How to navigate new COVID-19 travel requirements

While most travelers are putting their international trips on hold until the pandemic is over, there are those who need – or choose – to move across borders. With recent travel rules put in place, we’re here to help.

You can use our interactive Travel Restrictions map to stay up-to-date on country and state-level restrictions. But to help you navigate the new international rules recently put into place, we’re breaking down what you need to know.

Travel into the US will require a negative test

All air travelers entering the United States, whether US citizen or foreign national, that are age 2 or older must show proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of boarding a flight or provide documentation of recovery.

What does this mean for travelers?

Know before you go. Do research into available testing in your destination and make a plan to get tested within 3 days of your scheduled return flight. Acceptable tests usually include the PCR, LAMP or TMA, but be sure to confirm with your airline and relevant national authority that the test you’re planning to take is authorized for use when traveling.

Be prepared. It goes without saying, but following safety protocols is incredibly important when traveling. If you are unable to get a test or you test positive before your flight home, you’ll be unable to travel and will need to secure and pay for accommodations on your own dime. If you are traveling, it’s important to have a plan for this scenario. From putting savings aside for accommodations and incidentals, so you’re not stranded, to planning for missed work and responsibilities.

If you’ve already had COVID-19 and are hoping to skip the new requirement, be sure you have the appropriate documents.

  1. Test results that say you’ve had COVID-19 in the past 3 months (this time window is a non-negotiable).
  2. A note from your doctor saying you’re OK to travel.

Need a test? KAYAK is partnering with LetsGetChecked to offer travelers an exclusive discount on at-home tests. Learn more and get a test.

Masks are required on all modes of transportation

This mandate issued by the CDC includes flights, trains, buses, subways, ferries and ride shares. The Order states that a mask must be worn while “boarding, disembarking, and for the duration of travel.” It also further clarifies what is considered a mask. Scarves, ski masks, balaclavas or bandanas are not acceptable under the new mandate, and while face shields can give an added layer of protection, they alone aren’t enough to satisfy the requirement.

What’s changed? Masks on planes were always required, you might say, so what has actually changed? While airlines have had mask policies in place previously, the new mandate is a federal order. It also adds all other forms of public transportation to the mix, which was previously up to the individual states.

While there are exceptions (children under 2 and those who cannot safely wear a mask due to a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act), it’s important to know before you go. You can read more and access the full order on the CDC website.

Temporary travel bans are in place

Given the outbreak of new COVID strains, travel bans have been extended, preventing the majority of travelers (there are very specific exceptions) from China, Iran, the UK, Europe’s Schengen area, Brazil and South Africa from entering the US.

As the past year has shown, mandates tend to update frequently and regulations can change. Be sure before you travel or plan a trip, you are aware of the laws and rules both of the US and of the local laws in the city, state or country you’re planning on visiting.

For more on staying safe while traveling, visit our Practice Safe Travel guide.

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