The agency is advising travelers to prepare for potential quarantine and testing requirements.
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The U.S. Department of State is encouraging Americans traveling abroad to make "contingency plans" amid the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant, advising anyone leaving the country to prepare for potential quarantine and testing requirements.

"U.S. citizens who choose to travel internationally should be aware that they may face unexpected challenges related to COVID-19 as they attempt to return to the United States or attempt to travel from one overseas location to another," the department wrote in an advisory last week. "U.S. citizens who do choose to travel internationally should make contingency plans, as they may have to remain in a foreign country longer than originally planned, which will be at their own expense."

Additionally, the State Department also recommends people purchase international travel insurance that includes COVID-19-related trip cancellation and medical coverage, warning that Medicare and Medicaid do not generally cover overseas medical costs.

The omicron variant, which first emerged in southern Africa and was reported to the World Health Organization on Nov. 24, has quickly become the dominant variant in the U.S., accounting for at least 58.6% of all cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In certain parts of the country, like New York and New Jersey as well as some southern states like Texas, omicron accounts for nearly 90% of new cases.

Face mask on corner of suitcase ready for travel with precautions against virus
Credit: BackyardProduction/Getty Images

The State Department warning comes as several countries have cracked down on travel, including Thailand, Germany, and France, while some have gone into lockdowns, like the Netherlands.

When it comes to the U.S., international travelers, including citizens returning from abroad, are now required to get tested within one day of boarding a flight.

"U.S. citizens planning to travel overseas or currently overseas and planning to return to the United States should also contact their airline for specific information about testing requirements for travelers," the State Department wrote. "Airlines may adopt and modify their own specific policies to implement the CDC's testing rule."

In addition to pre-arrival testing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends fully-vaccinated travelers get tested three to five days after returning from an international trip, and self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms after returning from a domestic trip. Unvaccinated travelers should also get tested three to five days after returning from either an international or domestic trip and should self-quarantine for a full seven days, even if they test negative.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.