Travel to USA: latest Covid rules and guidance

Planning a trip to the United States? If you’re wondering what the latest covid-19 rules are for visitors to the USA, below are answers to many FAQs about visiting the US for business or pleasure, with regard to covid, masks and vaccination status.

US Travel Restrictions for Covid-19

Key point: the USA, a favourite travel destination, is firmly back on the vacation map – as long as you are fully vaccinated or under 18.

After around two years of being off the table because of a travel ban that ended on November 8, 2021, the only other rule is that all visitors, including children aged two or older, must show a negative Covid-19 test (either PCR or rapid antigen) taken no earlier than the calendar day before boarding their flight.

You must produce proof of full vaccination status at check-in. But non-vaccinated travellers are only permitted to visit in exceptional circumstances, which allow children under 18, and some medical conditions, but are otherwise relatively few.

All passengers are required to fill out an Attestation Form at check-in that verifies each person’s vaccination status and negative Covid test, and they need to provide full contact details while in America. 

Once these entry conditions are met, visitors are free to travel around the US as they did before the pandemic, albeit all national transport (planes, trains, ferries, taxis, buses and rideshares, as well as airports, bus and train stations) still require mask-wearing.

Individual states and even cities – notably New York – may have additional requirements for mask-wearing or proof of vaccination status to enter theatres, museums and some restaurants, the latter of which are at the owners’ discretion.

USA Covid Travel FAQs

Can I Travel to the US?

Foreign nationals can travel to the USA once more, but with various vaccination and negative Covid-19 test stipulations as noted above.

Are flights operating?

While all the scheduled airlines offering flights to and from the USA have resumed services since last November, not all destinations have been restored.

Do I need to wear a mask?

In short: yes.

There is no nationwide mask mandate, but, all federal transport necessitates continued mask-wearing, as well as in hospitals and long-term care facilities. Three states – Hawaii, New Mexico and Washington, plus the city of Washington DC, still require face coverings in indoor public places, but California, New York and Rhode Island have lifted their state requirements, while Delaware, New Jersey and Oregon will join them by the end of March 2022. One California exception is Los Angeles County, home of Hollywood, where indoor masking rules remain in place for the immediate future.

Washington is the only state with an outdoor mask order, requiring face-coverings at outside events featuring 500 or more people.

What are the rules on beaches?

America’s beaches were the first places to open up to the maskless, and in 2022 you would never know there was any difference to pre-pandemic times. Nearly all outdoor public areas were removed from mask requirements in 2021, and the recent omicron surge did not change that for the country’s thousands of miles of superb seaside spaces.

What are the rules in bars?

These vary from state-to-state, but there is no nationwide rule. You should check with the venue you are visiting with regard to mask status.

What are the rules for restaurants?

There are few rules for restaurants with regard to mask wearing or vaccination status, but California and New York do allow their businesses to insist on either thing, so you may find rules in place locally in those states.

What are the rules for shopping?

The CDC continues to recommend mask wearing in public places, but there are no rules on this, except in three specific states; it is therefore a personal choice.

What are the rules in hotels?

Hawaii, New Mexico and the state of Washington still require face coverings in indoor public places, which include hotels. Everywhere else, mask wearing is regarded as optional, though some hotels and hotel groups – notably Disney hotels – do insist on mask usage in public hotel areas.

What are the rules on public transport?

Mask-wearing on all federal public transport in the US remains in force, unless eating or drinking. This is especially enforced at airports and on all domestic flights, where there can be significant fines for non-compliance. 

Shall I take cash or pay for everything on a card?

The USA was one of the slower western nations with regard to moving away from cash, but the pandemic has put a fire under most retailers in this regard. Cashless payments are now the norm, including ordering by phone at restaurants and fast food outlets. Take your card and enable your smart phone to make payments too. Carry cash, still, but expect not to need or use it.

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