled. You could pay that and then it could be cancelled and you’re not liable to get your refund for at least six months. It’s like, ‘how on earth are you meant to be able to get another £4,500 and chance it to pay for another flight?’
We’re all alright and we’re all healthy, but it’s a bit of a strange one not knowing what will happen each day.
I think like many other stranded tourists we are trying to make light of a negative situation and appreciate that we are all healthy with no cases of coronavirus on the island. We have safe place to stay with food, water and we are managing.
Chelsey Pollard, 31, from Manchester, was on a two-and-a-half holiday in Bali with her friend Ben, and spent thousands on cancelled flights – before managing to get the last boarding pass out of Bali to Dubai.
I was on holiday with my friend Ben – we’re both personal trainers – and we tried to get flights home as soon as we heard about the lockdown. But that proved to be a nightmare.
I had initially paid £700 for a flight home from Bali on 30 March back in December, but when the time drew nearer and the threat of coronavirus grew, that got cancelled – along with the interconnecting flight.
I then had to fork out for another plane ticket for a flight on 27 March, but as the only option left were business class flights, I had to spend £900 on one ticket.
Chelsey Pollard, 31, from Manchester, was on her two-and-a-half holiday in Bali with her friend Ben, and spent thousands on cancelled flights
Then just two hours later, a notification popped up on my phone telling me that both flights – including the interconnecting one – had once again been cancelled. I was like, ‘that’s £900 just gone!’
I stayed up until 5am in the morning searching for more flights, and managed to find one from Bali to Dubai for £1, 100 on March 24, so I re-booked once again – and this flight ended up being the last one out of Bali. And, because my previous interconnecting flight had been cancelled too, I ending up paying £600 to get me from Dubai to England.
But that wasn’t without its issues. I checked in during the taxi ride there, and queued at the airport for four hours only to be told I couldn’t get on the flight I had paid for because I didn’t have a connecting flight.
I had one booked for the next day, but they still said no. I then queued for another hour to speak to a manager and showed him all of my cancellations and proof that I had another flight booked to get out of Dubai, and I was eventually given a boarding pass.
Chelsey (pictured at the airport) spent hours queuing at the airport and had to show proof of her cancellations in a bid to board the final plane leaving Bali
In total, I had five flights cancelled – including two interconnecting flights – and have spent over £3000 on flights that never happened.
It was honestly horrendous. I was trying to do everything I could within my power to cover all areas. I was trying to get closer to the airport just in case, and had bought every flight ticket I could have done.
I had even been trying to contact the airlines over a week before, as I had been watching the news and keeping an eye on everything, but every time I booked a flight I got a text telling me it has been cancelled.
To top it all off, I am also self-employed, so I have come home to no job, too!
A Foreign Office Spokesperson, who says staff are working round the clock to get people home, and have so far already managed to help hundreds of thousands of Brits to do so, commented: ‘We know it’s a difficult time for many British travellers abroad – especially those with challenging circumstances.
‘Our Consular Teams are doing everything they can, especially for those in difficulty, to keep Brits informed on the latest developments and help them return – on commercial flights where they are still available or special charter flights as well. We’ll continue working around the clock to bring people home.’
After lots of tears and stress, Chelsey (pictured) managed to get the very last boarding pass out of Bali
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