5 Extra Costs to International Travel Right Now
by Brittney Myers | Updated July 23, 2021 - First published on July 13, 2021
Make sure your budget is large enough to cover these added expenses.
As vaccines spread and case numbers slowly shrink, the world is opening back up to travel -- well, some of it, anyway. But just because you can travel doesn't necessarily mean you should travel.
For one thing, many countries that are reopening to Americans aren't open all the way. Expect to see plenty of public health measures still in place, including mask mandates and social distancing rules. Many tourist destinations, like museums, are also still operating under occupancy restrictions or limited hours.
Even if you're okay with these caveats, your personal finances may not agree, as your long-awaited international trip may come with a lot of extra costs. Not only should you expect the typical increased travel expenses that are part and parcel for times of high demand, but you'll also need to watch out for a number of extra costs associated with the health risks of traveling in an ongoing pandemic.
1. Pre-travel testing
Although vaccinations are highly effective at keeping the vaccinated out of hospitals, they're not proof against contracting coronavirus entirely. And many countries aren't willing to chance you bringing a new case across their borders.
Most of the countries open to tourists right now will require you to provide a negative COVID test before you arrive. Moreover, the test can't be very old. In general, you'll need a test that is no older than 72 hours before your arrival. The types of tests accepted will vary based on the country, but most places will accept a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
The cost of testing also varies, with prices ranging from $20 to more than $200 depending on the type of test and where it's processed. Most medical insurance policies are said to cover the cost of testing, but you may need to argue with your insurer if you're getting tested for travel rather than for medically necessary reasons.
2. Post-arrival testing
While most countries accepting travelers require a test before you show up, some places are taking it a step further by requiring one after you arrive. These requirements can vary from as soon as you land to three to five days after your arrival. And yes, you'll be on the hook for any testing costs, which can be quite expensive in some countries.
3. Quarantine stays
Whether you're required to quarantine when you arrive in another country varies quite a bit. Some countries require everyone to quarantine when they cross the border -- vaccination or no vaccination. Other countries only require the non-vaccinated to quarantine.
Either way, one thing is consistent: Countries that require visitors to quarantine also tend to make you pay for your own quarantine expenses. Required quarantine periods can vary from a few days -- often while you await a second negative COVID test -- up to a full two weeks.
Plus, you may not be able to choose where you quarantine. Some locations may require you to stay in a government-approved hotel or other quarantine location. This rule may extend even to those who own homes in the country. And don't think you can skip out early; most countries with quarantine rules also have strict fines for those who break quarantine.
4. International health insurance
Having some type of health insurance that can cover you in the case of a medical emergency has long been a recommended part of international travel. But it's more than just a recommendation these days. Many countries will require you to carry an international health insurance policy robust enough to pay for your care should you need to be treated for coronavirus while in their country.
The cost of a travel health insurance policy varies just as much as any other form of private insurance, with different policy types available for different needs. Not every international medical plan will cover COVID-related care, so be sure to read your policy carefully. You may even want to contact the insurer directly to double-check your coverage.
5. Return-travel testing
As we noted above, most countries require testing before you arrive -- and the U.S. is no different. No matter where you travel, you'll need a negative coronavirus test before you can come back home. That test can be no older than 72 hours before your return trip, and it's required whether you're vaccinated or not.
On the plus side, the U.S. is pretty flexible on types of tests it will accept, at least when it comes to its own citizens. You can use most approved COVID tests, including a few at-home rapid tests that you could potentially take with you in your luggage to ensure you have it on hand for your return.
Travel insurance is not required, but recommended
Although not specifically included in the list of extra costs, travel insurance is strongly recommended when you travel this summer -- internationally or at home. With case counts still high in many places, COVID-related rules and regulations are constantly changing. A good travel insurance policy can help you recover lost costs related to everything from airfare to bus tours, giving you a little extra security in ever-changing times.
While many premium travel rewards credit cards have solid travel insurance benefits, they do come with some limitations. Be sure to read up on your specific benefits, and don't be afraid to augment your card coverage with a third-party policy if you're unsure.
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