How to plan a Philippines vacation with covid travel restrictions

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The Philippines has started welcoming fully vaccinated international travelers from approved countries in February. On April 1, the archipelago will reopen to fully vaccinated travelers from all countries.

While there is covid-specific entry requirements to get to the Philippines, Lucas felt the end result was worth the extra effort and he encourages other travelers to visit. “Definitely go for it,” he says.

To prepare for your own trip, By The Way has collected tips from recent visitors and travel experts on how to navigate a pandemic trip to the Philippines.

Know basic travel requirements

Fully immunized travelers must provide proof of immunization (your CDC white card will do) as well as a negative RT-PCR result from a test performed within 48 hours of departure for the Philippines. This period excludes stopovers as long as travelers remain at airports.

Children under 12 are exempt from the vaccination requirement if traveling with a fully vaccinated parent.

Visitors who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or whose vaccination status cannot be confirmed must also provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of their flight to the Philippines, in addition to other quarantine requirements.

All travelers must register with the A Health Pass (OHP), apply for Electronic health declaration card (e-HDC) and show they have travel insurance that includes covid-19 treatment with a minimum coverage of $35,000. Lucas used the square mouth platform to find the travel insurance he needed to meet entry requirements to the Philippines.

Once you have arrived, there may also be specific domestic travel restrictions depending on the destination. Check if you need an additional coronavirus test before travel within the country.

Keep track of travel restrictions online

As with all travel during the pandemic, it is essential to monitor travel restriction updates before your trip.

“It changes all the time,” says Pow Belgado, who traveled to the Philippines in March to see family in Manila and Batangas. She turned to Facebook page of the Philippines Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF). “They’re very up-to-date,” she says, adding that the page makes understanding travel restrictions more manageable with easy-to-read graphics.

Belgado also recommends checking the news via the Philippine Embassy and contact its staff in case of confusion. “I had a question and they emailed me back on a Sunday,” she says. “I was quite surprised.”

Hans Van Der Sande, treasurer of the Okada Manila casino and resort, relied on updates from the Philippine Airlines website. His Covid-19 travel guide offers information for passengers traveling to, from and within the Philippines.

Anticipate fewer flight options

Daniel Robbins booked his flight to the Philippines as soon as he heard about the reopening plan. Because Robbins was so early, there weren’t great flight options to get from Los Angeles to Manila; airlines are still rise in power service to the country.

“[I got] as the only [flight] available before it starts to get very expensive,” he says. “I had to fly from California to Hawaii, Hawaii to Guam, Guam to Manila. It took forever.

While planning his two-and-a-half-week trip to Manila and Cebu, Norman Villaroman, a native of the Philippines and founder of the family travel blog Go to places with children – also noticed that tickets were more expensive than before the pandemic.

As demand increases for flights to the Philippines, ticket costs are expected to drop and options are expected to increase. Villaroman says travelers should ensure the flight is flexible in case they need to cancel or reschedule based on the results of a coronavirus test.

How to prepare for your travel day

Travelers will need to present their essential documents – such as proof of vaccination and the OHP QR code – at their departure airport when checking in for their flight, again before boarding and upon landing in the Philippines. They will also be asked to present their travel insurance and test results before departure.

“They check every step of the way,” Lucas says, noting he was surprised at how well they reviewed his travel insurance policy.

Robbins arrived at the airport much earlier than usual, giving himself four hours in case anything went wrong. Before leaving home, he made sure he had several copies of each document required for his trip. “I didn’t want to rely on them just on my phone,” he says.

What happens when you land

Visitors will be required to present their essential travel documents upon arrival in the Philippines. The process is smooth, Belgado says, but she recommends sitting as close to the front of the plane as possible so you can be one of the first at the counters to review your documents.

Once you’ve cleared immigration and coronavirus procedures at the airport, you’re free to leave and begin your adventure. Just be sure to keep track of your vaccination card throughout your trip – most hotels require guests to provide proof of vaccination to enter and check-in.

“Having your vaccination card is almost as important as your passport,” says Van Der Sande.

Otherwise, there aren’t many restrictions limiting a traveler’s experience in the Philippines. Bars and restaurants are open, but their capacity may be limited. Belgado says she went to the beach, malls and casinos, and “it was normal.”

Robbins appreciated the reduced capacity on his snorkeling excursion. Although that meant customers had to wait a bit longer for their turn to board a boat, people weren’t crowded like they would be before the pandemic.

Plan your coronavirus tests to go home

As a reminder, anyone coming to the United States must take an approved test within a day of their flight.

Belgado says people staying in Manila should have no problem finding and arranging for a coronavirus test, but if you’re staying in a smaller or more remote destination, plan your test more carefully. While in Batangas, she did not realize that the testing lab had to send her sample to another facility. Obtaining the results therefore took much longer than expected. She had to splurge on a second test to make sure she could get the results in time.

When scheduling your own tests, Belgado says, ask the lab how long it will take them to process a test within your travel window.

To reduce the stress of finding a test locally, Villaroman has prepared an approved home test for US travel restrictions. If you go this route, note that the tests must be approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and be supported by a video call with real-time supervision from a telehealth service. Some options include Qured antigen self-tests and The BinaxNOW Kit (not the over-the-counter version found in pharmacies; you must order the Ag Card COVID-19 home test online and ensure it includes video call support). Detect coronavirus test uses the same technology as a PCR lab test and provides results in about an hour.

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