That history repeats itself is a casual truism, and endlessly retailed by those with a sketchy grasp of the subject. For more informed observers, the past tends to rhyme instead, and often in unexpected ways. One example is the striking parallels that exist – starkly different, of course, but which nevertheless rhyme and chime – between wartime travel and the Covid-19 pandemic as it steadily trudges on through its second year. Convoluted journeys across half the world, with lengthy quarantine stays in places as unanticipated as Dubai and the Maldives, have become almost normalised for those with the doubtful privilege of being able to travel at all. For all the optimistic chatter about vaccine passports, shortened or eliminated quarantine in various places, and a steady “return to normal”, numerous questions remain about what travel will look like for the next couple of years – at least. Examination of the experiences of the past offers insights – however imperfect – into how the coming months and years may be. In this instance, the outbreak of World War II in Europe in September 1939, and how the broader logistical effects of that conflict rippled out to corners of the globe that were never the actual site of armed conflict, provides some illustrative parallels. So how would one get from Britain to Hong Kong while transport was still possible in the uncertain two years before Japan entered the war, in December 1941? Hong Kong’s UK quarantine reversal leaves many stranded The Mediterranean passage via Suez – the quickest pre-war sea route – was almost immediately closed to passenger shipping when war broke out in Europe. A lengthy zigzag journey via the Atlantic, the United States or Canada and then a trans-Pacific crossing by various means, possibly via Australia or New Zealand, was the usual option. An alternative was by sea via South Africa, which added a couple of months to the journey – if onward passages to the Far East were even available. Much like now, when flight availability is limited and prohibitively expensive, pre-war passenger liners were often requisitioned for troop transports, which further restricted available berths. Mail – like today – took months longer than anticipated, if it arrived at all; submarines regularly took their toll. Much like today, countries and routes opened and closed almost overnight; visa restrictions, and entry and departure permits, further complicated arrangements. Gaining priority for transport could be an insurmountable challenge. If a ticket was marked “No Priority”, that status meant exactly that; being “bumped” was an ever-present risk. From the Middle East to India, people spent weeks camped out at airfields in the hope of a vacancy. For most, no choice existed but to stay put wherever they happened to be, and wait – as best they could – for different times to arrive. And what did the world look like when global hostilities finally ended? Much like any anticipated “end” of the pandemic, the outbreak of peace in August 1945 was only a new beginning. International travel took another couple of years to normalise, as such merchant shipping that hadn’t been sent to the bottom during wartime remained requisitioned by military and civilian authorities. It took many months to train up new crews, build more capacity, repair damaged infrastructure or repurpose earlier facilities that had been turned over to other emergency uses. It was well into 1947 before anything resembling pre-war “normal” travel existed and by then – in Hong Kong – the looming civil war in China began to cast another lengthening shadow over the near future, when the world once more began to close up.