It may be hard to believe that the United States initiated the “15 days to slow the spread” campaign and a near lockdown of the country and world for non-essential travel one year ago. One year later, there are fewer travel restrictions as the health situation is improving in several regions.
Vaccine Replaces Mandatory Quarantines
Travel restrictions have been gradually easing across the United States and the world since the late spring or early summer months of 2020. At the same time, governments have been adapting their travel guidelines to the latest medical technology. For example, people might be able to waive the mandatory quarantine of up to 14 days by having a negative coronavirus test result. Getting a pre-arrival test can be the best option to avoid any potential quarantine.
As more people worldwide become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, states and countries allow the fully vaccinated to waive the testing and quarantine requirements.
Shorter Quarantine Periods
States have also been reducing the mandatory quarantine period from 14 days to 10 days. It may also be possible to waive all or part of the quarantine with a qualifying pre-arrival test or taking a follow-up test.
Some of the states that have flexible self-quarantines include:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
States may continue requiring visitors to complete a traveler health form or face a potential legal penalty.
Some States Easing Travel Restrictions
Here are some of the destinations that are easing their travel restrictions.
Approximately 10% of the United States population currently has full vaccination. More states are waiving travel restrictions for people who travel at least 14 days after their final dose. Massachusetts is one of the first states to waive its mandatory quarantine or get a pre-travel negative test result for the fully vaccinated.
People who also tested positive in the last 90 days and successfully quarantined can waive the quarantine or diagnostic test. Travelers will need to show proof of the positive test result to show they still have active antibodies.
The Bay State also has one of the most restrictive travel orders in New England for out-of-state visitors. For example, visitors from border states cannot enter restriction-free, the opposite of what most states allow.
Only visitors from “lower risk states” can enter quarantine-free or by not having to get a diagnostic test if unvaccinated and traveling for non-essential travel. For the longest time, Hawaii was the only state on the list. These states now classify as lower risk (as of March 3, 2021):
- Puerto Rico
Hawaii is also planning to allow the fully vaccinated to enter without getting a diagnostic test or having to self-quarantine. This exemption may go into effect as soon as May 1, 2021.
New Mexico dropped its mandatory self-quarantine effective February 11, 2021. Before February 11, this advisory didn’t even allow an exemption for diagnostic testing. While quarantine is no longer required, the state still strongly advises a 14-day self-quarantine.
California continues to recommend a 10-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors and returning residents. California residents have more incentive to travel within the state but are still advised to stay within 120 miles of home. Disneyland is planning to reopen on April 30, 2021, but only California residents can initially book tickets.
The Disneyland occupancy limit depends on the current health status of Orange County:
- Red: 15% capacity
- Orange: 25% capacity
- Yellow: 35% capacity
Stadiums can also reopen as early as April 1, 2021, with reduced capacity.
Chicago (Illinois doesn’t have any statewide travel restrictions) now only has a two-tier travel advisory. States and territories either receive and orange or yellow risk rating:
- Orange: 10-day quarantine or a negative pre-arrival PCR test
- Yellow: No quarantine or pre-arrival test is necessary
As of March 9, 2021, 24 states and one territory (Puerto Rico) have a yellow rating. Social distancing is expected, but the travel entry requirements are minimal for visitors.
Belize waives the mandatory pre-travel test or self-quarantine for travelers with proof of vaccination.
Mexico was one of the first countries to reopen international travel back in the summer of 2020. Americans can reach Mexico via air, but the land border remains closed to non-essential travel. You won’t have to quarantine or get a pre-travel test to fly to Mexico. But the United States currently requires a diagnostic test upon re-entry.
In what might be a surprising move, the Dominican Republic no longer requires a pre-arrival diagnostic test to enter this Caribbean nation for most international tourists. Instead, arriving guests may take an aleatory breath test. Authorities mention that between 3% and 15% of people will receive a test along with those showing potential COVID-19 symptoms.
Most Caribbean destinations continue requiring a pre-arrival diagnostic test to enter the country quarantine-free.
Iceland is one European nation welcoming Americans again starting March 18, 2021. The only caveat is that tourists must be fully vaccinated. Europe (Western Europe in particular) continues to be the “holy grail” of international tourism. Americans haven’t able to travel to the continent since the pandemic onset.
For now, Europe is taking a regional reopening approach. But regional variants are sparking another round of lockdowns at the same time.
The vaccine rollout may increase the likelihood of Americans traveling to Europe, but the Schengen area remains a travel dream for non-essential travel.
Two small Indian Ocean tropical paradises are opening to tourists. Seychelles is the first of two nations starting March 25, 2021. Most international visitors can fly to Seychelles. One notable exception is South African residents.
Travelers can enter if they have a negative diagnostic test within 72 hours of arriving. Vaccination isn’t necessary and there isn’t a mandatory quarantine with a qualifying test result.
The Maldives is the second tropical paradise to open to tourists. This island nation opened its doors in mid-2020 and has been open ever since. Visitors must take a PCR test no more than 72 hours before arriving but don’t have to quarantine when staying at the same authorized resort for the entire stay.
However, there can be additional restrictions when going overnight to different islands or visiting the capital city of Male.
Regional non-essential continues to be relatively unrestricted for most states across the United States. Mexico and the Caribbean continue to be the most friendly places for Americans to travel internationally. If the health situation improves, states may further reduce travel advisories but still expect social distancing measures for the foreseeable future.