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Pandemic travel advice: Everything you need to know

Pandemic travel advice: Everything you need to know
Written by Publishing Team

(CNN) – Bathed in the dim light at the end of a seemingly endless epidemic tunnel, they are visions of journeys that reunite us with loved ones or take us to a happy new environment.

Many of those visions have become a reality for vaccinated travelers. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidance for vaccinated individuals, saying that “fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to contract and spread Covid-19.”

Many Americans are already traveling again, based on pandemic-era records of passengers being screened at US airports.

In the closed UK, it is currently illegal to travel abroad for a holiday, although a new tiered system is expected to resume some international flights as early as mid-May.

There is no doubt that interest in travel and making plans for the future is spreading in some countries – raising many questions about how to navigate safely in the new travel landscape.

Every country has its own tangled rules and restrictions, so almost any trip will require in-depth research before you travel.

Here’s what you need to consider as the pandemic recedes:

Even if I can travel, should I?

Restrictions vary widely around the world, and for many people, it’s possible to travel both domestically and internationally. However, many public health officials advise against it, especially for unvaccinated travelers.

Concern about highly contagious variants of the coronavirus has been the source of much of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walinsky noted that every time travel escalates, a spike in coronavirus cases follows, citing Independence Day, Labor Day and the winter holiday season.

However, the April 2 guidelines for vaccinated travelers will make the decision easier for many Americans. Walinsky said the CDC continues to recommend against non-essential travel in general, as the new guidelines are issued.

“We haven’t changed our guidance on non-essential travel at all,” Walinsky said. “We don’t recommend travel at this time, especially for people who are not vaccinated.”

The UK is expected to roll back some restrictions on domestic travel later in April.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, saw big crowds on spring break in March.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida, saw big crowds on spring break in March.

Joe Riddell / Getty Images

Can I travel within my country?

As with most things about the pandemic, it depends on where you live. While leisure travel is mostly off-limits at the moment in the UK, destinations are already preparing for a massive influx of local travelers when they ease nationwide lockdowns later this month (the lifting of local travel restrictions in Wales has already led to an increase in travel ).
In Canada, there are no federal travel requirements for Canadians traveling between provinces and territories, although in many cases there are provincial or territorial rules and restrictions and non-essential travel is not recommended.

No matter where you are, it’s important to check regional and national websites and resources for travel guidelines and restrictions.

Do I need a negative Covid-19 test to travel internationally?

In many cases, yes, you will need to test negative for Covid-19 before traveling to another country.

But again, it depends on your destination. Check local government and tourist sites for Covid-related requirements. CNN Travel’s Unlocking the World guides provide up-to-date information on many popular destinations
A passenger takes a picture of a Covid-19 test marker at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in February 2021.

A passenger takes a picture of a Covid-19 test marker at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in February 2021.

Patrick Ty Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

The time frame for taking the test before departure varies by destination and there can be requirements about the type of test or test provider, such as in Hawaii.
Not every destination requires testing. For example, Mexico has one of the most relaxed travel policies in the world. The country does not currently require testing or quarantine for international arrivals.

Do I need a negative Covid-19 test to enter the United States?

All airline passengers age two and older entering the United States must have a negative Covid-19 test result within three days of your flight to the United States or documents that you have recovered from Covid-19.

The requirement includes US citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States.

Non-essential travel is restricted across the US land borders with Canada and Mexico.

Travelers arrive at a hotel in Melbourne, Australia, for quarantine in December 2020.

Travelers arrive at a hotel in Melbourne, Australia, for quarantine in December 2020.

William West/AFP/Getty Images

Will I have to quarantine?

Some countries require all travelers to self-quarantine and have narrow restrictions on acceptable reasons for entry at all. Others have no quarantine requirements (Mexico, for one person) or are much less restrictive.

Travelers entering Canada, including those who test positive, have recovered from Covid-19 or have been vaccinated, must quarantine or face heavier fines or penalties. International arrivals for leisure and tourism are denied entry.

Many popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean and elsewhere have adopted testing rules that allow international arrivals to bypass quarantine requirements with negative results.

It is important to check the specific requirements for your destination and return home.

Should I receive the vaccination for international travel?

It is complicated. Some countries have begun opening borders for vaccinated travelers who may be denied entry. Travelers from non-Schengen countries, including the US and UK, will be allowed to visit Iceland from April 6 with proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid.

Some countries are allowing vaccinated travelers to bypass entry requirements they may need to comply with, such as negative Covid-19 tests and quarantines. For example, travelers to Belize can pass COVID tests before departure.

So, while vaccination may not be a requirement for travel, proof of vaccination can greatly facilitate the trip.

But vaccination is not just an absolute mandate. Some countries only welcome vaccinated travelers from certain regions, such as the European Economic Area. Many have yet to decide whether to vaccinate visitors.

So, even if you are vaccinated, you will need to make sure that your destination welcomes vaccinated travelers from your location.

International air travelers are likely to share health information in the future via new applications.

International air travelers are likely to share health information in the future via new applications.

Daniel Selim/AFP via Getty Images

How can I share my test results and vaccination status with officials and travel providers?

The confusing tangle of Covid regulations continues.

In the US, arriving travelers must provide a “verifiable test result” for their airline. According to the CDC, it “must be in the form of written documentation (paper or soft copy) of lab test results.”

When possible, take electronic and paper copies wherever you travel.

The process for sharing test results and vaccination status varies by destination and in some cases is only valid in specific languages.

There are a number of digital applications – commonly referred to as “vaccine passports” or “vaccination certificates” – that aim to simplify health information so that it can be safely shared across borders.

Many international airlines have started or are planning to conduct trials of the travel card issued by the International Air Transport Association. Clear’s Health Pass and Common Pass are two similar health information apps.
The European Commission has proposed a green digital certificate to facilitate movement within the European Union. The digital certificate will contain three types of information: vaccination certificates, test certificates and testimonies of those who have recovered from Covid-19.
In many cases, “vaccine passports” will not only be used to cross borders but may be required to enter public events or other crowded places in the home. New York has launched an Excelsior Pass program to transfer results and certification of Covid tests and vaccinations conducted in the state.

In Israel, a “green corridor” issued by the Ministry of Health is required for some daily activities.

Tourists line up to board a boat in Playa del Carmen, Mexico on March 3, 2021. Mexico has some of the world's most lenient travel rules.

Tourists line up to board a boat in Playa del Carmen, Mexico on March 3, 2021. Mexico has some of the world’s most lenient travel rules.

Daniel Selim/AFP via Getty Images

I am planning to travel. What can I do to reduce my risk of catching or spreading the virus?

The mitigation strategies you use at home apply down the road. Vigilant hand hygiene, social distancing and mask use are essential, as well as avoiding crowded indoor spaces.

Traveling by plane is considered more dangerous than traveling by car because of the inevitable contact with other people at airports and flights, although there are few documented cases of travel on board.

The advanced air purification used in commercial aircraft – in addition to the mask on aircraft – helps reduce risks during the flight.

Limiting stops and contact on road trips, social distancing and opting for contactless check-in at hotels are all important ways to reduce risk. As with focusing on outdoor activities and avoiding close contact with people outside your bubble.

Hopefully, in the coming months, our worlds will expand beyond our bubbles — with careful country-by-country accounts.

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