Top 6 Things You Should Know about Travel
Do your part to stop the spread by taking everyday steps to keep yourself and others safe and healthy. Keep at least 6 feet apart between yourself and others. Wear a mask in public places. Wash your hands often, stay home if you are sick, and disinfect high-touch surfaces. These all are very important ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Check out VDH's Prevention Tips to learn more.
Travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. We don’t know if one type of travel is safer than others. Air travel often requires spending time in security lines and busy airport terminals. Travel by bus, train, and other conveyances poses similar challenges. People may not be able to distance themselves at least 6 feet from individuals seated nearby or those standing in or passing through the aisles on airplanes, trains, or buses. If you do decide to travel, consider various risks for getting or spreading COVID-19, depending on how you travel.
Travel-Related Requirements in Virginia
As of January 15, 2021:
- Consistent with CDC guidance, Virginia currently does not have any quarantine requirements for people arriving in the Commonwealth from other U.S. or international locations.
- In Virginia, wearing a mask is required for any person 5 years or older while indoors (except when in their own home) and while outdoors when unable to maintain at least six feet of physical distance from other individuals who do not live with you (per Executive Order 72). Individuals may remove masks to participate in a religious ritual.
- Effective December 28, 2020, the United States requires all air passengers arriving to the United States from the United Kingdom to get tested no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to provide proof of the negative result to the airline before boarding the flight. Effective January 26, 2021, the United States requires all air passengers arriving from a foreign country to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen test) conducted within the 3 days before departure. People who have had a positive viral test in the past 3 months and who met the criteria to end isolation may travel with documentation of the positive viral test result and a letter from their healthcare provider or a public health official that states they have been cleared for travel.
- The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) recommends that all people get tested before and after travel and stay home or reduce non-essential activities for at least 7 days after travel. Learn more below.
The safest thing to do is to stay home. If you must travel, it is important to do it as safely as possible. You can spread COVID-19 to others in busy travel environments like in airports, and bus and train stations. You can also spread it to family, friends, and your community after travel.
- Before travel, check for travel restrictions for areas along your route and your final destination, in case there are travel restrictions, stay-at-home orders or quarantine requirements upon arrival, state border closures, or other requirements. Plan to keep checking for updates as you travel.
- Effective December 28, 2020, the United States requires air passengers arriving to the United States from the United Kingdom to get tested no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to provide proof of the negative result to the airline before boarding the flight. Effective January 26, 2021, the United States requires all air passengers arriving from a foreign country to have proof of a negative COVID-19 viral test (e.g., PCR or antigen test), within the 3 days before departure. Getting tested with a viral test (e.g., PCR or antigen test) is recommended before traveling internationally by other travel modes and can be considered before traveling in the United States. The best time to get tested is 1-3 days before travel. Testing does not eliminate all risk, but it can help make travel safer.
- Check if your airline requires any health information, testing, or other documents. Some destinations or layover locations might require testing before travel and/or after arrival.
- Information about testing requirements for your destination may be available from the Office of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Health, or the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Country Information webpage.
- Regardless of the travel destination, it is essential to stay at least 6 feet from others, wear a mask, and wash hands frequently with soap and water.
During your travel, you might be exposed to COVID-19. You might not have any symptoms, but you can be contagious and spread the virus to others. You and your travel companions (including children) pose a risk to your family, friends, and community for 14 days after you were exposed to the virus. If you know that you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, postpone further travel. Regardless of where you traveled or what you did during your trip, take the actions listed below to protect others from getting sick after you return. If you engaged in higher risk activities during your travel, then it is even more important to take precautions for the 14 days after your travel.
After your travel, take special precautions and monitor your health for 14 days.
- After traveling internationally, VDH recommends that you get tested with a viral test (e.g., PCR or antigen test) 3-5 days after travel and stay home for 7 days. Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days. If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 10 days after travel.
- After traveling in the United States, VDH recommends that you consider getting tested with a viral test (e.g., PCR or antigen test) 3-5 days after travel and reduce non-essential activities for a full 7 days, even if you test negative. If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to reduce non-essential activities for 10 days after travel.
- If you test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected and follow public health recommendations. Do not travel until it is safe for you to be around others; this includes your return trip home.
- For 14 days after any kind of travel, it is especially important to wear a mask when around others who did not travel with you, stay at least 6 feet from others, wash hands often, and avoid being around others who are at increased risk of severe COVID-19.
If you start to feel sick before, during, or after travel, isolate yourself at home.
The most common signs or symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other common symptoms include chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell. Not everyone with COVID-19 will have all symptoms and fever might not be present. If you have symptoms, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected and contact your healthcare provider. COVID-19 testing may be available at your healthcare provider’s office, urgent care center, pharmacy, or other healthcare clinic. Some testing sites in Virginia are offering community testing events, such as drive-thru testing. To find testing sites in your area, visit the website Virginia COVID-19 Testing Sites. Learn more about what to do if you feel sick.
Summary of Recommendations for Before, During, and After Travel
Here are examples of situations that can increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19:
- Travel from a country or U.S. territory with a Level 2, Level 3, or Level 4 Travel Health Notice.
- Being in an area that is experiencing high levels of COVID-19 spread. You can check the levels for places you traveled, including countries as well as U.S. states, territories, counties, and cities.
- Going to a large social gathering like a wedding, funeral, or party.
- Attending a mass gathering like a sporting event, concert, or parade.
- Being in crowds — for example, in restaurants, bars, airports, bus or train stations, or movie theaters.
- Traveling on a cruise ship or river boat.
Holiday travel can be risky because more people are traveling and getting together to celebrate. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you are considering travel for an upcoming holiday, see information from CDC about important considerations before deciding to travel and staying overnight for holidays and information from VDH about social gatherings and holiday celebrations.
For more information:
- Visit CDC’s website for additional travel considerations.
- Visit CDC’s Travel Planner for information on travel policies and restrictions of state, local, territorial, and tribal communities and destinations.
- Read VDH's FAQs for International Travelers and U.S. Travelers
- Call VDH COVID-19 hotline at 877-ASK-VDH3 (877-275-8343)
Page Last Updated: January 15, 2021