With my wife’s son’s impending wedding my presence in Malaysia was desired, with the coronavirus Pandemic at the Omicron phase travel restrictions from United Kingdom are very much still a thing.
There was a cocktail of stressors ready for me to overcome before I had even left the country. Being away for three weeks meant I had the impossible task of completing multiple deadlines at work – not all were going to be met and not everyone was going to be pleased with me. Being away from my son for so long, my golden time with him watching Peaky Blinders is on hold. Processing every task to be permitted into Malaysia was always beyond me. And finally my fear of flying.
There is no simple clear way to compile the documentation to enter into Malaysia. It is a text book example of a knee jerk authoritarian and bureaucratic response to a perceived global problem that the country is not keen to import. It came to me that there is probably a new industry of travel workers employed purely to support people with this evidence gathering.
The starting point is getting permission to enter the country, My Travel Pass. There is much debate about how to overcome this. Medical emergency. The Langkawi bubble. As a spouse of a Malaysian national it was probably more straightforward for me to pass this hurdle. But not without a week’s wait and constantly checking the website for an update. The form is completed on a website that looks like it was coded in 2010.
The next stage was quarantining. There are three options: an expensive hotel, home quarantine, or the extra cost of traveling via Langkawi. At many points in the application process my wife and I mulled over Langkawi. Surely a week on a beach is compelling. The easy option is a hotel. I opted for home quarantine.
Home quarantine for me personally is solitary confinement, like in a hotel. I’m on my own. But it gave my wife control over the quarantine by being in her property. Again, another website form to complete, another throwback website page to the early days of website design. Intuitive form design, knowing what to click, is in itself a skill. Another nervous wait of up to a week for the decision.
There was other paperwork to go in the folder that was to be expected: my covid travel pass with my booster on it – travel is not an easy option for the anti-vaxxers. I took my 2 day prior to travel PCR test, always a nervous, anxious wait for the negative result. I used a company called Randox, who are efficient and friendly, I had my result within two hours.
I later found out the company had been caught up in Tory cronyism during the pandemic when PPE and associated contracts were handed out to Tory supporters with the excuse that in an emergency normal procurement rules didn’t apply. The government has since been censured on this. I like to use Martin Lewis’ website for things like this as he does the leg work in conducting the best deals.
As a British national and spouse of a Malaysian national I was also required to have travel insurance. This appeared to me as a contradiction in how standard travel insurance packages exclude COVID. Another cost.
The next stage was using the Mysejahtera app. Like most phones users I use apps and to a degree this is a competent app. Like the website forms it just works. But in terms of navigation and purpose I was lost. This app, like the forms is an essential part of admission process but it’s not always obvious why. Its purpose would be checking in during quarantine but it did take some random tapping on the app to figure out.
At my wife’s behest, I joined a Facebook group about breaking into Malaysia. Sometimes it was useful with information and stories about a week on the beach. I then randomly picked up on the page I needed to add my vaccination status and upload my covid travel pass onto the mysejahtera app. There was nothing in the app to warn me to do this.
I was also reminded by my wife to update the app with the home quarantine address. I could not figure out how to do this by the app. I opted to Google search for both these updates. The latter gave me a web page to update reach of the details and an email advising me I was successful. Alas, five days later my vaccination status on the app is still “unvaccinated.”
And there’s more. To connect between the Kuala Lumpur international airport (KLIA) and my home quarantine address I was required to use an authorised cab company. As she was already in Malaysia my wife was able to organise this and send me another document for my growing folder.
Once you add in your passport, your flight information, and an LFT test required on return to London, the document folder is the key to entry. Finally I added a sheet with my home quarantine address, wife’s address and phone no., a life saver at the airport.
All I needed to do now was pack, day good bye to the cat, and book an Uber. However, I had the prospect of first convincing check-in at Heathrow airport to let me onto the aeroplane, overcoming my fear of flying, and then convincing immigration at KLIA to let me into Malaysia.