The U.S. and the U.K. join Canada and other countries with new requirements for passengers arriving by air to provide proof of a negative Covid test in order to board flights. The new rules apply to everyone, even citizens returning home. Destinations and resorts are upping their capacity to provide visitors with quick-turnaround testing to meet the new demand.
U.S. arrivals by air must have a negative Covid test as of January 26, 2021
Starting January 26, 2021, passengers arriving in the U.S. by air need to show proof of a negative test (NAAT or antigen), taken within 72 hours of departure. The order was released by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on January 12 and applies to all air passengers aged two or over, including U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
While PCR and NAAT tests are more accurate than antigen tests, experts caution that one negative Covid test does not mean that a person is Covid-free. For example, tests aren’t as accurate during the early stages of infection and a person could become infected after their test is taken and before they arrive home. The best way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is to minimize all contact with people not in your household, wear a mask when around others, and self-isolate for 14 days before and after travel. For those who must travel, health experts explain how to make travel safer.
Palladium Hotel Group
As of January 14, 2021, properties within the Palladium Hotel Group provide onsite PCR testing for guests. The tests are performed in the doctor’s office at each property and then sent to certified labs for processing. Results are available within 72 hours.
Costs vary by which local lab is used and are performed on a nonprofit basis. For example, testing at the Dominican Republic’s TRS Turquesa Hotel on Punta Cana’s Bávaro beach is $140 U.S. In Mexico, costs range from $150 U.S. in Costa Mujeres and Riviera Maya to $250 in Puerto Vallarta. In Jamaica, for example at Montego Bay’s Grand Palladium Jamaica Resort & Spa, tests cost $232 U.S. on weekdays and $350 on weekends.
Palladium guests are encouraged to schedule their testing appointment on arrival when they check-in in order to disrupt their stay as little as possible and ease the departure process. Should guests prefer to do their tests at a local clinic, staff can help direct them to one.
Sandals and Beaches Resorts
Until March 31, 2021, Sandals and Beaches Resorts provide guests who need tests with free onsite PCR testing. Procedures vary slightly by resort, and staff will arrange for guests to get their test 72 hours prior to departure with results available within 24 to 48 hours.
For travel between January 31 and August 31, 2021, Sandals also purchases Travel Protection Insurance on behalf of guests in case they test positive for Covid-19. It covers stays up to 14 nights, at no additional cost, as well as medical expenses up to $100,000 per person.
Most Sandals Resorts, which are adults-only, reopened in 2020, including Sandals Montego Bay and nearby Sandals Royal Caribbean with its over-water bungalows. Three resorts will reopen on February 3, 2021—Jamaica’s Sandals Ochi, Saint Lucia’s Sandals Halcyon Beach, and Grenada’s Sandals Grenada. The last resorts to reopen are in the Bahamas—Sandals Emerald Bay’s reopening date is February 24, 2021 and Sandals Royal Bahamian’s is March 31.
In response to the new U.S. requirements, the Caribbean island of Aruba expanded its testing facilities. The CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority, Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, said: “In Aruba, we’ve been at the forefront of innovating as quickly as possible to ensure a safe and seamless travel experience for our visitors and … can reassure our travelers they will have easy access to testing in time for their departure.”
Aruba’s main testing centers are located near hotels and visitors can schedule their Covid test appointments in advance. The average turnaround time for test results is 24 hours. Aruba.com lists testing centers, contact information, and test costs.
In 2020, two resorts in the Maldives—Milaidhoo Island Maldives and The Nautilus Maldives—funded a Covid testing facility with the local council on Dharavandoo Island, within the Baa atoll. Since November 2020, PCR test results are returned within 24 hours.
Both Milaidhoo Island Maldives and The Nautilus Maldives provide complimentary testing for their staff and guests. Other resorts also provide tests, often onsite. More information is at VisitMaldives.com.
In anticipation of the U.S. implementing an inbound testing requirement, Costa Rica’s Tourism Institute established a working group to coordinate making certified labs available for visitors’ PCR tests. The plan is for PCR tests to be available for a fee of under $100 U.S. throughout the country.
No need for testing to depart from Puerto Rico
Travelers don’t need a PCR test to fly to the continental U.S. from Puerto Rico, since the island is a U.S. territory. However, for travelers going to other destinations or for anyone worried they may have been exposed to Covid-19, on-island testing is available at multiple locations (information is provided at the airport and at this site). Some hotels also provide on-resort testing (even in your hotel room) for a fee, such as at the Dorado Beach, A Ritz Carlton Reserve.
More capacity coming
To encourage travel and to support their tourism economies, destinations around the world are increasing their capacity to provide PCR and antigen testing for visitors, in addition to what they already have in place for their own citizens.
Jamaica, for example, has a list of approved testing labs and established a new task force to boost testing for visitors to meet the new demand. This includes onsite testing at more hotels in the island’s main tourism regions. Colombia—with its stunning beaches, archeological sites, and Andean cities— is another destination that can provide Covid tests for travelers who need them, via this list of Colombia testing sites.