Everything You Need to Know If You're Traveling During the Coronavirus Outbreak (Video)
Since reports of the coronavirus surfaced in late December 2019, nearly 160 million people have been infected and over 3 million have died around the world. As the virus continues to have a global impact, countries around the world have established travel advisories and rules, leading airlines and cruises to cancel their itineraries.
The United States has reported more coronavirus cases than any other country in the world at over 30 million. The virus, which originated in China, made its way to the U.S. in February 2020 where over 580,000 have since died. As precautions including states of emergency and lockdowns were put in place across the country, the State Department has advised Americans to avoid all international travel. States have also implemented their own travel rules and restrictions when it comes to traveling within the country.
In Europe, countries including Spain, Italy, and France saw ups and downs in their COVID-19 cases and have been setting their sites on a summer of tourism. For citizens of the EU, each country has implemented certain protocols when it comes to traveling internally.
Caribbean islands slowly welcomed tourists back and have implemented numerous precautions including testing and quarantine protocol for visitors.
Here is everything you need to know about traveling right now.
What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus was first discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan, in the Hubei province of China. WHO announced on Feb. 12, 2020, that the official name for the specific strain of coronavirus is COVID-19.
At the beginning of March 2020, the WHO officially declared the coronavirus as "a pandemic."
“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats, and bats,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Both Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are caused by a coronavirus, but not the strain that's currently circulating.
The CDC has continually updated a list of symptoms that currently include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
The CDC says an individual will experience symptoms 2-14 days after being exposed to the virus.
What can you do to prevent coronavirus?
Wearing a mask and general flu hygiene practices, including washing your hands regularly and covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, are simple ways to prevent COVID-19. Extra measures include sanitizing commonly touched surfaces with antibacterial wipes or sprays. Also, avoid touching your face and close contact with people you may see coughing or sneezing. The CDC also recommends keeping group gatherings small and outdoors when possible.
When people infected with COVID-19, "cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe" they produce droplets that can linger in the air, according to guidance from CDC. These droplets can then spread via airborne transmission.
The CDC along with many airlines and government agencies strongly encourages everyone to wear masks or face coverings whenever in public, and especially in areas where maintaining social distance (of six feet or more) may be difficult. Businesses from retail shops to theme parks to airports, have also made it mandatory for guests to wear a face covering.
The CDC also released mask guidelines specifically for traveling.
Additionally while traveling, the TSA has allowed passengers to carry 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in a carry-on bag until further notice, according to their website.
Is a COVID-19 vaccine required to travel?
The CDC announced in April that vaccinated travelers can travel freely without having to quarantine or test for COVID-19.
Authorized n December, the Federal Drug Administration authorized the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, which was followed shortly after by the Moderna vaccine. Johnson & Johnson has applied for emergency use authorization with a third vaccine (and a single-dose option), which has been shown to be 85% effective against severe illness, The Associated Press reported.
While the vaccine rollout has been different from country to country and state to state (and it's unlikely the pandemic-era safety protocols will go away anytime soon), it has offered hope to a beleaguered travel industry. It's not yet clear if vaccinations will become a widespread requirement for international travel, cruise ships, flying, or other travel-related activities, but some destinations and companies have already begun to require the jab.
Countries are starting to explore the idea of vaccine passports, including the Seychelles and Georgia, and more, each of which started welcoming fully vaccinated American travelers. Additionally, the United Kingdom has proposed an internationally-recognized vaccine passport.
In the U.S., Vermont and New Hampshire have waived quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travelers, but restrictions still vary from state to state.
On cruise ships, Crystal Cruises, the American Queen Steamboat Company, and Victory Cruise Lines have each said guests must be fully vaccinated before boarding. But several other lines, including Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Regent Seven Seas, have only committed to trying to vaccinate their crew.
As of now, international travel restrictions and testing mandates remain in place for vaccinated travelers, including the CDC's requirement that anyone coming into the country get tested for the virus before boarding a flight.
What countries are affected by coronavirus?
The number of confirmed cases and deaths below are cumulative infections since the pandemic began according to Johns Hopkins University's real-time map from its Center for Systems Science and Engineering Department, unless otherwise noted.
The United States:
The United States has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world at nearly 30 million, and over 580,000 deaths. For a state-by-state breakdown on travel restrictions and testing requirements at this time, see T+L's guide.
In April, the CDC announced that vaccinated travelers can travel freely without having to quarantine. On Jan. 12, the CDC announced that all international travelers will be required to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the United States.
The State Department instituted a Level 4 advisory — its highest warning advising Americans against traveling anywhere — in March, but lifted the advisory in early August reverting back to categorizing countries on a 1-4 scale individually.
The CDC has also dropped its quarantine guidance, advising Americans to follow the quarantine or isolation rules of the location they're visiting. Additionally, international travelers will no longer have to undergo enhanced screenings at airports nor will they be directed to a specific airport in order to enter the country.
In New York and Alaska tourists can get vaccinated on arrival.
The land border between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico continues to stay closed.
Theme parks including Orlando's Disney World and Disney Springs and Universal's City Walk in California have reopened. National parks have also opened gradually throughout the country. Disneyland in California welcomed back visitors in April.
Las Vegas has also welcomed visitors back with strict protocol in place.
As a third wave of COVID-19 spreads across the European Union, some countries are re-imposing lockdown measures and travel restrictions. However, a European Union official recently said that vaccinated Americans may be able to visit Europe later this summer.
The European Union has agreed to increase it's traffic light system for travel restrictions by implementing a "dark red" designation with stricter rules for traveling, Reuters reported on Jan. 29.
France plans to open to American tourists in June. Having endured various levels of lockdowns throughout the pandemic, French President Emmanuel Macron has laid out a reopening plan that would allow U.S. passport holders to enter France beginning June 9, assuming COVID-19 levels remain under control and visitors can present proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.
Borders are currently closed to all non-essential travelers outside of Europe, except for travelers from the U.K., Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore. Travel to and from the U.S. must be for "a compelling reason," according to the U.S. Embassy in France.
France became the first European country to begin testing a digital health pass to reopen international travel.
The country has reported over 5.8 million cases and over 100,000 people have died. Paris.
Luxury tourist destination St. Tropez has reopened with mask rules in place, according to The Associated Press.
Spain is planning to welcome tourists from around the world back in June with the help of a digital health passport.
The country — with over 3.5 million cases of coronavirus — has implemented a non-essential travel ban and most U.S. citizens cannot enter Spain at this time. Restrictions vary by region, according to the U.S. Embassy, although most regions are under a nighttime curfew, limited capacity gatherings, and limited movement. Spain could begin testing a four-day workweek in response to the pandemic this fall.
Italy — with over 4 million cases — is ready to welcome vaccinated tourists however the country is still implementing various lockdown restrictions.
Fourteen of the country's regions — including the major cities of Rome, Milan and Florence — are now considered "yellow zones" and permitted outdoor dining, outdoor events and open stores. A 10 p.m. curfew is still in place and restrictions still in place for international travel.
Specifically the island of Capri is ready to welcome vaccinated tourists as 80% of their population have been inoculated.
"Non-essential travel (i.e., tourism) to Italy from most non-EU countries (including the United States) is prohibited," according to the U.S. Embassy. Travelers with essential reasons to visit Italy should fill out the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs' "Viaggi Sicuri" or "Safe Trip" survey to see if they'll be able to enter or what protocol they'll need to follow. Depending on which region they're visiting, they may need to quarantine upon arrival.
Germany has reported over 3.5 million cases and more than 85,000 deaths during its outbreak.
Several German cities with rising counts of COVID-19 are under strict lockdown until at least June. Restrictions of the "federal emergency brake" include a 10 p.m. curfew, capacity limits in stores, and limits on household contacts, The BBC reported.
Air passengers to Germany are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test or proof that they have recovered from the virus within the past 90 days, according to the U.S. Embassy.
Overnight hotel stays for tourists are not allowed at this point. General entry restrictions are limited to EU and Schengen member states, and select countries including Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. Arrivals from other countries are "only possible in exceptional cases" and require proof of "urgent need," according to the government website.
Belgium, with over 1 million cases since the pandemic began, has begun easing COVID-19 restrictions, with the ban on nonessential travel lifted. Outdoor dining at bars and restaurants is scheduled to resume on May 8, the government announced. A curfew remains in effect in major cities from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. Those traveling from a red zone, however, which includes many countries in Europe, may be required to quarantine. A negative PCR test is required for entry into the country, according to the U.S. Embassy.
Portugal remains in a country-wide state of emergency, according to the embassy, although restrictions have begun to ease. Schools, museums, stores, restaurants and bars have been permitted to reopen and large outdoor events will be allowed to resume from May 3.
Some travel, including around the EU and Portuguese islands, is permitted but travelers must submit to a COVID-19 test.
The country has had over 835,000 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 17,000 people have died.
The country has had over 830,000 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 17,000 people have died.
The United Kingdom has reported over 4.4 million cases of COVID-19 and over 127,000 deaths.
Enlisting a color-coded system where countries are categorized as "red," "amber," or "green," depending on its severity of COVID-19, different places have different quarantine rules. Travelers visiting from a "red" or "amber" classified country will need to quarantine for 10 days while a traveler from a "green" country will only have to quarantine if their COVID-19 test upon arrival is positive.
Passengers leaving the UK to travel abroad must present a form to show that their trip was approved and is essential. Citizens are banned from going on vacation to other countries, including those in the EU, until at least July.
Dozens of countries around the world, including Canada and India, have cut off travel from the United Kingdom after a new, and potentially more contagious, strain of coronavirus emerged. The EU has blocked all non-essential travel from Britain.
Travelers coming to the U.S. from the UK will be required to test negative for COVID-19.
As a second wave of coronavirus cases have begun to emerge in Ireland, the county is now the first European country to return to a nationwide shutdown. The government order requires all nonessential businesses in Ireland to close. Bars and restaurants are limited to takeout and delivery. Residents are being asked to stay within three miles of home, unless they’re essential workers commuting to their jobs.
Ireland is currently requiring visitors from 20 countries around the world to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days upon arrival.
Ireland has recorded over 200,000 cases of coronavirus and over 4,000 people have died.
It has been more than a year since China was the original epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. Life has largely returned to normal in China, with no major restrictions on travel.
A travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will open at the end of May.
U.S. travelers to China are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test for entry and must quarantine for at least 14 days upon arrival, with additional entry upon arrival, according to the State Department. Vaccinated travelers may be able to sidestep these restrictions.
China has reported over 100,000 confirmed cases and over 4,800 deaths.
Elsewhere in Asia:
South Korea has reported nearly 120,000 coronavirus cases, and over 1,500 people have died. The country saw multiple spikes in cases over the past year, the first beginning in February 2020, another in August, and the third, most dramatic spike beginning in November. At its most severe, South Korea reported 1,237 new cases in a single day.
Japan has recently declared a state of emergency until at least May 11 in major cities, including Tokyo and Osaka.
Department stores, bars, restaurants with alcohol, theme parks, theatres and museums are closed. Restaurants that do not serve alcohol and public transportation will close early. Grocery stores and schools will remain open, but universities have been asked to move their classes online.
Japan has launched a digital health passport, allowing vaccinated citizens to travel.
The country has reported over 575,000 cases and less than 10,000 deaths. Although the numbers are far less than in western countries, Japan is on high alert ahead of the Olympics in July.
Due to the new strain of COVID-19 that emerged in the UK, Japan announced they'd be halting arrivals from "all nonresident foreign nationals," according to the AP. Residents from more than 150 different countries are not allowed to visit Japan at this time, unless they have a long-term residency permit, according to Japan Times.
Spectators from abroad have been banned from the games this year.
Thailand has reported nearly 60,000 cases and over 160 deaths. Visitors are required to present a negative COVID-19 test for entry and can quarantine for 7 days instead of two weeks if they are vaccinated.
The popular vacation destination of Phuket is scheduled to welcome back vaccinated visitors in July.
Indonesia has reported over 1.6 million cases and over 40,000 people have died due to the virus. The country stopped issuing travel visas for those who have been in India, due to a rise in cases there, Reuters reported. In Bali, tourists who were caught without a face mask in public were punished by being forced to do push-ups. Tourism visas are still not being issued at this time, according to the embassy.
Taiwan has reported over 1,000 cases of coronavirus and Vietnam has had over 2,800.
Canada has reported nearly 1,000,000 confirmed cases and over 20,000 people have died.
The country's borders are closed to anyone who is not a citizen. Additionally, the country is requiring all who enter to test negative for COVID-19.
In its latest effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, especially in light of the virus' new strain, Justin Trudeau announced on Jan. 29 that all visitors to Canada must quarantine in an approved hotel for three days at their own expense. Canadian airlines will also cancel all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico.
International flights are permitted to land only at the international airports in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver, in order to enhance screening, The CBC reported. All residents flying in and out of the country are required to wear a face mask and Trudeau has mandated that before flying, all passengers must undergo a temperature check, according to Reuters.
Cruise ships with over 100 passengers will not be able to sail in Canadian waters.
The land border restriction between the U.S. and Canada was implemented in March has been extended to May 21 — and now, anyone crossing the border at a land entry will have to show proof that they've tested negative for COVID-19.
Brazil has recorded over 13 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and over 260,000 people have died.
The country began lifting its lockdown in early June when cases were still rising. Bars and restaurants have been permitted to reopen. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — has been criticized for his response to the pandemic — vetoed parts of a law that would have made it necessary to wear a facemask in enclosed spaces where large groups of people gather, like churches and schools.
Rio’s mayor announced that the city’s famous beaches would not reopen to the public until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available. Carnival has also been postponed fo the first time in more than 100 years.
Iconic attraction Christ the Redeemer has reopened for visitors.
Amid a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases in India, countries around the world including the United States and Europe have implemented travel bans to the country.
India has reported nearly 20 million cases of coronavirus — with recent spikes of hundreds of thousands of people diagnosed in one day — and over 200,000 people have died. The devastating situation has lead medical professionals to struggle to obtain supplies and oxygen tanks.
India’s borders remained closed to tourism at this time, but new residents and some business travelers are permitted to enter. All international travelers to India are required to quarantine upon arrival, according to the U.S. Embassy. Quarantine restrictions may vary based on destination and proof of a negative COVID-19 test may be required for entry.
Australia just extended its travel ban, which was due to expire soon, another 3 months. due to spikes in COVID-19 around the world. Officials have also implemented interstate travel restrictions as a COVID-19 outbreak grows in Sydney and
Currently, Australia has had nearly 30,000 cases of coronavirus and over 900 people have died.
Anyone returning from overseas must quarantine for 14 days at their own cost.
Australia's Department of Health has an ongoing active warning in regards to coronavirus, with strict travel restrictions to China. The country could remain closed to foreign tourists until 2021, the trade minister said at a press conference.
New Zealand has largely managed to eradicate the virus, however, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that its borders will remain closed until all citizens are vaccinated.
Their travel and lockdown restrictions pertaining to the coronavirus were lifted in June following weeks of zero new cases.
The country has reported over 2,500 cases of coronavirus and 26 deaths.
How have airlines been responding to coronavirus?
Although air travel is resuming, things are not yet back to normal and travelers will find procedures at the airport and in the airplane cabin have changed greatly.
Regardless of vaccination status, all travelers are still required to wear face masks while onboard all public transit — including on flights and in airports — due to a federal mask mandate. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) extended its zero-tolerance policy for disruptive passengers who refuse to comply.
Before flying, travelers are required to fill out health declarations, verifying that they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, and may be required to submit COVID-19 test results or vaccination records, depending on their destination. United has launched an app where travelers can upload all their information in one place.
Certain pandemic policies onboard the airplane are disappearing. Delta maintained one of the industry's most generous social distancing policies, by blocking off middle seats. But that policy will end on May 1. Food and beverage service is also returning, albeit slowly. American Airlines is bringing back beverage service to its cabins this summer and Delta resumed its service in April. Passengers are still required to wear their face masks any time they are not eating or drinking.
Airlines are still operating with flexible booking procedures, with many change fees dropped. However, the policy is unlikely to last permanently. The Department of Transportation has ruled that airlines are required to issue refunds for flights that are canceled or changed due to coronavirus. T+L spoke to experts for more clarification when it comes to getting a refund.
How have cruise lines been responding to coronavirus?
As cruise restarts are on the horizon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that all future cruise passengers and cruise receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to them.
When cruises resume, CLIA member cruise lines will enact strict new rules, including mandatory pre-boarding COVID-19 tests for all passengers and crews. And many of the cruise lines that are restarting service will require passengers to be inoculated before boarding.
Face masks will also be required whenever in public spaces onboard ships. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines' "Healthy Sale Panel" submitted a 65-page report of best safety practices to the CDC for consideration.
When cruises will restart depends on local conditions. From U.S. ports, many cruise lines are planning on a July resumption. Most summer cruises to Alaska have been canceled this year, due to Canadian regulations that have banned large cruise ships until February 2022.
Fully vaccinated cruises are planning on setting sail around Europe and the Mediterranean this summer, although many of the cruises will be restricted to residents of the home port country.
For future cruise plans, the managing editor of Cruise Critic told Travel + Leisure, "It's best to contact your cruise line or travel advisor directly with any questions or concerns. All cruise lines that have canceled cruises are offering affected guests the option to receive a full refund."
Should I cancel my trip because of the coronavirus outbreak?
Travelers with an upcoming trip should consider things like the travel advisory and local quarantine guidelines of their destination as well as their personal comfort levels.
Communicate with your hotel and airline directly, and monitor updates and alerts for the current information in your destination.
The information in this article reflects that of the publishing time above. However, as statistics and information regarding coronavirus rapidly change, some figures may be different since this story was originally posted. While we strive to keep our content as up to date as possible, we also recommend visiting sites like the CDC or websites of local health departments.