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 April 21.
Since reports of the coronavirus surfaced in late December 2019, over 120 million people have been infected and over 2.8 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 550,000 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 sharp increases in COVID-19 cases have led to the return of numerous lockdown restrictions. 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 their 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 550,000 deaths. For a state-by-state breakdown on travel restrictions and testing requirements at this time, see T+L's guide.
On Jan. 12, the CDC announced that all international travelers will be required to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the United States.
Most recently, a variant of the COVID-19 strain, that originally emerged in the UK, has surfaced in Colorado, California, Florida, and New York. The new strain of the virus has lead to President Joe Biden banning travel from South Africa, the United Kingdom, and various countries across Europe. The specific strain detected in South Africa has emerged in 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.
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 has remained closed.
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.
All non-essential travel across the bloc "should be strongly discouraged until the epidemiological situation has considerably improved," the European Commission said.
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 extended its nationwide lockdown for at least another month, beginning April 3. Residents are required to remain within six miles of their homes, a 7 p.m. curfew is in place and all non-essential shops have been ordered to close. President Emmanuel Macron hopes that the country will be able to slowly re-open by mid-May.
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.
The country has reported over 4.7 million cases and over 95,000 people have died.
Luxury tourist destination St. Tropez has reopened with mask rules in place, according to The Associated Press.
Spain has reported over 3 million cases of coronavirus. The country has implemented a non-essential travel ban. Curfew restrictions vary by region, according to Reuters.
Italy — with over 3.6 million cases — is now under a new lockdown until April 5. The versions of the lockdown are a multi-tiered approach according to the severity of cases throughout the country. Additionally, specific lockdown protocols will be in place for Easter weekend.
About half of Italy's 20 regions — including Milan, Rome, and Venice — are under strict "red zone" lockdowns, with all non-essential stores closed and people only allowed to leave home for essential work or health reasons. Domestic travelers in select regions are banned from traveling out of their region.
Italy introduced a mandatory five-day quarantine period for EU travelers over the Easter weekend, The BBC reported.
Travelers looking to head to 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.
Germany has reported over 2.8 million cases and more than 76,000 deaths during its outbreak.
The country remains on a partial lockdown through April 18, with cases rising. Non-essential shops are closed and residents are encouraged to work from home if possible.
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 880,000 cases since the pandemic began, recently extended its travel ban, according to The AP. A curfew is 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.
Portugal introduced a travel ban that will block all non-essential travel, including from other EU member residents, until April 5, according to the embassy. The country is under a partial lockdown, with residents encouraged to stay home and travel between regions currently banned. Stores must close by 9 p.m. and restaurants are limited to takeaway service.
The country has had over 822,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 16,800 people have died.
The United Kingdom has reported over 4.6 million cases of COVID-19 and over 127,000 deaths.
The country international arrivals quarantine in a hotel for 10 days at their own expense and undergo at least two COVID-19 tests. Those who lie about their travel history to bypass the quarantine could face jail time or a fine. More than 40 countries are on the UK's "red list" of countries from where travel remains banned at this time.
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.
The country remains on partial lockdown, although its stay-at-home order has ended.
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.
The new strain, which is spreading rapidly just weeks after the UK started rolling out a vaccine, has also resulted in a series of strict restrictions, with parts of southern and eastern England entering Tier 4 restrictions, CNN reported.
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. Lockdown in Wuhan, where the virus originated, lifted on April 8. In the spring, the second spike in coronavirus cases led Beijing to renew its 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 and its eventual reopening in September.
Hong Kong increased its mandatory quarantine to 21 days for all visitors coming from outside China, Reuters reported. The city also banned travelers coming from the UK and South Africa due to the discovery of new coronavirus strains in each of those countries.
All 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.
China has reported over 100,000 confirmed cases and over 4,800 deaths.
Elsewhere in Asia:
South Korea has reported over 90,000 coronavirus cases, and over 1,500 people have died. The country has seen 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's biggest cities remain under lockdown as the country battles a dramatic spike in coronavirus cases that peaked on Jan. 7, 2021.
Currently the country has over 400,000 cases and over 8,000 deaths.
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.
Japanese tourists are allowed to visit Hawaii without having to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, according to The AP.
Thailand was the second country in the world to report a case of coronavirus in January 2020 after a Chinese tourist flew from Wuhan to Bangkok. Since then, Thailand has reported over 25,000 cases and nearly 80 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.
Indonesia has reported over 1.3 million cases and over 30,000 people have died due to the virus. Although the country had plans to reopen to international visitors at the start of 2021, Indonesian borders remain closed to foreign nationals.
Taiwan has reported over 950 cases of coronavirus and Vietnam has had over 2,400.
Canada has reported nearly 900,000 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 March 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 11 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.
India is considered one of the major coronavirus epicenters of the world, with over 11 million cases reported and over 150,000 deaths.
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.
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.
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.
The announcement comes after a new case of the COVID-19 variant detected in a woman who flew from New Zealand to Australia lead to the brief closure of the two countries' travel bubble.
Their travel and lockdown restrictions pertaining to the coronavirus were lifted in June following weeks of zero new cases.
The country has reported over 2,400 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. Travelers will find greatly-changed operating procedures at the airport and in the airplane cabin, aimed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
In airlines' latest effort to ease travelers when it comes to flying, many including, United, Lufthansa, American, and Alaska have started offering COVID-19 testing. Delta, Alaska, United and American have also all dropped their change fees into 2021.
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.
Along with Delta, United has resumed flights to China after a months-long halt. So passengers can prepare in advance, the airline will let them know ahead of time if their flight is likely to be full.
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 they are lifting its 'No Sail' order to a 'Conditional Sail' order allowing cruises to resume on Nov. 1. However, major cruise lines have canceled their itineraries through the end of 2020.
When cruises resume, CLIA member cruise lines will enact strict new rules, including mandatory pre-boarding COVID-19 tests for all passengers and crews. 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.
However, the CDC still recommends that “travelers defer all cruise travel worldwide,” due to COVID-19 at this time.
Royal Caribbean suspended all cruises through the rest of the year, excluding cruises from Singapore. Additional 2020/21 winter cruises from Australia, Asia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South America are also suspended. Affected passengers will receive a future cruise credit for 125 percent of their original booking. The cruise line's "cruise with confidence" policy allows ticket holders to cancel reservations within 48 hours.
Carnival Cruise Line canceled most of its cruises through the end of the year. Service aboard the six ships operating from Port Miami and Port Canaveral has been suspended through November. Cruises from these ports in December remain in place but passengers can opt-out and receive a future cruise credit, an onboard credit, or a full refund. Five Carnival cruises from Australia have been canceled through Feb. 8, 2021.
Norwegian Cruise Line has canceled all cruises through 2020. Cruises aboard the Norwegian Star, Norwegian Spirit, and Norwegian Dawn ships have additionally been suspended through March 2021. Guests whose trips are impacted can receive either a Future Cruise Credit or a full refund. In an update to their "Peace of Mind" cancellation policy, passengers may cancel up to 15 days ahead of trips leaving Jan. 1, 2021 through Oct. 31, 2021. Additionally, final payment for trips will be due 60 days ahead of departure instead of 120.
Seabourn Cruise Line has canceled all its sailings through the end of the year. The five cruise ships will return to service, staggered from Jan. 15, 2021 to May 28, 2021. Guests whose cruises are cancelled will automatically receive a Future Cruise Credit, valid 12 months from the date of issue, according to the cruise line website.
British cruise company Cunard Cruise will be pausing operations until March of 2021.
Princess Cruises canceled all cruises through 2020 in Alaska, Canada, Europe, and New England. Cruises from Vancouver, Seattle, and seven-day cruises from San Francisco have been canceled through the end of October. And several cruises into 2021 have also been canceled. For more information about specific itineraries, visit the Princess website.
Virgin Voyages delayed its much-anticipated debut of the Scarlet Lady, originally scheduled for April. The first cruise available for booking is scheduled to depart Barcelona in October 2021, according to the website. When the cruises take off, they will be with brand-new safety features onboard.
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.