IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers| IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers|
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COVID-19 and travel

The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation. Refer to your national health authority for current guidance, vaccine information, and travel restrictions.

For a quick guide on what to consider, how to prepare, and essential resources for travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic, download the following free PDF: 


Note: The following content is no longer being reviewed. Last update: December 18, 2020.

Travel-related COVID-19 questions and answers:

1. Should I travel internationally?

Many governments and public health authorities continue to advise against non-essential travel to reduce the global spread of COVID-19. At this time, the best way you can protect yourself and others is to stay home.

Restrictions are still in place in many countries to reduce international departures and arrivals, meaning you may have difficulty entering or exiting your destination.

If you choose to travel internationally, you may encounter enhanced screening and monitoring at entry and exit points. You may be asked to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, submit to a temperature check, and be asked questions about your travel history and health. You may also be required to self-isolate upon arrival at your destination.

2. Where can I find information on international travel restrictions?

To see what restrictions are in place, refer to your home country’s government and national health authority as well as your destination's government.

You can also see a complete list of international travel restrictions and advisories here.

3. What measures should I take before travelling internationally?

It’s important to note that there is no ‘zero risk’ when travelling internationally. Travel can increase your contact with people, thereby increasing your risk of encountering an infected person or surface. There is no vaccine or COVID-19 treatment at the moment, meaning that travellers have to be vigilant about following public health advice to protect themselves and others.

If you do travel internationally, consider the following: 

  • The current guidelines in place in your country and destination country. Make sure you are up-to-date on the travel restrictions and guidelines that are being enforced by your home country and destination country, and know what to expect upon arrival and departure. Be aware that your travel plans may unexpectedly change and you may encounter border closures, delays, and cancelled flights.
  • Your health status. Make an appointment with your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to make sure you are fit to travel. Get any recommended and required vaccinations for your trip, including a flu shot. Consider postponing travel if you are over the age of 65 or have a pre-existing condition (see question 4 for more details).
  • Know about your destination’s response to COVID-19. Ensure you have done some research to understand what public health measures your destination has taken and how they have responded to the pandemic. What measures are currently in place and are you comfortable with them? If your travel plans are delayed, are you able to stay in your destination for a prolonged period of time? How has your destination’s health system fared? Are hospitals equipped to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks? Is COVID-19 testing widely available? 
  • The health measures of your transit company and accommodation. Know what to expect when you are travelling to your destination and upon arrival. Ask your transit company and accommodation what new measures they have adopted to limit the spread of COVID-19.
  • Your financial security. Make sure you have a comprehensive travel health insurance policy that includes coverage for COVID-19 and related costs. Understand the terms of your coverage and your options if you need to cancel your trip or if your trip is delayed; consider how much you can afford to pay-out-of pocket if you cannot get a full refund. Similarly, make sure you have enough funds to pay for any medical emergency in case it isn’t fully covered.
  • How safe you will feel on your trip. Everyone’s personal response to risk is different, and although no trip comes completely risk free, try to evaluate how much uncertainty you can cope with. Consider your age, health status, and personal circumstances. If it feels like the risks will outweigh your ability to enjoy your trip then it’s likely not worth going.

4. Who should not travel?

Travel can increase your risk of getting COVID-19 and spreading it others. Travellers who are 65 years of age and over or have a pre-existing condition (including cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, obesity, hypertension, renal failure, or respiratory illness) should consider postponing travel if they are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Travellers who live with or who are visiting someone who is at high risk of COVID-19 complications may also want to consider postponing travel.

Do not travel if you are sick – stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19 or any other illness to others. You should also avoid travel if you have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.

Follow the COVID-19 and travel guidance provided by your local health authority.

5. I am currently abroad - what should I do?

Due to international travel restrictions, there are many travellers who are experiencing delays or disruptions to their travel plans and who may not be able to return home as planned. It’s important to stay up-to-date on the pandemic’s developments, your government’s response, and the response of your host country. The following steps can help you while abroad:

  • Register with your embassy and home government (e.g. STEP for US citizens; Canadian citizens can register with their government here). You can also see what assistance programs are available to support your travel home.
  • Stay in touch with your transportation company (airline, cruise line, tour operator) to stay up-to-date. There may be changes that affect your itinerary or travel plans.
  • Travel (domestically and internationally) may be extremely limited and you may encounter enhanced screening and monitoring at entry and exit points. Be prepared to offer a documented travel history and provide details on your health status. You may also need to undergo a temperature check.
  • Call your travel health insurance provider to extend your policy and consider purchasing evacuation coverage if you are not already covered. Be aware that some providers may be restricting coverage for COVID-19 – see question 7 for more details.
  • Call your financial institution to ensure you have access to appropriate funds.
  • Make sure you have access to a doctor that speaks your language in case you require medical care.
  • Pay attention to your health. Call a local doctor or medical facility if you experience any of the following symptoms: cough, fever, fatigue, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath. Follow the advice of the local health authority.

6. I am currently abroad and am experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 - what should I do?

If you start to experience symptoms of COVID-19, take steps to isolate yourself and call an local doctor or medical facility. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Follow the advice of the local health authority.

7. Is there travel health insurance that provides coverage for COVID-19?

Not all travel health insurance providers are committed to providing coverage for COVID-19 and related expenses. If you are currently covered under an existing policy, call your provider to ask what is included in your coverage. You may have to purchase an additional policy or add-on providing coverage for COVID-19.

If you are looking to purchase travel health insurance, where possible, look for a plan that fully covers:

  • COVID-19 testing, hospitalization, and evacuation.
  • Trip interruption and delays due to quarantine, closed borders, or last-minute changes in government travel advisories related to COVID-19.

Be aware, however, that many insurers may not be able to guarantee a hospital bed or doctor availability where COVID-19 continues to tax healthcare systems around the world. Ask your insurer if they can guarantee coverage for your destination.

It may take some time to find a policy that’s right for you. Start by researching policies using insurance comparison sites or refer to an independent insurance broker.

If you are in a situation where your travel health insurance provider is denying you coverage or refusing to pay a claim in full, there are steps you can take:

  • Call your insurer to discuss your case. Your insurer’s decision was based on the information they had at the time, and it may be possible to provide additional details that can support your case.
  • If the representative is unresponsive, contact the insurer’s ombudservice office to escalate the complaint.
  • If the complaint is not resolved, refer to an insurance complaint body (see associations for USA and Canada).
  • Contact a consumer advocate organization near you to help advocate for your case in the media. Your travel health insurance provider may be pushed to reconsider.

Try to remain patient throughout this process. Insurance companies are experiencing a high volume of calls due to the pandemic, so it will take time and perseverance to get results.

8. I am returning to my home country – what should I do?

Returning travellers should refer to their local and national health authority for guidance. Public health authorities around the world are requiring or encouraging returning travellers to self-isolate for at least 14 days once they arrive home.

Approximately 80% of persons infected with COVID-19 show mild symptoms. As such, it’s important to practice self-isolation even if you feel fine.

Make sure to take the appropriate steps (as advised by your public health authority) to consult with your workplace, school, or child’s school regarding self-isolation after travel. 

9. What can I do to prevent COVID-19 on an airplane?

On an airplane, much of the same simple measures being used on the ground apply including:

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water is not readily available.
  • Wear a mask throughout the flight. Wash or sanitize your hands after touching or adjusting your mask.
  • Avoid touching others and try to maintain a safe distance from people outside of your household. Before booking your flight, check what measures your airline has in place to keep passengers distanced while on board (e.g. are they committed to not booking middle seats?).
  • Cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm or into a tissue. Safely dispose of the tissue and immediately wash your hands.
  • Do not travel if you feel sick. Contact your airline to change your flight details as soon as possible. Look for airlines that have minimal fees for changing and rebooking flights.
  • Follow the safety requirements of your airline. 


Note: The following content is no longer being reviewed. Last update: December 18, 2020.

Travel Health Journal