Welcome to our new hub page for pandemic travel, with many more updates to come soon (signup for free to get them first)
Canadians (vaccinated or not) have always been allowed to travel during the coronavirus pandemic. But now, finally, entry restrictions and requirements are greatly reduced both here in Canada and in the 130+ countries open to Canadian travelers. In fact, Canada has literally just one rule left for vaccinated Canadians… and some other countries have even less.
We already considered ourselves experts about travel in general (and have appeared as such in countless media outlets since launching Flytrippers), and now it’s even more true for pandemic travel.
Since last summer, both of us Flytrippers cofounders have:
- Visited a total of 14 different countries on 3 continents
- Taken 58 different flights
- Tested out every single aspect of the travel experience during the pandemic
So we want to share all our tips and expertise to help you start traveling again (for less, of course).
Subscribe to our free newsletter today to get our pandemic travel checklist, its soon-to-be-ready update, all the upcoming content and coronavirus updates for Canadian travelers (including a huge FAQ page with 50+ answers).
Finally, this guide is for:
- Canadians (see rules for foreigners who want to visit Canada at the end)
- Leisure travel (see exemptions for essential travel and many specific cases at the end)
Here’s everything you need to know about traveling during the coronavirus pandemic.
Step-by-step how-to for pandemic travel
Let’s start with this key summary.
How to travel during the coronavirus pandemic is actually a very simple two-step process:
- Check the entry rules for where you are going and comply
- Check the entry rules for your return to Canada and comply
That’s it. Simple.
Okay don’t worry, we’ll help you a lot more than that.
But that’s the short version:
- We’ll show you how to check the rules for any destination (those are not so simple)
- We’ll explain Canada’s actually very simple entry rules (that’s really the easiest part)
Let’s take a slight step back first: it’s still vital to learn a few details.
If you want to travel, you need to understand these 5 important basics:
- There are only ENTRY rules
- EVERY country is different
- It all changes CONSTANTLY
- There are RESTRICTIONS and REQUIREMENTS
- Available flights are IRRELEVANT
1. There are only ENTRY rules
Canada has no “exit” rules or requirements (absolutely none whatsoever); countries (or even provinces) have entry rules.
Almost every country in the world is like Canada and has no exit rules either. It’s really all about rules to ENTER. Almost all airlines have no rules either; they just enforce the applicable country’s entry rules (Abu Dhabi-based Etihad is the only one in the world that requires tests).
Example: Many people keep saying that a test is required when flying out of Canada. That is 100% false. It’s only required if the country you are going to requires one. It’s an important distinction. Entry rules are what you need to look at.
2. EVERY country is different
Every. Single. One. Of. Them.
There are ≈ 200 countries and certainly well over 100 different combinations of specific rules and details. Just because Canada has a certain rule does not mean all 200 countries have it.
Example: Let’s look at just Canada vs. the US.
Here are 10 major differences on various different rules (and that’s just 2 countries…):
- 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 the exact same rules for unvaccinated travelers vs. vaccinated travelers; Canada does not
- The US has different entry restrictions by land vs. by air; Canada does not
- The US has an entry restriction based on where you were in the past 14 days; 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
3. It all changes CONSTANTLY
Just because something is true today does not mean it will be true next week (and especially not next month).
As the situation gets better, changes will mostly be positive, but still… you need to be more flexible and easygoing than usual (it’s a great skill to develop to become a pro traveler anyway).
Example: The European Union recommends to its member countries to let in certain nationalities based on a list that is updated regularly. And many countries worldwide adapt to the fast-evolving situation frequently. It all changes.
4. There are RESTRICTIONS and REQUIREMENTS
Entry rules include 2 completely separate things:
- Restrictions determine whether or not you are allowed in
- Requirements determine what you need to do to enter
Restrictions are sometimes called closed borders or travel bans. Requirements include quarantine, testing, and other various conditions (like filling in a health form for example).
Example: When Canada removed its quarantine requirement, that changed absolutely nothing to who could enter Canada (restrictions didn’t change—only requirements changed). When Canada will remove its entry restrictions entirely on Sept. 7th, that will change absolutely nothing for Canadians (Canadian restrictions don’t apply to Canadians—but requirements do). Completely separate concepts.
5. Available flights are IRRELEVANT
Just because a flight is available doesn’t mean you are allowed to board it: entry restrictions and flights are completely unrelated.
Countries make entry restrictions for travelers; airlines can operate flights even if travelers aren’t allowed into the other country.
Example: Montreal-Paris flights never stopped operating during the entire pandemic. For the vast majority of that time, Canadian travelers weren’t allowed to enter France, and French travelers still aren’t allowed to enter Canada. Canada has currently suspended flights to/from India, but that changes nothing to the entry restrictions: those who were allowed to enter can still do so by simply transiting somewhere else. Completely unrelated.
What the entry rules are for your destination
Here is how to find the entry rules for your destination. Further below you’ll find more details about how to understand entry restrictions and requirements because it’s vital to look very carefully at all the details for your destination.
Flytrippers strongly believes that international travel is much more gratifying for us as humans (and it can also be much cheaper, and saving money means more travel).
So first, here is a screenshot of the map in our list of 134 countries open to all Canadians.
You can check out that ultimate guide to see the rules, and double-check that they haven’t changed if you look at it in between our regular updates.
We have a bit of content specific to the USA since our closest neighbor is the only one with whom we have the particularity of sharing a land border, which causes a bit of confusion for some travelers.
Here’s an infographic that summarizes the entry restrictions for travel between both countries (starting August 9th, when Americans will finally be allowed in).
In short, for us Canadians:
- Going to the USA by plane has always been allowed for any reason
- Going to the USA by land is currently not allowed for leisure (until at least August 21st)
Obviously, those are only the entry restrictions. There are also entry requirements (a simple rapid antigen test to enter the USA, and everything in the next section to enter Canada).
You can read our posts about:
- The Canada-USA land border closure extension
- Getting a free COVID-19 test in the USA (to enter Canada)
- Getting vaccinated for free in the USA as a Canadian
- Returning to Canada by land
Even though it’s not as much of a culture shock for many of us passionate world travelers, with the current situation, traveling within Canada can be a bit simpler obviously.
But that does not mean there are no restrictions or requirements: There are in many provinces and territories.
We will soon share an ultimate guide with every destination’s rules (subscribe for free to receive it first).
In the meantime, let’s just say that Canada’s 4 most populous (and arguably most popular) provinces have no restrictions or requirements: Ontario, Québec, British Columbia, and Alberta.
What the entry rules are for your return to Canada
First of all, Canada’s entry restrictions never apply to Canadians. Canada has never closed any border to Canadians. You are always allowed in.
All that you have to look at are the entry requirements. Before giving you more details about each requirement, first, let’s look at an overview.
Major changes are coming on August 9th. To be clear: You can leave before, the new rules apply as long as you return after they’ve taken effect. So we’ll share both the current rules and the upcoming rules.
Current requirements (until August 8th)
Here is an infographic that summarizes Canada’s current entry requirements.
As you can see, the current rules depend on:
- Whether you are fully vaccinated or not
- Whether you arrive by land or by air
New requirements (starting August 9th)
Here is an infographic that summarizes Canada’s new much simpler entry requirements.
The rules will still depend on whether you are vaccinated or not (see the next section for who is considered fully vaccinated), but there is no longer any difference between entering by land and entering by air now that the ineffective hotel quarantine will be abolished.
The new rules are extremely simple: If you are fully vaccinated, all you need is proof of a negative COVID-19 test before entering Canada (pre-entry test).
Here is a brief intro about each one of Canada’s requirements.
Canada’s pre-entry test requirement
Travelers need to provide proof of a negative molecular test (PCRs and NAATs are the most common) whether they are vaccinated or not (for now at least).
Rapid antigen tests are not accepted. Those who were recently infected (last 14 to 90 days) are exempt. Kids under 5 are exempt.
The test must be performed at most 72 hours before the scheduled departure of your last flight to Canada (if arriving by air), or 72 hours before entering the country (if arriving by land).
It’s really very easy to find PCR tests literally anywhere in the world. Just Google “(city name) PCR test” and voila. I found one in Bishkek, in Kyrgyzstan, in 2 minutes and it’s far from being very touristy. So it’s quite easy to find everywhere.
Prices for PCR tests vary wildly, mostly correlated with the cost of living in the country… but not always.
For example, one of the worst countries to travel to on a budget is the US… and tests are completely free there. France is a very expensive destination, but tests are just ≈ $75 there. I paid $0, $0, $25, and $32 for my own PCR tests abroad… but in many expensive countries, you can expect it to cost $150 to $200.
If you want to keep costs down, it’s even more important than usual to prioritize countries where the cost of living is low.
We will soon share an ultimate guide about COVID-19 testing in general and about getting tested abroad (subscribe for free to receive it first).
Canada’s arrival tests requirement
Unvaccinated Canadians need to undergo tests when arriving in Canada, on Day-1 and on Day-8. These tests are free of charge (or rather taxpayer-funded, like regular COVID-19 tests in Canada).
Until August 9th, vaccinated travelers must take the Day-1 test.
On Day 1, it might be performed directly at the airport or at the land border but sometimes, a kit to self-administer the test at home is provided instead of doing it on the spot.
On Day 8, in most provinces, you will use a kit to self-administer the test at home (given to you on arrival), but in some regions, they require you to go to a pharmacy for the test.
You can watch my video about arrival testing in Canada (to see the self-test process visually as that has not changed, but the rules I explain at the beginning of the video have changed since).
Canada’s 14-day quarantine requirement
Unvaccinated Canadians need to quarantine for 14 days. This can be done at home for free starting August 9th.
The hotel quarantine program, described as ineffective by the government’s own committee of experts many weeks ago (and by us literally since Day-1 because it was so obvious when looking at things factually and rationally instead of impulsively and emotionally) is being abolished entirely on August 9th.
Until then, the hotel quarantine already does not apply to anyone at the land border and it does not apply to vaccinated Canadians.
Children under 12 traveling with fully vaccinated parents will be exempt from the 14-day quarantine starting August 9th, but with special conditions regarding gatherings possibly in effect (they mentioned no summer camps, no daycare, and no school—but it is not official yet). The government promised more details before the 9th.
You can read our posts about:
Who is considered fully vaccinated
You do not need to be fully vaccinated to travel, but many countries—including Canada—have stricter rules for unvaccinated travelers.
So it’s important to understand:
- Who is considered fully vaccinated by Canada
- Who is considered fully vaccinated by other countries
Who is considered fully vaccinated by Canada
Here is an infographic that shows who is considered fully vaccinated by Canada.
It’s very simple:
- You need to have been vaccinated with the 4 Health Canada-approved vaccines
- Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)
- Others might be added to the list soon
- You need to have received all required doses
- 2 doses for Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca
- 1 dose for Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)
- You need to have received the last required dose at least 14 days prior
- You can leave Canada before
- You only need to return 14 days after to be considered fully vaccinated
- You need to have a valid proof of your vaccination
- It must be in English, French, or with a certified translation
- It can be a paper or digital version
- You can have received your vaccine anywhere in the world
- As long as you meet the above criteria
Who is considered fully vaccinated by other countries
Every country’s rules are different. Check our ultimate guide to countries open to Canadians for detailed requirements regarding vaccination.
But as a general rule of thumb, if you are considered fully vaccinated here in Canada… most countries will consider you fully vaccinated as well (but not necessarily all).
Always check, as some may require something more specific. Canada’s science about mixing vaccine types isn’t necessarily the same science as everywhere else, for example. Some countries exempt children from requirements even if they are not vaccinated, others don’t. Etc.
Some countries have specific entry restrictions for unvaccinated Canadians:
- 134 countries are open to unvaccinated Canadians
- 141 countries are open to vaccinated Canadians
Many many countries have stricter testing requirements for unvaccinated Canadians:
- 14 countries require no test for unvaccinated Canadians
- 53 countries require no test for vaccinated Canadians
Many many countries have stricter quarantine requirements for unvaccinated Canadians:
- 98 countries require no quarantine for unvaccinated Canadians
- 136 countries require no quarantine for vaccinated Canadians
Preparing for a pandemic trip (testing, insurance, etc.)
Apart from checking the rules above (entry rules for your destination and entry rules for your return to Canada) and understanding them well with the tips in the next section, here are a few tips to prepare for a pandemic trip.
Booking trips during the pandemic
We will soon share a detailed section about what to know about booking trips (subscribe for free to receive it first).
Medical travel insurance
Pandemic or not, leaving Canada without medical travel insurance is irresponsible because even a minor incident can cost you literally tens of thousands of dollars.
Usually though, paying out-of-pocket for that is not very savvy either, since many of the best travel credit cards in Canada come with free medical travel insurance coverage.
(In addition to giving you hundreds of dollars in free travel as a welcome bonus if you choose the right ones, like up to ≈$1,666 in value with just one welcome bonus with the current record-high offers, the highest ever seen in Canada.)
But Canada’s current global travel advisory voids many of those credit card insurance policies for the time being.
Getting tested before leaving Canada
Hopefully, you’ve now understood that you don’t necessarily need to get tested before leaving Canada: Canada does not require anything to exit, and airlines either (except Etihad).
But if your destination (or transit) country requires a pre-entry test, you’ll need to get tested in Canada.
We will soon have a complete guide to finding the cheapest testing option in every province (subscribe for free to receive it first).
(Feel free to share your data points in the comments if you have any, to help out your fellow travelers.)
In the meantime, in many provinces, Shoppers Drug Mart seems to offer affordable testing. Some provinces might even allow you to use public testing sites.
If you are in Toronto, tests are relatively affordable directly at the Pearson airport (YYZ). Others can try to plan a transit there, for countries with antigen requirements at least, and get tested for just $60 (results in 30 minutes). Express PCRs are $250 (results in 6 hours) and regular PCRs are $140 (results in 12 to 24 hours).
For antigen testing, that’s almost 3 times less than at Montreal’s airport (YUL) at $149 for example. That is quite a scam because that is the price of the more expensive PCR version in Toronto (that one is a frankly appalling $299 at Montreal’s airport).
In our home province of Québec, we can recommend Cliniques Lacroix in Laval, Québec, and Gatineau for $49 antigen tests, with Go Test Rapide in Saint-Laurent as a 75$ alternative on Montreal Island. For PCRs, Dynacare seems to have the lowest price at $155.
International travel starter pack
This is unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic specifically, but Flytrippers will soon publish our best recommendations and our must-haves for international travel, by popular demand (subscribe for free to receive it first).
It will allow you to stop paying an extra 2.5% on everything you buy while traveling and save a lot on ATM fees.
Understanding entry rules
While entry restrictions and entry requirements may all look similar, there are many things to look out for.
It’s vital to carefully read all the details of your destination’s rules to avoid surprises.
In most countries, your magic booklet (AKA your passport) determines whether you can enter. (Which makes very little sense since you might have been in a completely different country for weeks or months… and which imaginary lines you happened to be in when you got your passport is not really relevant scientifically at all).
Other countries base their entry restrictions on where you have been for the 14 or so previous days (including transits—or not). Others have a nationality-based restriction AND special additional restrictions based on where you have been.
Some territories or regions within a country might have their own stricter restrictions (Thailand is the best-known example, with only Phuket island being open to foreigners).
Finally, rules for arrivals by air are almost always different than rules for arrivals by land. The kicker: there is absolutely no official standardized database of land border rules (unlike for rules by air, which we use for our list of countries open to Canadians by air).
And of course, some entry restrictions depend on whether you are fully vaccinated or not.
There are pre-entry tests (very common) and arrival tests (much less common).
There are 2 main types of COVID-19 tests: molecular and antigen. Molecular tests are most often known as PCR tests; antigen tests are most often known as rapid tests. Antigen tests are the least expensive, the least lengthy for results, and the least invasive.
Some countries accept rapid antigen tests, others don’t. Many accept both, often with different allowed timelines for each (for example 72 hours for PCR or 48 hours for antigen).
Some countries give you 72 hours, while others give you more (or less). Some countries count back from the time of departure of your last flight to the country, others count from the scheduled arrival into the country… some even count back from the time of your first embarkation.
Some countries have stricter testing requirements if you arrive from (or have been in) specific countries. Some countries require you to do another test if you transit somewhere for more than 24 hours (very rare).
Some countries require you to have specific labs do the test or require a mandatory QR code on the test results (both very rare). Some require you to upload the results before your flight.
Requirements for children are like everything else: Every country is different.
Some territories or regions within a country might have their own stricter test requirements (with Hawaii as the prime example in the USA).
As for arrival tests, you might need to prebook and prepay them in certain countries. Sometimes you can replace the pre-entry test with an arrival test.
And again, many countries will exempt you from tests if you are fully vaccinated.
Some countries require mandatory quarantine periods, some require you to prebook specific hotels for your quarantine.
Some require quarantine only while awaiting the results of an arrival test, and some offer ways to test out of your quarantine.
Some countries have stricter quarantine requirements if you arrive from (or have been in) specific countries.
And of course, many countries will exempt you from quarantine if you are fully vaccinated.
The most common other requirement is more administrative: Filling out a health form or “passenger locator form” before your flight or before arrival. You might need to download an app.
A few countries require proof of medical travel insurance. A few countries might require proof of pre-booked hotels even if there is no quarantine, while others have only a select list of hotels you are allowed to stay at during your stay even if there is no quarantine.
FAQs about pandemic travel
We are working on a massive FAQ page with over 50 very frequently asked questions about traveling during the pandemic (subscribe for free to receive it first).
Canada’s 3 other travel measures
Here are a few other measures that aren’t as important but that you might want to know about.
India nonstop flight suspension
Canada has banned all nonstop flights from India until August 21st. This is not a ban on traveling to that country and this is not a ban on returning to Canada from that country.
Canadians can simply fly to India via a connecting flight in a third country. Same thin to return from India, it’s allowed… BUT you must get the pre-entry PCR test done in the transit country (special rule just for India).
The initial suspension included Pakistan, but that ended on June 21. A similar voluntary suspension of flights to the Caribbean and Mexico (major coronavirus hotspots—just kidding) also ended in June.
You can read our detailed post about Canada’s India flight ban.
Global travel advisory
Here is one that is not an actual rule at all. Many often seem to confuse this measure with actual restrictions.
The Canadian government has issued an advisory against all non-essential international travel.
This is not binding in any way: it is not a law, rule, or ban. It is merely a recommendation that travelers can choose to follow or not, just like you could follow—or not follow—the government’s recommendations to avoid some countries before the pandemic (which were already known as overly alarmist, by the way).
The advisory has no concrete impact on Canadian travelers’ ability to travel, although it does void some travel insurance—but not all.
International flights NOTAM
A NOTAM, or a “Notice to Airmen”, is essentially a rule for air traffic.
Currently, Transport Canada restricts all international flights (except those carrying politicians, who don’t have to follow the same rules as us ordinary people) to only 4 airports in Canada:
- Toronto (YYZ)
- Montreal (YUL)
- Vancouver (YVR)
- Calgary (YYC)
But on August 9th, 5 airports are being added:
- Ottawa (YOW)
- Québec City (YQB)
- Halifax (YHZ)
- Winnipeg (YWG)
- Edmonton (YEG)
At that point, this measure frankly won’t change much for Canadian travelers, as a vast majority of international commercial flights already depart from those 9 airports anyway.
Traveling safely and responsibly during the pandemic
It’s worth repeating that, of course, traveling definitely can be done safely and responsibly—even if we’ve always strongly recommended evaluating every risk based on your own personal situation with our free pandemic travel checklist.
We want to give you all the information for you to take every factor into consideration. We want to make sure that if you do decide to travel, that we can help you do it safely and responsibly (and as always at Flytrippers: for less).
What it’s like to travel during the pandemic
We will very soon update our point of view about each aspect of the travel experience with our knowledge from the many many additional trips we’ve taken since, and we’ll summarize it here (subscribe for free to receive it first).
Here are the aspects we will cover:
- What is different than pre-pandemic trips
- How to check what is open and closed in a country
- How welcoming the locals are
- What the coronavirus rules are
- What it’s like to enter and go through customs
- What it’s like to fly
- What it’s like in terms of budget
- What it’s like in hotels/hostels
- What it’s like for rental cars/taxis/buses/trains/subways
- What it’s like to book and plan the trip
Rules to enter Canada as a foreigner
Apart from the many exemptions I’ll get to in a second, Canada has had entry restrictions for all foreigners since March 2020. This entry restriction does not apply for transits: Foreigners can fly through Canada to another country.
However, fully vaccinated foreigners will be allowed into Canada soon:
- August 9th for Americans
- September 7th for all others
Here is the section that explains who is considered fully vaccinated by Canada.
Now, if you are an eligible foreigner visiting Canada for leisure, you have just one requirement: Provide proof of a negative molecular pre-entry test.
Here is the section that explains how Canada’s pre-entry test requirement works.
If you are traveling with children under 12 (who cannot be vaccinated), here is the section that explains the special quarantine rules that apply.
Eligible reasons for foreigners to enter Canada include the following (some of these exemptions for trips considered essential require prior authorization):
- Working in Canada
- Moving of essential goods or people (air crew, train crew, marine crew, truck driver)
- Some international students
- Invited by the Government of Canada
- Compassionate reasons (for funerals, providing care to someone who is critically ill or has a valid medical reason for needing support)
- Receiving medical care within 36 hours of entering Canada (unrelated to COVID-19)
You can see the detailed exemptions on the government’s official website.
Current exemptions to Canada’s entry requirements
If you are not traveling for leisure, some special circumstances can exempt you from certain testing and quarantine requirements:
- Amateur sports
- Crew members and armed forces
- Cross-border workers and trans-border communities
- Diplomatic visas
- Drivers – Essential services
- Essential services – trade, technicians, emergency…
- Funerals, compassionate travel, and caring for others
- Medical and health care
- People who require support for mental or physical conditions
- Students, cross-border students, and people driving them
- Temporary Foreign Worker Program
- Other special circumstances
You can see the detailed exemptions on the government’s official website.
Want to get all our coronavirus updates for Canadian travelers?
Canadians can travel during the coronavirus pandemic, and Flytrippers is here to help you do so.
What do you want to know about pandemic travel? Tell us in the comments below.
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