Blog - foXnoMad

Your Coronavirus Lockdown Stories And Videos From Around The World

A few weeks ago I got in touch with my newsletter readers (you can be one too!) to ask how everyone was doing during this unprecedented global shutdown. These are difficult times for many but if there is one positive side, it’s a time when we have the Internet. We can communicate over video calls like Captain Picard, download any book ever written, and watch far too much television from any screen available.

In this sense, the world is a little smaller and many of you sent messages on what you’re doing to pass the time from around the world. Here are select lines from a few of your fellow readers, viewers, and listeners:

“I am in Colorado, on the Front Range. It is a beautiful spring day here and I am sheltering at home. When I used to work, I worked from home, so I am quite used to being isolated between trips. I feel like I have been training for this for 30 years.” -Pamm

“We’re taking the opportunity to go through the cookery books on our shelves to experiment with more dishes – Turkish and international. The exercise mat and dumbbells are in use, too.” – Julia (Fethiye, Turkey)

“I’m near Cleveland, Ohio, USA and we’re under a shelter-in-place order. I teach college history so I’m preparing to do that remotely starting next week. I’m spending my time catching up on some reading. It’s amazing how the absence of everyday “white noise” in my life is helping me refocus and re-prioritize.” -Laura

“Here in Berlin, things have slowed down, everything but supermarkets, spätkauf shops and pharmacies is closed and just take-outs available. I’m just flattening the curve at home, out rarely, but busy on the laptop nonetheless. Using the time to study… ” -Paul

“Every night at 8 pm we all open our windows and clap for several minutes in a row to thank the people who are still working out there to keep us alive. After the clapping is done, some of the neighbors start playing songs (very very loud) to motivate everyone else. Songs like “We Are The Champions” and some Spanish songs that I am not familiar with. I always smile at this time. It is a beautiful little routine that we have.” -Liz (Valencia, Spain)

A few of my travel blogger friends also sent in some messages you can watch in the video above. For a full version with more stories of how others are handling corona lock downs, check out this episode of the foXnoMad Podcast.

I hope all of you are doing well. Expect a lot more travel and tech quarantine content coming your way on YouTube (shot earlier in the year) and right here in the meantime to keep your mind and wanderlust active!

Singapore Edges Istanbul To Win Best City To Visit Travel Tournament 2020!

best city to visit in 2020

In a very close contest that came down to a few last minute votes, Singapore denied Istanbul a Championship again after you voted it Best City to Visit in 2020. Though the 2020 Best City to Visit Travel Tournament has taken place through pandemic lock downs and travel restrictions, your participation made this one of the most competitive Finals in recent years.

Singapore came out of the toughest bracket, facing a number of strongly-supported Pakistani cities to end up against Istanbul, always tough competition in the tournaments. Despite multiple trips to the Final Four, this was the closest Istanbul has come to ever winning Best City 2020 but again couldn’t get over the hump, denied by a small margin of votes.

But as the tradition goes, no Best City to Visit Travel Tournament is ever predictable and Singapore’s win was hardly obvious 4 weeks ago among the crowd of 64 cities. Congratulations to Tayyab who nominated Singapore originally (winning $500!) and all of you who voted and shared this year’s competition.

As it is after every tournament beging, many people write me wishing some city had been entered. There’s an easy way to ensure your favorite city is in the 2021 tournament – subscribe to my newsletter. Aside from more ways to travel smarter, sometime each February readers get the first picks. Typically I also visit the winning city every year though those plans for 2020 are pending the current coronavirus situation.

Thank you again everyone and congratulations Singapore! Hoping to see you later this year…

A Look Inside Lahore’s Weekly Opium-Fueled Sufi Festival

Every Thursday night in the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, heavily intoxicated Sufi followers take part in festival of music, dancing, and chanting. Beginning around 9pm the deep bass of beats from a long, double-sided drum can be heard from the Madho Lal Hussain Shrine – a thump thump thump fueling vigorous coordinated movements.

You can see this weekly Sufi festival which I attended, in the video above. It’s one of those times where showing you makes much more sense than attempting to describe the unison spinning, headbanging, and guttural chants. A gathering which takes places within a cloud of opium and hashish, dispersing light from small fires lit all around; adding a mystical quality to what you’re seeing. (With a possible contact high included.)

Until the morning the dancers go, spinning and shaking their heads vigorously causing their long black hair to fly in the air. Children play around the shrine, families sit at the steps, while closer to the music groups of men sit around campfires drinking teas and taking heavy hits from joints loaded with opium and weed. You can hear more about my experience right after it happened in this episode of the foXnoMad Podcast.

As an observer (filming with conspicuous camera and microphone) hardly anyone paid attention to me. Despite the energy, crowds, and semblance of chaos, the atmosphere was relaxed – likely in part due to the actual local atmosphere.

The Sufi festival at the Madho Lal Hussain Shrine is yet another example of what it’s like to travel in Pakistan. An unexpected experience in a country that has more contradictions than it might seem from the outside.

Best City To Visit Travel Tournament 2020 Championship: Singapore vs. Istanbul

best city 2020 championship

Big applause from our balconies for Florence, Italy, on its amazing run through the Final Four of the Best City to Visit Travel Tournament. One of the hardest hit areas of the global coronavirus pandemic, your support for Florence and other Italian cities showed throughout the tournament. Meanwhile, Sydney quietly got to the brink of the Championship but it couldn’t handle tournament favorite Singapore. Now, Istanbul, who’s been close many years might get its chance to win it all and pull off a major Best City contest upset.

As always, your votes determine the winner. You have until this Sunday, April 5th 11:59pm US EST (-4 GMT) to vote!

Don’t forget to tag #bestcity2020 on Instagram or Twitter to let me know your who you’re rooting for! The final results and winner of this year’s tournament will be announced on April 7th, so make sure to check back then to find out the Best City to Visit in 2020!

What Istanbul, Turkey Looks Like Under Coronavirus Quarantine

Most of Turkey right now is under a coronavirus advisory to stay indoors, like many other countries around the world. Slowly over the last week, most business have shut their doors, aside from pharmacies, grocery shops, and bakeries while those who can, are generally working from home.

Istanbul, a city with a population of roughly 15.5 million people has turned into a movie set. Streets that are normally too crowded to walk down are desert, as you can see in the video above.

istanbul coronavirus

Taken on a walk to the grocery store, it’s a glimpse into a silent Istanbul that, after COVID-19, may not happen again in a very long time.

How To Handle Visa Overstays And Issues Due To Coronavirus Travel Restrictions

airport terminal

Please note the situation is changing daily and the information below may be out of date by the time you’re reading it. Because of the quickly developing situation, I’ve included advice and a template you can send to the relevant embassies to get more information.

Closing borders has left people stranded worldwide and many of you, on tourist or other visas, wondering what will happen once travel is permitted again. You might be in a situation where your visa in a foreign country is or has already expired. Below is a template you can use to send to the appropriate embassies.

Template To Send Embassies

Subject: Question – Overstaying Because of COVID-19

Good afternoon,

I’m would like to know the correct procedure for travelers who will be overstaying their visas in (COUNTRY) due to travel restrictions, flight cancellations, and border closings related to COVID-19.

What must be done on our side to make sure we are following the rules in these extreme circumstances?

I would really appreciate if you could point me in the right direction as soon as possible.

Thank you in advance.

This template was highly successful in getting prompt replies from many embassies. Additionally, many nations have already posted or replied back to me with their current procedures. Please be sure to verify anything posted below, it is posted only for informational purposes.

European Union (EU)

In Chapter V Article 33 of the EU Visa Code regarding Extensions, the following is applicable:

The period of validity and/or the duration of stay of an issued visa shall be extended where the competent authority of a Member State considers that a visa holder has provided proof of force majeure or humanitarian reasons preventing him from leaving the territory of the Member States before the expiry of the period of validity of or the duration of stay authorised by the visa. Such an extension shall be granted free of charge.

The global pandemic falls under force majeure and visa extension fees have been waived. Get in touch with the embassy of the EU/Schengen country you are currently in to apply for an extension if you are worried about overstaying. Currently, 90 extensions are being issued in most cases for Schengen tourist visas.

buckingham palace

United Kingdom (UK)

The latest information can be found here.

If you’re in the UK and your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020

Your visa will be extended to 31 May 2020 if you cannot leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

You must contact the Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) to update your records if your visa is expiring.

You should provide:

  • your full name (include any middle names)
  • date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
  • nationality
  • your previous visa reference number
  • why you can’t go back to your home country, for example if the border has closed

We’ll let you know when your request is received and when your visa has been extended.

u.s. capitol building

United States (US)

Tourist Visas:

Note that the expiration date on a U.S. visa does not determine how long one can be in the United States.  The way to confirm one’s required departure date is here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home.

Those who need to extend their stay must apply with USCIS.  Their website is here:  https://www.uscis.gov/visit-united-states/extend-your-stay.

Non-Tourist Visas:

Please refer to ECA communication dated February 7, 2020, for guidance, specifically the section on exchange visitors currently inside the United States. Sponsors and their exchange visitors are also encouraged to review the following USCIS website detailing special situations for extensions and change of visa status, including those individuals subject to INA 212(e): Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement. Go to: https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/special-situations and https://www.uscis.gov/visit-united-states/extend-your-stay.

China

Latest updates here.

The National Immigration Administration has rolled out special measures to facilitate foreigners’ stay in China as well as their arrivals and departures amid the battle against the COVID-19 outbreak.

With no need of a separate application, foreigners in China will have their stay or residence permits extended automatically for two months during the epidemic period, Liu Haitao, an official with the administration, said on March 1 at a news conference in Beijing.

Immigration offices nationwide will issue urgent exit and entry permits within 24 fours for those coming to China for anti-COVID-19 missions, including medical assistance, drug development and academic exchanges, Liu said.

They could also apply for a special visa at Chinese ports of entry if their journey is made on too short a notice, he added.

Like Chinese citizens, foreign residents in China can file applications online and have documents delivered to their homes after the issuance, Liu said.

South Africa

The latest announcements can be found here.

Any foreign national who is already present in the Republic and originates from a country which is affected by the COVID-19 outbreak or who, in order to reach such destination of origin needs to transit a country which is affected by COVID-19, and whose temporary residence visa is due to expire or has already expired, will be allowed to re-apply for such a visa provided they meet all the prescribed requirements. Visas valid until 31 July 2020 may be issued to such applicants.

Any foreign national who originates from a country which is affected by the COVID-19 outbreak or who, in order to reach such a destination of origin needs to transit a country which is affected by the COVID-19, and who is the holder of a temporary visa which expired since 01 December 2019 and those which will be expiring up to 31 March 2020 will be allowed to re-apply for such a visa without the need to first obtain FORM 20 (Authorisation for an illegal foreigner to remain in the country pending an application for status)

These are temporary measures and is applicable until further notice.

Thailand

The latest information can be found here. New rules and restrictions for all travelers as of March 22nd.

There is a provision (clause 2.28) in the current Immigration Order 327/2557 concerning the extension of stays that allows immigration to give 30-day extension “based on embassy request”. If you have exhausted all possible extensions of your entry stamp, you may use this embassy letter to extend your stay in Thailand due to travel restrictions in your country or due to the cancellation of the flight. This extension is applicable to any type of entry stamp (visa on arrival, visa exemption, tourist visa or non-immigrant visa). You need to contact your embassy in Thailand if they are able to issue the letter. It is also good to note that some immigration offices may issue the extension without the embassy letter as long as you are able to show proof of cancellation of your flight.

Note: All nationalities currently holding a 60-day tourist visa can still obtain a 30-day visa extension just like before. All nationalities under the visa exemption scheme currently holding 30-day entry stamp are still able to extend for 30 days at the local immigration office, just like before.

Taiwan

The latest announcement:

Automatic 30-day extension for foreigners entering Taiwan on or before March 21 with visa waiver, visitor visa, or landing visa (no application is required) (overstayers excepted).

Mexico

The latest here.

The period of stay allowed will not be more than 180 days, at the end of which you must leave the country by any means because said immigration status does not allow you extend the period of stay in the country or change the condition of stay. Due to the foregoing, and because the Mexican immigration authority has not restricted departures from the country, it must foresee their departure from national territory by another means of transportation available or other than by air in the event of cancellation of the service. It will also be convenient to contact your embassy or consular representation in Mexico in order to obtain the corresponding assistance for your return. Greetings.

Turkey

There has been no general announcement made, so far it seems decisions are being made on a country to country basis. Here’s the latest for U.S. citizens. The current recommendation being made is:

The Government of Turkey announced that due to COVID-19, they are extending visa validity for tourists in Turkey, who cannot leave due to international flight suspension.

That said, we have been sending information on existing flights. Please consider taking a limited commercial option – such as a flight to Doha, Qatar, on Qatar airways, which has connection options to the United States. As long as you purchase a ticket with connections to the United States as your ultimate destination, you will be allowed to board your flight from Istanbul.

We recommend you drive to Istanbul, and take existing flight options out, before commercial flight options disappear.

Turkey (cont.) – Information For Australians

If you are not already, we highly recommend that you monitor the Australian Embassy in Turkey’s Facebook page, Twitter (@AusAmbTurkey) and webpage. For urgent consular assistance, please call our 24 hour Emergency Call Centre in Australia on +61 2 6261 3305.

Visas

We acknowledge that it’s difficult to get the correct advice on extending your visa in Turkey. At this stage, we have not been informed that Turkey will be automatically extending its visas for foreign citizens still in the country as a result of COVID-19. To get an extension, you should try to make contact with local authorities as your first point of call. If you’re still not sure who to contact or how to get an extension, we recommend that you contact the Australian Embassy in Turkey by email on [email protected].

You can also subscribe to updates from Smartraveller for changes to the situation in Turkey.

Updates Incoming

This page will be updated as new information comes in but with this being a developing, global crisis it won’t be possible to post all the information here. Check through to the links however for more information, I’ll be sure to keep adding and updating those as frequently as possible.

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