Travel to Central and South America: A Reopening Timeline, Country by Country

Crowds Line Up at Caixa Economica Federal to Receive the Second Installment of the Urgent Government Benefit Due to the Coronavirus (COVID - 19) Pandemic
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COVID-19 has surged in many parts of South and Central America, where it has spread rapidly among indigenous communities with minimal access to health care and in densely populated cities like São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Lima. Borders were closed and most commercial flights to the region were halted at the beginning of the pandemic and while some countries remain closed indefinitely, others have already reopened for international tourism. American travelers are welcome, so long as they can meet the testing and quarantine requirements for entry. Read on for a country-by-country listing of border status, quarantine restrictions, and more information on travel throughout Central and South America.

Argentina

In October, Argentina made headlines for having the world's highest rate of positive tests and surpassed one million cases. A nationwide quarantine is in effect through December 20. After a long ban, commercial flights, limited domestic flights, and long-distance bus service resumed on October 15. Some international routes are operating, but these are sporadic. Unless they are permanent residents in Argentina, U.S. citizens are not allowed to enter unless they have direct relatives who are Argentine citizens. However, the government announced plans to implement a "tourism pilot program" for those traveling from bordering countries. Travelers will need to show a negative test taken within 72 hours of travel and must self-isolate for 14 days in their destination.

Belize

Belize reopened for travel on October 1, which means that U.S. citizens and all other foreign tourists are allowed to enter with different entry requirements for each kind of traveler. Everyone traveling to Belize must download the Belize Travel Health App to submit their health information and negative test result 72 hours prior to their departure. Tourists will only have the option of using approved Gold Standard hotels and tour operators and transportation will be organized by your accommodation using approved services.

Bolivia

Bolivia’s quarantine and travel restrictions vary from city to city, and while air borders have reopened for returning Bolivian residents and citizens the country's land and water borders remain closed. There's no requirement to quarantine for those who show no symptoms during the health screening, but all travelers will need to have a negative test taken within three days before their flight. 

Brazil

With over six million confirmed cases as of December 3, Brazil is the hardest-hit country in Latin America and has the third-highest number of cases in the world after the United States and India. Brazil faces many challenges with the virus, especially in remote regions of the Amazon where its indigenous population is particularly at risk.

While Brazil has restricted its land and water borders until at least December 11, foreigners, including U.S. citizens, are allowed to fly to Brazil. Travelers will not be required to show a negative test or to quarantine, but the government officially recommends anyone experiencing symptoms to self-quarantine for 15 days.

Chile

Chile's border reopened to non-Chileans on November 23. Foreign visitors are only be allowed to enter by flying into the Arturo Merino Benitez Airport in Santiago. They will have to provide a negative test taken within 72 hours of arriving in Chile, submit a health declaration noting any symptoms, and provide proof of health insurance that will cover any coronavirus-related illnesses.

Some travelers will have to quarantine depending on the risk level of the country they're coming from. The U.S. is considered high-risk, so American travelers will be required to quarantine for 14 days if they enter before December 7. Quarantines must be completed in the capital city of Santiago, even if the traveler's final destination is elsewhere in Chile.

After December 7, a quarantine will no longer be necessary so long as the traveler arrives with a negative test and other necessary documents, but all foreigners will be subject to a 14-day "Period of Vigilance," during which they will have to report their location and health conditions to the Health Ministry via an online platform every day.

Colombia

On August 24, Colombia ended its isolationist phase but extended the national sanitation emergency until November 30. Foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, are allowed to enter Colombia but international flights are limited. It is not currently necessary to show a negative test before flying to Colombia, but visitors will still have to fill out the immigration form online 24 hours before flying and follow the protocol outlined by the Colombian Ministry of Health. A quarantine period is not required.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica reopened tourism for travelers from low-risk countries on August 1, which did not initially include the U.S. However, as of November 1, Costa Rica has now opened up to all U.S. citizens.

It is no longer necessary to show a negative test result, but travelers will still be required to purchase medical insurance to complete an online epidemiological form. It's not necessary to quarantine. Costa Rica's Immigration officials have the authority to determine the length of any visitor's stay as it corresponds to the coverage dates of their insurance policy. Visitors will also be required to fill out the Health Pass online within 48 hours of arriving in Costa Rica.

Ecuador Continues On Alert For Coronavirus
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Ecuador

Commercial flights to Ecuador have resumed and the country is open for all foreign tourists, but travelers over 18 years old will need to provide a negative test taken within 10 days of arriving. Quarantines will not be enforced unless the traveler is showing symptoms. If you can't provide a test before your trip, you'll be required to take one at your own expense upon arrival and quarantine until the result comes back.

The Ecuadorian government has stricter regulations in place for anyone wishing to visit the Galapagos Islands. If traveling to the Galapagos, you must be tested within 96 hours of arriving. This can be the same test you take to enter Ecuador, as long as your total travel time fits into the 96-hour window. There is no requirement to quarantine once you get to the islands.

Guatemala

The Guatemalan "State of Calamity" officially ended on September 30, which means businesses and public spaces are allowed to reopen with social distancing measures in place. La Aurora International Airport reopened for international flights on September 18 and all foreign nationals, including U.S. citizens, will be allowed to enter the country without needing to quarantine so long as they show a negative test taken within 72 hours before their arrival.

Honduras

International flights resumed on August 17, but Honduras is still under strict lockdown and has imposed a curfew that requires all citizens to stay home until November 1. Until then, essential activities will be limited and controlled according to the last digit on each person's national identity card or foreign passport. U.S. citizens are allowed to enter Honduras, but they will need to show a negative test and will be required to quarantine for 14 days if they are showing symptoms.

Nicaragua

The Nicaraguan government does not have any travel restrictions in place and most airlines have resumed service. U.S. citizens are allowed to enter Nicaragua if they can show a negative test result and do not need to quarantine if they are not showing symptoms. Traveling to Nicaragua is not recommended due to the widespread criticism about its response to the coronavirus. The government has denied that the pandemic has affected the country greatly despite the increasing number of noticeably quick and secretive burials of recently deceased people. There is still a dispute within the country about what the real death count and scope of the virus is.

Panama

Panama reopened for tourism on October 12 and U.S. citizens are allowed to enter without needing to quarantine as long as they can show a negative result from a test that was taken within 48 hours of their flight to Panama. If you can't take a test before you fly, you'll be required to take one at the airport and will be required to quarantine at a hotel if you test positive. After seven days of quarantine, you'll be tested again and allowed to leave if you test negative. Travelers will also need to sign an affidavit ensuring they are in good health. Although the country has reopened, strict lockdown measures and curfews are still in place with violators risking fines and possibly detention. Beaches will only be open for groups of seven or fewer from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and masks must be worn at all times.

Peru

Peru has expanded quarantine measures to include a nightly curfew and to ban all social gatherings including those held within the home. Peruvian airports have reopened for international travel between Peru and the U.S. and American travelers over the age of 12 will need to show a negative test taken within 72 hours of their flight. They must also sign an affidavit of health but are not required to quarantine. However, all travelers must abide by nationwide curfews and movement restrictions.

Uruguay

Uruguay's borders are officially closed and commercial flights have been suspended. According to a recent announcement by the Tourism Minister, it is unlikely to reopen soon. However, exceptions are being made for some travelers in the case of family reunification or humanitarian efforts. Authorization should be requested through the online application system.

Approved travelers will still need to provide a negative test result taken within 72 hours of their flight, show proof of medical insurance to cover COVID-19, and sign an affidavit stating they've had no symptoms in the past 14 days. Any person staying for longer than seven days will also be required to self-quarantine for 14 days or until they can produce a second negative test, which should be taken on the seventh day of their isolation.

Venezuela

Limited flights between Venezuela and Mexico, Panama, the Dominican Republic, and other countries resumed in November, but the land border with Colombia is still closed. Americans are allowed to enter but are required to be tested within 48 hours of arrival and quarantine at the discretion of Venezuelan health officials. Reports say that many Venezuelan patients and doctors are avoiding being tested for the virus, due to the inhumane conditions of the government's mandatory quarantine facilities.

Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Embassy in Argentina. "COVID-19 Information." December 3, 2020.

  2. U.S. Embassy in Belize. "COVID-19 Information." November 6, 2020.

  3. Belize Tourism Board. “COVID-19 Update for Travellers.” November 28, 2020.

  4. U.S. Embassy in Bolivia. "COVID-19 Information." November 30, 2020.

  5. U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Brazil. "COVID-19 Information." November 16, 2020.

  6. U.S. Embassy in Chile. “COVID-19 Information.” December 2, 2020.

  7. U.S. Embassy in Colombia. "COVID-19 Information." November 27, 2020.

  8. U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica. "COVID-19 Information." November 19, 2020.

  9. U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Ecuador. "COVID-19 and Travel Information." October 19, 2020.

  10. U.S. Embassy in Guatemala. "Health Alert – Update on the End of State of Calamity, Revised COVID-19 Testing Requirements For Entry." September 30, 2020.

  11. U.S. Embassy in Guatemala. "COVID-19 Information." October 5, 2020.

  12. U.S. Embassy in Honduras. "COVID-19 Information." November 9, 2020.

  13. U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua. "COVID-19 Information." December 1, 2020

  14. U.S. Embassy in Panama. "COVID-19 Panama Information." December 2, 2020.

  15. U.S. Embassy in Peru. "COVID-19 Information." November 30, 2020.

  16. U.S. Embassy in Uruguay. “COVID-19 Information. December 2, 2020.

  17. U.S. Virtual Embassy, Venezuela. "COVID-19 Information." November 4, 2020.

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