Updated, January 2021
We very much hope that you are keeping in good health. Like all of us, we are sure you have faced, and hopefully overcome, a barrage of challenges that have been thrown our way by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Before March 2020, it was hard to imagine a situation where international travel would grind to a halt, and in such an abrupt manner. Early on in the pandemic we set an objective to keep the Epic team (of around 20 staff) together. Nine months on, we continue to honour this commitment. We have managed to achieve this thanks to our superb team and the sense of unity and purpose that binds us.
After what was effectively a travel blackout, the end of 2020 brought more positive news in the shape of vaccines, and we move into 2021 with a new-found optimism that travel will, as the year progresses, return to the way it once was. That said, we understand feelings of uncertainty and the need for flexibility and care to insure our guests feel comfortable with the very particular circumstances around travel at present.
Our pledge of premium service and expert local knowledge is now more important than ever, and the crisis focuses the mind on the benefits of organising travel with a professional travel company. These benefits come in many forms – from peace of mind and guaranteed financial protection, to up-to-date local information and the knowledge that you will be expertly looked after by our well-established and friendly team of staff, drivers, guides and hotel and activity partners. Both Morocco and Portugal are countries where tourism is an important source of income, and the livelihoods of many locals have suffered significantly. We feel a responsibility to make sure we do all we can to help with their recovery. This support begins with taking those first steps to a return to travel, and we are here to assist. After all, we are sure that many of you have been dreaming about travelling again !
On the subject of which, we have prepared some FAQs. If you don’t find what you are looking for then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be delighted to help and advise. We thank our entire community for their support through the challenges of Covid-19, and we hope to be able to welcome you soon to one of our destinations.
What is the current travel situation in Portugal ?
With clear guidelines in place from the Portuguese government, it has been possible to operate holidays for international travellers during the summer 2020 which we were able to do successfully and with no risk to public health. There are currently no restrictions in place for tourists travelling through the country as long as proof of address to your next destination is provided.
Throughout the pandemic Portugal has maintained a strong and responsible stance towards public health which has been largely very well respected by the population.
The ‘Clean & Safe’ policy has been defined by the Portuguese Tourism board to allow travellers to have greater security and confidence in the use of all tourism-related services and activities. Epic has ensured that all partners on the ground have this seal to guarantee the safest level of travel for our guests.
You can keep updated on information on the evolution of Portugal’s status through the DGS (Portuguese Directorate of Health) https://covid19.min-saude.pt/
For Portugal’s islands Madeira and the Azores, regional governments have enacted specific measures to ensure your safety. You can keep up to date with this through the following websites https://www.visitazores.com/en/timetoazores and https://www.madeira.gov.pt/Covid19
What is the current travel situation in Morocco?
With good foresight and rapid action by the Moroccan Government, Morocco has not had the explosion of Coronavirus cases in comparison to many European countries, the UK and the US. Morocco is under a state of health emergency, current until at least 10 January 2021. This state of emergency is an administrative power that allows local governors, mayors and administrators to take all the procedural measures necessary to preserve public health, based on data concerning the epidemic situation in Morocco – decisions such as restrictions on movement, opening of businesses, wearing of masks, etc.
Local travel conditions, including whether you can travel to or from certain neighbourhoods, cities and regions, can change at short notice. We monitor the local situation closely and should there be any changes that could affect your trip, we will advise you and discuss your options.
Travel to and from Morocco remains restricted to certain categories of travellers:
– Citizens and residents of Morocco;
– Foreign nationals of visa-exempt countries (which includes US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and UK citizens) who have reservations with Moroccan hotels or travel agencies are allowed to enter and depart;
– Business people invited by Moroccan companies are allowed to enter and depart.
Special operations flights serving these passengers will continue to operate under the State of Health Emergency. Ferry passage remains limited to special operation ferries between Morocco and Sète, France and Genoa, Italy. The land borders with Ceuta and Melilla remain closed.
What are the benefits of travelling at present?
One of the “white linings” of the Coronavirus cloud as far as travel is concerned is the fact that many places find themselves gloriously untouristed at present. Clearly more off-the-beaten-track travel may well be favoured by many at this time, which suits us very well as an adventurous travel company. Moreover, more adventurous visitors will have the chance of once-in-a-lifetime remote experiences in places like the Sahara Desert, with virtually no other foreign visitors for company.
What’s more, you’ll be treated like Kings, and like pioneers. Both Portugal and Morocco are, at the best of times, highly welcoming places, but now especially so. Both are highly “human” cultures, and our teams and the wider population have suffered in the past months through a lack of purposeful activity and contact with the outside world that contact with foreign visitors brings. In short, there is an urgent need for them to return to what they love doing most, something that will resonate with many.
We have always found that the Epic community places high value in sharing and “giving back”. It’s in our DNA and it’s part of what authentic travel is all about. These values are greatly needed at this time, and it can feel highly rewarding to dine with a local family in a Berber village or taste wine at a family-owned vineyard in Portugal, knowing that you’ve have helped them to get back on their feet after a testing time where livelihoods have been dealt a serious blow. The same can be said of the positive impact on the large team of guides, drivers and activity providers that form our extended family.
International travel is one key route out of the crisis.
What are Epic doing to look after my health and safety while I am travelling?
All our partners in Portugal and Morocco are observing required practices to ensure your safety during your trip. Hotels are regularly sanitized and provisions are made for distancing where this is needed in public places. Our drivers and guides have appropriate authorisation to travel on your chosen journey, and where required will wear masks. Vehicles and equipment are regularly cleaned and sanitized. In Morocco, it is mandatory to wear face masks in public and Epic will make these available to you, along with hand sanitizer.
Most often the experiences we offer you are on a private basis. However, if there are any activities that would normally be made as part of a group, we are happy to discuss the possibilities of privatising these if you prefer.
Our Epic staff on the ground in Portugal and Morocco are here to assist you and answer any questions to ensure you have an exceptional and safe holiday.
How do I get a better understanding of what I am looking for?
At the best of times it can be baffling to navigate through the complex world of trip planning, but fear not, this is where we come to the rescue! We are a tailor made travel company that focuses on private trip planning and in practice what that means is that there is a level of flexibility that will help you navigate the choppy waters of Coronavirus and to find a solution that suits you. Our work is always centred around marrying our expert, finger-on-the-pulse, local knowledge with a thorough understanding of yours tastes, wishes and requirements. So, do not hesitate to get in touch to start a conversation, even if it’s just a water-tester to see if the time is right for you.
Do I need to get a PCR test before I travel?
If you are travelling to Madeira or the Azores, it is mandatory to take a test 72 hours prior to your arrival on the archipelagos. If you are travelling from mainland Portugal, it is possible to arrange a test through the Azores or Madeira government or a private healthcare facility. Epic can assist you in arranging this process. The facilities in Portugal are very efficient, typically you will receive your results within 24 hours of taking the test. If you are staying on the Azores islands for more than 6 days, it is necessary to take a second test whilst on the island. Epic can also assist you with this process.
To travel to Morocco, you must show a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test result issued no longer than 72 hours before your departure. You will be required to show the test results at boarding.
You’ll also need to complete a passenger health form online, printed and signed to be presented on arrival. You can get this form at http://www.onda.ma/form.php
On arrival in Morocco you may undergo health screening such as a temperature check or be asked questions about your health status.
Do I need to get tested at the end of my holiday before I depart?
There is no general requirement for COVID-19 testing before departure from Portugal or Morocco. However, travellers should verify the requirements of your travel destination. If you will require a COVID-19 test before departure (for entry to your final destination), please advise our Epic representatives at the beginning of your holiday and we can advise you on the nearest clinic or laboratory where you can be tested, at your own expense, before your departure.
Are there special, more flexible, booking conditions at present?
We understand that travel at this time can be a difficult choice to make. But we also want to encourage you to take the leap of faith if you are able. For any bookings made in January 2021 for travel during the year, we are able to offer you special booking conditions, with free cancellation up to 30 days prior to travel.
It may be that travel conditions change due to the Covid pandemic, meaning you are unable to proceed with your planned journey. If this is the case, then we will work together with you to find the best solution.
Can you suggest some useful resources on the subject?
For UK travellers, we recommend you follow the UK Government FCO page to get up-to-date information on your travel destination. https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
For US travellers, we recommend you check the latest information from the US State Department. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/
For travellers from other countries you should check the relevant government travel advisories of your country. You can also read more about Coronavirus and worldwide conditions from the World Health Organisation (WHO). https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
If you are travelling onwards to another destination after your holiday, you should check the relevant travel advisory site for that country to be clear on any conditions you may have to meet before arriving there from Portugal or Morocco.