The documents you need to travel abroad now
By Lauren Sloss
While international travel is not impossible this holiday season, particularly if you’re vaccinated, the rise of the omicron variant promises to make it much more complicated.
Assuming you are traveling to a country open to nonessential travel, the vaccine and testing documentation required for entry could range from nothing (Mexico) to detailed and numerous (Norway, and many others). Before booking, you can research online what you’ll need — on a running list from The New York Times, or the websites of various airlines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. State Department or that of your destination’s government — but be prepared to recheck requirements in the days leading up to your departure, in case rules have changed.
Here are the types of documentation that many destinations now require from U.S. travelers. As in pre-pandemic times, make physical copies of everything and if you have digital versions, organize them in an accessible place on your phone. Keep them handy, too, as you will be asked for your documents multiple times during your journey.
Proof of vaccination
No matter your destination, no matter what requirements it has for proving you are vaccinated against the coronavirus, it’s smart to bring your physical, CDC-issued vaccine card with you, along with digital photos of your card and paper photocopies. You might not need it — be sure to store it safely — but don’t assume that a U.S.-based digital passport or QR code is acceptable. For example, your physical CDC card will be accepted in France and the United Kingdom; the latter, however, also accepts certain state-issued digital health apps for entry, like California’s Vaccine Record and New York’s Excelsior Pass. And remember to check what vaccines are accepted at your destination.
A completed locator form
Some destinations, including the United Kingdom and certain European Union countries, require travelers to complete a digital passenger locator form before entering the country (you must submit the U.K. form in the 48 hours before you arrive in the country), to help with contact tracing. In addition to your travel information, vaccination status and contact information, the form may ask for your address in the country, and, in the U.K, confirmation of scheduled coronavirus tests that you need to take after arrival. With its locator form, Croatia asks for proof of paid accommodation, and if you’re traveling to Canada, you will need to download and submit information using the ArriveCan mobile app within 72 hours before your arrival.
Coronavirus test results
More countries now require proof of a negative test, often in addition to proof of vaccination. Depending on where you are going, some countries require PCR tests, while others allow rapid antigen tests. The timing requirement of your test might ask for results between 24 or 72 hours before your arrival, or one to three days. Take Croatia again, the country requires a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours or a rapid antigen test within 48; if you have neither, you’ll be required to test upon arrival at your own cost and quarantine until you receive negative results. Rules for unvaccinated children vary widely by country and age, too — when entering Denmark, fully vaccinated adults or children under 16 do not need proof of a negative test, while 16- and 17-year-olds must have proof of a negative test to enter. Again, have the results in both digital and physical form.
Mask mandates too vary by country and maybe localities, but you will most certainly need masks in airports, on your flight — and if you are going to most places in Europe and the U.K., for indoor activities like dining. And rather than hoping your cloth mask will have you covered, come prepared with surgical masks and N95s as well. For example, you need N95s or KN95s to ride public transport in Germany.
Proof of insurance
Not only is it a good idea to check your health-insurance policies if you get sick abroad, you should research whether proof of health or travel insurance is needed at your destination. While Egypt, Jordan and many Caribbean nations require proof of health insurance, travelers to Chile, in addition to proof of vaccination and a negative test, must also show “proof of travel medical insurance that covers at least $30,000.” For unvaccinated travelers, Costa Rica requires insurance that covers any COVID-related costs, including but not exclusive to illness.
With minors, proof of relationship
If you are traveling with children, particularly as a single parent or if your child will be traveling with other relatives, Erika Richter, director of communications of the American Society of Travel Advisors, strongly recommends having a child consent form and a proof of relationship, like a birth certificate or court document, in addition to the child’s passport.
Speaking of passports …
Confirm that your passport and any required visas are valid. “Your passport should have an expiration date of at least six months from your return date,” said Alexis Bowen, a co-founder of the travel company elsewhere.
Test for your return trip
All travelers, vaccinated or not, wishing to fly into the United States from abroad are currently required to show proof of a negative coronavirus test — specifically, a rapid antigen or PCR test — taken within one day of their flight. Check whether your final stop before flying has testing centers or pharmacies with approved tests, or consider consulting local connections or the hotel concierge. You can also bring FDA-approved at-home tests with you. Those tests need to be supervised, meaning you’ll need Wi-Fi and an online doctor’s appointment. Finally, prepare to sign a CDC-required attestation either in advance or at the airport before returning.