What Happens When I Come Home? (A Guide to the Quarantine Requirements for Returning Travelers)

Updated January 15, 2021.

We’ve been talking for months about tourism in Central America during this pandemic. But we never focused on the requirements for travelers returning home from Central America. We’ll address that here.

It’s one thing traveling to Central America to explore our rainforests, beaches, and culture. The weather’s getting better and for the most part, our individual COVID curves are on the right track. But it’s something else altogether to face the prospect of travel bans or quarantines when you get home.

That’s the kind of thing to make anyone hesitate, no matter how tempting the prospect of some tropical sun can be after a terrible year.

Each Central American country has its own entry requirements and COVID protocols for incoming tourists. But one thing we often overlook is that so do most other countries, and these protocols can affect us as we try to boost tourism again.

It’s worth us here in Central America knowing which countries and regions are doing what.             

Because this affects tourist flow as much as our own protocols, and determines factors like which airlines are coming in or not. And for their part, potential travelers need to know what’s in store for them when they return.

For that reason, we’ve created a guide to the rules governing travelers returning home to other countries. For the sake of this article, we’re only looking at North America and Europe. These are the regions from where Central America receives the vast majority of tourists. Travelers from elsewhere should check with authorities in their individual countries.

We’ll do our best to update this guide as and when info changes.

North America:

Canada
All travelers returning to Canada must self-quarantine for 14 days and present a COVID test upon arrival taken within 72 hours prior to arrival. They also need to download the ArriveCAN app and fill in the required info. During their quarantine they must “complete daily COVID-19 symptom self-assessments” either through the app on on the phone. 

United States
On a national level, there are no restrictions or protocols required to enter the United States, but from January 26 all travelers entering the United States will need to show proof of a negative COVID before entering the country. This was announced by the CDC on January 12, 2021.

In the meantime, different states are beginning to impose their own restrictions on travelers entering or returning to them, especially from countries deemed Level 2 or higher by the Center for Disease Control. As of January 4, 2021, all Central American countries are Level 4 (very high COVID risk).

The following states have entry requirements/protocols that all travelers returning to them must adhere to:

  1. Alaska
    Travelers returning to Alaska need to submit a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arrival. They must also self-isolate for five days and provide a “self isolation plan”. Travelers arriving without a COVID test need to take one at the airport and self isolate until the results come through. This test is free for Alaska residents and $250 for everyone else.
  2. Colorado
    If you’re returning to Pitkin County, Colorado (not the rest of the state at this time), you’ll need to quarantine for 10 days after arrival in the county unless you can show proof of a negative COVID test, taken no longer than 72 hours before arrival. Otherwise, you’ll need to take a test at your own expense after your arrival in Pitkin County and quarantine until you receive a negative result.
  3. Connecticut
    Travelers returning to Connecticut need to fill in the Connecticut Health Form and submit a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arrival or quarantine for 10 days. These rules apply if arriving from a country deemed Level 3 by the CDC. All Central American countries are currently at Level 4.
  4. District of Columbia
    Anyone arriving in DC planning to spend more than 24 hours there must take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to arrival.
  5. Hawaii
    Travelers returning to Hawaii need to submit a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arrival or quarantine for 10 days.
  6. Illinois
    No statewide mandates at this time, but travelers returning to Chicago must provide a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival or quarantine for 10 days.
  7. Kansas
    Anyone arriving to Kansas from countries with a CDC Level 3  are required to quarantine for 14 days.
  8. Maine
    Travelers returning to Maine need to submit a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arrival or quarantine for 10 days.
  9. Maryland
    Effective January 4, travelers returning to Maryland need to present a negative COVID test or quarantine for 14 days.
  10. Massachusetts
    Travelers returning to Massachusetts need to submit a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arrival or quarantine for 14 days. They must also fill out the Massachusetts Travel Form.
  11. New Hampshire
    New Hampshire requires all returning travelers to quarantine for 10 days (except for people returning from elsewhere in New England). On day 7, you can take a COVID test, the results of which will determine if you need to continue your quarantine. 
  12. New Jersey
    New Jersey says their measures are voluntary, but “compliance is expected”, so we’ve included it in this list. Returning travelers are recommended to take a COVID test 1-3 days before arrival in New Jersey, and then another one 3-5 days afterward. Everyone must quarantine for 14 days regardless of test results.
  13. New Mexico
    New Mexico requires all returning travelers to quarantine for 14 days.
  14. New York
    Travelers returning to New York must fill out the New York State Traveler Health Form. Travelers coming from a Level 2 country or higher must take a COVID test within three days prior to arrival. Then they need to quarantine for three days before taking a second test on the fourth day. If that test is negative they can end their quarantine. If not, they need to quarantine for 10 days.
  15. North Dakota
    Travelers entering North Dakota from Central America must quarantine immediately for 14 days upon arrival.
  16. Pennsylvania
    Travelers returning to Pennsylvania need to submit a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arrival or quarantine for 10 days. Those submitting a negative COVID test must quarantine for 7 days instead of 10 days.
  17. Rhode Island
    Travelers returning to Pennsylvania need to submit a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arrival or quarantine for 14 days.
  18. Vermont
    Travelers returning to Vermont must quarantine for 14 days. They can get a PCR COVID test on or after day seven of their quarantine if they wish. A negative result will end their quarantine early.

Any state not listed above either has quarantine “recommendations” (as opposed to requirements) in place or no restrictions at this time. States with quarantine recommendations are California (14 days), Kentucky (14 days), Minnesota (14 days), Ohio (14 days), Oregon (14 days), and Washington (14 days).

Mexico and the rest of North America
There are no current travel restrictions or protocols for travelers returning to Mexico. If you’re from elsewhere in North America, please check with your individual country.

Europe:

For the sake of brevity, we’ll only count the “larger” European countries from where most travelers to Central America come from.

France
A COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival is recommended when returning to France, although not required. If you do not have a negative result of a COVID test, you’ll be tested at the airport. 

Germany
Travelers returning to Germany from Central America must quarantine for 10 days. Quarantine can be lifted after five days if the traveler can provide a negative COVID-19 test.

Italy
Italy is currently not allowing any travel for tourism purposes, so tourists returning to Italy will need to explain why they’ve been out of the country. Anyone who does arrive in Italy needs to present a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours of travel. They must also quarantine for 14 days under supervision of health authorities. Arrivals must also call the COVID-19 hotline after arrival to inform authorities of their arrival.

Netherlands
Travelers returning to the Netherlands from Central America must provide proof of a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of boarding their plane. They also need to provide a signed negative test declaration. Passengers, including Dutch nationals, won’t be allowed to board without these requirements.

Spain
All travelers arriving in Spain must present a negative COVD test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival. No quarantine is required unless the traveler shows signs of illness at their airport health check. Travelers must also fill in the Spanish government’s FCS health control form.

Switzerland
Travelers returning to Switzerland from Central America must quarantine for 10 days. They must also report their return to their local cantonal authority within two days of arriving home.

United Kingdom
At this time, foreign travel outside of the UK is effectively banned, due to lockdown restrictions. However, that doesn’t effect UK citizens and residents already abroad. Travelers returning to the UK from Central America must fill in a “passenger locator form” (within 48 hours of arrival) and quarantine for 10 days with the option of forgoing their quarantine after five days by taking a COVID test (England only). Travelers originating from the UK are currently banned from entering all Central America apart from Costa Rica and Belize. All travel from Panama to the UK is banned. From January 18, all travelers entering the UK from Central America need to take present a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours before boarding their flight.

If you’re from another European country, please check on your own individual entry rules.

That wraps up our latest update on the restrictions travelers face when returning to their home countries from Central America.

We hope you found it useful. We’ll continue to update this as much as we can throughout the remainder of the pandemic.

James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.