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Our COVID-19 safe travel experience from London to Phnom Penh via Singapore

Back in March, with the Cambodian borders closing and our global health care deemed invalid due to the World Health Organisation declaring a pandemic, we decided to visit friends and family in the UK. Finally, after six months of uncertainty we have arrived back in Cambodia and wanted to share our COVID-19 safe travel experience with you. Hilton London Bankside As vegan travel lovers, there really was no better place to spend our final few nights in the UK before embarking on the trip to Cambodia. Not only does the Hilton London Bankside boast the world’s first vegan suite, but it also offers vegan food throughout the hotel and that makes us very happy indeed. Having checked out the Hilton policies regarding COVID-19 including their CleanStay initiative, we felt there was only one option for our pre trip accomodation, and we were certainly not disappointed. Our vegan suite (well, it was ours for the duration of the stay) was simply outstanding. Our mini bar was packed with (complimentary) vegan snacks and drinks, our furniture featured vegan pineapple leather from Piñatex and our bathroom was stocked with the finest of vegan toiletries. We were suitably impressed. To ensure that the leisure facilities were COVID-19 safe, we were able to pre book 1 hour slots for the pool and gym, during which the facility is open to a maximum of 2 rooms or 4 guests only. Changing rooms were closed so we got prepared in our room, and in between sessions the facility was fully cleaned and disinfected. Very impressive and a real luxury to have an almost private pool. During our stay we enjoyed a variety of healthy, plant based cuisine which was the perfect way to prepare our mind, body and soul for the trip. Dishes included the most delicious of carrot and quinoa pancakes for breakfast, a creamy and flavour packed vegan fricassee for dinner at OXBO Brasserie, and this sublime orange and chocolate brownie served with a trio of sorbets which was quite simply perfect. One5 Health The reason for our extended stay in London prior to flying was so that we could have COVID-19 tests as required by Cambodian immigration. Adhering to the exact requirements can be a minefield and very stressful as they vary from country to country and are ever changing. Our research was extensive, and without hesitation we would recommend One5 Health in Moorgate. They were the only private clinic that we contacted who answered every question we asked them and were fully aware of the Cambodia specific requirements. Their communication throughout was excellent, and they were happy to provide a signed and stamped ‘Fit To Fly Certificate’ 24 hours from the time of testing. During these unusual times, when travel is full of uncertainties, they filled us with confidence and luckily for us, our tests were negative! Singapore Airlines Singapore Airlines have worked very hard to open Changi Airport as a COVID-19 safe transit hub. As their international network took to the skies they have slowly added more routes allowing passengers to reach multiple worldwide destinations. The COVID-19 safe measures on board saw us receive a complimentary ‘care kit’ including mask, hand sanitiser and hand wipes alongside the cabins being divided to keep transit and non transit passengers apart. A full selection of meals was available (unlike some other national carriers) which meant we were able to pre book our VGML vegan meals for each sector. Once on the ground at Changi Airport we received temperature screenings and were given wrist bands, before being escorted through an eerily deserted airport to pre assigned transit zones, or our chosen transit hotel to await the next flight. For those waiting in the transit zones, food and drink was available from vending machines and stalls or via a delivery app for further options. Aerotel Singapore One of the transit hotels at Changi Airport is Aerotel Singapore which was the only airside hotel that was open when we travelled. With a 9+ hour layover and a distinct lack of vegan food available from the transit zone we decided that this would be money well spent. We contacted them in advance and were told that our room included a meal and there was a veg option which was suitabe for vegans, perfect. After a long overnight flight, a hot shower and comfortable bed were very welcome and we were happy we decided to book a room. As per the Changi Airport COVID-19 safe process we were met from the flight and escorted directly to the hotel. This also happened in reverse when our next flight was due, making the overall experience totally stress free. Sokha Phnom Penh Based on previous traveller experience this is by far the best quarantine hotel for passengers arriving in Cambodia. Via their website, it was easy to pre book a ‘Ministry of Health’ package for the 2 days awaiting our arrival COVID test results. Prior to our stay, email communication with them was also very helpful, they explained that we were able to order meals from outside using one of the delivery apps and the hotel staff would deliver to our room. Our room was huge and well appointed including an oversized bed and a free standing bath, both of which offered river views. The stay was very comfortable indeed, and yet again we were very happy with our decision. After receiving our negative COVID-19 test result we were able to check out from Sokha Phnom Penh and complete the remaining 12 days of quarantine at home. A final test (and negative result) on day 13 meant we were finally free which felt good, very good. For anyone else planning this trip please feel to leave a comment and ask any questions. We’ve not included all of the details but are more than happy to share them with you. Special thanks to the admins of the Cambodia Visa Group on Facebook who have been patient and informative as always, anyone planning to travel to Cambodia should bookmark this page immediately. If you are planning to travel soon, all we can say is don’t leave anything to chance and do lots of research. Bon voyage! Paul Eyers is Founder of Vegan Food Quest. Vegan Food Quest have become luxury vegan travel specialists as they continue to find, eat and write about the best vegan food in the world. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Paul Eyers

Paul Eyers is co-founder of Vegan Food Quest who write about luxury hotels and resorts in Southeast Asia with a focus on sustainable travel, eco travel and vegan travel. Currently based in Malaysia, Paul also writes about sporting events and some of the finest golf courses throughout the region.

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  1. Singapore Air’s care kit is a good idea.

    I’m beginning to question whether we should have minimum standards for masks especially on long flights. I can see some airlines issuing a high-standard mask for flights.

    Should people be changing their mask every few hours on long flights?

    1. Interesting point re masks. It is so hard for the airline staff to police already. During our flights, a number of passengers would continually remove their masks when there were no staff. People are not willing to follow rules which is very frustrating…

  2. Travel is very different right now and it will be a long time before it returns to any type of normality. It seems that Singapore Airlines have done a great job to ensure their passengers and staff are as safe as possible…

    1. That swimming pool in Hilton looks unreal! Sokha is always a good bet! Was not aware of that Cambodian visa Facebook group. Informative.

    2. Jamie – you are right that Singapore Airlines have done remarkably well to return to the skies. Their staff were super helpful and made the unusual circumstances enjoyable.

      Colm – the pool was sooo good, especially as we had it to ourselves!

  3. Sounds like you had it all covered and the experience was better than expected. As someone looking to do the same journey in reverse I hope my experience is as good.

    1. Lots of planning was needed Terry but it all worked out in the end. Going to England is easier right now bcuase our government have implemented minimal entry requirements which is probably why importd cases have continued to be a problem!?!

  4. A fantastic article thanks
    For sharing your experience with us all. Hopefully things will get better one day soon so once again everyone can enjoy all of the great places, cultures & food that this world has to offer.

  5. It sounds like your experience was better than you expected.this article same like you “amazing” . anyway very happy to see you again.

  6. Thank you for sharing your review on the London Hilton Bankside. The vegan suite is something I’ll definitely be spending a birthday or special occasion when back home. I’m so pleased to see that this is finally being done , and so perfectly. Living in Cambodia for three years and returning home just a handful of times for very short periods of time… I have been unable to experience what England now truly has to offer for the vegan world. I’d love to hear more about the growth there and the never ending options that now allows people’s reasons for not transitioning to a plant based diet.. to just an excuse.

    It sounds like your trip was as luxury and smooth as it could be, and I’m very happy you got that experience and such great service. It does allow for you to be that little-alot less stressed during this oh so stressful time, when having to roam around and feeling at risk.

    I can only hope that when I next return home ..potentially next year, we aren’t in the same circumstances as today. However, if we are.. I know I’ll be able to refer back to this blog and contact you directly for useful information.
    Thank you for the recommendation of ‘Cambodia Visa Group’ on Facebook, I wasn’t following before but I sure am now. Thank you for a great read, always.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to commment Georgia and i hope you get to stay in the Vegan Suite at some stage, it’s perfect for a special occasion!

  7. Wow!
    Thanks for the detailed trip report! I will be taking this same trip back in the next couple of weeks and reading a positive recount definitely helps to calm the nerves a little.
    It sounds like you definitely made the best of a crazy situation and looks like you had some lovely added extras along the way – the vegan suite (which looks and sounds incredible), the pool and obviously all of the yummy vegan food.

    1. tick tock, tick tock, it’s your turn soon to travel the exact same route and i will keep everything crossed that it all goes smoothly for you x

  8. Great article Paul. Love your positive attitude, the fighting spirit and the incredible hard work you put into all. I thought of travelling to Singapore but I’ve got a transit in Dubai. What do you think about it?

  9. What a comprehensive and informative account of what must have been a stressful experience. You had clearly planned well and endeavoured to cover all eventualities. The uncertainty regarding test results, over which you had no control, must have caused anxious moments. Excellent to hear that you managed it so well.
    The things you did have control over, from your choice of where to go for the Covid 19 tests and the amazing Vegan Suite at the Hilton in London through to the hotels enroute, demonstrate meticulous planning to ensure that you made the journey as safely as possible.
    I’m sure anyone following in your footsteps will appreciate the information.
    A happy return to your Cambodian home.

  10. It’s good to read some concrete travel experiences in our new normal. I’m wondering though exactly how many tests did you have to go through? Since you were in transit and stayed in Singapore before your final destination in Cambodia, did you need to get tested again? Though I’m planning a long-haul flight by next year (hopefully it will not require too many steps), I’m looking to book a direct flight just to minimize the things I need to do-especially the testing as they say it hurts a lot. I’ve wondered a lot about pools in particular, it seems the scheduling option and disinfection after each session is a great idea. It shortens our time at the pool though, but it’s better safe than sorry. Happy to hear that you go through all that safely. I wish to read more of these types of articles. Truthfully, I’m not as daring as you to dip my feet into traveling just yet.

    1. Thank you for commenting Cloe. To answer your questions, we had 3 tests, one in London pre departure, one in Cambodia upon arrival and another in Cambodia after 14 days quarantine. We did not need a tst in Singapore as we were only in transit and as long as you follow th strict rules from Changi and Singapore airlins this is allowed. As far as us being brave, we had no choice as Cambodia is home and we were ‘stuck’ in England. GOod luck with your trip next year, the vaccine looks like making travel easier for sure…

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