If you think navigating the travel quarantines in the United States is difficult, try Europe. That’s what Adam Cole had to do when his daughter started college in London recently.
“We traveled at the height of the pandemic,” says Cole, who runs an arts academy in Atlanta. “That meant she and I quarantined for two weeks before moving her into her dorm in London.”
But getting to England from the United States wasn’t easy.
“The quarantine made the visa application process particularly harrowing,” he remembers. Cole had to hire an immigration lawyer to take care of the process. But there was a lot of drama, from almost-missed deadlines to serious doubts about being allowed to enter the country.
“We were sweating bullets,” says Cole.
In the end, she made it to London for the start of classes.
How to handle a travel quarantine and travel ban
Cole’s odyssey is a blueprint for anyone who must travel. (If you don’t have to travel, stay home until the pandemic is under control.)
Here’s how to deal with quarantines and travel bans:
- Know the rules. Make sure you have the latest rules and regulations on travel.
- Hire an expert. A lawyer or travel advisor can help you navigate every quarantine or travel ban.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Not just time to plan, but time to travel.
These are the current travel quarantine rules in the United States
The quarantine rules are complicated and often confusing — and many of them change weekly. But they’re worth reviewing because the fines for violating them can be considerable.`
“You should be aware of the quarantine policy of the destination you’re traveling to as well as your own state’s policies for your return,” says Jeff Klee, CEO of Qtrip.com. “You’ll not want to run afoul of the rules.”
Here are the 17 states with travel restrictions (this list is valid as of Oct. 10, 2020):
Visitors must submit a travel declaration and a COVID-19 test.
If you’re visiting from a state with a positive case rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a 10% test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average, or from a country for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice, you have to self-quarantine for two weeks.
After Oct. 15, travelers who provide written confirmation from a state-approved COVID-19 testing facility of a negative test result from a test administered to the traveler within 72 hours from the final leg of departure, will be exempt from the 14-day mandatory quarantine.
Travelers from the 22 states and territories “should” quarantine upon arrival in Chicago. The list of states will update next Tuesday.
A quarantine is required for anyone who traveled to Aruba on or after Sept. 24, or who attended a mass gathering event out-of-state of 500 people or greater, or who was on a cruise ship after March. Other restrictions apply.
If you’re coming from a state with a positivity rate of 15% or more, you should quarantine for 14 days.
Travelers must self-quarantine for 14 days. The state will allow adults who obtain a recent, negative COVID-19 test to forgo the quarantine.
Travelers from Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, do not need to do a 14-day quarantine. All others do.
Visitors from Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island do not have to quarantine. Those traveling to New Hampshire from non-New England states for an extended period should self-quarantine for two weeks.
Travelers to or from the Garden State from one of 35 states or territories with increasing rates of COVID-19 have to self-quarantine for 14 days. Here’s the list.
A mandatory quarantine is in effect for all states except California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington.
Air travelers to New York must fill in a health declaration or face a $2,000 fine. A mandatory quarantine is in effect for 35 states and territories (same as New Jersey).
People entering Ohio after travel to states reporting positive testing rates of 15% or higher for COVID-19 must self-quarantine for 14 days.
Visitors from one of 23 states with high COVID rates should quarantine for 14 days.
If you are coming to Rhode Island from outside the United States, you need to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in the state. Same for visitors from one of these states.
If you are visiting Vermont, you have to quarantine for 14 days after arrival. You have the option to get a COVID test on or after day 7 of quarantine and end your quarantine with a negative test result.
A self-quarantine of 14 days is required after participating in non-essential travel to or from one of 31 “high-risk” states.
(Note: Restrictions change by the minute. Please check with official sources or your travel agent for the latest quarantine requirements.)
Quarantine rules for international travel
If you’re headed overseas, the rules are even more complicated. For example, for travel to the U.K., Cole and his daughter had to fill out a declaration form and self-isolate for 14 days. Alas, the U.S. isn’t on its list of exempt countries. If they didn’t quarantine, they faced a fine of up to £10,000 ($12,915).
But finding information about international travel can be tricky. If you plan to visit Europe, you’ll want to check the EU site and pay attention to any intra-EU restrictions on travel. That can make an already complex trip even harder to plan. And, of course, the restrictions change by the hour — so the rules you know now may not be accurate when you plan to travel.
How to get professional help with navigating a travel quarantine and ban
You don’t need permission to cross state lines, and the domestic travel quarantine requirements are mainly on the honor system. By contrast, entering another country can be problematic. You can find an immigration lawyer on a service like Avvo or through a word-of-mouth referral.
But you might also benefit from the advice of a travel professional. An agent knows the ins and outs of the travel bans — and all the exceptions.
“Travelers have many self-help options through websites to understand quarantines and prohibitions,” says John Rose, the chief risk and security officer at ALTOUR. “However, that only gets them to about 60% of the required information due to the extenuating circumstances accompanying many trips.”
They can also benefit from the support of an experienced travel counselor. Rose says travelers need access to travel advisors who can get them all of the information through their knowledge of the restrictions.
How important is a travel agent?
Peter Vlitas knows. He works for a travel agency as a senior vice president of airline relations for Internova Travel Group. So when he needed to travel to Greece on business, he turned to his own company for advice.
“I was able to obtain an authorization to enter Greek territory for exceptional professional reasons,” he says. “I obtained the document from the Greek consulate in New York, which was extremely helpful.”
Having access to an expert helps. Vlitas found a little extra red tape along the way. He had to show his authorization to enter Greece and a negative COVID test result. He also needed to provide the Greek government with an email for contact tracing. After he arrived in Athens, he had to undergo another COVID-19 test. But once he passed, he was clear.
“There is no ban or quarantine upon arrival into Greece for U.S. citizens if they have permission to enter,” he says.
Eli Ashear, the managing partner at EMBARK Beyond, recalls helping a client get to Italy this summer.
“We spent weeks gathering documentation, contracts, requests for appointments from leading local businesses and hotels, and getting a letter from the mayor of an Italian town to support how important this trip was,” says Ashear.
The client made it to Italy, of course.
The best way to find a competent travel agent is by asking a well-traveled friend you trust. Also, check the American Society of Travel Advisors member directory.
Travel quarantine tip: Give yourself lots of time
Whether you’re planning a trip domestically or internationally, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to prepare for your trip. All the expert tips for navigating quarantines and bans are useless if you don’t have time to obtain the necessary permissions — or to quarantine as required.
Although some travelers favored last-minute trips in late 2020, travel experts warn that navigating travel quarantines and bans — particularly for international trips — is a time-consuming process. It can take weeks or months to line up all the necessary documents for a trip. If you cut it too close, and fail to obtain the paperwork, authorities might not let you into the country.
The fix sounds deceptively simple: there should be global standards for quarantining and testing. Many regions are working toward that, but by the time they get their act together, the pandemic will probably be over.