With its (relatively) nearby beaches, the Caribbean has been a go-to escape for American travelers desperate for R&R during the pandemic. But as with any overseas trip, navigating covid-era travel restrictions from island to island presents a challenge.
Unlike Mexico, which has no entry requirements for travelers, most Caribbean destinations require some testing or proof of vaccination to enter. No matter what’s required for getting away, all Americans flying home from abroad still have to follow U.S. protocol for reentry. All inbound international travelers must show proof of an approved negative coronavirus test taken within a day of their flight to the United States.
Below, By The Way breaks down the rules for five popular islands — including one Atlantic vacation spot just outside the Caribbean — and shares vaccination numbers pulled from The Washington Post’s data tracker, unless otherwise noted.
More than 500,000 travelers visited the Dominican Republic in January, and the country’s tourism minister is hoping to bring more than 7 million tourists to the country in 2022. More than 54 percent of the population has been vaccinated.
CDC travel warning: Level 4, indicating a “very high” risk of covid exposure
Entry requirements: There are no entry requirements for Americans to visit the Dominican Republic. An aleatory breath test — which can detect covid via “breath print” — is performed on some arriving passengers and anyone who displays symptoms. Visitors who can provide proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours are exempt from the random test.
Once you’re there: While you don’t need a vaccination card or a negative test to enter the D.R., visitors over 12 must carry their vaccination card with them, because some businesses — like bars, restaurants, gyms and shopping centers — outside of tourism complexes or resorts require proof of full vaccination or a PCR test taken within seven days to enter. Masks are required in indoor public places.
CDC warning: Level 4
Entry requirements: All visitors at least 12 years old can either provide proof of vaccination and booster, or take a lab-certified rapid or PCR test before arriving in Aruba. Children under 12 are exempt from testing or vaccination requirements.
People who have recovered from the coronavirus between 10 days and 12 weeks ahead of their trip and do not have any symptoms are also exempt. Instead of uploading proof of vaccination or a negative test result, they must upload proof of their past positive result from the PCR test taken between 10 days and 12 weeks of their trip. An antigen or antibody test, among others, will not be accepted.
Once you’re there: Masks are mandatory in indoor public spaces, including the airport, and recommended in situations when social distancing is difficult. According to the Aruba tourism board website, there are curfews for businesses outside of hotel properties (1 a.m. for most establishments and 2 a.m. for casinos). Restaurants cannot seat more than 10 people per table (children under 12 excluded).
Behind Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Puerto Rico is the most booked Caribbean destination for American travelers in 2022, according to data from the flight booking site SkyScanner. The U.S. territory has roughly 79 percent of its population vaccinated.
CDC warning: N/A for U.S. territories
Entry requirements: Fully vaccinated travelers no longer have to present a negative coronavirus test to visit, as of Feb. 2. They must upload proof of vaccination through the country’s travel declaration form portal. Unvaccinated travelers must provide a negative test result to bypass a seven-day quarantine. Alternatively, they can test within 48 hours of arrival and quarantine while waiting for the results.
Travelers who have tested positive for the coronavirus within 90 days of their trip are exempt from testing requirements if they provide a certified medical health certificate from a doctor and proof of a positive test.
For children, those at least 5 years old must show proof of vaccination or a negative test; those between 2 and 4 must show a negative test result; those under 2 are exempt from testing requirements.
Once you’re there: Until at least Feb. 16, Puerto Rico has coronavirus protocols in place that include measures such as limiting event venues and businesses to half-capacity. Important rules for visitors to know include the requirement to provide test results or vaccination status when checking into hotels, paradores (small inns), guesthouses, and short-term rentals; and that all food and drink establishments require proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test taken within 48 hours to enter. For events indoors and outdoors, attendees must provide proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test taken within 48 hours. Children under 5 may not attend mass events.
Masks are required in public indoor places, throughout public transportation and for outdoor activities with at least 50 attendees (excluding public beaches) regardless of age and vaccination status.
The U.S. Virgin Islands is in the Safer-at-Home Phase of its State of Emergency. Over 63 percent of the population has been vaccinated.
CDC warning: N/A
Entry requirements: As of Feb. 2, domestic travelers must submit a negative antigen or PCR test result taken within five days of travel. The rules are different for those visiting the U.S. territory from an international destination. Domestic travelers at least 5 years old must be cleared to travel to the USVI through its travel screening portal. Travelers may be subject to additional screening on arrival.
Once you’re there: The USVI tourism website provides a tool kit for travelers to better understand its coronavirus protocols. The territory requires masks or face coverings in public places for anyone over 2. At hotels and other types of lodging, guests will undergo health screenings and temperature checks. Restaurants and bars have reduced capacity to 75 percent, and no more than six people may sit at one table.
Across the 700 islands that make up the Bahamas, over 39 percent of the population has been vaccinated.
CDC warning: Level 4
Entry requirements: In addition to applying for a Bahamas travel health visa, visitors must test within 72 hours of their arrival date. Fully vaccinated travelers and children between ages 2 and 11 can use either a rapid antigen or PCR test, while unvaccinated travelers 12 and older are required to use a PCR test. There are no testing requirements for children under 2.
As of Jan. 4, anyone staying in the Bahamas for more than 48 hours must take a rapid test within their first two nights of their arrival, regardless of vaccination status.
Once you’re there: Protocols may vary on each of the 16 major islands. However, all travelers are required to mask at airports and sea terminals and when traveling by taxi, entering establishments, and checking into hotels. Social distancing is required on beaches.
The Bahamian government may restrict travel into or out of certain islands, and it recommends that travelers watch for updates online. Unvaccinated visitors traveling within the islands of the Bahamas must provide a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of their departure date. All unvaccinated visitors must also take a daily questionnaire throughout their trip, up to 14 days.