From Iceland to the Seychelles, many countries are keen to welcome back tourists but even Vaccine VIPs will need to research the rules carefully. Rose Dykins reports
As the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out gains momentum, an increasing number of tourism destinations are responding by easing entry restrictions to people who have had their jabs. This means that “Vaccine VIPs” will, in theory, be able to bypass pre-departure testing and quarantine upon entering these countries, and feel confident that they can book a holiday.
While the vaccine is a vital step for reviving the global travel industry, even vaccinated travellers must do their research, though – as there is no universal protocol for Vaccine VIPs. Some countries will ask vaccinated travellers to provide a negative PCR test, or other documentation, and they will still need to comply with the country’s health and safety restrictions while there.
Some countries are welcoming vaccinated passengers from certain countries, but not others (which is subject to change). And it’s also worth considering that quarantine may still apply when travellers arrive back in their home country, depending on how things develop over the coming months.
Since March 1, Cyprus has welcomed vaccinated travellers from countries listed under its green category – without requiring them to quarantine or provide a negative Covid PCR test.
From May 1, this will also apply to travellers from the UK who have received both doses of their vaccine. They must have received their second dose at least seven days before their arrival in Cyprus. Authorities have also said they reserve their right to carry out Covid-19 tests on arrival at random.
Travellers can enter the country with a Covid-19 vaccination certificate in English, Estonian or Russian.
Estonia is also accepting “immunity passports” – certificates proving that a passenger has antibodies against Covid-19 – or copies of them.
These must include details about how, where and when the immunity passport was obtained – including information about the methodology, institution that produced the certification, the time it analysed the passenger, and personal details about the passenger.
Since February, it has been possible for vaccinated travellers from any foreign country to enter Georgia without the need to self-isolate, if they have evidence they’ve received both doses of the vaccine.
Greece is set to reopen for tourists from May 14, provided travellers are fully vaccinated, or they can present a negative Covid-19 PCR test result, or evidence that they have antibodies to the virus.
Greece will also test-run the reopening of its borders in April, with a pilot programme for travellers from the European Union and certain countries where the vaccination process has progressed (such as Israel).
Holidaymakers will need to wear masks in public, and may be subject to Covid-tests.
From May 18, vaccinated – and previously infected – arrivals in Iceland from anywhere in the world won’t need to abide by the country’s entry restrictions (including PRC testing and quarantine).
Travellers need to present paper or electronic vaccine passports – there are list of accepted documents on the Directorate of Health website.
The authorities will also accept certificates that show proof of previous Covid-19 infection, so those with antibodies will also be free to enter without restrictions.
Vaccinated travellers from all over the world can skip quarantine when they arrive in Lebanon – but they still need to present a negative PCR test taken within 96 hours before their flight departs, and to take a second test when they land in Beirut.
Both fully vaccinated travellers and those who can prove they have had Covid-19 and recovered in the past 90 days can travel restriction-free to the archipelago. Before they travel, they will need to submit documents in English to madeirasafe.com.
Poland’s mandatory ten-day quarantine won’t apply to travellers who have had the vaccine. The nation is also already allowing visitors to skip quarantine if they can present a negative test certificate issued within 48 before they crossed the border into Poland (these can be either PCR or lateral flow antigen tests).
Vaccinated travellers who complete their doses two weeks before travelling can travel to Seychelles quarantine-free. Meanwhile, children and infants need to have a negative PCR test certificate (this will be very off-putting for families as it is almost impossible to do a nasal/throat swab or saliva test on a young child).
Vaccinated visitors still need to present a negative PCR test certificate from within 72 hours of they travel online, along with details of their flight and accommodation. Currently, it’s only possible to stay in hotels and resorts that are certified by the Public Health Authority.
From March 25, Seychelles will have completed its own vaccination programme, so travellers will be able to visit without needing to quarantine or face restrictions – even if they haven’t been vaccinated.
They will still, however, need to take a PCR test 72 hours before they arrive and stick to the islands’ health and safety measures during their holiday (wearing face masks, social distancing, washing hands regularly). The relaxed restrictions will not apply to travellers from South Africa.
Tourism companies have launched Open Thailand Safely, a campaign to reopen the country’s borders from July 1. It includes a petition – open to anyone in the world – which will be submitted to the government asking that it responds to the roll-out of the vaccine programmes across Europe, the US and other important tourism markets for Thailand.
The petition also argues that “international tourists can be asked to satisfy any safeguards the Thai government may require”, such as proof of the vaccine, health insurance or a negative Covid test.
Meanwhile, the Thai island of Phuket is planning to let vaccinated travellers skip quarantine by October, as long as most of its population is vaccinated by then – the plan is for 70 per cent of its population to have the vaccine by that time.
Currently, travellers to Thailand face a 15-day quarantine in a state-mandated hotel, although wealthy tourists are being the option of isolating on yachts.
Editor’s note: on March 26 it was announced that Thailand will waive quarantine requirements for vaccinated visitors arriving on the resort island of Phuket from July 1.