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When Will We Travel Abroad Again?

By Katherine LaGrave and Laura Dannen Redman

Jan 15, 2021

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Sailing off the coast of Crete, Greece

Photo by Timofeev Vladimir/Shutterstock

Sailing off the coast of Crete, Greece

It’s the big question on avid travelers’ minds, and though the rules around COVID-era travel change rapidly, we’ve gathered the latest information to help you plan for the future.

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This is a developing story. We will continue to update as the world changes. For the latest information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization

For many, the idea of going abroad is still unfathomable—like we’re suggesting we all go into space. Still, for travelers dreaming of that next trip, there is a glimmer of hope: Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues, vaccines are now being administered around the world, and after months of global lockdown to flatten the curve and the development of rapid coronavirus testing, several countries have begun to reopen.

As we tiptoe back outside, masks firmly on, we may start asking: What’s open? What’s safe? When will international travel be allowed? Will I be able to board a plane this year or use my passport

What to know about international travel during the COVID-19 crisis:

On August 6, the U.S. Department of State (in coordination with the CDC) lifted the Global Level 4 travel advisory, which had been in place since March 31 due to COVID.

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“With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the Department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice (with Levels from 1-4 depending on country-specific conditions), in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions,” the State Department said in a statement. “We continue to recommend U.S. citizens exercise caution when traveling abroad due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.”

Visit travel.state.gov to find the advisory for each country.

As of January 15, more than 50 countries have said they are welcoming U.S. leisure travelers right now. They include:

  • Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Jamaica, St. Bart’s, St. Lucia, and Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean
  • Albania, Ireland, Serbia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom across Europe
  • French Polynesia and the Maldives
  • Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Rwanda in Africa
  • Belize, Colombia, Panama, and Peru in Central and South America
  • United Arab Emirates 

Read Where Can Americans Travel Right Now? for a full list of countries and their restrictions.

U.S. border closures remain in place with Europe and by land with Mexico and Canada until at least January 21.

This handy, regularly updated IATA map shows the range of restrictions globally, though the COVID Controls map is more user friendly.

Starting January 26, all international passengers flying into the United States—including returning U.S. citizens—will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Reports Michelle Baran for AFAR: “Effective January 26, those arriving stateside on any international flights will need to provide proof of a negative PCR or antigen test, the results of which must be from no more than 72 hours prior to departure. Airlines will be required to confirm the negative test result for all passengers before they board and to deny boarding to those passengers who choose not to take a test.”

Read more about the rules for flying into the United States.

Most outbound travelers from the United States face health screenings on arrival in international countries.

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They might also face the possibility of a 14-day quarantine, whether they are symptomatic or not. This is widely thought to be a short-term strategy until immunity passports or immunity certificates become widespread.

Read more about immunity passports and how they will actually work.

The CDC recommends travelers get tested twice for COVID-19.

Here’s the fine print:

  • Get tested 1–3 days before your flight—make sure to have actual results (not pending results) prior to traveling.
  • If you have a positive result, do not travel.
  • Get tested 3–5 days after your flight.
  • Stay home for 7 days after traveling, even if you test negative.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19 after you travel, isolate yourself and follow public health recommendations. Do not travel until you are no longer considered a transmission risk—this includes your return trip home.
  • If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 14 days after travel.

Read more about the CDC’s advice for travelers.

Delta is offering quarantine-free travel to Italy and the Netherlands.

Currently, travel to Italy and the Netherlands remains highly restricted—and is off limits for many. However, citizens and residents (and their family members) of the European Union and the European Schengen zone are still allowed to travel to Italy; so are students and those traveling for work, health reasons, or emergencies. 

Read more about Delta’s quarantine-free Europe flights.

To avoid germs at the airport, infectious disease doctors strongly recommend disinfection, physical distancing, and masking. 

“All of them need to be done,” says Dr. Nasia Safdar, an associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine, and the medical director of Infection Control at UW Hospital and Clinics. 

Read more about an infectious disease doctor’s guidelines for safe travel.

>> It’s Official—Americans Won’t Be Allowed Into Europe When It Reopens

>> When Will We Be Able to Travel to Europe?

>> Where Can I Travel in the U.S. Right Now?

>> A Practical Guide to Buying Travel Insurance

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