This year I moved from Indonesia to Malaysia for work. This move initially planned in April/May was much further delayed to August because of the Covid pandemic and all the immigration and border closure. It was impossible to get all visa and documents ready on time to prepare this international move smoothly.
Upon arrival in Malaysia, I had to go through 14 days mandatory quarantine. I think to make these days comfortable, it’s important to get prepared and to manage your expectations. Here are the first hand experience tricks I learned and also found on Malaysia Quarantine Support Facebook group. I think many of these tips can apply for other countries as quarantine processes are quite similar across the globe.
Preparing and getting information
The first step should always be to read as much information on official website and sources. Is the quarantine in a hotel? A public facility? At home? Do you need to fill in special form, maybe book before landing your accommodation or ask for special travel permission documents? Will the PCR test be required, by your airline or the country of destination? How much will that cost, who is paying, can I afford it? What are the steps to be released from quarantine (whether at home or in the hotel)?
As mentioned in this article about the new-normal international travel – check always the immigration website of the country of destination, the local embassy websites, tourism board, airlines websites and finally, the IATA website is a good starting point. Check them regularly as travel regulation change frequently and suddenly.
Find, like in Malaysia, a Facebook group or community to join, so that you can see live and first hand photos and experience of the people who have gone through the process before you. This is the best way to start managing your expectations as well as start getting ready and prepared.
Hotel quarantine what to expect
I did my quarantine in Holiday Inn Express in Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur. My room was about 20/25 sqm2 and comprised of a king size bed, a 10 sqm living area where I had a desk and a work chair. A small Bluetooth alarm clock that you can convert as a music dock. The TV was not a “smart one” but I had easy access to the USB port at the back and could plug my external hard drive to watch TV shows and movies that I had downloaded in preparation for the quarantine.
The windows could not be opened, the curtains were real good blackout one and thank god ! the aircon and the fridge were really silent !
The start up amenities were:
- Instant decaf coffee, creamers and sugar (about 15 sachets each), some tea sachets
- An electronic kettle
- 10 rolls of toilet paper
- 24 bottles of 500ml water
- 2 mugs
- 2 large towels
- 2 teaspoons
In the bathroom, there was 1 dispenser of soap by the sink and 1 dispenser of all-in-one shampoo and conditioner in the shower
Room turn-down services and schedule
No-one is allowed to enter your room for the duration of your stay. There will not be any changes of bedsheets or towels or any additional amenities brought to your room during the entire 14 days.
You can request new towels and sheets; they will be delivered at certain times in front of your door and you have the make the change yourself.
In front of each room is a table or a chair on which all items will be delivered: daily garbage bags, food and other deliveries or room service you may have ordered.
Most front liners are allowed to go up to the floors on dedicated schedules. Generally, food is delivered at your door from 7 to 9 am, 12 to 2 pm and 6 to 8 pm. Outside of these hours and you won’t be able to get anything to your door. (whether it be the extra towels or bedsheets to room service etc…)
The meals are usually included in your quarantine package. You can request special dietary requirements upon check-in and they do the best to accommodate. In my case, after a couple of days into quarantine, I asked to have fruits and not the slice of (cheap and tasteless) cake that was mostly given with the meals and replacing any fruit juice & sugary drinks provided by just plain water. And they did pay attention to my wishes. I got fruits most times and water bottles for day with lunch usually.
Some hotels in Malaysia also had kid meals available upon requests.
Still don’t expect any culinary experience in quarantine. Also, I did find that in terms of portion it was a little small for me – I maintained my routine of daily exercise (I am on the graduate plan of the 90 days Body Coach plan) and I was starving most days. So you must prepare snacks.
A simple snack and room-service menu is available for a pretty penny – but most hotels would allow outside delivery of food as long as it’s dry and not into a glass container.
What to pack to prepare from quarantine
Snacks & food: I had prepared almonds, dried apricot, dates, 2 packets of Ritz, 1 packet of Oreo cookies, 1 packet of chocolate cookie, 1 sachets of bite size caramel Dutch waffles, 3 tiny sachets of cashew nuts and finally 18 portions of trail mix into Tupperware that I stored in the mini-fridge. The hotels in Malaysia generally agree to have dry food and medicine delivery or allow friends and family dropping supplies for you. They are then brought to you in the room. You can order on platforms like Lazada, Happyfresh, Tesco online or Shopee. Check with the hotel their guidelines as they can differ from one to another.
If you are a picky eater or have kids. I think prepare loads of extra meals and instant noodles or maybe oats, cereals and UHT milk (could also be purchased online and delivered to the hotel in the first few days too).
I think some extra food warmers, or rice cookers, might interesting to have to prepare additional meals or to warm up your foods.
Laundry: bring with you a small amount of detergent to wash your clothes. Although since you are not allowed out of your room and no one comes in. Then you probably can rotate with 2 change of clothing for the entire time.
Extra cutlery: I used myself a big bowl, a knife and large spoon. Sometimes the plastic cutlery provided are just to weak and you end up breaking them. Also when they serve soups, most times the trays are not big enough to mix all ingredients together. Then I would wash with hot water, as I didn’t bring washing up detergent. (please bring some) So I had to do with piping hot water and immediate washing in the bathroom sink.
Extra clothe: I brought with me 2 extra kitchen towels to wipe the desk surface and because I was cleaning and drying my coffee pot every day. I would wash them with the clothes every few days and re-use. Otherwise, you can always use the extra toilet paper to clean surfaces.
An electrical extension: I brought with me an electrical extension so that I could plug all my extra electronics. It’s not mandatory, but since I had 2 computers, 2 phones, kindle and tablet… Plus, all my stuffs were with Indonesia plugs and, in the hotel, only 1 wall plug was of international standard. So, it proved to be a life saver.
A pen and some envelops: I had no pen in the room and we had to fill up everyday some temperature taking sheets. Luckily, I always carry one in my bag! An envelope? Well I had to buy a simcard, so I asked reception to help me – and they can’t go into the floors. So you must leave the money to buy it on the chair in front of your room in an envelop with instructions and during their rounds the front liner will pick it up, and get someone to go and buy it for you. I was very grateful for their help. And again, I always carry when I move a set of large document brown envelops (because while waiting for your move to arrive, you have to go through all the setting up paperwork processes and having brown envelops ALWAYS helps).
Entertainment & connectivity: Yes, you will have wifi. But you will also have hundred of people on the same network. It was enough for me to do work emails and conference calls without videos. But YouTube was lagging, and forget about live streaming Netflix. So be prepared with offline available entertainment to occupy your time. OR have your own data plans with your phone to stream. If you are a student with online exams, that will be even more important for you to secure your own independent internet access.
I read that many people brought their PlayStation or other android TV set ups to get busy. If space allows it in your luggage that’s a good call! Don’t forget all the cables AND an extension, in the case of my room the nearest plug is not close to the TV at all!
Women stuff: Plan your period and ensure you have all your sanitary pads with you. It is harder and longer to get stuff delivered if you fall short during the quarantine.
Soap & shampoo: well, call me princess. But my hair can’t survive 14 days of all-in-one shampoo and conditioner. Bring your own soap and all to ensure it’s comfortable for your skin. A/C 24/7 for 14 days and your skin and hair will be dry.
To smokers: ALL rooms are connected via the vents. Most quarantine are non-smoking. And believe me since everybody is stuck there – your neighbor second-hand smoking what comes through the A/C vents will tell on you and complain heavily to the people in charge. You will end up with a fine and extra cleaning costs. Prepare nicotine patches if the addiction is really hard to manage.
Pillows and beddings: It might be a little too much – but I can’t sleep on rock hard pillows – I need the ones who are real flat. So I brought mine. A good night sleep is irreplaceable
Exercising: I am following the graduate plan of the Body Coach. So obviously, the meal planning part is uncontrollable but it should not stop you from continuing some exercising. I continued my plan exercise switching the high impact (bad for the downstairs neighbor, be considerate!) to low impact ones. I couldn’t bring any weights but I watched a Youtuber used ones that are water filled! Looked handy!
The Macgyver tricks
Warming your food: if you at the end of delivery route, your food will be cold. Boil water and put the tray on top or if it’s not working another way is to fill the mugs with steaming hot water and put the tray on top. If this is still not available, piping hot water in your bathroom sink and tray of food somehow “floating” or maintained above.
Not enough drinking water: if the country of quarantine as drinkable tap water, then I would boil it and let is cool down before refilling the plastic bottles provided and keep them in the mini-fridge. Otherwise, why not investing on a steripen and then you can always buy from the hotel top ups.
The last words about time in quarantine
I overall think, it was a comfortable quarantine. I was quite impressed at the organization and friendliness of the front liners and volunteers in Malaysia. Although I understand that the cost of quarantine is high for many, I think for the food and the room, it was reasonable. There are mild discomforts and sometimes the meals were totally off-putting, but you know – you are fed decently, the room is comfortable and if you are prepared, then you can just ransack your snacks. I was an overall good experience. On the weekday I would work as usual and since we have been on home office for the past months already, it was actually pretty good and quiet in the room. I was quite efficient. Building a small routine to pass the days came easily: exercising, washing the clothe, making coffee and tea few times per day. In the evening I would spend quiet time working on my blog, reading a book or watching one of the movies I had prepared. Time alone, is also good to take a step back. I reached out to more of my friends and family during the quarantine and had the time for long quality conversations. Just be relaxed and chilled, come prepared and you might even enjoy this mandatory time of stillness.
Photo credit: Steve Pancrate from Unplash