Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Jamaica During COVID-19
Let’s face it – the COVID-19 pandemic has absolutely rocked the entire travel industry and the world of travel. Travel basically came to a complete standstill back in March. The world of travel is starting to find its footing when it comes to existing in the midst of this pandemic and people are starting to travel again. Information is ever-changing and sort of confusing without actually experiencing it. I recently visited Jamaica and am here to break down everything you need to know about traveling to Jamaica during the pandemic safely and responsibly.
Disclosure: The below recommendations are based on the information from the Jamaica Tourist Board and my own personal experiences traveling to Jamaica. The situation is ever-changing, which means the procedures described below could change. I will do my best to update this article to the most up-to-date information, but know that the Visit Jamaica website is your best resource for the most updated information.
Is Jamaica safe to travel to right now?
The question of travel and safety is going to be a very personal decision. Obviously some people have underlying medical issues or jobs that just will not allow them to travel right now and that’s perfectly understandable. That being said, Jamaica is absolutely safe to be traveling right now if you’re personally up for it.
The entire process Jamaica has set up to ensure the safety of its citizens, the staff working at the hotels and airports, and its tourists is incredible. From the moment you step foot in Jamaica, you will clearly see that they are taking things very seriously and doing everything possible to ensure the safety of everybody. Keep reading for more of the details of what that whole process looks like.
Where to Stay in Jamaica
Before we even get to the nitty gritty of how to actually get to Jamaica, let’s talk about where to stay in Jamaica. The tourist board has set up what they call a “Resiliency Corridor” for tourists. As Jamaica goes through the phases of re-opening, the areas people will be able to visit will be larger and larger.
Click for suggestions of the best resorts to stay in Jamaica.
During Phase 1 of re-opening, the Resiliency Corridor spanned across the northern coastline of the island, essentially from Negril to Port Antonio. This area includes the popular areas of Montego Bay, Rose Hall, Negril, Runaway Bay, and Ocho Rios.
Now, the second Resiliency Corridor from Phase 2A is open to tourism. This includes the popular areas of Whitehouse and what’s sometimes referred to as the South Coast of Jamaica. Keep in mind, the Jamaica capital of Kingston, although on the southern coast of the country, is still not included in the Phase 2A re-opening.
Getting a COVID-19 Test to Travel to Jamaica
There are a few extra steps to take before traveling to Jamaica now due to the pandemic to ensure everybody stays safe, and for some people, that means taking a COVID-19 test prior to traveling. Jamaica is requiring all visitors ages 12 and up to obtain a COVID-19 RT-PCR or antigen test no more than 3 days prior to arrival.
Additionally, until April 13, 2021, those who aren’t Jamaican citizens and have been in the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, or Peru within 14 days prior to their visit to Jamaica will not be approved for travel. It’s very likely this rule will be changed, but it’s also very likely this will be extended past April 13th, so I’d highly recommend rescheduling your visit if this applies to you.
Jamaica Travel Authorization
The biggest extra step people will have to make prior to traveling to Jamaica now is to apply for their Jamaica travel authorization. Every single person traveling to Jamaica is required to apply for authorization on the Jamaica Tourist Board website up to 7 days prior to their departure flight. The process to apply for this authorization is pretty simple and straightforward, but I’ll walk you through it.
- Go to the Jamaica Tourist Board website by clicking here.
- A pop-up will show up telling you an authorization is required to visit Jamaica. The link on this pop-up will direct you to the page all about the new Jamaica travel authorization, which you can also find here.
- Once you get to this landing page, you’ll find a ton of information about traveling to Jamaica during COVID-19 and about the travel authorization, resiliency corridors, restrictive measures, and more.
- Click “Get Your Travel Authorization here” on this landing page to start the process.
- Once you click this, it’ll ask you if you live in Jamaica or not. Assuming you don’t live in Jamaica, click on “No” and it’ll take you to the “Non Resident Online Application” for the travel authorization.
- You will be directed to enter your email address to get a one-time password and begin the process. If you don’t see the one-time password in your email, check your spam folder as it might have landed there.
- You’ll then be directed to the Non-Resident Online Application. Click “New” to begin an application and fill out the questions with appropriate answers. There will be some questions about your travel plans, your health history and if you’ve been in contact with somebody who has COVID-19, and then it will finish with the standard questions you see on a typical customs form. You’ll also be required to upload your negative test result while filling out the application.
After you’ve filled out all your information, you’ll submit your application. Once you submit your application, you’ll receive a response within 2 days. If everything checks out, you’ll receive an email with your Jamaica Travel Authorization and that means you’re good to go! If you’ve been deemed too much of a health risk, you will be advised not to travel to Jamaica.
Important Takeaways for the Jamaica Travel Authorization & Testing
There are some things you definitely want to keep in mind during this whole process, and it all boils down to timing. Timing is going to be key when it comes to this whole process because you have a few steps to get to Jamaica.
The first thing you want to do is to schedule a COVID-19 PCR or antigen test for 3 days prior to departure. You’re technically allowed to get the test whenever, so long as it’s not more than 3 days prior to your visit. However, keep in mind it will likely take you at least a couple days to get results back. You want to make sure you get the results back within plenty of time to apply for the authorization. Call your testing facility before you make an appointment and ask what their turnaround time is for results. Your goal should be to find a place that can give you your result in no more than 3 days at most.
TIP: Use this test date calculator to find the earliest day you can get your COVID-19 test for your trip to Jamaica.
The next thing to keep in mind is that the period to apply for the Jamaica Travel Authorization opens up 7 days prior to your scheduled departure flight. You do not have to wait until you receive your test result back to apply. You should receive your authorization on both the application screen and in your email right after finishing your application.
The Airport Experience & What to Expect on Arrival in Jamaica
Now that you’ve gotten your negative test and your Travel Authorization, you’re good to travel to Jamaica! Make sure you have your Travel Authorization handy while traveling, whether that be in a screenshot on your phone or in a print-out. Keep in mind there will be airport officials and Jamaica officials who will have to see the Authorization, so having a print-out you can easily hand back and forth is probably your best bet.
Before you leave, you’ll be required to present the authorization at the departure airport. Depending on your airline, that might be before you’re able to get your boarding pass or just before you get on the plane.
Once you arrive to Jamaica, you’ll see there are quite a few steps getting into the country, and know that masks are required at all times. You will get your temperature checked as soon as you get off the plane to ensure you don’t have a fever. They’ll write your temperature down on a little white piece of paper that you’ll be instructed to take with you throughout the steps.
You go through a few steps where you’ll have to sanitize your hands before continuing on. Finally, you’ll get to the place where you speak with the health officials for them to explain the rules to you and ask you some questions about your health, if you’ve had any COVID-19 symptoms, been in contact with anybody who has COVID-19, etc. You’ll then sign a health declaration and be sent on your way through the standard immigration and customs processes, sanitizing your hands again through each step of the way.
How to Expedite Your Arrival in Jamaica
If you’re a little nervous or just want to make sure you’re not waiting in line for a long time, I would highly recommend purchasing Club Mobay. Club Mobay is a service that has always existed, but I found to be extra helpful during the extra steps added because of the pandemic.
Club Mobay is a VIP fast-track immigration service. As soon as you get off the plane, you’ll be greeted by a Club Mobay representative who will fast-track you through the entire process – from temperature checks to health screenings to picking up your bags and heading off to your resort.
In addition, you’ll have access to a VIP Arrival Lounge to wait and get a drink, use the restroom, and relax a bit before your transfer arrives to take you to your resort. You can opt to just get Club Mobay on the arrival, the departure, or both on arrival and departure.
You get fast-track immigration services in both directions, but if you only want to pay for one, I definitely recommend the arrival process. If you’d like to purchase Club Mobay, you can do so by clicking here.
What to Expect At Your Resort in Jamaica
You’ve finally made it to the point where you’re at your resort and ready to relax! Every resort that’s open has to follow specific protocols set up by the tourist board to be allowed to open.
While you’re at your resort, expect to wear a mask in common areas, such as the lobby, walking into restaurants, and walking to the pool or beach. You won’t be required to wear a mask once you sit down at your table at restaurants or once you’ve settled into the perfect spot at the beach or pool.
Below is a list of some other small changes that were made to the resort experience to keep everybody safe.
- Reduced resort capacities. A requirement from the Jamaican Tourist Board is that resorts aren’t allowed to be more than 75% capacity. While that’s the upper limit, it seems for now resorts are hovering around the 20% capacity mark as tourism is still way down.
- Check-in and check-out can be contactless. Depending on your resort, you’ll have the option to do a contactless check-in and check-out. A lot of resorts have an app to allow you to check-in without having to interact with hotel employees.
- Plastic barriers are up everywhere. There were plastic barriers (similar to what you’ll see at stores in the U.S.) to add an extra layer of protection between you and staff at spots like the front desk and the concierge.
- QR Code Menus. All the restaurants had a QR code available to pull up the menu. This prevents menus being passed around between people. You simply open up your camera app and scan the code and the menu for the day pulls up. If you don’t have a device to scan a QR code available, there were single use paper menus available if you ask.
- Sanitizing stations all around the resort. Basically everywhere you go in the resort, there’s at least one hand sanitizing station. We were required to sanitize our hands before we went into any restaurant to ensure they were nice and clean!
- Elevator capacities. In addition to sanitizing stations next to every elevator, there were stickers on the floor showing no more than 4 people were to be in an elevator at once. I never was in an elevator with anybody else, so it was super easy to do this!
- Clean room guarantee. When you arrive to your room, there was a sticker on the outside of the door to show it had been cleaned and nobody went in it since it had been cleaned. In addition, high touch items like the remote control were put in plastic to ensure an extra layer of protection. The items in the mini bar were delivered to us once we arrived in the room so nobody would be in our room to stock it after it was cleaned.
- Contactless room service. Instead of the normal room service procedure where the food is brought into your room and displayed for you, the room service would now come in a bag. The staff would knock on our door and put the order in front of our door. They would wait there, standing at a distance, and make sure we got it before walking away.
- Spaced out tables at restaurants. As you’ll see at restaurants across the U.S., the tables are spaced to a distance of 6-feet to allow for distancing. Additionally, restaurants are open on a revolving schedule. However, I think this is more a result of the currently low resort capacities.
- Resort facilities with reduced capacity. Both the gym and the spa were open at the resort, but operating at 50% capacity. They were both pretty empty the whole time I was there, so that should be no issue if you want to use either facility, despite the reduced capacity.
Overall, the resort experience felt very similar to how it was pre-pandemic. There were definitely changes, but nothing disrupted the usual relaxing experience at a resort and I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything at the resort because of the current state of the world.
I highly recommend visiting Jamaica. They’re doing an incredible job at keeping visitors and their own citizens safe. There’s more than enough room to space yourself out at resorts and it’s the perfect getaway during our new normal.