What are the entry requirements?
Before departing for your destination (or even choosing one), you should check the requirements for entry into the country and for re-entry home. These can change regularly, but you can find all the relevant information on the US State Department website or overseas government websites. Airlines such as United Airlines and American have also created COVID-19 information hubs, which allow visitors to see the travel restrictions in place in each country on their network.
Do I need to take a test?
Some countries still require proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry depending on your vaccination status. Check whether you need to take a PCR test, which can take 24 to 48 hours to receive results, or the more rapid antigen (lateral flow) test which can be completed at home and gives a result within 30 minutes. You will also need to make sure that you take the test in the right timeframe, which ranges from 24 to 72 hours depending on the destination. To make matters more complicated, this timeframe can apply to ‘pre-departure’ or ‘pre-arrival/landing’. You must also check if you need to take a test to return home after your trip. If this is the case, plan ahead, find and book an appointment with COVID-19 testing providers at your destination. If you are only required to take a lateral flow test, you can buy a rapid antigen test and carry it in your carryon bag. Note that under the new US rules effective Nov. 8, fully vaccinated travelers, both US citizens and foreign nationals, are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of travel.
Will I need to quarantine?
The requirement for quarantine tends to be dependent on the numbers of COVID-19 cases in the country of departure. Some countries will demand that you self-isolate, while others exempt those who are fully vaccinated, have recently recovered from the virus, or show proof of a negative PCR test. Under the new US protocols, unvaccinated travelers will remain largely barred from entering the country, while returning unvaccinated US citizens and legal permanent residents will need to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of boarding a flight to the United States and will undergo testing upon arrival.
WHAT PROOF OF VACCINATION DO I NEED?
The question of vaccine passports is proving to be a contentious one, but more and more travel providers and venues are accepting digital proof of vaccination solutions such as VeriFly or the IATA Travel Pass. The EU Digital COVID Certificate, or DCC, is accepted in the 27 EU member states, and under a number of reciprocal agreements with other states to handle those vaccination certificates. So far the United States has not introduced any similar passport technology. In any case, the paper version of your vaccine card is evidence to show proof of vaccination.
What other forms do I need?
It is likely that you will need to fill out a form providing personal information and travel details. In the US, contact tracing information will be part of the new protocols for inbound international arrivals. Other jurisdictions use various forms with different names, so make sure that you are using the correct version for your destination. It might be that you only need to complete a ‘sworn statement’ certifying that you do not have COVID symptoms and have not been in contact with a confirmed case in the preceding two weeks. You may be asked to show either a digital or paper version of the document at the border. As will all these requirements, do your homework on every step of the journey.
WHAT KIND OF MASK DO I NEED?
For some reason, masks have become a flashpoint for a few airline passengers in the US. The government has mandated them, and most travelers favor them. Plus, they really, really work. While we’re all accustomed to wearing masks, some countries and transport services have strict rules on the type of face covering allowed. Check whether the likes of cloth masks, face shields or masks with an exhaust valve are allowed in your destination, on board your chosen airline or ground transportation provider. Many of these services instead require a surgical mask, or a FFP2 (filtering face piece), KN95 or N95 mask, as they provide extra protection.
Can I change or cancel my booking?
Check whether it’s possible to amend or cancel your booking free of charge if you need to postpone travel plans. Most companies have extended their flexible booking policies because of the ongoing travel uncertainty, waiving the change fee and offering refunds or travel vouchers in the event of cancellation.
Should I buy insurance?
When traveling during a global pandemic, it is wise to purchase travel and health insurance. Most health policies extend coverage only for domestic travel, and even then may exclude coverage of extraordinary events such as global pandemics. Read the fine print to check whether the policies cover COVID-19-related incidents. If you’re traveling internationally, global health insurance is a must. Also note, health insurance is not the same thing as travel insurance. You may want to purchase a policy that covers trip disruptions and – in extreme cases – evacuation back home. Shop around for the best provider, and make sure it covers all the contingencies you feel are necessary.
What are the local rules?
Regulations differ around the world – from caps on group numbers to curfews and proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter establishments – so check ahead of departure to ensure your trip is as smooth as possible.