With many countries listed here opening up their travel requirements and the mask and testing requirements for United States currently lifted, much of the information in this article is now outdated. We encourage you to research your specific location’s requirements to see what is necessary for you.
That said, you still should be taking some precautions when traveling. COVID-19 is still infecting thousands of people a day, so even if it isn’t required, we suggest wearing a mask when you can’t socially distance and testing before and after flying.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought many things to a grinding halt, and one of the industries hit the hardest was the travel and hospitality industry. With several counties, states, and countries locked down, people couldn’t travel, whether that was to the beach or to the far-flung corners of the world. Thankfully, through the efforts of people around the globe and a mix of sickness-mitigation tactics, like masking and a successful vaccination campaign, the world is significantly less closed down than it was this time last year. That doesn’t mean that everything is fully back to normal, though. There are still many places that are barred for travel, while most places that are open are only open with special precautions in place.
Standard COVID Travel Safety Guidelines
Wherever you’re traveling, it’s still wise to follow general hygiene practices, like hand-washing. Beyond that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have some basic travel tips, broken down by whether you’re vaccinated or not.
It’s important to remember that, currently, mask-wearing is required at all public transportation hubs, whether that’s airports, train stations, or bus stations, as well as during the ride itself — so on the plane, train, or bus. The CDC has also issued suggestions how to make traveling safer at all phases, from the actual trip, to accommodations, to restaurants and dining.
Travel within the United States
Travel within the continental United States is pretty open. Generally, if you follow the standard travel guidelines, you should be fine. Most states have no statewide restrictions on domestic travel, meaning you’re free to visit without quarantining or testing. Some states do have testing or quarantining requirements, such as Kansas and Hawai’i. These requirements differ between states and can change quickly, so it’s suggested that you monitor and keep up to date if you plan to visit another state.
Traveling outside of the United States can be a great way to experience other cultures and explore the rest of the world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, international travel was probably hurt the most, as borders closed to keep the pandemic controlled. Now that countries are beginning to open up again, there’s a bit of a rush, created both by countries looking to restart their tourism industries and tourists looking to relieve over a year of pent-up wanderlust. To aid with the reopening of international travel, the United States has formed expert groups with a number of other countries like Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union to work out how to most safely begin lifting travel restrictions. This comes on the heels of the CDC easing travel advisories for over 120 countries around the world.
The U.S.’s Neighbors
If you’re itching to get out of the United States, you have options of places to travel internationally, but they can be limited by a number of factors. Closer to home, Mexico is allowing travelers in without testing or vaccine requirements, though many resorts ask a health questionnaire. The land border between the United States and Mexico remains closed for now, but air travel is still allowed. Currently, the United States suggests rethinking travel to Mexico. Canada, on the other hand, remains closed for most non-essential travel, unless you meet certain exemptions.
For South America, many of the countries are still open to American travelers, though most require negative COVID tests, quarantining, or both. In the Caribbean, you can still lounge on the beaches in Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, or the Dominican Republic, though all require authorization forms to be allowed entry into the country. Jamaica and Turks and Caicos also require a negative COVID test. Many of these have the benefit of staying at an all-inclusive resort where you’re effectively quarantined, but in a relaxed and pampered way and around the same people the whole time. You don’t need to leave the resort, limiting your exposure.
What a difference a few weeks makes. Since the publication of this article and the growth of the Delta variant in the United States and the world, a lot has changed. The European Union has removed the United States from its safe list of countries. While this is only an advisory for other countries within the Union, many have followed this suggestion by introducing travel restrictions for Americans. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to go to a country within the European Union, but each country has introduced its own restrictions. This makes researching your destination all the more important. For example, France now requires unvaccinated visitors to have an essential reason for entering the country, along with a negative COVID test and a seven-day quarantine following entry. Vaccinated travelers will still be able to visit Paris, though local COVID protections are in place, like the pass sanitaire that came into effect in August.
Other European countries have specific requirements that you should verify before traveling. Italy requires all travelers to show a negative test taken within the last 72 hours, while unvaccinated travelers must also quarantine for 14 days. Greece, on the other hand, is largely restriction-free so long as you’re vaccinated, have been tested recently, or can prove you’ve recovered from COVID. On the other end of the spectrum is Sweden, who has banned all U.S. travelers regardless of vaccination status. While no longer a part of the EU, the United Kingdom allows vaccinated Americans to visit without quarantining, though a negative test taken within the previous 72 hours is required. We suggest researching both the requirements and risks thoroughly before traveling internationally and only traveling if you’re vaccinated.
Throughout Asia, the requirements vary based on country. For example, South Korea requires a negative test and a 14-day quarantine, even if you’re vaccinated. Japan is even more strict with who can get in and who can’t. China is hopeful to be able to give travel visas to vaccinated tourists soon. Africa, on the other hand, is more open to American tourists, but it’s important to read up on the requirements prior to making any plans.
In fact, each country will have its own specific requirements that you should research thoroughly so that you aren’t planning accommodations and excursions, only to find out that you’re not allowed in. Check out this handy tool for where you can go and what the country requires of you.
Getting Back into the U.S.
Of course, going somewhere is only half the battle. You also have to get back home. In order to get on the flight back home, you have to show a negative viral COVID test (the rapid test counts as long as it’s a viral test) from within the last 72 hours or a doctor’s note that you’ve recovered from COVID within a specific time frame. If you don’t, the airline is obligated to not allow you on the plane. This is currently required even if you’re vaccinated. Once you’re back, it’s also suggested you get another COVID test to be safe.
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Travel is a popular pastime and a way to explore our world, whether it’s a trip to see family in the next state over or crossing an ocean or two. With the global shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us had to put vacations and dream trips on hold, unsure if the opportunity had passed us by. Now that things are beginning to come under control, it’s tempting to immediately start acting like nothing happened, but we have to remember that COVID is still ravaging the world. That doesn’t mean we have to give up traveling, though. If you’re following safety guidelines, there’s little stopping you from going where you want, especially if you’re vaccinated.