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.

Most 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 need to book 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. You cannot bring the results of your own test with you, if entering Belize by land. 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 from Brazil, the UK, and South Africa. 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 they have proof of vaccination with them. 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 with Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras 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.

The only requirement is a negative (PCR only) COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival. People traveling without a negative test will not be permitted to board the plane. If you are fully-vaccinated against Covid-19, you can enter El Salvador without a test. You will need to show your proof of vaccination before boarding your plane.

Land borders with Guatemala and Honduras are open, and the same rules apply – negative PCR test or proof of vaccination.

Honduras:

Honduras opened its international airports on August 17, 2020. Traveler to Honduras must register online with Honduran Immigration before boarding their flight. They will receive a confirmation email that they must print out and carry with them to Honduras.

Unvaccinated travelers need a negative (PCR or antigen) COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to arriving in Honduras. Fully-vaccinated travelers can waive this requirement as long as they can provide proof their vaccination was completed at least 14 days prior to arrival.

Anyone departing Honduras will need to fill in the same immigration form as they did when they arrived. Again, they’ll receive a confirmation email which they must print out and carry with them.

Land borders with El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala 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 have stopped flying into the country.

At this time, only a few airlines are flying into Nicaragua. 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 Honduras and Costa Rica 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 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 now exempt from buying the travel insurance.

Costa Rica is the only Central American country to not require a COVID test to enter under any circumstances.

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.