In mid-February, as much of America was hit by a cold snap, Tami Irons, a hospital network systems manager in Paynesville, Ohio, chased the sun to St. St. John, the smallest and most lush of the U.S. Virgin Islands. She and her husband spend their vacations in St. Petersburg. They’ve been to St. John’s every year since 2005, and not even the current pandemic has kept them away. Coming out of the snow and cold, we always breathe a little easier, Irons said.
Bermuda is even stranger: Visitors must wear a travel bracelet for the first 14 days of their stay.
But this year, the weeks leading up to the flight were grueling, even though we had booked a private villa that could be cancelled at any time. St. John’s St. John, as well as the neighboring islands of St. John’s and St. John’s. St. Thomas and St. John’s The St. Croix Police Department requires all newcomers to submit proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival. The couple made an appointment at a medical clinic and then waited tensely for a full recovery. Reports of curfews on other islands or, in the case of St Helena Bart’s sudden ban on visitors caused even more concern. I couldn’t stop thinking about the trip until I was on the plane, Ms Irons says. Anything could have happened.
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For sun worshippers looking for sand, sea and warmth this spring, the Caribbean seems like a promised land. And indeed, most Caribbean islands welcome American tourists, but entry requirements vary considerably and are constantly changing. Every traveler needs to understand that it’s a liquid, says Michele Ricci, a travel consultant in Bedminster, N.J., who often books Caribbean vacations. Every day is different.
Until things change again, here’s an overview of the obstacles you’re likely to encounter and a guide to the easiest and most difficult islands to visit.
Tests are performed
In most counties and dependent areas in the region, you must be able to provide proof of a current negative Covid-19 test result before you even put your polished foot on the pavement. How long does it take to take the Covid 19 test in different countries If you are traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands, you will only need to take one test. However, if you are traveling to another island outside the United States, you must be able to provide proof of a negative viral test to return to the mainland. Many spas offer on-site testing for this purpose.
Some destinations, including Anguilla, the Bahamas and Jamaica, insist on a second Covid test on arrival. Bermuda is even stranger: Visitors must wear a travel bracelet for the first 14 days of their stay, have their temperature checked twice a day and have their temperature checked on the fourth, eighth and fourteenth days of their stay. On the day of his stay, do more Covid-19 tests.
PIGEONS PARADISE Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, one of the most accessible countries in the Caribbean this winter.
In comparison, the testing protocols in the Dominican Republic are much more lenient. Instead of requiring visitors to submit negative proof of a Covid 19 test before arrival, local authorities randomly test a small percentage – between 3 and 15 percent – of arriving passengers.
What if you have already been fully vaccinated against Covid-19? As long as you don’t avoid the testing requirements by vaccinating.
Most islands also require visitors to complete a medical questionnaire before or after arrival. And some, like Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands, require tourists to have – or buy – health insurance that covers them if they fall ill on holiday.
Christy McKedans, Travel Consultant with KM Travel Designs in St. John’s, Newfoundland Petersburg, Florida advises travelers to check travel agency websites for availability and cost of insurance. She added that you should then read the rules to make sure you are covered if you test positive and stay in quarantine on the island for 10 days to two weeks. Each destination is so different, she warned.
Tracing and screening
Of the islands with tighter travel restrictions, Barbados tops the list, according to Tara McCoy, tourism consultant in Columbia, S.C., who spent several days on the Commonwealth island in December. After a significant increase in activity shortly after Christmas, local authorities imposed a curfew (lights out at 7pm) and tightened other Covid-inspired rules. Gradually, the requirements to go there have become more stringent, McCoy said. How much? The tourism website (visitbarbados.org) lists exactly what type of Covida test is required to enter the country. Visitors must download an app on their phone before their trip; once they arrive, they are given an electronic bracelet that tracks their movements. The first five days on the island must be spent within the confines of the resort, and heavy fines must be paid for renting too long. On the fifth day the travelers are tested again and only if they get the green light, they are allowed to explore the island. The British Virgin Islands have a similar system with tracking devices and a mandatory four-day quarantine.
Current view of Magens Bay on St. John’s St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Anguilla’s house rules are equally strict. Visitors must provide a negative result of the PCR test three to five days before arrival and accept a second result upon arrival. Vacationers staying less than two weeks may only stay in government-approved hotels and villas, visit approved restaurants, and participate in certain activities and excursions. Kincha Gumbs-Marie, Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, describes this tourism bubble as a collection of businesses that are certified and trained to follow our safety protocols. Ms Gumbs-Marie also drew attention to the commissioning of tourist masks throughout the island. If you’re against the mask… you’ll have a hard time getting into Anguilla. All our guests must be in costume.
St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Jamaica and St. Lucia restrict tourists to certain areas. The latter has a curfew of 7pm.
When new variants of the coronavirus reached Europe in February, the French government closed its overseas territories, including the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Barts, to all non-European tourists. The US State Department has also issued a Level 4 advisory for all of the French West Indies, advising Americans to stay away due to Covid-related conditions. The Cayman Islands are also currently a prohibited destination except for homeowners, students, parents and other specially authorized visitors.
Is life a beach after all?
Once through the gates, the islands seem relatively normal, says Rishti, although there are far fewer tourists and the hotels are half empty.
The chief executive officer of Sandals Resorts International stated that occupancy rates at the 11 all-inclusive resorts currently open were between 55% and 65% last month, compared to 83% at the same time last year.
McCoy, who spent five days in Jamaica in February, appreciated the slower pace. It was easy, comfortable and sunny, she said, adding that the restrictions in Covid-19 were similar to those in the United States. They weren’t really any different than the restrictions here in South Carolina. Wearing masks and social distancing.
Corrections and additions
There are currently 11 locations open at Sandals Resorts. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that six stations were open. (corrected March 11)
Airports in Paris and Singapore, as well as airlines like United and JetBlue, are experimenting with apps that check travelers for Covid-free status before boarding. The WSJ visits an airport in Rome to see how the digital health passport works. Photo credits: AOKpass
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