The following has been contributed by Steffani Cameron, who recently completed a 4-year worldwide adventure that she has chronicled at FullNomad.com.
Tips for Enjoying A Trip to Victoria in COVID-19
I’ve just moved back to BC after living in Ottawa. Something about living there during the start of the pandemic sent me deep into an agoraphobic state, where I didn’t even want to do takeout food. Big city, too many people, higher risks.
But I wanted to move back to BC, to be closer to friends and family, to have the “bigger spaces, fewer faces” that Victoria offers, and that meant conquering my fear of outdoors – flying to my new home, staying in hotels for a month, and even having to dine out.
In the end, it was a gamble worth taking, because, after travelling in 25 countries over four years, I am qualified to say that Victoria really is a magical little city.
So, I understand the fear of resuming life as “normal” and travelling or eating out, but I’ve also come to realize how precarious things are for all these businesses that, in a way, define the cities and towns we love.
Extensive precautions everywhere mean business is open, but differently – and distantly. Here’s what to expect, and how to behave, when you visit Victoria or anywhere else:
- Have a mask at all times. Many businesses require them. For those that don’t, it’s just good civic behaviour. If everyone wore masks in businesses, we could help reduce transmissions by 80-90%, according to science.
- Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Best practices mean sanitizing before you enter a business, after you leave. Also sanitize after you’ve touched anything, before you touch, put on, or remove your mask.
- Think ahead. Be aware that reduced capacity, and reduced visitors, mean the risk-tolerance for businesses, especially eateries, is lower, so you will often have to check websites or inquire early as to whether availability exists. Case in point, the incredible The Courtney Room at Magnolia Hotel is one of Canada’s best restaurants and they offer an incredibly reasonable locally sourced 5-course tasting menu with wine pairings for $130 per person, but they now require 24 hours’ notice for anyone wanting to enjoy the feast, because they only buy ingredients as required.
- Bring your patience. You likely won’t be able to check in early. Some places aren’t allowing check in until 6:00pm. This isn’t to irritate you – it’s because guidelines require more time for cleaning and for airing out rooms. This is for your safety as well as the cleaning staff’s safety.
- Bring some understanding. Businesses are holding on by their fingertips at times. We’re luckier here than in places like Toronto and New York, where thousands of businesses have already shuttered. The New York Times reports that 1/3 of small NYC businesses are gone forever – so imagine your life with all your favourite little places gone, then adjust your patience levels. Local businesses still open have harder cleaning procedures and reduced staff, so if things take a little longer or hours are shorter, that’s just part of the current realities.
- Respect regulations. Every business in Victoria has posted occupancy limits for battling COVID-19. At the storied Munro’s Books on Victoria’s Government Street, it’s 16 people. In some corner stores, it’s only two people. This means line-ups outside businesses until browsers exit, and it being under a hot August sun or chilly October rain is just part of our new realities and we all have to endure them. The upside to it is, we keep our local businesses and eateries and shops alive.
- Be mindful. Those folks waiting outside want to see things as much as you do. If it’s a slow day, take your time and browse. If there’s a line-up, browse with purpose and keep your visit reasonable.
- Be honest. When eateries ask for your name and phone number, give your true information.There is a risk to dining out, but it’s a manageable risk. Giving your name and number ensures you can be contacted quickly if a business learns there has been COVD-19 exposure. It’s not for marketing purposes, so you’re not going to get a deluge of unsolicited phone calls. Be responsible.
According to Canada’s Dr. Tam, we citizens need to prepare for the reality that these guidelines and practices may continue for two or three years.
Let’s be frank, wearing masks, waiting outside, always being mindful of distancing – these suck. They’re all a reminder of just how little is in our control beyond following these guidelines. But they will save lives, they will save people from living with lifelong lung deficiencies. And they will save jobs.
More importantly, they’ll help us hold on to a little of the life and home we’ve come to love. If, like me, you love British Columbia and our glorious eateries and other businesses, it’s important to find a way to support them. If you’re worried about crowds and people, then dine out or travel at quieter times. A Tuesday night out will have fewer crowds than Saturday. Eating earlier on any day means beating the rush, a trick I often used on my nomadic journeys.
If there’s anyone who understands how incredible travelling the world is, it’s me. I feel blessed to have travelled in the Before Times.
But that love of travel began with growing up in BC. It started with trips to Victoria, with riding BC Ferries feeling like a wild blast of freedom. It started with roadside rest stop lunches packed by Mom and posing for pictures by BC landmarks. Growing up, travelling local was just what we did – airfare was expensive and not a lot of people could afford travelling abroad, let alone going to Disneyland or even flying to the other side of Canada.
It’s time we re-experience just how wonderful British Columbia is.
The world will still be there after all this is over. During COVID-19, you have the opportunity of travelling close to home and preserving our way of life through supporting our businesses. With safety in mind and respecting others, there’s no reason why you can’t explore BC and have experiences to remember.
And don’t forget, when those fall rains return to Vancouver, they won’t be in Victoria, where rainfall is 50% less frequent and less heavy. But bundle up for that ever-present wind!
Related: Travel Safely in BC During Phase 3