Can Vaccinated Travelers Skip Quarantine?

by Brittney Myers | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on June 16, 2021

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Masked travelers going through airport customs check with passports.

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Skipping quarantine is yet another reason to get yourself vaccinated.

For most of the last 18 months, the world has been closed to tourists. Even those folks who could travel were often subject to lengthy quarantines that made brief trips anywhere a thing of the past.

Much to the collective relief of travelers everywhere, those days seem to be -- mostly -- over. International travel is opening to tourists, and many of the restrictions we've been living with since early last year are being removed.

But before dusting off your favorite travel rewards cards, you're going to want to get vaccinated. That's because many countries are only opening for fully vaccinated travelers. And just how open a country is will determine whether you can skip quarantine.

Most open countries don't quarantine vaxxed travelers

For a handful of countries open to tourists, being vaccinated means you can stroll right in, no questions asked. You don't need to quarantine or even to take a test.

For other places, being vaccinated can be the key to skipping quarantine, but there are still hoops to jump through. In particular, a number of countries will still require you to present a negative COVID test regardless of your vaccination status.

For example, the European Union recently decided to relax travel restrictions for U.S. travelers. And several countries, including Spain and France, have already started welcoming vaccinated American tourists. But while being fully vaccinated means you won't have to automatically quarantine when you arrive, you'll still need to present a negative PCR or antigen test from within the last 72 hours before they'll let you into the country.

Many closed countries still require essential travelers to quarantine

On the other end of the spectrum, if you have to travel to a closed country, your vaccinated status may not save you from quarantines. Some countries are still completely closed to most U.S. tourists. That means you will have to prove you have legitimate business in the country before you can even get cleared to travel.

Once you arrive, you'll more than likely need to quarantine for a week or more (usually at your own expense) before you can freely travel around the country. This is usually on top of multiple negative PCR or antigen tests when you arrive and before you exit quarantine.

Of course, most of the countries that have yet to open to U.S. tourists fall into one of two categories:

  • High case counts and/or rampant spread
  • Low case counts and closed borders to prevent spread

In the case of the first type of country, it's in everyone's best interest to limit incoming travelers and keep new variants out of the country. Most of these countries also have a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory from the U.S. Department of State.

On the other hand, some countries are determined to keep their borders closed until their own vaccination rates are high enough to support incoming tourists. New Zealand, for instance, was able to keep its case numbers consistently low by quickly closing their borders to nonessential travelers -- and keeping them that way.

Anyone with symptoms should self-quarantine no matter what

While there's positive data coming from vaccine studies that show you're a lot less likely to catch COVID or to have symptoms if you do catch it, there's no such thing as a sure bet. It's still possible to get COVID after being vaccinated, especially when dealing with some of the more virulent variants.

If you do have any of the coronavirus symptoms, you'll be required to quarantine in just about any country you visit -- it's also just the right thing to do. Even if you don't have COVID, but are only dealing with a regular cold, many of the symptoms overlap, so it's probably best to play it safe and keep to yourself until you have recovered.

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