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How to Avoid Having to Quarantine in the Caribbean

Traveling during COVID-19 can get complicated, quick. Every Caribbean country has their own way to defend themselves against the pandemic. Some choose travel bans, others find clever, more advanced methods.

Luckily, (most of) the Caribbean falls under the latter. Still, navigating an endless chain of restrictions, details, and conditions is confusing and tough.

Most of the Caribbean has almost no COVID. In fact, some islands have 0 active cases. Following their testing requirements, you can help keep it that way. And you’ll pass all of your time outdoors, minimizing any risk for yourself or others.

Spending a couple weeks there should feel like taking a time machine back to 2019 – remember what life was like pre-COVID?

Here is a detailed plan to travel to the Caribbean, minimize the risk to yourself and others, and avoid time stuck quarantining (as much as possible). Note that this is a general guideline, just to help you get some ideas!

Related: What is the risk of catching COVID-19 while flying?

In This Article:

First Stop: Barbados – Short Quarantine

Update: read about how quarantine times in Barbados have increased to 7-10 days. As a result, I currently recommend skipping Barbados and heading to the next step.

How to Get to Barbados

Barbados currently has some of the best service in the Caribbean, with weekly flights from Frankfurt, daily flights from London and Toronto, and service from Atlanta, Manchester, Montreal, Miami, and New York.

Though Barbados has seen a recent spike in cases due to a boxing day bus crawl, their numbers remains far lower than most of the world. In fact, the CDC reports Barbados as only Level 2: Moderate Risk. For reference, 95% of the world is classified as Level 3 or higher.

Barbados Travel Requirements

Since summer, Barbados has initiated a clever system to let tourists in while keeping COVID-19 out.

Requirements before entering Barbados include:

  • Negative PCR-test results from a test taken within 72 hours of arrival (oropharyngeal or nasopharyngeal, only, at-home test kits not approved).
  • Filling out this form 24 hours prior to travel.

Don’t think you can get your results in time? Here are airport testing centers that provide PCR test results within 72 hours.

The Barbadian travel website has this handy chart showing when to get tested.

Quarantine in Barbados: 2 to 3 Days

5 days after your first accepted negative test (but no earlier than 48 hours after arrival), you will be tested a second time in Barbados. This means, unlike most islands where you’re tested 5 days after arrival, you can get tested of day 2 and only have to quarantine 2 or 3 days.

Once you receive a negative result (typically 24 hours later), you’re free! You can move around the island, but you will be monitored for the remainder of your first 7 days. 7 days is probably enough to get a good taste of Barbados (and some Mount Gay rum!)

Just don’t try and run away if you get a positive result. Trust me, it’s not pretty.

Second Stop: British Virgin Islands – Quarantine on Yacht

How to Get to the BVI

Next, you can take a direct flight on LIAT from Barbados to Tortola, British Virgin Islands. LIAT, one of the largest airlines in the Caribbean, runs this flight once every week on Thursdays.

You can also fly to the BVI from St. Thomas (USVI), San Juan (PR), Santo Domingo, Antigua, St. Maarten, and St. Kitts. You’ll fly on LIAT, InterCaribbean, Winair, and Silver. Many of these don’t list their flights on services such as CheapOAir, so you’ll have to search directly on their websites.

In normal times, flying to St. Thomas and taking a ferry to the BVI is the norm, but the ferry is currently not operating (due to BVI restrictions).

BVI Travel Requirements

The BVI travel requirements include:

  • A negative PCR-test result within five days of arrival for all travelers.
    • You can use the results from the second test (day 2) in Barbados.
  • Downloading an approved app at bvigateway.bviaa.com and uploading your negative PCR pre-flight test result. Within 24-36 hours, you will issued a Travel Certificate you need to enter the country.

Quarantine in the BVI: 4 to 5 days (On a Yacht or in a Villa)

You can quarantine for 4 days either in an approved villa, or on a yacht! On our travels (following this plan), we chose the yacht.

Most charter companies in the BVI are offering a (very rare) special deal: the first 4 nights of your charter are FREE! This potentially means saving thousands of dollars. We feel this is worth the 4-day quarantine.

Approved anchorages in the British Virgin Islands are plenty!
The approved anchorages you can visit during your first 4 days quarantining in this gem of the Caribbean!

While on the yacht, you are allowed to sail to approved anchorages – provided you remain within 30 feet of the yacht at all times. The government actually provides tracking bracelets to enforce this.

  • On Day 5, a negative result from the test taken on Day 4, enables you to sail and explore the islands freely, while remaining respectful of the social distancing and mask protocols, designed to keep everyone safe and the BVI as close to their current “COVID – Free” status as possible.
  • The BVI traveler app and the two mandatory tests cost a total of $175 per person.

During the first 4 days, you can visit some incredible snorkeling sights – including most of the anchorages you would normally want to see, including The Baths – one of the coolest places in the Caribbean.

The best treasures of the Caribbean
The Baths, Virgin Gorda. You can actually bathe and explore between (and under) these massive boulders.

If this is what you call a “quarantine”, you can sign me up anyday.

We plan to spend about two weeks here, soaking in the sea and the sun, harnessing the power of the wind on our 34-ft monohaul. Talk about being one with nature!

Third Stop: Antigua – No Quarantine

How to Get to Antigua

You can fly from Tortola, BVI to Antigua on either LIAT or InterCaribbean Airlines, 3 days a week.

Flights are available from St. Maarten (on Winair), London, Barbados, Anguilla (Air Sunshine), Miami, New York, Grenada, and Providenciales.

See the Caribbean without needing to quarantine!
A tourist enjoys the sunset on Eden Beach, Antigua.

Antigua Travel Requirements

Requirements for Antigua include:

  • A negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 using a nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swab taken within seven (7) days of your flight
  • Up to a 14-day quarantine

Quarantine in Antigua: None From the Travel Bubble, Up to 14 Days Otherwise

Antigua has adopted the “travel bubble” concept: if you’ve been in the Caribbean travel bubble (see the list of countries here) for at least 14 days, you won’t need to quarantine. Makes sense, since the many of the Caribbean islands have nearly no cases of COVID-19.

By this point, you’ll have been in the Caribbean for almost three weeks. Lucky you! Enjoy some of the best beaches in the Caribbean without having to quarantine.

If you haven’t been in the Caribbean for two weeks, there is a 14-day quarantine. Luckily, Antigua offers a “bubble” (are you tired of that word yet?) concept: you can still go to the beach, participate in excursions, visit some smaller islands, and dine at some fine restaurants.

Fourth Stop: Dominica – No Quarantine

How to Get to Dominica

The smaller (and better situated) airport of Roseau is not operating during COVID-19. You can only fly to Douglas-Charles Airport in the north.

There are nearly daily flights between Antigua and Dominica on LIAT and InterCaribbean Airlines.

Other options include flights from the BVI, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, San Juan on a variety of airlines including LIAT, InterCaribbean, Air Antilles, Air Sunshine, Winair, and Silver.

Dominica Travel Requirements

For low-risk countries, Dominica requires:

  • Submitting a health questionnaire at least 24 hours prior to arrival and getting approval to fly
  • Uploading a negative PCR test result (test taken in the last 72 hours)

Quarantine in Dominica: Usually 5 to 7 Days, None from “Low-Risk” Countries

Dominica doesn’t require a quarantine if you’re coming from “low risk” countries, with a notable difference – they require you to have been in them for 21 days!

That’s why you should head back south to Dominica after spending two weeks in the BVI and one week in Antigua (or other “low-risk” countries).

Avoid quarantine in Dominica by staying in the travel bubble.
Calibishie, in Dominica, one of the greenest islands in the Caribbean. We can’t wait to see this for ourselves.

If you’re not able to spend 3 weeks in the Caribbean before heading to Dominica, don’t fret. You won’t be chained to your room the whole time (5 to 7 nights).

Dominica has a well-designed “safe in nature” system that allows an ample number of approved tour companies to operate under an abundance of safety measures. Even during your quarantine period, you will be able to arrange some awesome tours all around the island.

Fifth Stop: St. Vincent & The Grenadines – Shortened Quarantine

How to Get to St. Vincent and the Grenadines

LIAT flies direct to St. Vincent from Dominica every Thursday.

From outside the Caribbean, you can also fly from Miami. From the Caribbean, you can fly from Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Canouan, and St. Maarten. Airlines flying here include American, Winair, InterCaribbean, Caribbean Airlines, and SVGair.

St. Vincent Travel Requirements

Requirements to enter St. Lucia:

Great Caribbean sailing with minimal quarantine!
Petit St. Vincent, one of the many great anchorages you can visit while sailing the islands. Check out those reefs!

Quarantine in St. Vincent and the Grenadines: 5 to 10 Days (Depending on “Risk” Level)

The time you have to quarantine depends on the risk level of the countries you’ve visited during the last 21 days:

  • Mandatory 10-day quarantine (high-risk) vs 5-day quarantine (medium-risk) vs none (low-risk)
  • Retesting between day 4 and 7 (high-risk), or on day 4 (medium-risk)

I recommend heading to St. Vincent before going to St. Lucia because St. Lucia is on SVG’s “high-risk” list – meaning 10 days of quarantine.

Since the BVI and Antigua are classed as “medium-risk” countries, you’ll only have to quarantine 5 days (instead of the 10) with a PCR test on day 4. After testing negative, you should be cleared to visit the country (and its many islands!) freely.

There’s a method to my madness (and order of choosing these islands) – it’s not just random! With such great variance in the list of “high-risk” countries, this order of islands minimizes your time stuck in a hotel room.

How to Get Around St. Vincent and the Grenadines

There’s a ferry that runs between the islands – at $14-$17 per leg, it’s a lot cheaper than chartering a boat.

You can visit Canouan, Mayreau, and Union Island by ferry. Or maybe you can charter a sailboat and do it the fun, expensive, long way.

If you’re clever, you can connect onto the Osprey ferry in Carriacou and make it down to Grenada. I wouldn’t recommend it now; you need a minimum 7-day reservation and 4-day quarantine, regardless of where you’ve been (or not) in the last 21 days.

Sixth Stop: St. Lucia – No Quarantine

How to Get to St. Lucia

You can fly direct from St. Vincent to St. Lucia on LIAT, Fridays and Sundays.

From outside the Caribbean, you can get to St. Lucia from Atlanta, New York, London, and Miami. From the Caribbean, you can fly from St. Croix, St Kitts (Air Sunshine), Barbados, Dominica (InterCaribbean), and Guadeloupe (Air Antilles).

St. Lucia Travel Requirements

From bubble countries, the requirements are:

  • Negative result from a PCR test taken no more than 7 days before arrival in Saint Lucia.
  • A Travel Registration form (online – 7 days before travel, print and travel with a copy of the auto-response email)
  • A Health Screening Form (download, print and travel with the completed form) 
Some of the most beautiful sights in the Caribbean.
St. Lucia features the incredible Gros Piton, huge waterfalls, incredible beaches, and the occasional active volcano.

If you haven’t been in the “travel bubble” for 21 days, you must also have:

  • Verified reservations at a COVID-19 certified property, -or-
  • Verified arrangements in place to join a boat

Quarantine in St. Lucia: None from the Travel Bubble, Otherwise 14 Days

St. Lucia comes last on this list, not because of anything about the island – it’s because if you don’t want to quarantine, you have to come from a very specific “travel bubble” – one that doesn’t include the BVI.

Every “bubble” is different – just like snowflakes! Here are the specific islands included in St. Lucia’s “bubble”.

Hotel guests who have not arrived in Saint Lucia as Bubble Travelers are required to remain on property for the duration of their stay except to transfer to another COVID-19 certified property, or to participate in certified activities, tours and excursions.

After 14 days, you may roam the island freely .

This is similar to the system in Dominica, allowing you to still get a feel for this magnificent Caribbean island, even during your quarantine.

Are You Broke Yet?

If you’ve made it this far, good on you. If you want to keep going without needing to quarantine, here are some suggestions:

  • Take a ferry or fly to Martinique on Air Antilles – no quarantine (negative PCR required)
  • Fly to St. Martin on Air Antilles – no quarantine (negative PCR required)
  • Ferry to Dominica and fly to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands on Air Sunshine – no quarantine (negative PCR required)
  • Ferry to Dominica and fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico on Silver Airways – no quarantine
  • Fly to the Dominican Republic on InterCaribbean (connecting flights) – no quarantine

If you’re feeling adventurous, continue up to the Bahamas or Turks and Caicos – both aren’t requiring a quarantine (but are requiring negative COVID test results). You can also go to Jamaica and stay in the “resilient corridor”/tourist zone.

Other Destinations Around the World With Minimum Quarantine

If the Caribbean doesn’t suit your fancy (or is too far or too expensive), here are other places with low COVID-19 cases and minimal quarantine time.

Here are the best ways to travel safely and responsibly during this pandemic.

Keep Exploring the World

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