Covid Travel Restrictions

An Updated Guide to the COVID Travel Restrictions in Central America

A country-by-country guide to the current Covid travel restrictions in Central America. What requirements are there to enter each country? Compare your Central American country to its neighbors. 

Belize:

Belize reopened its Philip Goldson International Airport on October 1, 2020.

All nationalities allowed to visit Belize before the pandemic are welcome, as long as they follow the following protocols: Provide a negative (PCR only) Covid test performed within 96 hours of arrival. Belize also accepts the results of rapid antigen tests, although they need to be taken within 48 hours of travel.  Both types of test are applicable to everyone over the age of five. If you are traveling to Belize from India or Bangladesh, you are prohibited from entry at this time.

So let’s recap that for clarity:

  1. You can provide a PCR test taken within 96 hours prior to traveling.
  2. You can provide a rapid antigen test taken within 48 hours prior to traveling.

The testing guidelines are in place regardless of whether you’re vaccinated against Covid or not.

If you arrive in Belize without the results of a PCR or antigen test, you must take one at the airport. This antigen test costs $50. Travelers arriving in Belize who test positive will be quarantined at their own expense for 14 days. For this reason, we strongly recommend getting tested in advance of travel.

Travelers receiving a negative test upon arrival can continue with their journey.

All tourists in Belize must their accommodations in advance, staying in “Gold Standard” hotels. These are accommodations complying with the sanitary protocols mandated by the government of Belize.

The western border with Guatemala and the northern border with Mexico are both open to foreign tourists only.

All travelers entering Belize by land must take an antigen test at the border, costing $50. If entering Belize by land, you cannot bring your own test results with you. If you enter Belize with your own vehicle, you can use it in-country. Travelers entering Belize on foot must be picked up by a Gold Standard transport operator.

All travelers entering Belize by land must also book a minimum of three nights at a Gold Standard hotel. Please also note that the land borders are only open 8:00 AM-4:00 PM Monday-Friday and 8:00 AM-12:00 PM (noon) Saturdays and Sundays.

For continuous, up-to-date into on Belize’s entry requirements, bookmark this page from the Belize Tourism Board.

Guatemala:

Guatemala reopened its La Aurora International Airport on September 18, 2020.

There are no restrictions on who can enter Guatemala, except for travelers who have been in Brazil, the UK, and South Africa within 14 days of arrival (they need to update this rule). Everyone else can enter, as long as they present a negative COVID-19 (PCR or antigen) test taken within 72 hours of arriving in the country.

Travelers fully-vaccinated against Covid, with the final vaccine administered at least 14 days prior to arrival, can also enter Guatemala without a test. If you’ve had (and recovered from) Covid within three months of arrival, you can forgo the test as long as you present proof of diagnosis.

Guatemalan citizens and legal residents arriving without a COVID-19 test will have to quarantine for two weeks under the supervision of the Health Ministry. Tourists arriving without a COVID-19 test, proof of vaccination, or proof of recovery will be denied entry.

Land borders are open. Those entering Guatemala by land also need to provide either a negative PCR or antigen test.

El Salvador:

El Salvador reopened its airport for visitors on September 19, 2020. As of November 17, 2021, El Salvador has eliminated all testing and vaccination restrictions to enter the country. El Salvador and Costa Rica are now the only countries in Central America to not require a negative test to enter.

Honduras:

Honduras reopened its international airports on August 17, 2020. Travelers to Honduras must create a pre-check account online and fill in the form within seven days of arrival. They will then receive an email notification, which they must present to airline staff before boarding their plane, and immigration officials upon arrival in Honduras.

According Honduras’ Immigration Department, travelers coming from Nicaragua must also send an email requesting permission to enter to SINAGAR (Sistema Nacional de Gestión de Riesgos – National Risk Management System) at autorizaciones.emergencias@hotmail.com within 96 hours of arrival in the country.

Unvaccinated travelers must show proof of a negative Covid test (PCR or antigen) taken within 72 hours of arrival. Vaccinated travelers (with full vaccination completed 14 days or more prior to arrival) don’t need to provide a negative Covid test.

Nicaragua:

Nicaragua is the one country in Central America that never truly closed its borders in the first place. There is no ban on entry to Nicaragua for foreigners, although most airlines stopped flying into the country during the pandemic.

At this time, it’s less a question of COVID-19 restrictions, and more one about onerous government requirements of the airlines. The upshot is, if you’re flying to Nicaragua, you need to present your negative Covid test to the airline no less than 36 hours before boarding rather than at the airport and/or at Nicaraguan immigration.

That aside, anyone can enter Nicaragua as long as they have a negative (PCR only) COVID-19 test issued within 72 hours of arrival.

Land borders with are open. Travelers arriving by land need to present their negative Covid test at the border.

Costa Rica:

Costa Rica reopened its international airports on August 1, 2020 and its land borders in April, 2021.

Tourists entering Costa Rica need to fill in the online health pass and, if unvaccinated, buy travel insurance to cover any COVID care they may need and any possible quarantine. Fully-vaccinated travelers (with vaccination completed at least 14 days before arrival) and travelers under the age of 18 are exempt from buying the travel insurance.

No Covid test is required to enter, vaccinated or not. Costa Rica and El Salvador are the only countries in the region to not require a test for travelers entering their territories.

Panama:

Panama reopened its airport to tourists on October 12, 2020.

Everyone entering Panama must fill out this healthcare form, called a “Sworn Declaration of Health”. People entering Panama from “low-risk” countries must present a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours prior to traveling or submit to a test upon arrival in Panama. Those testing positive upon arrival will have to quarantine for 14 days at a government-approved “hospital-hotel” quarantine hotel at their own expense. (Panamanian citizens and residents can quarantine at home).

Unvaccinated travelers entering Panama from high-risk countries (The United States, Cuba, Guatemala, Costa Rica, French Guyana, The United Kingdom, Greece, Georgia, Estonia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Azerbaijan, Israel, Malaysia, Mongolia, South Africa, Guinea Bissau, Tunisia, and Fiji), or who have transited through those countries within 15 days prior to arriving in Panama) must take a Covid test upon arrival. If they test negative, they must quarantine for three days and then take another test. If the second test is negative, they can go about their lives. If not, they must quarantine for 14 days in a facility (if tourists) or at home (if citizen or resident).

If you’re fully-vaccinated against Covid, with the vaccination completed at least 14 days before entering Panama, you’re exempt from all testing and quarantine requirements. Also exempt from these requirements are children under the age of 12, as long as their parents/guardians comply with said requirements.

Panama’s border with Costa Rica is open.

This was just a brief overview of Central America travel restrictions during this pandemic.

We’ll keep this updated as and when situations change – and we know it’s an ever-changing situation. If you’re in Central America, please feel free to advise us in the comments of any changing regulations so we can stay as up-to-date as possible in real time.

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