If you’ve been following our pro tips for pandemic travel for a while, you already know this. But for all the others, it’s so important that we’ll repeat it (and elaborate). The most important thing to understand about travel rules is that every country is different.
Here is what I mean. Because this is really important for all travelers.
(And why it’s worth understanding… at least when you consider yourself someone who loves to travel!)
Every country makes its own rules
Every day, we get an astounding number of questions that show that travelers don’t understand this basic principle.
To be clear: This is not a criticism, of course. We’re happy to help; it’s actually our mission at Flytrippers to help travelers.
(That’s why we shared the first version of our ultimate guide on how to travel during the pandemic and why we’re offering a free webinar to help you easily get hundreds of dollars with travel rewards).
Look, we get it: If you’re not an expert who has spent hours understanding these rules like us, this is complicated and it’s new (well, it’s been over a year now, but hey, many have sadly not restarted traveling yet—our $1,000 free flight giveaway might help you do it faster since our webinar is not for another few weeks).
It’s more of an observation. It’s just that if you don’t even understand that the rules are different in each country, it’s going to be extremely difficult to travel well and efficiently and not have any problems, as we have achieved on many trips ourselves since July 2020.
And we’ll soon publish a mega FAQ page with several answers often requested to help you (subscribe to our free newsletter to get it first).
But yes, the fact that each country has its own rules makes it complex… but the principle is simple: Absolutely every country is different and there is nothing standardized anywhere.
No two requirements or rules are the same. Just because Canada has a rule doesn’t mean that other countries have it. And if others do, the details are probably different anyway.
What this means for you
So knowing that, you simply need to double-check the rules where you want to go and NEVER assume anything works in X way because… EVERY country is different. About everything.
What you need to remember is just that you need to read the rules carefully. That’s it.
As mentioned in our ultimate guide on how to travel during the pandemic, the basics are that you just have to do 2 things:
- Check the entry rules for where you are going and comply
- Check the entry rules for your return to Canada and comply
Canada’s rules are super simple and very easy because they are the same for all of you, no matter where you are returning from.
After that, there are ≈ 200 countries, 130+ of which are open to Canadians and so there are probably 100 completely different combinations of specific rules and requirements.
(And think about it for 2 seconds: It’s normal for each country to make their own rules. Imagine how much of a scandal it would be if another country decided on Canada’s entry rules instead of Canadians… It wouldn’t make sense anyway.)
It’s not just countries by the way: Each province in Canada has its own rules too. Nothing standardized there either!
We’ll soon have a more turnkey guide with the simplest destinations you can travel to this fall (many countries don’t even require tests).
Why it’s important to understand the basics
When you’re a traveler, you should be willing to make a small effort to travel, right?
Learning to plan and prepare well for your trip has always been the key to traveling for less before the pandemic… and now it’s just vital to even be able to travel at all.
So in a way, these rules have a positive silver lining for some travelers. Yes, why not try to see the positive side of all this nightmare?
There’s some positive for those who previously didn’t do their preparation well and therefore necessarily paid too much and therefore might have believed in the myth that travel must be expensive (which is obviously completely false).
Because now, unless you want to visit your own province 3 times, it’s absolutely necessary to finally learn how to plan well. And it will serve you forever to have taken this good habit!
It’s going to save you a lot of money for the rest of your life, because so many simple money-saving tips are so easy but so many travelers just don’t know them. Because they don’t take the time to plan and learn BEFORE a trip.
(Like those who pay $12 a day in roaming fees with their cell phone to access the Internet abroad; like those who pay for airport taxis without looking at the prices first; like those who always pay a 2.5% fee when paying or withdrawing at the ATM abroad with just about every card; like those who don’t use a price comparison tool to book anything really; etc.— we’ll soon do an article on all this and more).
And in short…
We’ve been telling you for a year that it’s important to at least understand the basics because no matter what you think, the fact is that some (or even many) of these rules are going to remain for a long time.
Because the principle will never change: Each country will make its own rules and each will decide whether to keep them or not. And for how long. Australia might stay completely closed and shoot its dogs until 2028, who knows.
Every country decides. That will never change. The rules themselves, on the other hand… they change constantly. That’s another important thing to understand… and that’s a whole other topic.
And again, unless you want to visit your own province 3 times or stay locked up at home for another year, you have to understand that each country’s rules are different.
Many countries are a lot less demanding than others. This makes it easier to travel. But you still have to look at their detailed rules, which is as simple as what you are doing now: Reading.
Some examples of differences
To be more concrete, here are some elements that are completely different from one country to another:
- Entry restrictions (who can travel to the country)
- Testing requirements
- Quarantine requirements
- Loosened measures for vaccinated travelers
- Who is considered vaccinated
- How to prove vaccination
- Forms to fill out for entry
Before giving more detailed examples, let’s just compare Canada and the United States, 2 neighboring countries that have rules that seem similar but have plenty of major differences when you look closer.
Here are just 11 of them:
- The US accepts antigen tests; Canada does not
- The US gives you 3+ calendar days for the test; Canada gives you 72 hours
- The US has no nationality-based entry restriction at all; Canada does
- The US has an entry restriction based on where you were in the past 14 days; Canada does not
- The US has the exact same rules for unvaccinated travelers vs. vaccinated travelers; Canada does not
- The US does not allow transits for those who do not have the right to enter; Canada does
- The US has different entry restrictions by land vs. by air; Canada does not
- The US never had a federal quarantine requirement; Canada did
- The US has never tested anyone on arrival; Canada did
- The US exempts citizens from tests at the land border; Canada does not
- The US exempts those under the age of 2 from tests; Canada exempts those under 5
In short… it’s different.
Many of the differences I’m going to list are extremely rare and in just a few countries… but the point remains that you should check before you book, because maybe the country you want to visit is precisely that one country out of the 200.
Some countries are 100% open to all. Others are 100% closed to all.
Some have restrictions based on nationality (passport) while others are based on origin (where you are coming from). Some have a mixture of both.
Some have different restrictions at their land borders than by air, others don’t.
Some countries let you transit even if they are closed, others don’t.
Some countries have states, provinces, or other jurisdictions that have their own separate rules.
Some countries don’t require testing (and some never did—hola, México).
Some require pre-entry testing while others require testing upon arrival. Some require both.
Some just require a rapid antigen test while others require a molecular test (PCR for example). Some accept both—with different times allowed (or not).
Some give 72 hours, others give 48 or 96 hours. Some give 3 full calendar days before the day of your flight, regardless of the time. Some give you a week!
Some countries exempt children from testing, others do not.
Some exempt transit travelers from testing requirements, others do not.
Some require testing depending on where you arrive from, or have special testing rules for some nationalities/origins.
Some require that the test certificate be in English only, for our Québec readers.
Some require that the test be done in a specific lab, that there be a QR code on the result, or that you get tested before leaving the country (all very rare).
Some countries require you to quarantine, others don’t. Sometimes it depends on where you are arriving from.
Some of those who do have strict quarantines entirely within a specific quarantine hotel.
(I don’t think any other country has a measure as stupid as Canada had, i.e., just 1-3 days in the hotel and then home, even for those who tested positive on arrival… but then again, we were telling you since day 1 that it was a completely ineffective measure, and the government just finally removed it in August, several weeks after their own committee of scientific experts said it was ineffective as well because of course it was.)
Others let you quarantine wherever you want.
Sometimes it’s 5, 7, 10, or 14 days.
Sometimes you can get out of quarantine with a test, sometimes not.
Loosened measures for vaccinated travelers
Some countries that are closed to non-vaccinated travelers are open to vaccinated travelers, others have not adapted their rules in any way for vaccinated travelers.
Some countries exempt vaccinated travelers from testing or quarantine, others do not.
Who is considered vaccinated
Just because Canada says you’re fully vaccinated doesn’t mean other countries consider you vaccinated.
(Heck, even in our own country it is not standardized: Québec says that having been infected with COVID-19 and having received ONE dose of vaccine is enough to be immunized, but Canada does not consider you fully vaccinated if you have not had 2 doses.)
Also, Canada’s science of mixing vaccines is far from the same science as elsewhere.
Some countries may not include certain types of vaccines in their list of recognized vaccines. Specifically for many Canadians, it is the AstraZeneca version from India (COVISHIELD) that is less used elsewhere.
Maybe some countries will eventually decide you need 3, 4, or 17 doses. Each country makes its own rules.
Some countries still only recognize vaccines received in their own country. Or only from certain specific countries.
Most countries require 14 days after the last dose, but… each country makes its own rules and may require longer.
How to prove your vaccination
Many people ask us if the provincial vaccination record is accepted. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t… it depends on the country: Each country has its own rules.
(For example, just because you eventually have proof of vaccination that Canada will have created for travel, doesn’t mean that any other country will accept it as proof: Every country makes its own rules and as we can see with the US land border, the Canadian government has no control over other countries’ rules, and that’s normal!)
For now, often the paper version is enough, but some could require to have a digital version.
As for the tests, sometimes it may be required to be in English.
Some countries require you to upload your proof of vaccination before departure, it may or may not be part of the health form you are required to fill out for just about every country now.
There’s nothing standardized yet with vaccination proof, but at least for that part, there’s an indication that we’ll get there eventually.
In the meantime, you have to check the official source for each country and just read.
Learning more about travel rules
Want to get all the coronavirus updates for travelers?
Each country makes its own rules, so just check the rules. This is now part of the steps to book a trip. For at least a few more months. Maybe it will stay like security checks added nearly 20 years ago after 9/11… It’s just too early to tell. But what we do know for sure is that traveling is awesome and worth the effort.
What do you want to know about the rules? Tell us in the comments below.
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