You are currently viewing How to transit in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic

BREAKING: The US just lifted its pre-entry test requirement for all travelers on June 12th, 2022. No other US rule has changed. This article will be updated soon; read all the details here in the meantime.

Since over 190 countries are open to Canadians and many of the cheapest flights are via the United States, many people are asking us how to transit in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s really very very simple.

Here’s how it works, in case you’re tempted by one of the options on Flytrippers’ cheap flight deals page to one of the 190+ countries open to Canadians (like Mexico at $300), which are sometimes via the US.


Basics of travel during the pandemic

It’s worth repeating because it’s really important and so many people still don’t understand the very basics that we explain often, including in our ultimate guide on pandemic travel.

But traveling during the pandemic is just 3 simple sets of rules:

  • Check the rules to board a plane in a Canadian airport
  • Check the entry rules for the places you are going to
  • Check the entry rules for your return to Canada

And when we say “the places you are going to”, it obviously includes the places you’re transiting. You’re going there, so you need to check.

Some countries exempt transit passengers from their entry restrictions and entry requirements, others don’t. Each country makes its own rules as we’ve been repeating since it’s the most important thing to understand.

So in short, that doesn’t mean that all countries have rules for transits, but it does mean that like all travel rules, you really have to check.

There’s no way around it (otherwise you can always visit that place in your own province for 4 years in a row :P)!

If you’re here, it means you can read, so you’re fine. That’s all it takes. It’s not fun, but you just have to take the time to read the entry rules of the countries carefully. It’s more fun than staying in Canada for sure, in my opinion.

And finally, what you really shouldn’t do is believe or rely on anything you’ve heard or anyone else has said: No one knows what they’re talking about when it comes to travel rules and the vast majority of people are spreading misinformation and misleading you. Read for yourself or rely on travel experts, not your aunt on Facebook or any strangers on the internet who clearly don’t understand the travel rules. About 90% of what we read about travel rules is just plain wrong, it’s sad.


Rules for transiting the United States

Now for transiting the United States.

The answer is extremely simple: Transits do not exist in the US (pandemic or not), which is a bit unusual… and certainly not very well-known.

The United States is one of the few countries in the world where sterile international transits do not exist. Basically, this means that even for a connection, it’s exactly the same as if you were entering the country… even if you leave right after.

So the rules for transiting in the US are exactly the same as for traveling in the US.


You can check out our newly-updated very detailed guide on how Canadians can travel to the United States.

In short:

Obviously, this is in addition to the rules (restrictions and requirements) of the country you are going to.

There are 120+ countries open with no requirements whatsoever, so those are ideal for avoiding the pre-entry test altogether if there are direct flights. Otherwise, another 30+ countries are open with just the rapid antigen test that you need to transit through the US anyway.

That gives you a lot of options.


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Transiting in the United States involves exactly the same rules as traveling to the United States.

What do you want to know about transits in the USA? Tell us in the comments below.


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Cover photo: Chicago O’Hare Airport (photo credit: Miguel Ángel Sanz)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 64/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Amanda

    What happens if you are flying unvaccinated from Canada to Mexico non-stop but the pilot unexpectedly has to re-route land in the US? What then?? If you aren’t sure, can you please point me to who would know, or who I can reach out to?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      That’s quite the scenario, I have no clue. I would assume the customs agents that will meet you would enforce their requirements and therefore ask you to leave if you’re not vaccinated unless they’re like land border agents and don’t care… but the only way to know the answer for that edge case would be to call US customs. And wondering about “unexpectedly” having to land in the US will sure make it seem like it’s not very unexpected 😛

  2. John

    Hi, is there Vaccine requirement for layover in US (Chicago) for 3 hours, traveling from Vancouver Canada to Europe ?

  3. Sarah

    We are travelling to Mexico and have a stopover in New York (EWR). One of the members in our group is not vaccinated. Have the rules changed to allow unvaccinated people to transit via the US?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Nope, still not allowed, unfortunately. Will be changing soon though. Post to come shortly.

  4. Perpeutal

    Hi Andrew

    I am leaving for Calgary mid June 2022 via Vancouver and transit in Seattle for 1 1/2 hr. If I do I need to do a special Travel PCR Test with a letter to show we are COVID negative? Or if I carry a RAT kit with me and do it while in transit in Vancouver will do? Here in Sydney its quite expensive to do the Travel PCR Test so not sure if its cheaper to change our flights instead. Any advise is helpful

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi, unless the US rules change before then, you do need valid proof of a negative test. That means an official lab report as every country in the world that requires a test requires a report, you can’t just do it on your own (unless it’s supervised remotely by a telehealth service). The US accepts rapid antigen tests though, so it’s usually not very expensive (or just $25 remotely from anywhere:

  5. Raf

    Avec un document de voyage Canadien,est-ce qu’on peut faire un transit aux Etats-Unies pour aller dans un autre pays ?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Qu’est-ce que tu veux dire exactement par “document de voyage canadien” ?
      Si tu parles d’un passeport canadien, oui tu peux transiter. Mais ça va te prendre un test quand même.
      Si tu parles d’une preuve de vaccination canadienne, oui tu peux transiter aux USA. Mais ça va te prendre un test quand même.

  6. Abigail


    I’m flying from Germany to Costa Rica in August with a stopover in Houston, I am fully vaxxed but my certificate expires in July, I won’t be getting a booster, do they accept this certificate regardless?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi, the US does not have any time limit at all. As long as you can prove you had the 2 doses (or 1 dose of Johnson & Johnson) they’ll let you in. Based on the current rules at least. August is incredibly far away, so it could change by then of course.


    I’m traveling from the UK direct to Jamaica, and then from Jamaica the flight stops in the US and then on to UK. I am not vaccinated and I won’t be leaving the airport, do I just provide a negative test before I leave Jamaica?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi, unfortunately unless you are American you cannot enter the USA if you are not vaccinated.

  8. Raquel

    Hi, i am traveling back to Vancouver Canada from Trinidad and Tobago via Miami. do i need a pcr test or a rapid test within one day?

    1. Andrew D'Amours

      To enter the USA: Any type of test done the day of your flight from Trinidad and Tobago to Miami or the full calendar day before.
      To enter Canada: Any type of test done the day of your flight from Miami to Canada or the full calendar day before. Or a molecular test (PCR, NAAT, etc.) 72 hours before that flight’s departure time.
      So ideally make sure the one same test will work for both countries by timing it right.

  9. Kevin


    I’m preparing to fly from Canada to Cambodia, with a transit layover in the USA.

    I need a PCR test 72 hours before to enter Cambodia. Will this test be valid for entry into the USA as well?


    1. Andrew D'Amours

      Hi, to enter the USA you need a test done the day of your flight or the full calendar day before your flight. If you do your PCR for Cambodia in that time frame, it will be valid 🙂

      1. Kevin

        Thanks for the help!

        This is so crazy, looks like I will need both a PCR and an antigen test. My flight leaves early morning on Mar 10th, which means I need to get a PCR test done on Mar 8th (To get the results on the 9th), this will cover the Cambodia requirements. Plus an antigen test for the US requirements on the 9th.

      2. Andrew D'Amours

        Yeah, that’s what’s not very practical with the USA’s tight deadline. At least antigen tests are much cheaper (depending on your province)… and at least you get to go to Cambodia, so there’s that 😀

  10. Jan

    Like any updates on air travel to and from Canada & US

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