Tips for traveling internationally amid Omicron variant

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Bennett Purser

A woman gets her temperature checked at an airport in Nha Trang, Vietnam. “You have to be really on top of your game if you're heading abroad. Even pay attention to the rules while you're traveling because they're changing so rapidly, especially if you're going between countries,” says Wall Street Journal travel reporter Allison Pohle. Photo by Shutterstock.

The Omicron variant is making travel more difficult — just in time for holiday vacations. The CDC warned against traveling to popular European destinations like France and Portugal due to new COVID outbreaks on Monday, and other countries including Israel, Japan, and Morocco have closed their borders to foreigners again. 

If U.S. travelers leave the country for the holiday, getting home will also take careful planning. A new rule now requires all air travelers (ages 2 and up) to provide a pre-departure negative COVID test that they took one day before boarding their U.S.-bound flight. 

It might be easier for some travelers to get a COVID test the day before boarding if they’re staying at an all-inclusive hotel or resort, according to Wall Street Journal travel reporter Allison Pohle. Independent travelers can get a COVID test at a local pharmacy or purchase a self-administered test with a telehealth option. She adds that local U.S. embassies can provide information on where to find tests and local turnaround times.

Some foreign countries, such as France, require negative COVID tests prior to arrival, including from people who are fully vaccinated, she says. The U.K. requires PCR tests before and after you arrive, plus self-isolation prior to the second test. 

Pohle says she anticipates confusion as people are planning trips, and that’s where travel advisors come in, as they can communicate all pertinent COVID information. Some advisors recommend getting a test even if they're not required. 

“That way you won't be scrambling if the rules suddenly change and you're leaving tomorrow and haven't taken the test,” she explains. “So it's helpful to do that, one [so] you can be sure that you don't have the virus before you're traveling, but also, you'll be prepared just in case the rules do change suddenly.”

Many airlines have also waived flight change fees, Pohle says, which gives travelers the flexibility to adjust their travel plans if needed. But they must pay the difference if there is a change in flight prices. In some scenarios, it’s possible to get a refund on a flight. 

Despite all the rules, Pohle says it’s still possible to travel internationally right now. 

“You have to be really on top of your game if you're heading abroad. And even pay attention to the rules while you're traveling because they're changing so rapidly, especially if you're going between countries,” Pohle says. “So if you have your heart set on traveling internationally, or you are taking a long-awaited trip to see family members, just be sure to keep checking the travel regulations and guidelines along the way.”

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