New Coronavirus Testing Rules for Travel to the U.S. Start Soon

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an order that will soon affect all air passengers entering the United States. They must provide digital or written proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before their flights.

Airlines will deny boarding to those failing to comply. And those who provide false test information are subject to criminal fines and imprisonment.

The new order goes into effect on January 26.

New Negative Coronavirus Testing Requirements for Travelers

The new requirement applies to all airline passengers ages 2 and older including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. Even if you’ve been vaccinated, you’ll still need to provide proof of a negative test.

Travelers flying from U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, are exempt from this order.

How Do You Get a Coronavirus Test Before Your Flight?

Testing protocols are already in place in a number of popular getaway destinations.

The Costa Rica Tourism Institute is working with private labs to offer tests throughout the country. In Los Cabos, the tourism board is working with the public and private sector as well as with airport officials to ensure access to testing. And the Aruba Tourism Authority says the island has hospitals and medical facilities that offer PCR tests to outbound travelers, with an average turnaround time of 24 hours.

In addition, many top hotel brands in international destinations such as Mexico, the Caribbean, Tahiti, and Costa Rica will have testing facilities located inside the hotels, or they have plans to partner with local companies to provide the tests. Be prepared for test prices that range from free to $250 per person.

Some destinations already require some type of COVID-19 insurance coverage or a health visa.

Aruba Visitors Insurance covers medical- and non-medical expenses if you test positive for COVID-19 while you’re in Aruba, with maximum coverage of $75,000. The cost is $30 for travelers ages 15 and older; $10 for ages 14 and under.


The cost for the Bahamas’ health travel visa starts at $40 (ages 10 and under are free). The island of Jamaica charges $40 for $50,000 in coverage for medical emergencies and $100,000 while traveling to and from Jamaica.

Other types of health insurance coverage may be required by an individual hotel, resort or by the government at your destination. Typically, you should have coverage for related medical expenses if you test positive and need to remain in place (up to $500 per day) for an extended period of time.

If you are required to get a health visa, be aware that it may involve getting a COVID test. Here are the latest Caribbean travel protocols for U.S. visitors and details on entry and exit requirements.

Many other countries around the world require foreign travelers to have medical travel insurance in order to gain entry. This has become necessary due to an increase in unsettled medical bills from foreign travelers.

The travel insurance comparison site Squaremouth gives a detailed breakdown of the list of countries that require travel insurance, and explains in-depth which standards you must meet if you are planning an international trip. Check out the Squaremouth Guide to Travel Insurance for the Coronavirus Pandemic which explains what kind of coverage is available.

Due to the new complexities of entry and exit requirements, consider booking any international trip with a travel agent. Find an agent in your neighborhood at the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) or the Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA).

What If You Want to Cancel Your Travel Plans?

If you already have an international plane ticket, what if you want to cancel? Most major airlines have announced that any fare difference for customers with travel scheduled through February 9, 2021, will be waived. Affected customers may rebook in the same cabin of service with no charge for the same origin and destination. The new travel must start on or before January 25.

Final Thought

Expect this requirement to be in place at least as long as the virus cases remain high. This new requirement could definitely have an impact on your international trip budget with the costs of testing and mandatory trip insurance.

If you absolutely must travel, consider keeping trips within the U.S. And make sure you determine the protocols in place regarding quarantines mask mandates and more at your destination. Check with the official state websites before you commit to travel plans. Here’s a quick look at current regulations by state.

Here’s a link to the full order on COVID testing before arrival in the United States.


Stay safe and wear a mask!

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