It seems like everyone is traveling these days, and we should, after being restricted for over two years.  The good news is that as of last night at midnight, Sunday, June 12, the U.S. lifted its pre-test requirement for anyone flying into the U.S. from out of the country. The travel lobby has sought this result for over five months, claiming that the requirement to take a COVID test one day prior to flying into the U.S. was hurting tourism at the height of the tourist season.   If you are going out of the country for business or pleasure, however, be sure to familiarize yourself with the COVID regulations for the country you are going to. While the U.S. was the last major country to require a test before entering, smaller countries still have COVID requirements in place. It also seems that COVID cases have soared recently with new highly contagious strains emerging.

I just returned from London, and I can tell you that if you get COVID when you are abroad, it can get complicated. I am only reporting on what I know about the U.K.  Other countries’ procedures vary. While many travelers are simply tourists, many are also traveling to an event like a wedding or major family celebration.  In those cases, you might be asked to test the day before the event, and if you test positive, to say that your trip plans will become complicated is an understatement.

We are now in peak travel season, and I am hearing about many people who have been stuck in the country they were visiting for a week or longer while waiting to either test negative after a positive test result or for their Certificate of Recovery which is a 10-day minimum from the positive test date in the U.K.

Here are the important things to consider when thinking about a trip out of the country:

  • Do careful COVID regulation research for the country or countries you will travel to.
  • If you have had COVID ask your doctor to document the date of your infection on office letterhead.
  • Does your destination country require mandatory quarantine or isolation in a government facility or designated hotel should you test positive for COVID while there?
  • Check with your hotel to see what their policies are – will you have to move out if you test positive? Will you have to isolate in a separate bedroom from your travel companions? Would the hotel be able to extend your stay or have an available extra room?
  • Ask your hotel if they have a doctor service on call. There is no predicting how sick you might get with COVID.  Some people never get symptoms, while others are still feeling lousy after two weeks or worse. Also, if you get a positive test result you might need documentation from a doctor certifying the date of the positive test, which initiates your quarantining time.
  • Pack as if you might get COVID and need to stay longer – bring an extra supply of your prescription medications and any other essentials that would be difficult to arrange for in a foreign country, your work laptop, and extra at-home COVID tests.

So, you are abroad, and you receive a positive COVID test because you fell ill or were asked to test before attending an event.  What now?  Arrange for a virtual doctor visit and get their advice.  You should already know your hotel’s policies, and those in your host country.  In most countries you are not required to report your test results to the government, but in good conscience you should obey the CDC quarantine rules to protect other people around you.

Some resources:

  • Many hotels have a doctor on-site or on-call, so first check with reception.
  • In London, my hotel used
    Doctor Call
    Harley Street, London
    010 75351804
    [email protected]
  • QuickMD offers a virtual consultation with a doctor if you do test positive and will issue the necessary letter for a Certificate of Recovery if needed. The initial charge is $75.00.

Should you get travel insurance?  Travel insurance plans are varied, complicated and can be expensive. These days, many travel agents consider it a must have and some won’t book a trip abroad unless you have it.  Square Mouth is a travel insurance shopping site, mentioned in an article in The Wall Street Journal, but I would also ask your travel agent which plan they recommend for COVID protection.

The bottom line is that this can be a very expensive and stressful mishap to occur while traveling out of the country.  It is now peak season, so an extended stay at a hotel, if you can find one, will be costly, not to mention change fees for your flight, and higher ticket prices when you re-book. It’s best to be prepared and to plan ahead.