Travel the world with your ears, and these podcasts

British Airways has apologised after insisting that passengers from Heathrow to Reykjavik obtain a private test for coronavirus before departure – even though the Icelandic authorities will accept no test but their own, which is conducted on arrival.

Clive Stacey, founder of the Surrey-based specialist tour operator Discover The World, contacted The Independent after what he said was a failed series of attempts to persuade BA it was wrong to make the demand.

Several clients booked for trips this month to the North Atlantic island, which has been almost unscathed by coronavirus.

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They were originally due to travel on Icelandair. But when that carrier cancelled its flight from Heathrow, it correctly rebooked them on British Airways – as European air passengers’ rights rules require airlines to do.

However, BA insisted that the travellers must get privately tested for coronavirus in advance, even though Iceland’s airport authority says: “Travellers will be given the choice of a test for the virus on arrival to all international airports in Iceland, or a two-week quarantine.”

Mr Stacey, who has been running trips to Iceland for 37 years, said: “The fact is that the Icelanders will not accept any other test but their own which has to be conducted on arrival in Iceland.

“So the poor BA passengers are warned that they will be denied boarding if they fail to take the test in advance.

“Then have take and pay for a further test on arrival. That is the worst possible start to a holiday in a place which should be a dream destination for people wanting an escape.

“In times like this, businesses are facing all kinds of problems and so the mistake can be forgiven. But I spent hours trying to persuade British Airways to relax their demands without success.”

Holidaymakers were forced to pay around £150 for a test in the UK, before having to pay all over again for another test in Iceland, at a cost of £52 if booked on advance or £63 on arrival.

Mr Stacey said the test-on-arrival system is working well: “The results take about four or five hours. You will be allowed to go about your holiday, and get the results by text message.

“When you’re travelling around Iceland, they know you’ve been tested, and it takes any tension out of the situation.”

After The Independent contacted British Airways, an airline spokesperson said the requirement had been dropped.

“We’ve apologised to a small number of customers travelling on two flights to Iceland for an error in our communications.

“This is a dynamic and fast-moving situation and we are continually monitoring the different entry requirements for different countries, which frequently change.

“We recommend that our customers check the local entry requirements of their destination before travelling.”

Many countries do require a certificate of a negative coronavirus test before they will allow travellers in.

At this point in the summer – and the pandemic — the desire to escape to a place far away might be overwhelming. Even with so many borders closed, podcasts can transport you elsewhere, making them a good alternative to real, out-of-the-house travel. Here’s a collection of immersive audio experiences that are as immersive as exploring the great wide world out there.


If a place on a map could give a TED Talk, what would it sound like? That’s what host Saleem Reshamwala seeks to find out in each episode of TED’s latest podcast, ‘Pindrop’. Join him on his global expedition for surprising, hyperlocal stories like a deep dive into the Bangkok radio station that serves as the surrounding area’s emergency hotline, notice board and lost and found. Or meet the Mexico City masked vigilante protecting his fellow citizens from traffic accidents. Stop by a hardware store in Mantua Township, New Jersey, where paleontologists are excavating dinosaur bones and protecting the land from development. The show is a different kind of travel podcast: It introduces people around the world who are creatively working to make their communities better.

Rough Translation

This NPR podcast promises to “take you places,” and since it debuted in 2017, that is exactly what it delivers. Each episode shows listeners how the same subject is perceived in different places around the world, like a cultural kaleidoscope of current events. Take some US residents’ refusal to wear face masks. In the ‘From Niqab to N95’ episode, host Gregory Warner dives into how that debate is playing out in France, where, before the coronavirus made masks a public health necessity, the discussion about covering one’s face in public was highly politicised and tinged with phobia.

Ochenta Stories

From the studio that makes the multilingual immigrant narrative-fiction podcast ‘Mija’ comes another beautiful podcast that presents fiction and nonfiction stories from across the world. ‘Ochenta Stories’ is a globally crowdsourced show that cobbles together dispatches from a planet in quarantine. Each episode is a different audio-maker’s answer to this question: “What do you want to hear after this pandemic is over?” And those who enjoy immersion language learning will love how each story is retold in each episode, but in another language. Listeners meet an 11-year-old in Asheville, North Carolina, envisioning her first day back to school (told in English and Spanish); a Londoner fantasising about the feeling of getting lost in a crowd again (told in English and French); and a couple in Milan who can’t believe how much quarantine time is spent washing one’s own dishes (Italian and English).


After months of staring at your own four walls, you might feel you need to get away to the most remote place in the world, fast. Enter ‘Extremities’, a podcast that takes you on an odyssey to some of the most distant reaches on Earth. Season 1 is a six-episode journey to Pitcairn Island, a dot in the South Pacific Ocean between Chile and Australia. Season 2 goes to the Svalbard archipelago between continental Norway and the North Pole. The most recent season chronicles a sojourn to the South Atlantic island of St. Helena. Travel with host Sam Denby to learn the histories and local legends of each territory and even have dinner with residents, all through your earbuds.

Trekking Nepal: Your Adventure Guide

Most of us will never climb the world’s highest mountains. But if you’re curious as to how you’d go about it if you could, consider this show, an audio diary hosted by a married couple as they travel to and through Nepal and the Himalayas. In 16 episodes, Jason Moore and Anne Dorthe bring you along on every step and bump of their adventure, which unfolded in 2014. Join them on their hikes and as they visit Kathmandu and Tibetan Buddhist villages. With both tribulations and transcendent moments, Moore and Dorthe grant you access to a trip of a lifetime.

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