UPDATE: Dreaming of a sandy beach? A country-by-country guide to Caribbean reopenings
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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.
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Unfortunately, the world itself may not be ready for us to return to its beaches, at least in the Caribbean. Some countries have reopened, and others are tentatively set to re-open in the next few weeks, although quarantine extensions could be announced at any time.
This guide is current as of the time of publication, and we will keep information regularly updated as the global situation progresses.
And if you missed it, here’s our country by country guide to reopenings
Although the country had hoped to reopen its borders by 14 July, a press release from the office of the governor on 25 July states that the border will remain closed to “regular passenger movements” through 31 October with a few exceptions including “visitors from countries and territories with active cases of less than .2% of the population. Those visitors must also “comply with all relevant protocols and quarantine rules”.
There’s been only three cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths.
Antigua and Barbuda: Opened on 4 June, many restrictions
The country reopened to tourists on 4 June. However, travellers will have to adhere to social distancing guidelines, including face masks in public. All snorkel and dive excursions are also banned, and guests can only participate in activities offered via their resorts. They cannot explore the islands.
The Points Guy founder Brian Kelly cancelled an early June trip to Antigua after learning that he would have to stay on the resort “unable to do things I would really want to do”. Good news, though, he did end up going.
However, recent legal actions by tourists may change protocols for future incoming tourists.
Aruba: Reopened to Europe/Canada on 1 July, US on 10 July
Good news from Aruba: Borders have reopened to travellers, 1 July for travellers from Europe/Canada and 10 July for those from the U.S. The government has published a visitor’s guide for anyone seeking to visit on various safety and health-related matters. However, visitors from 24 U.S. states require additional testing. You can find the full list of states here.
The Caribbean Journal, reporting Aruba Tourism Authority, said, “For travellers who already have a trip booked and are concerned restrictions may impact your travel dates, please contact your hotels and airlines directly for an update on their rescheduling policies. We will welcome guests back to our sunny shores as soon as it is safe to do so”.
Aruba closed its borders to tourists on 29 March, although crew members have been exempt from the restriction.
Bahamas: Reopened on 1 July, but closed to most U.S. travellers beginning 22 July
As of 22 July, the Bahamas are officially closed to U.S. travellers who arrive by commercial airline. Travellers arriving by private jets or private vessels will be allowed to enter the country.
The islands were under emergency orders for a number of months but reopened to tourists on 1 July. Unfortunately, an immediate spike of COVID-19 cases correlated with incoming travellers resulted in the Bahamian government ban for additional tourists.
“Regrettably, the situation here at home has already deteriorated since we began the reopening of our domestic economy”, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said Sunday. “It has deteriorated at an exponential rate since we reopened our international borders”.
The following resorts are still open for travellers:
- The Baha Mar
- Sandals Royal Bahamian
- Atlantis Paradise Island
- The Melia Nassau Beach-All Inclusive
- The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort
All of these resorts have flexible cancellation policies, so you can book with peace of mind, knowing you’ll receive a full refund if reopening plans don’t proceed as planned.
Previously, incoming travellers were subject to temperature checks upon arrival; this will likely continue for private airports seaports. Social distancing was also enforced, and travellers had to wear masks in the terminal, during security checks, customer screenings and baggage claim.
If you’re one of the lucky visitors, you’ll need to keep your mask on during the ride to your hotel and you may notice fewer passengers in the shuttle van. Both shuttle and taxi drivers have been mandated to cut passenger capacity by 50%, in accordance with social distancing guidelines. You also won’t be able to sit in the passenger seat of taxis or shuttle vans.
Hotels will be distributing hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to guests, elevator capacity will be limited and “unnecessary literature’ in guest rooms will be removed. In other words, fewer magazines and less clutter all around. Unfortunately, buffets will not reopen for the time being and all meals will be single or prepackaged.
Meanwhile, employees will be subject to frequent temperature checks and restaurant staff will be required to wear masks and gloves.
Guests travelling to the Bahamas can leave their resorts to go on excursions and shopping trips – with some precautions. In order to adhere to social distancing rules, there will be limits on the number of customers allowed in stores and touching of merchandise is highly discouraged unless you’re ready to purchase.
When it comes to excursions, travellers are encouraged to bring their own gear while tour operators will be required to cut capacity clean everything on a set schedule.
Barbados: Reopened 12 July
Good news: Barbados reopened to international travellers beginning on 12 July. They have instituted mandatory protocols that all inbound travellers have to follow:
- COVID-19 PCR test from an accredited laboratory within 72 hours prior to departure for travellers from high-risk countries (one week for low-risk countries)
- Online embarkation/disembarkation card (ED card) with personal health questions relating to COVID-19 symptoms
- Test upon arrival without a documented negative COVID-19 PCR test result and mandatory quarantine at traveller’s expense until results are returned
- Social distancing, temperature checks and wearing face masks
The local government clarifies that high-risk countries are defined as those that have seen more than 10,000 new cases in the prior seven days and community transmission. In addition, anyone that tests positive for the coronavirus will be placed in isolation where they will “receive care from the Ministry of Health and Wellness”.
More updates on Barbados’ response to coronavirus and any updates to its protocols can be found on the government website.
Belize: Opening 15 August
Belize’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism, and even as coronavirus cases continue to spike in places like Texas and Florida that account for a large portion of visitors to Belize, the country is preparing to reopen Philip Goldson International Airport (BEZ) on 15 August.
Visitors and returning citizens will be required to submit a negative COVID test prior to boarding or be tested on arrival, but Prime Minister Dean Barrow said: “We decided that any further delay would likely gain us nothing from a safety standpoint”.
Bermuda: Reopened 1 July
Bermuda reopened to most tourists on 1 July. The island will resume international commercial air service for visitors as part of its fourth phase of economic reopening after what it calls its, “successful management of COVID-19 to date.” L.F. Wade International Airport (BDA) reopened 1 July as well. Details are still being worked out, but visitors with a negative COVID-19 test within three days of their arrival in Bermuda, will be given freedom of movement around the 21-square-mile island.
British Virgin Islands: Closed until 1 September
The British Virgin Islands are off-limits to tourists by sea or air until 1 September at the earliest, but the government is taking actions to open for residents trying to return. Non-citizen crew members must stay within the port facility. Any incoming traveller must quarantine for 14 days. The U.K. government states that a nightly curfew is being enforced, but beaches are open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cayman Islands: Closed until 1 October
The Cayman Islands have banned all foreign nationals from visiting the islands, which are under curfew each day from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Locals stay within their homes during those hours. The local government has stated that airports will remain closed until at least 1 October. Repatriation and emergency flights are permitted. Returning residents must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine, and no crew rest is available.
Cuba: Closed, with existing restrictions in place upon reopening
Despite the border being closed for the foreseeable future, the government has been actively making plans to reopen the country to tourists. Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero announced that when foreign travel resumes, tourists will only be allowed to stay in hotels in Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and Cayo Largo del Sur. Dates in the reopening plans have yet to be specified at the moment.
Dominica: Reopened 3 August
Dominica is open to travellers as of 3 August. All eligible travellers arriving in the country must follow the procedures below:
- Submit a health questionnaire online at least 24 hours prior to arrival
- Present notification of clearance to travel in the form of a doctor’s note or similar document
- Submit a negative PCR test result recorded within 24-72 hours prior to arrival
As with many other countries, visitors must also adhere to stringent on-site policies around social distancing and safe hygiene, including:
- Wearing face masks at all times during the arrival process, up to and including departure from the airport
- Observing physical distancing guidelines
- Following all instructions from local health care staff and officials
- Undergoing a health assessment upon arrival, including a temperature check
- Providing confirmation of the health questionnaire and negative PCR test results
- Undergoing rapid COVID-19 test screening with a negative test result (children under five are exempt).
Any traveller with a high temperature, high risk alert from their questionnaire or positive rapid test will be given a PCR test, and be taken into mandatory quarantine at a government-approved facility or hotel at their expense until results are available. If the follow-up test result is positive, the traveller may be quarantined until released by an authorized health professional.
Until early August, all commercial air and sea access to the nation of Dominica had been suspended since early on in the coronavirus pandemic, with strict curfews in place.
Dominican Republic: Reopened on 1 July
The country’s borders have been closed by land, sea and air since March, but the Dominican Republic announced in early June that the island would reopen 1 July, although only approximately 30% of the hotels will open at that time. Social distancing guidelines will still be enforced, but not much else by way of specifics has been announced at this time.
Grenada: Reopened on 1 July, Quarantine Measures in Place
Grenada’s Maurice Bishop International Airport (GND) reopened on 1 July.
The Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation has revealed, however, several procedures that passengers will have to follow upon arrival. All inbound travellers are expected to submit this health form and pay for a rapid PCR testing at the airport for a price of EC$200 (approximately £57) that they will take before leaving. Masks in the public will also be mandatory.
More details will follow as soon as the local government releases full details of health and safety protocols.
Haiti: Closed – do not travel
There are press reports suggesting the situation on the ground is not good, and it is not a time to consider a trip.
Jamaica: Opened on 15 June with many conditions
Jamaica is currently open for tourists, but the local government has instituted several travel protocols that everyone must follow.
Arriving travellers have to submit a pre-travel health authorisation registration with a customs and immigration form between two to five days before their planned arrival date, and the government will issue a travel approval document based on those details. And as of 15 July, travellers arriving after that date from high-risk regions including Arizona, Texas, Florida and New York must also include a negative COVID-19 test dated within 10 days of departure time in order to have their applications considered.
Travellers may be denied permission to visit depending on their risk for COVID-19 transmission. Short-term business travellers are exempt from the requirements above, but must undergo rapid-result nasal swab testing upon arrival instead, and must remain quarantined until results are received.
All incoming travellers should expect thermal temperature checks upon arrival, and anyone who shows COVID-19 symptoms or feels ill upon arrival will be quarantined. Even after all those procedures, travellers are expected to adhere to social distancing and face mask policies in the public. Travellers are also expected to follow any policies made by tourist and hospitality establishments, which are most likely stemmed from the government’s 119-page guide for local hospitality procedures.
Protocols will continue to be revised every two weeks, and many hotels that are opening for guests have implemented their own health procedures.
According to the U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office, foreigners are required to complete an Attestation de déplacement dérogatoire to certify your reason for travel. But getting to the island is incredibly difficult as most international flights have been halted for non-citizens until further notice, and tourism businesses such as hotels are also limited to serving guests who have been stranded. All spas, pools and other amenities are closed. Airline flight crew and support staff needed are exempt from travel restrictions, although overnight stays should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
All arrivals are subject to a 14-day quarantine.
Puerto Rico: Open on 15 July for International Travellers
Discover Puerto Rico has put together a handy guide for what to expect if you travel to the island when it reopens. Upon arrival, travellers will be subject to health screenings, including COVID-19 testing. Travellers may be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, regardless of symptoms.
Hotels in Puerto Rico will adopt many of the policies being implemented in places like The Bahamas and French Polynesia. All guests will have to undergo temperature checks and have their luggage disinfected upon arrival. Wearing masks in public areas as well as restaurants and shopping areas will be mandatory and social distancing rules will apply.
St. Barts: Opened on 22 June
St. Barths opened to tourists beginning 22 June with some conditions to follow.
If you want to visit the Caribbean vacation spot, you’ll need to prove that you have tested negative for COVID-19 72 hours or less before you arrive. Those unable to provide such documentation will be tested on arrival, and will need to isolate at their lodging until results become available.
Restaurants and shops will be open on the island, but social distancing measures are strongly encouraged.
Saint Kitts and Nevis: Closed
Saint Kitts and Nevis just loosened its 24-hour curfew on 18 May, imposing instead a nightly curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. through 23 May. Current restrictions expired on 13 June, with no reopening date announced yet. All inbound passenger traffic has been banned since 25 March, and data for all repatriation flights must be submitted at least five days before arrival and departure times.
Required information includes date of birth, passport number and expiration date for each passenger, as well as a list of all countries visited by each flight crew member within the last 14 days. Crew members are not allowed to stay overnight or disembark from the plane.
In a recent radio broadcast, Prime Minister Timothy Harris stated that borders will open based on health advice and that the local government is currently looking into how other countries had approached similar situations.
Saint Lucia: Opened on 4 June to U.S. travellers
Saint Lucia reopened the island’s tourism sector beginning 4 June 2020. The first phase is nothing but good news for U.S. travellers: Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) currently receives international flights from the United States only.
Visitors must present certified proof of a negative COVID-19 test within seven of boarding their flights to UVF. Once they arrive, they will undergo health and temperatures checks. Masks and social distancing will be required for the duration of the stay.
The local government has published a page for potential visitors seeking to get the latest updates on coronavirus protocols. It is also actively marketing a new tourism campaign after the loosening of border restrictions.
Although St. Lucia has only had 18 confirmed COVID-19 cases with no deaths, the country closed its borders back on 23 March before reopening on 4 June.
Sint Maarten: Reopened on 1 July
Good news: St. Maarten reopened to American and European tourists on 1 July. Several resorts have also begun accepting reservations for that date, and Delta plans to launch its first flight back into the island in that same week. There are several protocols that travellers are expected to follow, and it won’t be a vacation away from the social distancing that you may have hoped for initially.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Reopened on 1 July
The local government announced that it will stage a phased opening, with the first one beginning 1 July. Visitors from all countries are welcome, but everyone has to fill out the “VINCY” coronavirus questionnaire form and undergo testing/24-hour quarantine upon arrival (until negative test results come back).
The next phase began 1 August, which for travellers of non-Caribbean origins, the change is very minimal. The 24-hour quarantine in hotel/rental requirement goes away if the traveller brings a negative antibody test (within 5 days of traveling) or a negative PCR test (within 2 days). PCR testing on arrival and health questionnaire still seem mandatory at this point.
Trinidad and Tobago: Closed
The island nation of Trinidad and Tobago issued a stay-at-home order in late March, banning all tourists. The reopening plan includes reopening its borders at its sixth phase, but Prime Minister Keith Rowley said that the nation’s borders will remain closed until the government is confident the virus is contained.
In the meantime, the government is giving local hotels $50 million in grants toward remodeling costs in order to prepare for when international tourists are welcome to return; officials also launched a “Dreaming of Tobago” campaign on social media.
Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Airlines is receiving a government bailout, and released a video on the airline’s new procedures in the wake of the outbreak. Again, however, there is no stated timeline on when flights or travel will resume.
The country has received high praise for keeping COVID-19 cases to a minimum; in fact, the nation ranked #1 in the world for meeting reopening requirements from Oxford University.
Turks and Caicos: Reopened 22 July
Turks and Caicos reopened on 22 July.
Previously, all international flights had been suspended until 1 June, and cruise ships had been banned through 30 June. Providenciales International Airport (PLS) was closed to international passenger travel, along with all other airports in the country.
Resorts and hotels have different opening dates; the government suggests reaching out to your specific property for information.
U.S. Virgin Islands: Open as of 1 June, with restrictions
The U.S. Virgin Islands, which includes St. Thomas and St. Croix, was under a state of emergency until 11 July, but is welcoming back tourists as of 1 June with restrictions. There are routine temperature checks and health screenings at the ports of entry and public places, with no quarantine required if travellers are healthy.
Although the U.S. Virgin Islands are part of United States territory, the islands have limited incoming travel even for domestic travellers during COVID-19 lockdown. Hotel reservations will begin to be honored, and restaurants have reopened though they are restricted to 50% capacity.
Masks are mandatory when going into businesses and attractions, while beaches are open but social distancing is required. Large gatherings remain prohibited. Hotels, guesthouses, villas, timeshares and Airbnb accommodations are all accepting bookings. COVID-19 guidelines are in place for retail businesses and attractions; taxi vans, safari and limo services.
Although some countries have opened back up, it’s still too early to hope for spontaneity in travel planning. Instead, the best way to operate this summer will be by planning well in advance. So if you’re excited about some Caribbean sun — a trip to Saint Lucia, perhaps — make your reservations early, and make sure they’re fully refundable in case anything changes.
Additional reporting contributed by Ariana Arghandewal, Clint Henderson, and Brian Kim.
Featured photo by Westend61/Getty Images.
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