Jamaica about to make it much easier to visit: Here's what it's like … – The Points Guy

I took a much-needed winter break to the sunny island of Jamaica, and the process to enter during the age of COVID-19 was fairly straightforward if a little stressful — much like almost any international travel these days. As of today, you need a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of departure and you need travel authorization from the country of Jamaica, and of course, you need another test within a day of your return to the United States.
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But that process is about to get a lot easier. Jamaica is dropping the travel authorization rule, and will also further soften quarantine rules.
Here is what it is like now, and the new rules to help you plan your next visit.
Jamaica requires a negative coronavirus test. All travelers age 12 and older must present negative results of a COVID-19 PCR or antigen test taken within three days (72 hours) of boarding. This is the one rule that is not changing along with Jamaica's new, more relaxed entry requirements.
This process is enforced by the airline operating your departing flight. In my case, this is where it got tricky. The new Delta FlyReady feature has now been rolled out to most of its international flights. Delta prompts you to upload your travel documents so you can be pre-screened and approved for travel, which means no more document checks at the airport.
I got tested at NYU Langone medical center on Feb. 22. per the rules that your test must be done within three days of the trip. That should have been fine, but when I tried uploading my negative result later that night, Delta rejected it saying, "We're sorry, your test was taken too early." I thought maybe it was a glitch, but I tried multiple times the next day with the same results.
Fortunately I'm a nervous traveler, so I had also taken an at-home test from Vault. I always worry when using Vault because you have to mail in the test after taking it with a proctor online, but every time I've gotten the results back in time. I did here too, with my test mailed Tuesday morning. I had the results by Wednesday at 8 p.m. When I uploaded those results to Delta, my authorization was approved. I don't know why that one worked and the NYU test didn't since they were literally taken the same day, but that's why it's always good to have a backup plan! I'm sure Delta could have sorted it out at the airport since my colleague Chris Dong literally used the same test to travel to Jamaica a few weeks ago, but as we say in the travel world, "Your mileage may vary."
For now, I also needed to complete a pre-travel health authorization registration with a customs and immigration form within five days of the intended travel date. Travelers may be denied permission to visit depending on their risk for COVID-19 transmission, though in my experience they deny very few of these requests.
In any case, that rule is about to go away. As of March 1, you will no longer need to fill out a travel authorization. Jamaica's Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, said the country was also eliminating travel-related quarantine requirements altogether: "We are confident that these refreshed entry requirements will increase the appeal of Jamaica as a destination of choice and help us continue on our path to recovery for the tourism sector and wider economy as a whole.”
In any case, I still had to fill out the forms in a fairly burdensome application process that was super buggy. I had to do it multiple times using multiple browsers on my laptop to get it to work. The main pain point was the code they were supposed to send you once you verified your email address. I think it took my about 10 tries to finally get the approval letter.
I printed out the travel authorization letter and my negative COVID-19 test results, but once those docs were accepted by Delta I never had to show them again.
I didn't even need to see an agent at the airport at all. Once Delta FlyReady approved my trip, I was able to get a boarding pass on my phone as I normally would, and I got to my gate within 20 minutes of arriving at JFK's Terminal 4. There were zero mentions of COVID-19 or checks of documents of anyone that I could see.
Related: Jamaican all-inclusive resort escape; we compared 3 Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott properties
The flight crew didn't mention anything about COVID-19 before arriving in Jamaica. They did, however, insist that passengers fill out a two-sided immigration and customs form (like the pre-pandemic days when most countries required this). One side is for your arrival details and asks for your home address, passport information, residency status, occupation and any samples or large amounts of currency you are bringing into the country. The other side is a basic customs declaration form. There’s no mention of COVID-19.
The first people you see after getting off the plane are airport workers who greet you with a temperature check and spray your hands with disinfectant, but they didn't ask any questions and just wave you through.
The next step was getting in line to use the passport scanning kiosks. I scanned my passport, took a photo and then took a slip of paper. It's very similar to using the Global Entry kiosks at U.S. airports.
You take that slip of paper and then wait in line to get your passport checked. The woman helping me took my customs form and yelled at me for not writing "Street" in my address, but then she sent me along without asking me any questions.
Related: An insider’s guide to what to see and do in Jamaica with a family
After that, I proceeded to the baggage claim area and from that point you just need to clear customs. I went to the very short line for "nothing to declare," handed over the form that had already been looked over by passport control. The woman waved me through without any questions or even a cursory look at my bags.
That's it. I was in Jamaica. No one asked to see my travel authorization or my negative COVID-19 test results. I guess once the airline screens you in the U.S., you are good to go as far as Jamaica is concerned.
You should also be aware that the current travel authorization makes it sound like you will need to quarantine at your hotel for the duration of the stay, but that is not being enforced and will also be going away on March 1.
Like almost any international destination these days, you'll need to jump through a few extra hoops to travel to Jamaica. Despite my nervousness and a few technical hurdles, it was fairly straightforward and easy once the airline finally signed off on my pre-arrival hurdles.
Related: One of the best all-inclusives in Jamaica
Jamaica is beautiful by the way. Well worth the extra effort in my opinion, especially as winter drags on back home. It's been great getting some sun and jumping in the ocean. Oh, and right now there's a sale on flights. Detail on this deal alert can be found here.
Where else can you go in the world? Here’s our country-by-country guide to reopenings.
Do note that the U.S. Department of State’s travel advisory for Jamaica is Level 4: Do Not Travel and the CDC’s advisory for the island is Level 4: Very High Level of COVID-19.
For the latest updates on requirements for travel to Jamaica, check here. Visit the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica’s website for additional information.
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