When it comes to global travel documents, the U.S. passport has historically been one of the strongest of its kind. In fact, it ranks in the top 10 most powerful, according to the Henley & Partners Passport Index, and those who hold it enjoy some of the most extensive travel freedoms in the world (including access to 185 countries). For comparison, Japan takes the number one spot with access to 191 countries, while Afghanistan comes in last with just 26 countries.
The most recent index, however, does not take the ongoing COVID-19 travel bans into consideration. As destinations across the globe attempt to navigate uncharted territory, many countries have closed their borders entirely to U.S. citizens due to the increasing number of confirmed coronavirus cases. Some have adopted policies that only target specific coronavirus hot spots, while others have permitted U.S. tourists to enter, but only if they follow very specific protocols.
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On March 31, the Department of State issued a Global Level 4 Health Advisory, advising U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to COVID-19. Travel is an extremely sensitive subject right now, and developments continue to emerge day by day.
That said, many Caribbean nations have started reopening their borders to welcome international visitors. Although the pandemic struck the region during the pinnacle of high season, the Caribbean has reported relatively low coronavirus cases. But ongoing travel restrictions and the absence of cruise ships (combined with an active hurricane season already underway) have caused significant blows—especially considering how heavily many Caribbean economies depend on tourism.
While some destinations, like Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, have pumped the breaks on reopening plans, many are now feeling prepared to welcome visitors back. With new safeguards and health procedures in place, these Caribbean destinations are hoping to eventually rebound from the devastating past few months. Here’s how seven key players are tackling the issue and allowing U.S. citizenS to visit this summer and beyond.
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Disclaimer: People planning travel of any kind should visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization for the most current COVID-19 alerts and updates. Be sure to also review any travel advisories related to the destination(s) you’re planning to visit, and keep yourself and others safe by wearing a face covering, practicing social distancing, and bringing the appropriate food, drinks, and other supplies when possible.
Turks and Caicos Islands
Home to some of the world’s best beaches, the Turks and Caicos Islands are made up of nine main islands and approximately 40 additional smaller islands and remote cays. The scattered archipelago is socially distanced by nature and attracts tourists year-round, thanks to its turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and legendary diving. The idyllic collection of islands recently opened their borders to international visitors on July 22.
Check here for the most up-to-date travel information regarding the Turks and Caicos Islands.
For countless travelers (and reggae fans), the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica is the ultimate laid-back vacation destination. Known for its diverse topography ranging from reef-lined beaches to lush, mountainous rainforests, the island teems with natural beauty and opportunities for adventure. Jamaica reopened to international tourists (including Americans) on June 15. The Jamaican government reevaluates the country’s health and safety measures every two weeks, with the latest updates made on July 15.
Travel Requirements: All visitors are required to register for and complete an online Travel Authorization prior to entry. Additionally, anybody traveling from Arizona, Florida, New York, or Texas (areas currently categorized as high risk by the Ministry of Health and Wellness) will be required to upload a negative COVID-19 PCR test result obtained no more than 10 days before the arrival date in Jamaica. Test results must also be provided by a College of American Pathologists-accredited lab in order to secure a Travel Authorization certificate. Travelers from high-risk areas will receive their travel certification or denial 48 hours after submitting their questionnaire. All other travelers may complete the authorization form any time within five days of arrival and will receive immediate approval or denial based on a scoring algorithm. Every visitor will be screened upon arrival and can expect thermal temperature checks, symptom observation, and a brief interview with a health officer.
Check here for the most up-to-date travel information regarding Jamaica.
The United States Virgin Islands
When it comes to Caribbean travel, the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) are particularly popular with U.S. citizens. The group of islands is an unincorporated and organized territory of the U.S., meaning a passport isn’t required to visit (although other forms of official identification are). The main attractions include St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas, but the USVI also includes many other small surrounding islands. The destination has been open for tourism purposes since June 1, although some restrictions apply.
Travel Requirements: COVID-19 tests are recommended, but not required, for most visitors. The exception includes any person 15 years or older whose state of residence has a COVID-19 positivity rate greater than 10 percent, based on data reported by Johns Hopkins University (and reflected in their Testing Trends Tool). Travelers from those high-risk states will need to provide a recent negative COVID-19 antigen test result or a positive COVID-19 antibody test (received within four months of the arrival date in the USVI). All arriving passengers must wear a facial covering and will be subject to COVID-19 screenings based upon their mode of arrival.
Check here for the most up-to-date travel information regarding the USVI.
Nicknamed “Nature Island,” the Commonwealth of Dominica is considered the Caribbean’s best-kept secret. Although still widely under the radar of mainstream tourists, thrill-seekers flock to Dominica to explore its coral gardens, volcanic peaks, and challenging hiking trails—but the island country also offers rejuvenating thermal springs and breathtaking shores. Consider it part outdoor gym and part natural spa. Dominica started welcoming all international travelers on August 7, and visitors are required to abide by specific protocols developed by the country’s Ministry of Health, Wellness and New Health Investment.
Travel Requirements: All travelers must submit an online health questionnaire at least 24 hours before arrival along with a negative COVID-19 PCR test result obtained within 24 to 72 hours prior to arrival. Once submitted, hopeful travelers will receive a notification of clearance to travel, which needs to be presented before departure. After landing in Dominica, all arriving travelers will be instructed to wear face coverings, observe physical distancing guidelines, and sanitize their hands at dedicated stations. They will also undergo a health assessment, which includes a temperature check and rapid test screening.
Check here for the most up-to-date travel information regarding Dominica.
With its calming atmosphere, endless sugar-white sand coastline, and assortment of all-inclusive resorts, it’s no wonder that Aruba has become one of the Caribbean’s top tourist destinations for Americans. While its well-manicured resorts offer everything an indulgent tourist could ever want, the island’s real appeal lies on its outskirts. Think rugged windswept landscapes and uncrowded beaches that provide the perfect backdrop for diving, kiteboarding, kayaking, parasailing, and more. After all, there’s a reason it’s referred to as “One Happy Island.” Aruba opened up its borders to international travelers on July 10 and recently updated its travel policies on July 24.
Travel Requirements: Travelers from all 50 states are permitted to visit Aruba, but will be required to complete the online Embarkation/Disembarkation card process. The questionnaire includes basic traveler information and a personal health assessment, and it must be completed within 72 hours and four hours prior to travel to Aruba. Travelers coming from a specific list of states (including Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee) will need to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test result within 72 hours of their departure flight and upload the result as part of the Embarkation/Disembarkation process (at least 12 hours prior to their flight to Aruba). Travelers from all other states not specifically listed do not need to provide negative results, but it’s strongly encouraged. Those travelers will also have the option of taking a PCR test (at their own expense) upon arrival in Aruba. All travelers must also purchase Aruba Visitors Insurance, which protect visitors against incurred medical and non-medical expenses if COVID-19 is contracted during their stay in Aruba.
Check here for the most up-to-date travel information regarding Aruba.
There’s no denying that Barbados serves up some of the most stunning beaches on the planet. But don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all this island has to offer. In addition to its brilliant bays and tucked-away coves, Barbados also boasts unique culinary experiences and a UNESCO World Heritage-listed capital. A relatively small Caribbean island, they manage to pack a lot into 166-square-miles. They also recently unveiled the new 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp program that allows visitors to live and work on the island for up to one year visa-free. Barbados reopened its borders on July 12, along with a series of precautions and safeguards that was updated on July 24.
Travel Requirements: All travelers are required to complete the online Immigration and Customs Form and submit it 24 hours prior to travel. Travelers from high-risk countries (including the U.S.) will need to take a COVID-19 PCR test (from an accredited facility) 72 hours prior to travel and upload results through the online portal (in addition to traveling with a copy of the results). All travelers must undergo a mandatory health screen at the airport upon arrival. Persons traveling from high-risk countries with valid negative test results will be quarantined at a designated hotel or villa (at their own expense), or at a government facility (free of charge) to be monitored daily for the onset of symptoms. These persons will have to take a second test within seven days after the last test accepted by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and will be released once the new result is negative.
Click here for the most up-to-date travel information regarding Barbados.
Saint Barthélemy (also known as St. Barts and St. Barth) has long attracted well-heeled travelers from all over the planet. An overseas collectivity of France, St. Barth has a glamorous reputation for being where the rich and famous tend to escape when Caribbean-bound. The treasure-packed gem is marked by tropical vistas, sun-drenched shores, and an impressive range of luxurious and exclusive retreats. The island began welcoming international travelers back on June 22, although some of its most revered properties aren’t scheduled to reopen for a few more months.
Travel Requirements: A bit more lax than its neighboring islands, all foreign travelers are able to visit St. Barth as long as they can provide a negative COVID-19 test result obtained 72 hours prior to their arrival. Travelers unable to provide a negative result will be required to get tested upon arriving in St. Barth and must agree to self-quarantine until the negative result is available. Visitors are also expected to follow all other standard guidelines, including social distancing and wearing masks when indoors.
Check here for the most up-to-date travel information regarding St. Barth.
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