Staying in hotels during the Covid-19 pandemic

After months of #stayathome, the idea of staying at a hotel or resort is certainly inviting. Level One Lockdown brings with it a new level of freedom and some normality. Yet we need to be aware of second surges happening in other countries, and that South Africa is likely to follow this pattern.

Tips for staying at a hotel during the pandemic

With the upcoming break, holiday makers can use these tips to keep safe when staying at a hotel. As always, those who are high risk patients (elderly, obese, those with comorbidities like diabetes and heart disease) need to do a risk: benefit analysis and decide if it is worth the outing or better to #stayathome.


  • Choose your destination wisely – avoid places that are seeing spikes in cases and avoid areas where there are likely to be crowds of people.
  • Check what health and safety and cleaning/ disinfecting protocols the hotel has in place – what is their mask policy?/ how often are public areas sanitised? What kind of social distancing measures are in place? If these measures are not displayed on the hotel’s website, phone and check.
  • Choose a hotel option that is quieter – air bnb’s, self catering options or boutique hotels may mean that there are fewer people that you need to interact with.
  • Check what medical facilities are available and if there is a nearby hospital in case you become ill.
  • DO NOT go if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone who is positive.
  • Choose contactless options where available, including online reservations, check-ins and payments.
  • Pack your own hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to take with.


  • Face masks should be worn in all public areas.
  • Social distancing should be observed at all times (1.5 metres between people).
  • Avoid crowded indoor spaces.
  • Wash or sanitise hands regularly, especially after touching commonly touched surfaces like elevator buttons, stair rails and desktops.
  • In your room, consider wiping down high- touch surfaces yourself, like the doorknob, desktops, light switches and the remote control.
  • Disinfect the room key, and any other objects that may have been touched by others, such as pens.
  • Consider taking your own pillow to sleep on.
  • Open the windows in the room when you arrive. Measures such as “fogging” are unnecessary.
  • Reduce the number of times that “housekeeping” comes into your room (or eliminate it altogether if it’s a short stay). Make sure you are not in the room at the same time as the cleaner. If you request items such as clean towels, ask for them to be left outside your door. Cleaners should be wearing masks.
  • Avoid shared hotel facilities like the gym – if you do use the gym, read the GGPC article on going to the gym for safety tips. Rather exercise outside if that is an option.
  • When using public bathrooms, keep your mask on and flush the toilet with the lid closed. Wash your hands well afterwards and use a tissue to touch the bathroom door handle. Use a disposable towel to dry hands after washing.


  • The lowest risk food options while you are travelling are self-catering, takeout, drive-through, or room service.
  • Eating outside at restaurants where tables are distanced at least 1.5 metres apart is a better choice than inside dining.
  • Indoor restaurants need to have excellent ventilation and tables spaced as far apart as possible.
  • Buffets are not a good idea as people crowd together and utensils are touched by many people.
  • Snacks offered (e.g. on game drives) should be individually packed in single servings. Bowls of shared food where everyone reaches in to take food are a no-no.


  • Check the restaurant’s COVID-19 prevention practices before you go. They should have protocols regarding masks, social distancing, screening and hand hygiene in place. They should have appropriate cleaning and disinfection measures. Insist on waitrons wearing masks covering noses and mouths.
  • Outdoor seating is always the best choice. If you can’t sit outside, make sure that the room is well ventilated, preferably with doors and windows open.
  • Wear a mask as much as possible when not eating.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 1.5 metres from anyone who does not live in your household. Sit with your own family but spaced apart from others.
  • Tables and chairs should be well spaced out (there should be 1.5 metres between the back of your chair and the back of the chair behind you).
  • Avoid touching a menu or touchscreen, unless you are sure it has been sterilized. Disposable single use menus and menus that are accessed via your own mobile device are safest
  • Items that are shared or re-used like condiments (salt and pepper/ sauces) should be single use or sanitised well between patrons.
  • Serviettes should be disposable.
  • Tablecloths should be changed between patrons OR tables should be wiped down after each service.
  • Chairs should be wiped down between services.
  • Choose food and drink options that are not self-serve to limit the use of shared serving utensils.
  • Use cashless payment options where possible.

Related useful articles:

  • Travel safe and travel wise in the era of Covid-19, by Dr Karin van der Merwe and Dr Venitha Seral. Read more.
  • Is it safe to visit the gym during the pandemic, by Dr Sheri Fanaroff. Read more.
  • Let’s go on a family outing in Gauteng, Jozikids. Read more
  • 11 awesome kids parties venues in Gauteng, Jozikids. Read more.

For those of you venturing out – travel safely and enjoy!


Dr Sheri Fanaroff

Dr Sheri Fanaroff

Dr Sheri Fanaroff MBBCh FCFP MFamMed, a Family Physician, practicing in Melrose, Johannesburg. Fanaroff is a member of GGPC (Gauteng General Practitioners Collaboration) which has created a platform for doctors to share resources during Covid-19. Look for #voicesthatcare on the GGPC Facebook page.

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