Plan a Post-Covid Vacay in These International Destinations
By Janine Devine
Ahhh, spring is in the air! Three vaccines are now available to combat the pandemic in the United States. Air travel and package tours are now at bargain prices. It seems now more and more what we all want is a vacation from the Coronavirus.
International flights are operating now. It is possible to travel to many destinations outside the United States with simple requirements and no self-quarantine period. Finally, international travel after COVID is really happening!
Is it too early to plan an international vacation?
It’s a good time to start planning international travel now, even if it may be several months before you’ll explore your family heritage in Ireland or enjoy wine and sheepherding in New Zealand. Airlines have relaxed — even waived — change fees and cancellation policies.
With pent-up demand, rising prices are likely.
In a recent poll of Americans by Trivago, Americans would be willing to give up their jobs (48%), sex for a whole year (38%), or their savings (25%) just to travel, which proves that travel is essential.
Parts of the world are open and have been permitting non-essential travel for months. More countries are opening their borders every week. Even cruise ship travel has returned to some countries, although not yet for U.S. citizens.
As vaccination rates increase and COVID-19 cases decrease, safe travel will be possible.
What are the requirements for international travel after COVID-19?
In most cases, all you’ll need (besides an airline ticket and guaranteed hotel reservations) is a negative PCR test for COVID.
Most testing requirements specify the nasal swab type, taken within 72 hours prior to your international departure. Requirements generally do not permit a home kit nor a rapid antigen test. Additional or adjusted requirements are listed for each country on the list.
In most cases, you’ll also need to fill out an online health declaration form and + landing card. These usually generate a QR code to load to your phone and display to immigration officials.
Countries that mandate 14-day quarantines, even though open, have not been included on this list. While it can be enjoyable sheltering in place in a beautiful hotel room, life’s a bit too short to stay in one place.
And, while it’s too painful to think about returning home when you have only started planning, you’ll need proof of a negative viral test – either molecular NAAT or antigen test — taken within 3 days in order to board your return flight and enter the US. Find the US entry requirements on their webpage.
But before you start planning an international trip, first things first: check to see your passport is valid for at minimum 6 months from the time you plan to travel.
If your passport has expired or is about to, the renewal will take approximately 10-12 weeks for standard processing or only 4-6 weeks with an extra $60 for expedited processing.
Also, check to see you have at least two empty pages in your passport; that’s the recommended minimum for immigration stamps.
Next, check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and the World Health Organization (WHO) to see how they have categorized your intended destination.
Then, evaluate your own risk. Since health officials regularly review and update COVID travel requirements for their country, you should always refer to a destination’s official government or tourism website for updated information.
Wherever you choose to go, we highly recommend you purchase travel insurance to protect your investment of time and money. Most travel insurance companies now offer COVID policies that also include international medical insurance.
Additional International Requirements
When you land, most countries will mandate face masks while in public areas and on public transportation. Social distancing will be required as well as the frequent use of hand sanitizer. You may be randomly subject to temperature scans when you’re out and about as well as when you arrive in an airport or pulled aside for additional testing.
Many tourist sites, like museums, on-location tours, and group activities, will have reduced capacity limits and reduced hours of operation, so keep this in mind and try to be flexible. Reduced business hours also may apply to restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Curfews may be in place. Nightclubs may not be open at all.
Likely the permanent residents are as frustrated as you are with how the pandemic has impacted their daily lives, so grace, good humor, and understanding are always key.
But where can I go?
We’ve compiled a list to fuel your brewing wanderlust. These destinations are now open to visitors, vaccinated or not.
There’s sun, surf, and sand to enjoy so close to home, which has always made the Caribbean a popular destination, particularly for residents of the East Coast.
There’s history, too, of native peoples, colonization, trade, and development that go back centuries. Each place enjoys its own flavor and flavors when it comes to culture, art, music, food, and activities. The islands of the Caribbean are located along the second largest coral reef in the world, so snorkeling and other water sports are big here and the colors of the sea and the fish are exquisite.
Aruba, Bonaire & Curaçao
Also, known as the Leeward Antilles, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao are as simple as ABC, except when it comes to entry requirements, which are different for each Dutch island.
Aruba has an Arrival Card that must be completed within 3 days of the time you land and requires the purchase of Visitors Insurance.
Premiums start at $30, buying up will cover the testing you need to return back to the US. Download the Aruba Health App which gets you places faster and includes contact tracing for everyone’s protection.
Now, you can enjoy the fabulously colored Dutch architecture, amazing art, gorgeous flamingos, the most consistently sunny weather in the Caribbean, sport fishing, spas, and just a bit of nightlife and gambling (curfew starts at midnight). Bonbini!
Bonaire opened up in February. New, direct flights from New York, Miami, and Atlanta cut out a layover in Curaçao’s international airport to get there.
If scuba is your thing, then Bonaire is your destination. Its Marine Park has over 85 dive sites with over 350 species of fish.
If not, just relax on its beaches or go hiking. Kids of all ages will keep occupied with goat, donkey, and flamingo sanctuaries. To enter, complete a Health Declaration Form before you leave.
Curaçao has three entry requirements for non-residents, see here. These need to be completed and submitted online 48 hours in advance of your arrival:
→ proof of negative COVID-19 test
→ a completed immigration card
→ a Passenger Locator form
Anguilla halted the spread of COVID-19. They currently have no active cases of COVID and would like to keep it that way. Although there are quite a few flights to/from the island, visitors must apply to the embassy first to be accepted for a visit.
A romantic getaway to Anguilla starts at $500 a couple, which covers two tests per person and the “surveillance and costs associated with the additional public health presence.” It is kind of pricey when you haven’t even booked airfare or a hotel yet. If cost is a major concern, wait or pick another Caribbean paradise.
Antigua & Barbuda
Known for the beautiful white sand beaches, Antigua can boast one for each day of the year.
Barbuda has amazing wildlife and the largest nesting colony of gorgeous frigate birds. Beautiful soft trade winds keep away the humidity that makes other islands uncomfortable. There’s much to see and enjoy on these tiny islands.
But it takes a lot to keep everyone safe. International travelers must stay in an approved hotel, restaurants are only open for take-out and delivery, and you’d better keep that mask on when you deplane. It’s all put together in their advisory.
Bermuda is on the same latitude as Savannah, Georgia, so is not technically a Caribbean island, but it’s easiest to simplify and keep it here.
Winters are mild, averaging 68 degrees in winter. Bermuda is fabulous for golf, fishing, and exploring its flora in wide-open spaces. Plus, there are those famous pink sand beaches to enjoy. You’ll find big resorts and charming inns in this British overseas territory, but no need to change money when you visit here. US dollars are accepted, although you may receive change in Bermudan dollars.
To enter, you’ll need a completed Travel Authorisation Process Form between 24 and 72 hours before you arrive. This requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within five days of your arrival. When you land, you’ll also be tested again, and on Days four, eight, and 14. Workcation anyone?
The Dominican Republic remains your wild island paradise. No testing is required when you land, just a Traveler Health Affidavit and an immigration form.
You may be subject to a breath test on arrival as well as frequent, random temperature checks in and outside of the airport.
While not mandatory, it is also recommended you download the COVID-RD app to your phone; this acts as a passport to facilitate entry to a variety of places and for contact tracing.
The DR has also made your return trip testing a breeze. Many resorts have converted their ballrooms and other meeting spaces to testing centers, but always call the resort in advance of your arrival or have your travel agent do it to be sure.
Jamaica has wonderful beaches, jungles, and waterfalls to explore and delicious coffee and rum to drink. That’s not even mentioning the music!
Jamaica is an island where everything is irie (meaning “alright”). The government enacted strict Resiliency Corridors which, as a non-resident, you must remain inside in addition to the face coverings and social distancing requirements.
To enter, you’ll also need to apply for your travel authorization that includes your intended dates and place(s) of stay, health questionnaire, and immigration form.
Once approved, print or save to your phone to show before boarding your plane and on arrival.
Puerto Rico is an American territory, as are the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas. This means you don’t need a passport to be able to enjoy the great beaches, famous shopping, or beautiful scenery of these special places!
There are entry requirements so we’ve included all the information you need for travel in our review of domestic travel.
Turks & Caicos’
Turks & Caicos’ Grace Bay Beach is known as one of the world’s best beaches and sand snobs adore its fine white powdery sand.
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Find lots of accommodations – many intended as residences – with kitchenettes or even full kitchens to save you some cash. Don’t worry though. There’s plenty of world-class dining if you vow never to cook again after cooking at home during the pandemic.
You’ll need to apply to visit with proof of negative test results, hotel confirmation, and travel insurance with COVID-coverage. Comprehensive info and a link to the application are online. Larger resorts welcome your visit and many provide testing on-site for your return to the US.
Central and South America
These are some of the most diverse territories in the world swim in oceans, walk through jungles, or climb up mountains. You’ll find famous landmarks like Sierra Madres and Andes Mountains, the Amazon Rainforest, and Galapagos islands here.
Belize is the only Central American nation where English is the official language. If you love diving or water sports, this might already be on your list.
If the beach isn’t your thing, you have rainforests and countless Mayan ruins to explore. Here, you’ll find those overwater bungalows so typical throughout French Polynesia, but at a far lower cost.
Download the Belize Health App 72 hours before you arrive and upload your proof of a negative COVID-19 test. This generates a QR code to load on your phone to display to immigration to fast-track your arrival. Testing for your return back home is easy and many resorts have lab staff on-site to administer tests. Testing is also available at the airport for $50. Check often because Belize updates entry requirements frequently.
Brazil currently has limited entry requirements and does not impose a mandatory quarantine upon arrival. Your first reaction to that might be “Awesome!”
However, due to the continuing high rate of COVID transmission, this is not a country we feel safe recommending. There’s incredibly high-risk visiting Brazil right now. Read the US Depart of State’s travel advisory.
Colombia has a reputation tied to crime and drugs, but new social initiatives have distanced the country from that history. Colombia is popular with both visitors and ex-pats with beautiful weather and incredible diversity of landscapes and fauna, It’s the 2nd most ecologically diverse nation in the world, after Brazil.
Register online before you travel here. Visitors are recommended, but not required to download CoronApp for safety and contact tracing purposes. Getting health insurance here is easy, rather inexpensive, and will cut endless red tape if you become ill.
Costa Rica is indeed very rica, or rich, in nature, adventure, and culture. It boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the world (96%), a very developed infrastructure, and is proud that it has no military.
With 800 miles of coastline and 25% of its land protected, this is a paradise waiting for you to explore. Visitors need to complete the digital Health Pass 48 hours before boarding your flight. Completion of the pass generates a QR code to show immigration. The Health Pass requires a valid health insurance policy to cover medical costs and lodging in Costa Rica, if you are required to quarantine. For more details, see here.
Ecuador & the Galapagos Island
Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands are always at the top of travelers’ bucket lists. You don’t need to be a science nerd to appreciate its animal highlights: pink dolphins, giant tortoises, and jaguars. We didn’t even touch on the Galapagos yet!
Visitors need to complete a Health Declaration. Your negative COVID test results must be within a 96-hour time frame. You need to have confirmed “safe passage” from a registered tour operator for your onward journey to the Galapagos. In fact, we’d recommend getting a highly rated tour operator to arrange your travel plans here due to conflicting information on official government sites. This region is not one to do yourself.
Mexico, your warm next-door neighbor to the South has been open for business for quite some time. Los Cabos on the West Coast and Cancun/Riviera Maya on the East Coast are prime for fun and sun, food and drink, spas and Mayan ruins, and beautiful handicrafts and art.
Mexico does not currently require any pre-testing for COVID, although your airline may beg to differ. This may appear to be ideal, but we have many concerns and recommend you take all precautions necessary as well as purchase medical insurance that will cover you in-country.
Revisiting the United Kingdom like your ‘year abroad’ is still far off on the horizon.
In fact, Croatia and Hungary joyfully re-opened back in July last year, along with other hopeful nations and territories like French Polynesia and St. Barth’s. Coronavirus surges followed and these destinations were forced to shut down and still remain closed.
Other European countries have been carefully examining what went wrong as they consider their reopening policies. Will you be going to Europe soon? Many tour operators plan on resuming regular traffic in July or August but are building generous change policies into their packages.
Want to go now? You are limited to more off-the-beaten-track destinations like Albania, Georgia, Serbia, and Montenegro but with rapidly changing entry requirements, we don’t feel completely confident in recommending your travel to these unspoiled destinations just yet.
Turkey stands at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and is a wonderland of rich culture, landscapes, and history. With its cultural and religious heritage, historical sites, and warm, hospitable people, Istanbul and Turkey should be on every travel “to do” list at least once.
Beyond Istanbul, balloon rides and inspiring sunsets over Cappadocia’s fairy-tale landscapes are magic. There are daily curfews beginning at 9 PM and note that cafes and restaurants are closed for dining in, so take-out only; hotel guests who can dine in the hotel’s restaurants.
Entry here is not complicated. Your arriving airline will provide forms to complete before you check-in. Requirements dictate a negative COVID PCR test (within 72 hours) and confirmed hotel reservations at certified hotels in Turkey.
Africa and the Middle East
The continent of Africa and the Middle East is the place where bucket-list journeys are fulfilled. Let’s be frank, these are long trips to undertake, but the rewards are memories that will last a lifetime.
Jordan is a destination that will give your inner Laura Croft or Indiana Jones a real thrill: the Dead Sea and the amazing, huge ruins of Petra come to mind. You’ll need a completed Health Declaration form, proof of travel insurance that will cover medical expenses in the country, and pre-payment of additional COVID testing on arrival. All details are outlined on their site.
Morocco is an exotic land of fascinating culture, food, and history. Explore spice markets and kasbahs, trek the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert.
For entry, air passengers must complete a Passenger Health Form before being allowed to board the plane and come with confirmed reservations for hotels or activities from a travel agent during your stay. Random health screening procedures may be in place; curfews remain (9 PM) and masks are mandatory everywhere. Please note that regulations may be updated suddenly. Your stay must be under 90 days.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is home to billionaires, over-the-top architecture, fantastic food, and beach resorts miles from vast stretches of desert landscapes. Shopping, art, and culture all feature high here, especially with its huge ex-pat population.
Getting here accounts for considerable travel time from the US, you need proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of your arrival. Show your completed Health Declaration Form when you check-in for your flight and you’ll be good to go.
You’ll also need a 30-day visa, but that’s a standard procedure when you arrive in Dubai. You may be selected for another COVID test at the airport. You must also download the COVID-19 DXB smart app. You may be required to wear a GPS tracking bracelet too.
Although we say this often, we can’t stress it enough: purchase travel insurance that includes medical coverage in-country. If you fly Emirates, this airline is including coverage in the cost of your airline ticket.
As long as you’ve made it this far, Dubai is an excellent, traditional jumping-off point to The Maldives so consider visiting Asia too.
Kenya and its many natural wonders are always at the top of an adventurer’s bucket list. A safari with a goal of viewing the Big Five or being present to see the Great Migration of the wildebeest across rivers and great stretches of landscapes is a wondrous, life-changing experience. While you can visit now, to fully appreciate these sights takes many months of planning, even up to a year back in the “old days.
Visitors must apply online for an electronic visa https://tga.gov.tr/, complete a Health Surveillance Form online; more information is here.
Seychelles is a series of islands with fewer than 90,000 inhabitants. It is the least populated country in Africa and its capital, Victoria, is the world’s smallest. Social distancing isn’t too difficult here. You’ll find giant tortoises here along with many species of birds found nowhere else. After March 25th, invites Americans armed with proof of a negative COVID test to see the beauty of these unspoiled islands provided they have applied and received approval for a Health Travel Authorization https://seychelles.govtas.com/. The cost is €45. You’ll also need a visa which you can get at the airport when you arrive.
Asia and India
Our entries for this exotic region are the island countries of The Maldives and Sri Lanka, once known as Ceylon. This region boasts both the highest and the lowest points on earth, vastly different exotic cultures and peoples.
We wish there were more countries on this list, but things are changing. Mongolia is said to be re-opening in May and the ever-popular Thailand is scheduled to open in July.
The Maldives is comprised of over 1,000 islands with a total population of just over 350,000. Dreaming of overwater bungalows? There are plenty here and an undersea restaurant, too.
This is an ideal destination for a second or third honeymoon. All you need is time, money, and a Health Declaration Form completed 24 hours before your departure flight. You must have a confirmed booking at a pre-approved hotel or resort. You may be subject to random testing on arrival.
Health insurance is not mandated, but if you’ve been paying attention, I highly recommend it. You are not permitted to stay in the capital of Malé (trust me, that’s a good thing). When you head to your island resort, you’ll need to take another test to present at check-in. A contact tracing app is recommended You’ll also be subject to random temperature checks and, depending on your resort, an additional COVID test is done on-site if your hotel is on its own private island. That’s not too much of a sacrifice to be able to walk around without a face mask. Check their details online and note that requirements are updated every two weeks.
Sri Lanka, the Teardrop of India, is open and welcoming travelers who are passionate about nature, adventure, and, oh yes, tea. There’s also an incredible diversity of wildlife here: elephants, whales, even crocodiles, and some 175+ other species of reptiles, all in an area about the size of West Virginia.
To enter you’ll need several things:
→ a visa
→ a confirmed booking at a pre-approved Level 1 Safe & Secure hotel
→ medical insurance coverage (a $50,000 policy for one month stay costs $12)
→ prepaid COVID tests on your arrival, at your hotel and after 5 days
→ proof of a negative COVID test result 96 hours prior to boarding their flight.
All information is online. Technically, travelers are in a 14-day quarantine. However, they are not required to remain in their hotel. Instead, 14 different attractions in a pre-determined “bio-bubble count as an exemption to the quarantine. Interaction with permanent residents is discouraged during the 14 day period and visitors cannot use public transportation.
Get Out and Travel
So there is the light at the end of the long travel abyss that was 2020. International travel doesn’t need to be just a fantasy.
Is travel more challenging now? Yes, definitely. Do your research on travel restrictions and requirements. Check your destination’s own tourism updates for frequently asked questions and new changes.
Always follow protocols before you depart, while in your destination, and at the end of your trip to ensure safe travel. Consider travel insurance that includes healthcare coverage in the country you visit can save your life. Travel has never felt more needed and you’ll enjoy an escape with memories that will last a lifetime.
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