Domestic and International Travel During COVID-19

Written by Courtney Coleman, Edited by Edward Chen

With the holidays approaching, and the United States travel ban ending on November 8th, traveling has become a frequently discussed topic as prospective travelers try to determine which guidelines they should follow.


For those traveling within the United States or U.S. Territories, the CDC recommends postponing traveling until fully vaccinated. Currently, to be considered fully vaccinated, two weeks must have passed since receiving the second dosage of a vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, or the single dosage of the vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson. If two weeks have not elapsed, it is advised to continue to wait until this time has passed before traveling.


Fully vaccinated travelers should assess the status of COVID-19 at their destination and become familiar with any travel restrictions or requirements, especially if they are planning to travel by air. For those who are not yet fully vaccinated, it is recommended that these individuals receive a viral test, either a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) or an antigen test, within one-to-three days prior to traveling. Traveling is not recommended for those who are symptomatic or waiting for results from a COVID-19 test, or those who previously tested positive for COVID-19 and have not yet completed quarantining. Those who have recently been exposed to COVID-19 also should not travel unless they have been fully vaccinated, or they have recovered from COVID-19 within the past ninety days.


Regardless of vaccination status, it is required to wear a mask when using public transportation. If outdoors, a mask is not required; however, wearing a mask is strongly advised for those in an outdoor area that is highly populated and those who may be in close contact with individuals who are not yet fully vaccinated. Mask wearing is also recommended for individuals ages two and up who are either immunocompromised, have not yet been fully vaccinated, or who are fully vaccinated and in an area where the transmission rate of COVID-19 is considered to be substantial or high. Handwashing and using hand sanitizers that contain a minimum of sixty percent alcohol is also suggested.


Since there is the possibility of being exposed to COVID-19 while traveling, and the potential for being an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, the CDC advises that all individuals monitor themselves for the development of symptoms. Should symptoms occur, it is recommended that individuals follow the conditions advised both locally and in state. Travelers who were not yet fully vaccinated are recommended to receive a viral tests three-to-five days following their trip and quarantine for an entire week even if their test returns negative. For those who choose not to be tested, a quarantine of ten days is recommended.


Those traveling from a foreign country to the United States must be fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine that is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration or authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization. Travelers must also provide negative results from a viral test performed no later than three days prior (for those ages two years and older), or proof of recovery from COVID-19 within the past ninety days, as well as a signed attestation. For those who are not fully vaccinated, but are an immigrant, a citizen of the United States, a United States lawful permanent resident, or a United States national, it is necessary to provide a negative test no later than one day prior to traveling (not applicable to those under two years old), as well as a signed attestation. Those who are not fully vaccinated and not a U.S. citizen or immigrant can enter the United States following full vaccination or meeting one of the vaccination exception criteria.

This post is not a substitute for professional advice. If you believe that you may be experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19, please contact your primary care physician, or go to the nearest Emergency Room. Results from ongoing research and the current understanding of COVID-19 are constantly evolving. This post contains information that was last updated on November 19, 2021.

Courtney Coleman is a master's degree candidate studying biology and a National Team member of Students vs. Pandemics.


Edward Chen is a master's student studying immunology. He's also the national president of Students vs. Pandemics. @EdwrdChen

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