International Travel in the Time of COVID

Even though COVID-19 is far from under control, it IS still possible to travel internationally. It’s just going to take more advance planning, dedication, time, and a willingness to follow the rules.

Americans who want to venture outside the borders of the United States will have to do their research and, in many cases, will find that the welcome mat has been yanked away completely. Canada is such a case.

The Peace Arch north of Blaine, Washington

Foreign nationals who are eligible to travel to Canada fall into a very few restricted categories: 
  • Immediate family members of a Canadian citizen, a person registered under Canada’s Indian Act or permanent resident 
  • Extended family members of a Canadian citizen, person registered under Canada’s Indian Act or permanent resident 
  • Foreign nationals authorized to come for compassionate reasons such as being present during the final moments of life for a loved one, providing support to a person deemed critically ill, providing care to a person who medically requires support, or attending a funeral or end-of-life ceremony 
If you are in one of those categories, there are still hoops to be jumped through. As of this writing, you’ll have to certify that you’ll stay in Canada for 15 days or more, will have to self-isolate for the first 14 days, and certify that the travel is for non-discretionary reasons. 

In addition, you will have to present a quarantine plan that details where you’ll be staying, how you’ll get to your destination, get your groceries, and access essential services and medical care. This plan is mandatory, even if you have no symptoms.


More information on traveling to Canada is available here

Similar restrictions are in place when flying to Germany, Japan, France, and other countries. Fortunately, some of the airlines based in those countries have plans to help. 

Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) is taking steps to simplify travel and make entry into Japan more accessible for travelers coming from across the world. ANA has launched a new website offering comprehensive information on COVID testing, hotel accommodation and private transportation for all international travelers entering Japan. The website is available here.

Under current guidelines, all new visitors entering Japan are required to quarantine for a certain number of days and are prohibited from using public transportation both upon their arrival and during their quarantine period. ANA’s comprehensive program will make it possible for those arriving from abroad to receive all the necessary support for a safe quarantine when they enter Japan.

ANA’s quarantine packages, which are available through the website, include options for accommodation at hotels located near both Haneda and Narita airport as well as options for car rentals and COVID testing.

If you just can’t wait to see Paris in the spring, here are a few things you’ll want to know about travel to la République, courtesy of Air France

Passengers must hold a "Travel Certificate for access to French territory" (Attestation de déplacement dérogatoire et justificatif de déplacement professionnel) detailing their travel plans, and a sworn statement that they do not have COVID-19. That travel certificate and the statement can be obtained here, prior to travel.

Passengers aged 11 years or older must have the results of a biological examination of virological screening (PCR or LAMP test only) carried out less than 72 hours before the flight, proving that they are free of COVID-19.

Passengers will need to wear a surgical face mask during the entire trip.

Upon arrival in France, passengers must quarantine for seven days, then take a PCR test at the end of the quarantine period.

Visiting Germany could be even more complicated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against traveling to Germany due to a “very high” level of COVID activity. Those who decide to ignore that recommendation will still face hurdles put in place by German authorities.

German authorities consider a traveler’s country of origin, which could be considered a “risk area”, a “high-risk area” or a “virus variant area”. The U.S. is currently considered a “high-risk” area. Each has slightly different rules for entry and quarantine, though Lufthansa’s website notes that the quarantine regulations are the responsibility of the individual federal states. However, an isolation period of 10 days is common.

Here in the U.S., many individuals refuse to wear masks for a variety of reasons and, though “mask mandates” are in place in many areas, there are few penalties for non-compliance.

That is definitely not the case elsewhere.

In Germany, Berlin is the only state where masks are not required but simply “strongly recommended.” Elsewhere, you could face hefty fines for failing to mask up. In Bavaria, those caught not wearing a face covering while taking public transportation or while in a store face a €150 ($163) fine, which could double to €300 for repeat offenders.

Those violating the rules in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania face a €25 fine, while the central state of Hesse has instituted a €50 fine. Visitors to other countries could also face fines and should understand that authorities in other countries are far less tolerant of those who refuse to follow the rules.

Intimidating as it may be, it can be done. A former colleague of mine spent several weeks in Italy, visiting family and friends. And although he went through a quarantine period, those family members and friends brought him the food and other items he’d need to get through two weeks essentially alone.

Whether you have to travel or simply want to travel, be prepared to inform yourself of what is required, get into a “go-along-to-get-along” mindset to avoid those stiff penalties for non-compliance, stay flexible (as requirements can change on very short notice), and pack plenty of patience.

As much as I love to travel, however, you won’t likely see me on the Champs-Élysées or elsewhere outside the U.S. until at least the summer of 2022.

Visit my main page at for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

Photos by Carl Dombek

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