Category Archives: Cheap Travel

Caribbean Islands Are Reopening, but Where Can Americans REALLY Travel Right Now?

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Eleuthera, The Bahamas: by iSAW Company on Unsplash

UPDATE: The Bahamas has once again changed the course and is now requiring everyone to quarantine for 14 days, having effectively closed the island for future travel until further notice.

The Bahamas has outlined updated travel protocols as stated in the country’s new Emergency Powers Order. Given a steady increase in positive COVID-19 tests since reopening borders to international travel on July 1, new guidelines and restrictions have been established for all international and domestic arrivals to The Bahamas, out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of both residents and visitors.

Domestic and international travel protocols as outlined in the order are as follows:

  • Entry Requirements for all international visitors
    • A visitor arriving on an international commercial flight shall be permitted to enter The Bahamas and must at their own expense:
      • Submit to mandatory quarantine in a Government specified facility for a period of fourteen days upon arrival in The Bahamas;
      • Undergo a RT-PCR COVID-19 molecular diagnostic test at the end of the period

OK, so the Bahamas are out. American has already pulled the flights until September.

———————————–

Am I the only one who’s noticed a steady growth of posts listing the destinations where Americans are welcome? Not just travel blogs but also news sites and even major media outlets have started listing all the places we can (supposedly) go. True, Caribbean islands are reopening; there is only one problem: the devil’s in the details. In all seriousness, there are very few places we can really go because…!

Yes, Caribbean islands are reopening, but

It just doesn’t matter …

It doesn’t matter what they say if your destination is going to place you under the 14-day quarantine. For absolute majority of normal people this is a no-go.

It doesn’t matter what they say if you must present a negative PCR test taken 48-72 hours before the arrival, because for most it’s an equally impenetrable roadblock. In many U.S. localities testing is so desperately backlogged that most people have to wait for the results for 6-10 days and even more. So once again, who cares if you theoretically can go to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, for example, when in all likelihood you won’t be able to get a quick result?

It doesn’t matter what they say if you can’t fly to your destination even if it’s supposedly open for travel. Do your preferred airlines fly there and if not, is it realistic to book a connecting flight? Not all airports allow transiting to U.S. travelers (well, most do but there might be restrictions). For instance, as much as you would love to visit Minsk (and why not, it’s a lovely city 🙂 ), you might want to delay the urge, as the situation with international flights to and from Belarus appears to be very fluid.

Finally, it doesn’t matter (well, at least for those who aren’t actively trying to off themselves) if you can travel to places where COVID-19 infection is out of control. Nicaragua has never closed, and it has some exceptionally gorgeous sights, but seriously …

If you’re really considering a vacation in the Caribbean, this humongous research will get you started. Rushed announcements from travel authorities often amount to nothing more than a declaration of intent (remember last month’s “re-opening” assurances from Greece and Iceland?).

There is a reason why I don’t produce a hundred posts a week, you know (I mean other than me being lazy and stuff 🙂 ). This one has taken me hours upon hours.

NB. Every destination has the coronavirus link from Worldometer at the time of writing. Just click through to get the latest info.

The least risky bets in the Caribbean

USVI

Caribbean Islands Are Reopening: USVI

Photo by Persephone Maori on Unsplash

The United States Virgin Islands is open to travelers, and you don’t even need a passport, let alone a PCR test. The COVID-19 numbers are still low even though the USVU have been open since June 1.

Antigua and Barbuda

Photo by Alec Brunelle on Unsplash

Here is my June 18 post: Antigua and Barbuda

Things have changed slightly. A month ago there were 26 COVID-19 cases on the island; today (7/20/2020) the number is 76, and it keeps climbing. No, it’s not a huge spike or anything, but still something to keep in mind.

Another change is that all travelers must now bring a negative PCR test taken within 7 days of arrival. Seven days is doable, although it still can be difficult in some parts of the U.S.

Flights from the U.S. are available on American and Delta.

Aruba

Caribbean Islands Are Reopening: Aruba street tram

Photo by Katalin Hoczane Melich on Unsplash

Aruba has been open to Americans since July 10. Well, kinda.

So if you live in a U.S. state not listed above, you have an option to take a test upon arrival. For everyone else — getting a test within 72 hours and uploading the result within 12 doesn’t seem easy to me. Flights are available on Delta, United, and JetBlue.

 The Bahamas

UPDATE: See the latest update at the top of the post.

As if you needed another reason to monitor the situation closely before making a travel decision, the Bahamas will bar all travelers from enteringexcept for commercial flights from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.” This change of heart has occurred literally overnight as I started working on this piece yesterday, July 19.

Wow, just wow!

Opened July 1, flights from the U.S. are available. You must present a negative PCR test taken within one week from the departure. Atlantis is open too. Read this if you’re a Caesars Diamond member and want to book your 4-day complimentary trip:

Caesars Diamond Status Match revised: Vegas, Atlantic City, and the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas Reopenings

Barbados

Caribbean Islands Are Reopening: Aruba, Radisson Blu

The view from the balcony of my Radisson Aquatica Resort Barbados room

You’re expected to present a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival. However, if you’re unable to do so, you have an option of getting one at the airport or at a testing center. If you come from a “high risk setting” you will be monitored daily with a “follow-up test at day 7.”

While not ideal, it does give you a chance to enjoy your time on the island, although that daily monitoring doesn’t sound like fun. Flights from the U.S. are currently available on United (to be followed by JetBlue in August).

UPDATE: There seem to be some discrepancies based on this Tripadvisor forum threadI would wait until the health protocols are clarified.

Bermuda

The view from the Fairmont Southampton Beach Club terrace

Not a Caribbean island, but immensely beautiful, Bermuda has been open since July 1. Flights are available on Delta, with JetBlue starting in August. It seems American won’t be resuming their flights to Bermuda in August.

Here’s my previous post: Bermuda Travel Will Resume on July 1, 2020: Here Is What You Want to Know

Since my last post (see below) Bermuda authorities have changed their requirements. On July 11, Bermuda stopped testing travelers upon arrival. However, while you’re encouraged to obtain a negative test result within 72 hours of your departure, up-to one-week negative results will do. You’ll also be charged “a $75 fee per traveller … which includes the cost of all COVID-19 testing in Bermuda.” What “all COVID-19 testing” are they talking about now, since you’re required to take your test pre-departure? Beats me. Please read the whole document, it’s gotten quite extensive in the last 3 weeks.

Jamaica

Photo by Juan Rojas on Unsplash

If you’re coming from Arizona, Florida, New York, and Texas you must “upload a negative COVID-19 PCR test result from a College of American Pathologists (CAP) accredited medical laboratory” within 10 days of travel. You also must register for a travel authorization online. You’ll be able to stay only at a property from the Resilient Corridor Accommodation Lists. Seems unfair to include New York in this list considering our dramatic drop in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, but I guess our reputation precedes us. 🙂

Flights are available on American, JetBlue, and Spirit.

St. Lucia

Caribbean Islands Are Reopening St. Lucia

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

St. Lucia mandates that all travelers arriving from outside of the “Caribbean bubble” have their negative PCR test taken within 7 days of travel. In addition, you can only stay at an “approved COVID-19 accommodation.” You must also complete and print out a Pre-Arrival Travel Registration Form.

Flights are available on American and Delta.

ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES

Photo by Trenton Jones on Unsplash

Visitors to St. Vincent and Grenadines can do one of the following:

  • PCR test within 2 days of arrival
  • Antibody test within 5 days
  • Test at the airport upon arrival.

You must also complete an online application and other forms.

American starts flying on Aug 8, otherwise, Air Canada can get you there via Toronto.

TURKS AND CAICOS

Photo by Paola Galimberti on Unsplash

Turks and Caicos reopens today, July 22. A negative PCR test result is required, and you must take the test within five days of your landing. You also need to apply for and receive a travel authorization.

Flights: American, Delta, JetBlue, Spirit.

Countries closed or with tough testing requirements

Curaçao

The official Curaçao updates site doesn’t even mention Americans.

Dominica: Negative test 24-72 hours prior to travel

Dominica will reopen on Aug 7.

Grenada: Date TBD for Americans

Plus you’ll need to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 7 days of travel AND get tested again on arrival.

St. Barts: 72 hours 

St Barts has been open to tourists since June 22, 2020, but getting there is slightly complicated. You can arrive via Antigua, San Juan, or St. Maarten (which will supposedly open to Americans on Aug 1). I guess the easiest route would be via San Juan continuing on TradeWind.

St. Maarten: 72 hours

Will supposedly open to American tourists on August 1. Disclaimer: Subject to change. Their disclaimer, not mine. 🙂

Closed for business

  • Anguilla: Closed indefinitely
  • Belize: Will (might) reopen on August 15
  • British Virgin Islands: Closed
  • Cayman Islands: Closed until August 31
  • Costa Rica: Officially closed until Aug 1 (but will probably be extended)
  • Guadeloupe: Closed indefinitely
  • Martinique: Closed indefinitely
  • Montserrat: Closed indefinitely
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis: Closed indefinitely
  • Trinidad and Tobago: Closed indefinitely

Wide open but …

Dominican Republic

I haven’t been to the most of the Caribbean islands, but I’ve been to the DR countless times. And now that they’ve fully reopened and don’t require any tests at all (unless you’ve got a fever upon arrival), I would love nothing more than to hop on a plane and find myself sipping Cuba Libres on a beach in a little over 4 hours.

However, the DR would be the last country I’d visit during the pandemic — that is if I hadn’t decided already to stay put. Or if I did, I would forget about AI resorts. I would lock myself in a villa and never visit a local bar or restaurant or talk to people. Somehow I just don’t see Dominicans committing to social distance. 🙂

This doesn’t instill a lot of confidence either.

It might not look too scary compared to some U.S. states, but there are much safer places under the Caribbean sun to enjoy yourself right now.

Mexico 

Mexico is also wide open for air travel and I don’t think It’s ever been fully closed. Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases are still on the rise.

This is the chart for Cancun from 1 month ago.

And here is a fresh one.

Yes, the infection is flattening a little, it seems — after it nearly doubled in the last month.

Here is the COVID-19 situation in Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos if you’re curious.

To recap

So, now you’ve got a comprehensive list of places you can really go to in the Caribbean (at the time of writing!!!) — all in one place. Please choose your destination wisely based on the current COVID-19 situation and ease of travel and use the links to the local health authorities I’ve provided to check if things have changed for the better or worse. I also recommend reading the relevant forums on Tripadvisor, Flyertalk, or others to see what actual travelers are saying. While you can’t rely 100% on what people say, it can help you get a better picture.

Have fun, stay safe and comment! 🙂

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