Ask RedWeek / March, 2021

Does being fully vaccinated exempt me from travel restrictions?

Once someone receives the COVID vaccine, does it affect their travel restrictions? Are the testing requirements for entering places like Hawaii, the mainland US, or Canada lifted or relaxed in any way post-vaccination?

As COVID travel restrictions have carried over into 2021, the coronavirus vaccine rollout is one of the more hopeful pieces of news we have received in the last year. With news surfacing about evolving travel restrictions and development of the largely speculated vaccine passport, the main question on many travelers' minds is:

"If I get the vaccine, does that mean I can forgo the current COVID restrictions at my point of destination?"

The short answer is no. At least not for a while. The reason being tri-fold:

  1. Although the vaccines have impressive efficacy, none of them are 100% effective, so it's still possible vaccinated individuals could become infected.
  2. We don't know yet from the clinical trials how long immunity lasts after the COVID vaccine is administered to an individual.
  3. We don't know yet from the clinical trials whether or not the vaccine only protects people from getting seriously infected or if it also protects against transmitting the virus to somebody else.
Therefore, most health experts recommend continuing with COVID precautions even after vaccination, and most locations are waiting for more information before loosening restrictions.

Although information is complex, contingent on varying factors, and continually evolving, here is what current travel restrictions look like, even for vaccinated travelers, in a few of our top destinations:

United States

According to the CDC, all air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States. No statements have been made regarding whether or not exceptions will be made for U.S. travelers who have received a COVID vaccination.

Even though reported cases have dropped off significantly since the beginning of the year, the U.S. is not out of the woods yet. And while the current COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective at preventing severe illness in the people who receive them, vaccinated people might still be able to transmit the coronavirus to others as asymptomatic carriers - the jury's still out on that at this early point in the rollout.

The CDC just issued an updated guideline, saying fully vaccinated people can start gathering indoors with other vaccinated people without masks or social distancing. However, they have yet to change any recommendations on travel. It is expected that many of the current restrictions will continue, at least until we reach herd immunity - which may require 70 - 90% of the population to be immune.

Several states are, however, loosening their travel restrictions. New York just announced fully-vaccinated domestic travelers won't need to quarantine or pre-test to visit the state. Vermont is also making this exception.


Currently, Canada suggests that all travelers get fully vaccinated for COVID-19, then wait 2 weeks after getting the second vaccine dose to travel - as it takes time for the body to build protection after any vaccination. No statements have been made regarding whether or not exceptions will be made for Canada travelers who have received a COVID vaccination.

It is still a requirement to get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip. As per the latest update, Canada also requires mandatory hotel quarantines for returning travelers, and has suspended flights to Mexico and the Caribbean.

Free vaccines will be available over the course of 2021 to everyone who lives in Canada.


Although obviously a part of the U.S., Hawaii has its own set of COVID regulations as they try to manage the case count coming into the islands. Currently, there is a 10-day quarantine restriction for all in-bound visitors to the the islands who don't use the pre-testing option. So far, no exceptions are being made for Hawaii travelers who have received a COVID vaccination.

There is a pre-travel testing option that will allow travelers (to all but Kauai until April 5) an alternative, allowing them to bypass Hawaii's quarantine restrictions, as long as they bring along proof of a negative COVID-19 test from a state-approved trusted testing partner. All travelers must have their negative test results prior to departure to avoid the 10-day mandatory quarantine.


According to AARP, as of January, a new app called CommonPass, developed by the nonprofit Commons Project and the World Economic Forum, was launched by JetBlue on flights to Aruba. The app enables passengers to take a COVID-19 test at home, send their test to a lab, and have their results uploaded to the CommonPass app. A QR code certifying that they're clear for entry will be scanned upon their arrival in Aruba. Other airlines, including Virgin Atlantic and United, are testing CommonPass as well.

Though the development and implementation of this new application will make it easier for travelers to submit their COVID test results, there have been no mentions of the app catering to those who have had the vaccine. As of this time, Aruba isn't making exceptions for travelers who have received a COVID vaccination.


Announced earlier this month, Europe is working on a "Digital Green Pass" to allow EU residents to travel around the continent more freely. They are, apparently, also working with the World Health Organisation to expand this to countries outside the EU. There are some ethical and logistical hurdles to be addressed, and it seems unlikely it will be in place before summer.

Are There Destinations That Do Offer Exceptions?

According to CNN Travel, there are a handful of international destinations who are, in fact, making special exceptions for travelers who have received the full COVID vaccination. They are as follows:

  • Cyprus: Late last year, Cyprus officials revealed plans to drop restrictions for vaccinated travelers.
  • Estonia: EU travelers arriving in Estonia who are fully vaccinated do not have to quarantine.
  • Georgia: The country, not the state: visitors who provide evidence they are fully vaccinated will be exempt from quarantine in Georgia.
  • Iceland: Starting in May, Iceland is ditching border restrictions for those who've had a full course of the COVID vaccine.
  • Poland: Poland has been allowing travelers to enter without going into quarantine since December 28.
  • Romania: Fully vaccinated visitors arriving in Romania can also avoid having to quarantine.
  • The Seychelles: Vaccinated travelers can visit the Seychelles without having to isolate, but they are still required to submit a negative PCR test.

Read more about the science and reasoning behind continuing with precautions even after vaccination via this interview from the World Health Organization.

Comments (2)

    Avatar for Shelley L.
    Shelley L.
    Mar 09, 2021 (edited)

    For people in Canada who have never had symptoms nor been sick of any flu , if they choose to not take vaccine can they still travel to their vacation spot in Florida where they own time shares ,in August 2021

    Avatar for Susan P.
    Susan P.
    Mar 13, 2021 (edited)

    The vaccine is free and you won’t have to wonder if you’ll be allowed to travel or not.