Everything You Need to Know If You're Traveling During the Coronavirus Outbreak (Video)
The U.S. has extended travel restrictions to Canada and Mexico through Oct. 21.
Since reports of the coronavirus surfaced in late December 2019, over 31,000,000 people have been infected and over 965,000 have died around the world. As the virus continues to have a global impact, the countries around the world have established travel advisories and rules, leading airlines and cruises to cancel their routes.
The United States has reported more coronavirus cases than any other country in the world 6,800,000. The virus, which originated in China, made its way to the U.S. in February where nearly 200,000 people have 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. And states have also implemented their own travel rules and restrictions when it comes to traveling within the country.
China, which was the origin of the outbreak at the beginning of the year, has seen signs of relief as the number of reported cases has slowed and their makeshift hospitals have been closing due to lack of demand. Additionally, the strict lockdown on Wuhan and the Hubei Province — where the virus originated — has lifted.
In Europe, Spain, Italy, and France have eased their restrictions, allowing non-essential employees to go to work and the European Commission has lifted restrictions for internal borders, however, there are concerns of a second wave. For citizens of the EU, each country has implemented certain protocols when it comes to traveling internally.
The Caribbean islands also have plans in place for reopening for both locals and tourists alike.
Here is everything you need to know about traveling right now.
What is coronavirus?
Coronavirus was first discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan, within the Hubei province of China. WHO announced on Feb. 12 that the official name for the specific strain of coronavirus is COVID-19.
At the beginning of March, 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.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
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.
“You'll get a fever, cough — it’s primarily a lower respiratory virus — general malaise, there may be some gastrointestinal distress,” Dr. Rebecca Katz, a professor and the director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University, told Travel + Leisure in January. When complications of the virus occur, patients could develop pneumonia or kidney-related issues, which could lead to death.
Elderly people or those with compromised immune systems are more susceptible 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 keep healthy. 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 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 may be difficult. Businesses from retail shops to theme parks have also made it mandatory for guests to wear a face covering.
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.
"Passengers can expect that these containers larger than the standard allowance of 3.4 ounces of liquids permitted through a checkpoint will need to be screened separately, which will add some time to their checkpoint screening experience," the TSA announced.
What countries are affected by coronavirus?
The number of confirmed cases and deaths below are according to Johns Hopkins University's real-time map from their Center for Systems Science and Engineering Department, unless otherwise noted.
The United States:
The United States has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world at 6,800,000 cases, and nearly 200,000 people have died. For a state-by-state breakdown of how the coronavirus is being handled on a more local level, see T+L's guide.
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 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.
As countries around the world open their borders, Europe has unveiled a list of countries they've deemed "safe" enough to enter, the U.S. was not included.
The border between Canada and the U.S. is currently closed and Americans flying home from any countries listed in Trump's travel ban are subject to enhanced screening when touching down in the U.S. Specifically, travel restrictions for Canada and Mexico have been extended through Oct. 21.
Within the country, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey have collectively ordered that travelers coming from states considered "hot spots" of the virus must quarantine for two weeks and disclose exactly where they'll be isolating or face a $2,000 fine.
Travelers heading to Chicago from certain states must also quarantine. Massachusetts has also implemented a quarantine rule for travelers coming from "high-risk" states.
Las Vegas has also welcomed visitors back with strict protocol in place.
Spain has reported the most cases of coronavirus in Europe at over 670,000 — and that number is growing keeps seeing an increase in coronavirus cases. Spain’s Health Minister said it would be unlikely that schools and businesses would be forced to close for a second time as hospitals now have a greater capacity for COVID-19 patients than they did during the lockdown earlier this year, Reuters reported.
In order to combat the spread of the virus, regional and local governments are implementing their own rules. All nightclubs are currently closed and smoking in public is banned where a social distance cannot be maintained, according to Politico. Spain’s borders are currently open to European residents and a list of 12 pre-approved countries — including Australia, Japan and Canada — that are reporting low COVID-19 infection rates, according to the U.S. Embassy in Spain.
Italy — with nearly 300,000 cases — once considered the epicenter of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak, Italy reopened its borders on June 3, before the rest of Europe. In August, Italy closed down nightclubs and extended requirements that made wearing a face mask in public mandatory. Over 35,000 people have died in Italy.
Italian residents are allowed to travel both around the country and across international borders. Most European travelers are allowed into Italy, although visitors from some countries must undergo a COVID-19 test upon arrival. Anyone who arrives in Italy from a non-approved country must quarantine for 14 days and alert authorities about their travel plans, according to the Italian Foreign Ministry.
France began easing lockdown restrictions in May and life in the country had returned to relatively normal over the summer. But towards the end of August, the French Health Ministry reported an “exponential rise” in COVID-19 cases, according to The BBC.
Marseille and Bordeaux have also reinstated some local restrictions due to an uptick in coronavirus cases, The AP reported.
Travel restrictions have not been changed during the newest outbreak, with travel fully allowed from Europeans and other pre-approved countries, according to the French Embassy in New York. Cafes, bars, restaurants, schools, and public transportation are fully reopened — although people must wear face masks and practice social distancing while in public. The country has reported nearly 500,000 cases and over 31,000 people have died.
Luxury tourist destination St. Tropez has reopened with mask rules in place, according to The Associated Press. Following their mask rules, 20 percent of the country — including Paris — implemented a mandatory mask rule, The AP also reported. Beloved attractions including The Louvre and the Eiffel Tower have reopened to visitors, albeit with a few changes to promote social distancing.
Germany has reported more than 276,000 cases and more than 9,400 deaths during its outbreak. Most establishments in Germany have reopened, except nightclubs, theatres, concert halls, spas, and saunas. Munich’s famous Oktoberfest has been canceled but that doesn’t mean the country has stopped partying. One club has kept the party going through coronavirus lockdown by hosting drive-in raves where clubbers stay inside their cars.
Belgium, with over 103,000 cases, has implemented a “social bubble” rule of only five people with whom citizens are allowed to have close contact. Everyone entering Belgium after more than 48 hours outside of the country is required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form, which allows for contact tracing. Belgium has organized other countries by color, according to their COVID-19 infection rates. Anyone returning from a “red zone” (which includes the U.S.) must be tested and remain in quarantine. These measures are strongly recommended for anyone returning from an “orange zone” and unnecessary for return travel from a “green zone.”
Portugal’s borders are open to a unique list of travelers, including those in the European Union. Passengers will be required to fill out a health form and submit to a temperature check at the airport. It’s required to wear a mask while on public transportation and encouraged in other public places. The country has nearly 70,000 cases and over 1,900 people have died. have died.
The initial epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak has since eased restrictions and begun a return to normal life. The city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, lifted its lockdown on April 8 after the rest of the Hubei province followed in March.
In June, the second spike in coronavirus cases led Beijing to renew their lockdown protocols and cancel flights. But by July, Beijing only reported one new case of COVID-19. Hong Kong also saw a sudden increase in COVID-19 cases that led to the reclosing of Hong Kong Disneyland.
Travelers heading to China now need to present a certificate proving they have tested negative for COVID-19, according to Reuters. The U.S. state department now classifies China as a Level 3 Advisory, encouraging Americans to "Reconsider Travel." However, major airlines including Delta and United have reinstated their flights to Shanghai.
Initially, the overwhelming majority of coronavirus cases were within mainland China with over 90,000 confirmed cases, and over 4,700 deaths.
Elsewhere in Asia:
South Korea has nearly 23,000 coronavirus cases, and over 300 people have died since the first case was confirmed on Jan. 20. On March 13, the country reported that recoveries outpaced the number of confirmed cases for the first time, marking a milestone in relief efforts. However, by the end of May, the country was seeing a spike in cases again leading to schools to close again, according to The BBC.
In Japan, there have been over 79,000 confirmed cases and over 1,500 deaths. The number of cases has been steadily rising since August. Despite the fact that more infections are being reported now than when the country went into lockdown in April, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who announced his resignation, said he would not reinstate a state of emergency. "The situation is very different from that time," Abe said, according to CNN. "We are not in a situation where a state of emergency needs to be issued immediately, but we will keep close eyes on it with a high sense of alert." The majority of new cases are being reported in Tokyo, where restaurants and bars have been requested to close by 10 p.m.
Japan is currently banning entry for residents of 159 countries, although last month the country unveiled a list of 12 countries it is considering allowing travelers to visit from; Hawaii — although nowhere else in the U.S. — was included.
In the announcement to postpone the Olympics, a joint statement from the Tokyo Organizing Committee and the International Olympics Committee said, "The Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020, but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community."
Thailand was the second country in the world to report a case of coronavirus in January after a Chinese tourist flew from Wuhan to Bangkok. But since then, Thailand has reported nearly 3,500 cases and 59 deaths. Almost 30 percent of the confirmed cases are from overseas arrivals, the Health Ministry said. Recently, the country announced that visitors are allowed if they stay for nine months.
Indonesia has over 252,000 cases. The country has seen a spike in cases which has led tourist destination Bali to not accept international visitors until 2021.
Taiwan has 509 cases of coronavirus and Vietnam has over 1,000. After an outbreak among local tourists in the region of Da Nang, Vietnam started evacuating thousands of people in July.
The United Kingdom has over 400,000 confirmed cases and over 41,800 confirmed deaths.
In light of climbing cases, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would shut down again with entertainment venues including bars and pubs to close at 10 p.m. He also encouraged those who can to work from home and to limit the size of gatherings, according to The Associated Press. The call for more restrictions comes about two months after businesses were allowed to reopen.
The UK has unveiled a list of more than 60 countries and territories, known as "travel corridors," from which they will welcome travelers without restrictions. The U.S. is not included and therefore must self-isolate for 14 days after arrival in the UK.
London's Harry Potter studio tour also reopened in August, with social distancing and enhanced cleaning. Other major attractions like Buckingham Palace and the London Eye have also reopened.
The Irish government compiled a “green list” of 15 countries whose residents can enter without having to submit to quarantine orders. Notably, the list does not contain several major European countries, including Ireland’s neighboring Britain. Cross-border travel between Ireland and Northern Ireland (which is part of the United Kingdom) is unrestricted.
Ireland has recorded nearly 33,000 cases of coronavirus and over 1,792 people have died.
Canada has over 147,000 confirmed cases and over 9,270 deaths.
The country's borders are closed to anyone who is not a citizen.
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.
The land border restriction between the U.S. and Canada was implemented in March has been extended to Oct. 21.
India is now considered one of the major coronavirus epicenters of the world, with more than 5,400,000 cases and over 87,000 deaths. More than 83,000 cases were reported in India in just one day on Sept. 3, Reuters reported.
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.
The Taj Mahal reopened on Sept. 21 with a limited capacity of 5,000 visitors a day with digital tickets. Masks are required and group photos are also not allowed.
Brazil has recorded nearly 4,500,000 confirmed cases and over 137,000 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.
Iconic attraction Christ the Redeemer has reopened for visitors.
Australia managed to keep its coronavirus cases remarkably low during the early part of the year. However, a second wave in the suburbs of Melbourne put the metropolitan area on a second lockdown in July.
Currently, Australia has nearly 27,000 cases of coronavirus and over 850 people have died.
Anyone returning from overseas must quarantine for 14 days at their own cost.
Under the new restrictions, gatherings of more than 500 people outside or more than 100 people inside. However, schools are still open but parents have the option as to whether they'd like their children to attend.
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 declared that they have gone 100 days without detecting a new case of coronavirus at the beginning of August, however just after declaring they had been virus-free for nearly three months, there was a small outbreak in Auckland. Their travel and lockdown restrictions pertaining to the coronavirus were lifted in June following weeks of zero new cases.
The country reported just over 1,800 cases of coronavirus and 25 deaths.
How have airlines been responding to coronavirus?
Although air travel is resuming, things are not yet back to normal. Travelers will find greatly-changed operating procedures at the airport and in the airplane cabin, aimed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Passengers are now required to wear face masks while onboard flights and in public spaces. Alaska Airlines cabin crew are enforcing the rule with “yellow cards.” If a passenger refuses to wear their mask, they could be suspended from future Alaska Airlines flights. Similar rules apply onboard United and other airlines. Some passengers have been removed from flights for refusing to wear their face masks.
Airlines like Alaska and United are requiring travelers to fill out health declarations, verifying that they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms before their flight, as a part of check-in.
Food and beverage service is still greatly reduced but slowly resuming across airlines. Delta is once again serving beer and wine onboard domestic flights to first class and Comfort+ passengers. Mixed drinks and hard liquor are still not yet available for purchase.
Delta has one of the industry’s most generous social distancing rules in its cabins, blocking off seats until 2021. The airline has also installed plexiglass barriers at check-in and gate-side desks. And Sky Club lounges at airports are also reopening, albeit with new safety practices like individually-wrapped food instead of buffet style. The airline has also installed hand sanitizer stations in their cabins. Passengers can find a list of current Delta flight destinations on their website.
Delta, Alaska, United and American have all dropped their change fees into 2021.
The Department of Transportation has ruled that airlines are required to issue refunds for flights that are canceled or changed due to coronavirus.
“Although the COVID-19 public health emergency has had an unprecedented impact on air travel, the airlines’ obligation to refund passengers for canceled or significantly delayed flights remains unchanged,” the DOT wrote in its Enforcement Notice. “The longstanding obligation of carriers to provide refunds for flights that carriers cancel or significantly delay does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control (e.g., a result of government restrictions).”
T+L spoke to experts for more clarification when it comes to getting a refund.
How have cruise lines been responding to coronavirus?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced another extension to its no-sail order, which would ban cruise ships from resuming service in U.S. waters until at least September. But in June, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said it would voluntarily extend the no sail period from U.S. ports until Sept. 15.
The CLIA also released a new set of guidelines that will apply to all 60 of its members, including Carnival Cruise Line and MSC Cruises. Testing for all passengers and crew as well as face masks are now required.
The CDC still recommends that “travelers defer all cruise travel worldwide,” due to COVID-19 at this time.
Royal Caribbean suspended cruises across its global fleet through September 15. All cruises in Canada and Bermuda have been suspended through the end of October. All affected passengers will receive a future cruise credit for 125 percent of their original booking. The new cruises must be booked by Dec. 31, 2021 for trips through Apr. 30, 2022. The cruise line's "cruise with confidence" policy allows ticket holders to cancel reservations within 48 hours.
Carnival extended the suspension of its itineraries until September 30, canceling cruises on all of the company’s 27 ships. Guests whose cruises are affected can either receive a refund or choose to rebook, which will give them a Future Cruise Credit in combination with either a $300 or $600 Onboard Credit.
Norwegian Cruise Line canceled nearly all sailings through September 30 and a few sailings in early October, according to their website. In an update to their "Peace of Mind" cancellation policy, passengers may cancel up to 15 days in ahead of trips leaving on Jan. 1, 2021 through Oct. 31, 2021. Additionally, final payment for trips will be due 60 days ahead of departure instead of 12o. Passengers with cruises scheduled through December 31 can cancel up to 48 hours before the start of their vacation. Cruises that are refunded for a Future Cruise Credit can be used on sailings through December 2022.
Seabourn Cruise Line has canceled all its sailings into October. Its five cruise ships will return to service, staggered between October 13 through November 20. All bookings made by September 30 for travel through December 31, 2021 can be canceled 30 days before the start of the vacation for a 100 percent Future Cruise Credit, according to their website.
British cruise company Cunard Cruise will be pausing operations until March of 2021, the company announced in August.
Princess Cruises has taken one of the most aggressive cancellation stances in the industry. All cruises through 2020 in Alaska, Canada, Europe, and New England have been canceled. Cruises from Vancouver, Seattle, and seven-day cruises from San Francisco have been canceled through the end of October. For more information about specific itineraries, visit the Princess website. Cruises into 2021 have also been canceled.
Virgin Voyages delayed its much-anticipated debut of the Scarlet Lady, originally scheduled for April. The inaugural cruise has now been pushed back to at least October, with brand-new safety features onboard.
Cruise ships were among the first forms of travel heavily impacted by the coronavirus. In early February, The Diamond Princess cruise ship was docked off the coast of Japan, in quarantine for two weeks in what became one of the most high-profile cases of a coronavirus outbreak. Other quarantined cruise ships were The Grand Princess, docked off the coast of California in March, and Holland America’s Westerdam.
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.
More Coronavirus Travel Advisory Information
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.