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Travel to the Caribbean during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

CNN logo CNN 9/7/2021 CNN Staff
a person sitting on a bench next to a body of water: Charles Fort was built in 1650 to protect Carlisle Bay on Barbados from pirates. © Jon G. Fuller/VWPics/AP Charles Fort was built in 1650 to protect Carlisle Bay on Barbados from pirates.

If you're planning to travel to the islands of the Caribbean, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

a close up of a street in front of a building: Aruba is known for its white beaches and colorful buildings in the capital city of Oranjestad. © DPPA/Sipa USA/AP Aruba is known for its white beaches and colorful buildings in the capital city of Oranjestad.

The first thing to keep in mind is the Caribbean Sea region consists of 13 independent island nations. There are even more overseas territories. Each of them has its own rules, subject to frequent change.

Some of the islands opened back up to travel in the summer and fall of 2020. Others reopened more recently. Restrictions can vary. Some islands require quarantines, even for vaccinated travelers, while others don't even request a Covid-19 test. Rules vary depending on your country of origin.

With the spread of the Delta variant, the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has added more destinations to its highest risk category -- Level 4. That includes places in the Caribbean.

a large body of water with a city in the background: ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - MARCH 6: A cruise ship in the port in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands on March 6, 2019. The island was damaged by back-to-back hurricanes in 2017 and while residents are still recovering, tourism is active. (Photo by Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images) © Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post/Getty Images ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - MARCH 6: A cruise ship in the port in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands on March 6, 2019. The island was damaged by back-to-back hurricanes in 2017 and while residents are still recovering, tourism is active. (Photo by Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Also remember that hurricane season continues through November 30. Typically, the worst part of the season is mid-August through September. Islands in the southern part of the Caribbean are usually less affected by hurricanes than their more northerly neighbors. Get updates at CNN Weather.

Here's a roundup of key highlights on 10 popular Caribbean destinations, with the latest information in bold. Follow the links provided so you can find out all the crucial details and check for updates before you book a trip. Rules might change between updates to this article:

a pool next to a body of water: 2G6AJF1 Bimini, Bahamas - June 27, 2021 - Bimini Big Game Club and Marina on North Bimini, Bahamas on sunny summer morning. © Francisco Blanco/Alamy 2G6AJF1 Bimini, Bahamas - June 27, 2021 - Bimini Big Game Club and Marina on North Bimini, Bahamas on sunny summer morning.

Aruba

a group of people in a pool of water: Tourists take pictures of flamingoes in Bayahibe, La Altagracia province. © Erika Santelices/AFP/Getty Images Tourists take pictures of flamingoes in Bayahibe, La Altagracia province.

What's on offer: Days are usually dry and sunny. Arikok National Park features caves, desert landscapes and giant lizards. Wide beaches bordering clear jade water are the big draw.

Who can go? Citizens of all countries can enter with the exception of Venezuela.

Entry requirements: All visitors 12 and older must have a negative result from a molecular Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival if coming from a high-risk country, regardless of vaccination status. This list is on Aruba's tourism website and is subject to change.

Aruba visitors health insurance is mandatory. No quarantine is in place. Travelers who test positive for Covid-19 are required to stay in mandatory isolation, however.

US CDC travel advisory: Level 4: Very high. Avoid travel to Aruba.

Find out more: Aruba's official tourism site | Embarkation and disembarkation card | Aruba Visitors Insurance | US Consulate | CDC Aruba advisory

The Bahamas

a group of people swimming in a body of water: Paddleboarders enjoy themselves near a beach in the Condado neighborhood of San Juan. © Xavier Garcia/Bloomberg/Getty Images Paddleboarders enjoy themselves near a beach in the Condado neighborhood of San Juan.

What's on offer: The chain has 700 islands -- from the hustle and funky beats of the capital city, Nassau, on New Providence, to the peaceful beaches on many less-visited islands. You can swim with pigs or dive with sharks.

an island in the middle of a body of water: Colonial houses line the waterfront in Cockburn town, Grand Turk. © Alamy Colonial houses line the waterfront in Cockburn town, Grand Turk.

Who can go? The Bahamas is open to all international travelers.

Entry requirements: All travelers must present a negative result from a PCR test taken no more than five days before arrival, even if you're fully vaccinated. Children younger than 2 are exempt. You must fill out a health visa application and opt in to the Bahamas' Covid-19 health insurance. Unvaccinated travelers staying longer than four nights and five days must also take a rapid antigen test on day five and fill out a daily health questionnaire. You must also test for travel between various island within the Bahamas chain.

a large waterfall next to a river: JAMAICA - JANUARY 31, 2020: People bathing in the Reach Falls near the city of Port Antonio. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images) © Valery Sharifulin/TASS/Getty Images JAMAICA - JANUARY 31, 2020: People bathing in the Reach Falls near the city of Port Antonio. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)

US CDC travel advisory: Level 4: Very high. Avoid travel to the Bahamas.

Find out more: Bahamas travel website | Bahamas Travel Health Visa | US Embassy | CDC Bahamas advisory

Barbados

What's on offer: Golf, history and architecture get visitors beyond the beach on the most easterly island in the Caribbean. Rum distilleries offer tours and the local cuisine -- a blend of African, Indian, Irish, British and Creole flavors -- will soak up the spirit.

a castle on top of Willemstad: The Penha Building was built in 1708 in the Dutch colonial style and is now a department store in Willemstad, the capital of the island. © Jon G. Fuller/VWPics/AP The Penha Building was built in 1708 in the Dutch colonial style and is now a department store in Willemstad, the capital of the island.

Who can go? The island is welcoming visitors from around the world. Barbados has discontinued its Caribbean travel bubble.

Entry requirements: Both fully vaccinated travelers and the unvaccinated must present a negative result from a Covid-19 PCR test taken no more than three days before travel. You must upload results to the BIMSafe app.

Vaccinated travelers also take a rapid test upon arrival and quarantine for one or two days awaiting results. Unvaccinated travelers must quarantine for five days, take another PCR test and remain in quarantine until receiving results. You must book your room ahead of time at a government-approved accommodation (scroll down for list).

a person sitting at a beach: The Cuban flag at the Melia Varadero International Hotel in Matanzas Province, east of Havana on Cuba's north coast. © Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images The Cuban flag at the Melia Varadero International Hotel in Matanzas Province, east of Havana on Cuba's north coast.

US CDC travel advisory: Level 3: High. Unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to the Bahamas.

Find out more: Visit Barbados website | BIMSafe travel app | US Embassy | CDC Barbados advisory

Cuba

What's on offer: The largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba has a plethora of beaches. The romantic charm and mystique of Old Havana and the lush Viñales Valley, both UNESCO World Heritage sites, set this destination apart.

Who can go? Cuba is allowing visitors from around the world to enter. The US government doesn't allow its citizens to visit Cuba for general tourism purposes. However, there are a variety of permitted reasons to visit.

Entry requirements: Visitors are required to show proof of a negative result from a Covid-19 PCR test taken within three days of arrival. They must take another PCR Covid-19 test upon arrival in Cuba and quarantine at a government-approved hotel. On day five, they take another Covid-19 test. No exemptions for the fully vaccinated. Cuba remains on lockdown as it has for much of the pandemic.

US CDC travel advisory: Level 4: Very high. Avoid travel to Cuba.

Find out more: US Embassy | CDC Cuba advisory | UK government foreign travel advice Cuba

Curaçao

What's on offer: The island's coral reefs and sunken ships are accessible via scuba and snorkeling outings. Willemstad, the capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a don't-miss for history buffs. Nature lovers will find orchids and birds at Christoffelpark.

Who can go? Curaçao divides countries and territories -- and the travelers arriving from them -- into four categories: very low risk, low risk, high risk and very high risk. You need to check which category you're in as they may have varying requirements.

Entry requirements: All visitors except those coming from "very low risk" destinations must have negative results from a Covid-19 PCR test that's no more than 48 hours old before your flight to the island. There are no exemptions for the fully vaccinated. All travelers must fill out the passenger locator card 48 hours before arrival. No quarantines are in place unless you test positive for Covid-19 during your stay.

US CDC travel advisory: Level 4: Very high. Avoid travel to Curaçao.

Find out more: Traveling to Curaçao | Curaçao news bulletins | Passenger locator card | US consulate | CDC Curaçao advisory

Dominican Republic

What's on offer: Top-notch beaches and a range of resorts await visitors. Diverse geography, including lush forests and mountains and semi-arid areas, contrasts with Santo Domingo's historic Cuidad Colonial -- a lively and romantic spot to explore.

Who can go? Travelers around the world may enter, but depending on where you're coming from, entry requirements will differ.

Entry requirements: Travelers from many nations -- including the United States, Canada, Mexico and France, among others -- do not need a Covid-19 test to enter. But as of June 28, the DR has set up a list of nations from which you do need a negative result from a Covid-19 PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. Nations on that list include Brazil, Ireland and the United Kingdom, among others. No quarantines are in place.

US CDC travel advisory: Level 3: High. Make sure you are fully vaccinated before traveling to the Dominican Republic.

Find out more: GoDominicanRepublic.com | Electronic entry and exit form | US Embassy | CDC Dominican Republic advisory

Jamaica

What's on offer: Jamaica's reggae and dancehall music and laid-back vibe are perennial draws. Tropical beaches, waterfalls and delicious jerk cuisine also lure visitors.

Who can go? Until September 17, anyone who has been in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, India, Paraguay, Peru or Trinidad and Tobago within 14 days of their intended date of entry will not be approved OK'd for travel.

Entry requirements: Travelers 12 and older must have a negative result from a Covid-19 molecular (PCR, NAA, RNA) or antigen test performed taken within three days of the travel date. You must fill out a travel authorization form.

Visitors are allowed to go only to "Resilient Corridors" designed specifically for tourists along with other licensed accommodations that meet Covid-19 safety standards. If you require a Covid test upon arrival, you must quarantine in your hotel or resort until you get a negative result.

US CDC travel advisory: Level 4: High. Avoid travel to Jamaica. (Added on September 7).

Find out more: Visit Jamaica | Online travel authorization form | US Embassy | CDC Jamaica advisory

Puerto Rico

What's on offer: Charming and historic Old San Juan is ripe for exploration. The island's casinos and El Yunque rainforest are also top attractions that stretch beyond the water activities at the island's many beaches.

Who can go? Puerto Rico is a US territory. According to US State Department and CDC guidelines on international travel, people who have been in Brazil, China, the European Schengen Area, Iran, India, Ireland, South Africa and the United Kingdom in the past 14 days will be denied entry for leisure travel. Others who meet entry requirements may enter.

Entry requirements: Fully vaccinated travelers on domestic flights must upload their vaccination card to the island's online portal, which will generate a QR code. Nonvaccinated travelers on domestic flights must have a negative result from a Covid-19 PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours of arrival.

International visitors, regardless of vaccination status, must have a negative result from a Covid-19 PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours of arrival.

People who arrive without a test must take a Covid-19 test within 48 hours of arrival and go into quarantine awaiting results. Failure to comply could result in a $300 fine.

US CDC travel advisory: Level 4: Very high. Get fully vaccinated before traveling to Puerto Rico.

Find out more: Visit Puerto Rico | CDC Puerto Rico advisory

Turks and Caicos

What's on offer: This British overseas territory -- northeast of Cuba and southeast of the Bahamas -- is known for it coral reefs, ripsaw music and a low-key vibe. Whale watching, snorkeling and a range of other outdoor activities pair well with the islands' natural aquatic beauty.

Who can go? Visitors from around the world are welcomed to vacation here.

Entry requirements: You must be fully vaccinated if you're 16 or older to visit. All travelers 10 and older need a negative result from a Covid-19 PCR test taken no more than three days before arrival to enter. There's no quarantine on arrival. You must fill out a travel authorization form, and Covid-19 travel insurance is required as well.

US CDC travel advisory: Level 3: Moderate. Unvaccinated travelers should avoid nonessential travel to the Turks and Caicos Islands.. (Update September 7).

Find out more: Visit Turks and Caicos | Travel authorization form | US Embassy | CDC Turks and Caicos advisory

US Virgin Islands

What's on offer: From fine dining, scuba diving and golfing on St. Croix to the pristine shores of unspoiled and undeveloped St. John, these islands have a lot to offer. In lively St. Thomas, boating and duty-free shopping are big draws.

Who can go? The USVI is a US territory. According to US State Department and CDC guidelines on international travel, people who have been in Brazil, China, the European Schengen Area, Iran, India, Ireland, South Africa and the United Kingdom in the past 14 days will be denied entry for leisure travel. Others who meet entry requirements may enter.

Entry requirements: Travelers 5 or older who enter by air or sea are required to use the USVI Travel Screening Portal and submit a Covid-19 test result before travel. You must have one of the three following to enter:

-- A negative result from a Covid-19 molecular test taken and received within five days of the start of your trip.

-- A negative result from a Covid-19 antigen test taken and received within five days of the start of your trip.

Results from Covid-19 antibody tests are no longer being accepted for entry.

No Covid-19 test is required for travel to and from the US Mainland.

US CDC travel advisory: Level 4: Very high. Get fully vaccinated before traveling to the US Virgin Islands.

Find out more: US Virgin Islands update | USVI Travel Portal | USVI Department of Health | CDC US Virgin Islands advisory

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