December 15, 2020 | By Jamie Jackson
After a pause from international travel due to COVID restrictions, I felt it was time (for me personally) to get back to visiting destinations to update my knowledge of the hotels, transfers, tours, and new procedures.
The pre-departure process is no longer just making sure your passport is valid. Travelers must stay up-to-date with what seems like always adjusting procedures and abide by very specific and strict implementations that have been put into place to ensure they are not denied entry into their destination of choice. Travel advisors are doing the best we can to inform clients of the current travel climate.
Countries are constantly updating their arrival procedures. Visiting travel.state.gov and the tourism board website for your destination will provide the most up-to-date information for your travel process.
This is an account of my pre-travel experience going to Jamaica from November 15th through November 18th, 2020. I flew American Airlines and while in Jamaica stayed at Round Hill Hotel and Villas.
For my trip, I needed to provide a printed document of a negative COVID test taken 10 days before I land on the island. Before going for my COVID test I checked the Visit Jamaica website to make sure the type of test I was taking was compliant with the Jamaica travel requirements. Either check online with your intended testing facility or call to learn the type of test they administer, the hours testing is offered, and if an appointment is needed.
On Monday, November 9th I went to Sea Island Medical. This urgent care center had an organized testing department in an outside open tent where I was quickly processed and then sent to wait in my car (less than 5 minutes) before someone came and administered my nasal test.
By Wednesday morning of November 11th, I received a text stating my results were available. Through a quick verification link, I got my negative test results and a PDF that provided all the information requested by the tourism board. I printed this document to provide at the U.S. airport before boarding and upon arrival to the island of Jamaica.
I then went on the tourism board website where I needed to apply within 5 days of my arrival for approval to get on the island. I recommend filling this out on a computer and not a cell phone or tablet to make sure no steps are missed. You must provide your flight information, passport details, what hotel you are staying at, and answer a few questions about current health/exposure. Make sure that names, dates of birth, and passport information is accurate. If this information is input incorrectly it could lead to you not being able to stay on the island. This process took less than 10 minutes. I was approved right away for arrival and printed the sheet that needs to be scanned at the airport.
I know it seems like a lot, but I found this process to be much easier and less stressful than I originally thought it would be.
Make sure to stay up-to-date with airline regulations regarding passport validity, airport arrival times, and COVID procedures such as mask requirements.
More than ever travel protection is very important to have. Each policy covers different needs. Your travel advisor can provide you a quote or information on where to look at options. Specific questions about policy coverage should be directed to the insurance company.
Airport concierge services are becoming more popular in the Caribbean. Jamaica’s Club Mobay is very organized and effective. They offer arrival and departure (you can do one way or both) services. Upon arrival, you are greeted when you get off the plane by a staff member who has a sign with your name on it. You are then escorted past all other arrivals to a special area where you are expedited through customs. This is key right now, as customs lines can be longer than usual due to more documents needing to be provided. You then have a comfortable lounge with private bathrooms, food, drink, and Wi-Fi while you wait for your airport transfers. Upon departing the island you again have an expedited process to go through customs and a large lounge with bathrooms, food, drink, and Wi-Fi, so you don’t have to wait in the busy and sometimes hot airport seating areas. Your travel advisor can book this for you. It is best to do so as soon as you have your flights in place, as there are only a certain number of passes available per day to make sure the process runs smoothly.
When I arrived in Jamaica my plane landed at the same time as two others, so the lines were long and my Club Mobay escort was a huge time saver. We were able to bypass a good portion of the lines but did have to wait about 15 minutes for a temperature check. There was also a checkpoint that did a thermal body scan and multiple areas where everyone passing through needed to use hand sanitizer. At another point, each individual/family had to sit down at a table and provide the printed forms showing the approved travel authorization and negative COVID test results. I was asked a few additional medical questions and informed of the current rules for traveling off property during my stay. After this section, we went to the customs line. Once you get your passport stamped you can then get your luggage and head to the transfers hall where your representative will take you to either the lounge or your hotel transfer.
To make the process from the airport to your resort/villa go as smoothly as possible it is best to have pre-booked private transfers in place before arriving at your destination.
Round Hill Hotel and Villas was consistent in their safety procedures throughout my stay. Their villas are the perfect set-up for social distancing in a Caribbean paradise. I felt the safety of guests and staff were always taken into consideration. Make sure to check your resort/villas website for the most up-to-date resort protocols.
It is ultimately up to you and you alone to decide when you are ready to travel again. Traveling is different, and those that choose to do so must go into the process with patience and the understanding that plans and rules are constantly changing. You must be prepared to be flexible.
At the time of writing this, Jamaica’s tourism board is discussing a new initiative in which all travelers going to the island will have to purchase a specific insurance policy during their online approval process. Further details and an effective date are not yet available.
When you are ready to travel, reach out to Wanderlust Travel Boutique or your personal travel advisor to discuss the opportunities that best suit your travel needs.
Keep dreaming. We’re here when you’re ready.