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. 

If you’re traveling, you want to know the rules and regulations to get into any given country, especially in these times when things change on a dime. We’re not talking here about curfews and restrictions once on the ground – in the case of Central America, we offer a country-by-country guide to those right here. No, here we talk about what you need to get in.

We’ve been updating this information since Central American countries began opening up to tourism in the summer of 2020, and will continue doing so.

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.

Any traveler arriving from Botswana, Eswaniti, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, or Zimbabwe will be placed into quarantine for ten days at a government-approved facility.

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.

All non-Guatemalan citizens/legal residents entering Guatemala must show proof of full vaccination plus a negative test (PCR or antigen) taken within three days before arrival in the country. Note here, that it’s vaccination AND test, not “or” test. You need both. Guatemala is the first country in Central America to mandate vaccination for foreign tourists.

Guatemalan citizens, or foreigners with legal residency in Guatemala, can produce proof of vaccination OR a negative test.

Land borders are open.

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 fill in two online forms – an immigration online precheck form and an online health form. Please note that the immigration precheck form needs filling in within 48 prior to arrival in Honduras.

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.

For an extensive, step-by-step guide to navigating the forms you need to enter Honduras, check out this information provided by Anthony’s Key Resort on the island of Roatán. It’s the best guide we’ve seen.

Land borders are open.

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 (Cayman Islands, Barbados, Anguilla, Bonaire, Greece, Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Serbia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Hungary, Faroe Islands, Ireland, Montenegro, Croatia, Netherlands, Slovakia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Armenia, Ukraine, Georgia, and the UK – or who have transited through those countries within 15 days prior to arriving in Panama) must take a Covid test upon arrival and then quarantine for three days at a government-approved hotel, 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.