USVI drops testing requirements for vaccinated US travelers
The U.S. Virgin Islands last week joined the wave of countries and territories relaxing COVID-19 protocols. As of March 7, vaccinated travelers from the U.S. no longer need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the territory. Unvaccinated travelers and those coming from other countries still must provide a negative test result.
It's a move that will make it even easier for U.S. travelers to visit and vacation in a popular Caribbean destination. The USVI, which is a U.S. territory but sets its own COVID-19 protocols, includes St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.
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USVI Governor Albert Bryan announced the changes to the country’s protocol at a briefing, calling the updated protocols a “giant step forward.”
Restrictions still remain. On top of the testing requirements for unvaccinated travelers, the USVI still requires all travelers to complete its travel screening protocol. Additionally mask requirements remain in place on public transit and in indoor spaces, although the USVI did end its mask mandate for open air areas.
Like many tourism destinations, the pandemic has been tumultuous for the USVI. During the spring and summer of 2020, the territory closed to leisure travelers multiple times, before welcoming visitors back with stringent protocols.
USVI government officials made the decision to loosen the restrictions after seeing a drop in the number of new COVID-19 case.
“We have come a long way in the last two years,” Bryan said last month when announcing the changes. “Because of our collective efforts, we are here now taking this step forward to normal.”
Related: Aruba loosens testing requirements
Arriving in the USVI
In order to travel to the USVI, all domestic travelers (including those coming from the U.S. mainland) age 5 and older must enter the Travel Screening Portal. For international travelers, those age 2 and older must enter the portal. Each person age 18 and older in a travel party must complete their own application.
The portal takes you to a page where you enter personal information, details on travel plans, and it gives you a COVID-19 symptoms questionnaire. Then, travelers must select whether they are vaccinated and will be providing proof, or unvaccinated with plans to provide proof of a negative test.nThere is a space in the portal to upload vaccine (or wavier) proof.
Related: How to show proof of vaccination
Like most vaccination requirements, the USVI considers you fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving the second of two shots in a two-dose vaccine regimen (including Pfizer and Moderna) and one dose of a single-shot regimen (including Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca).
When it comes to testing requirements, the USVI accepts both antigen and PCR tests. TPG recommends taking a close look at the health agency’s most up-to-date testing requirements for protocols and acceptable tests, shortly before your trip.
Unvaccinated domestic (including U.S.) travelers must submit a negative test result within five days of travel to the USVI.
How to get there & where to stay
Plenty of major carriers fly to the U.S. Virgin Islands, including American, Delta, United, Frontier, JetBlue and Spirit.
For a hypothetical vacation in early June, I found a round trip on JetBlue for $297, with nonstop service to St. Thomas.
Departing from Miami, I found Spirit Airlines offering a round trip for $158 in late August.
Related: Air travel rising again as new cases drop
Looking to get there even sooner? Frontier has a round-trip flight to St. Thomas priced at $123 next month out of Atlanta. Just be sure to check the fees in advance so you get a sense for the full price of your itinerary.
When it comes to booking a place to stay, Keisha Nelson, from the tourism department, previously told TPG the USVI “offers a variety of accommodation options based on travelers’ preferences and budget.”
Marriott Bonvoy operates several properties, including the Ritz Carlton on St. Thomas and a Westin at St. John. There’s also an Autograph Collection hotel expected to open later this year. These could be good options for travelers looking to redeem points for their stays.
The islands include boutique hotels, and numerous other options: a quick search for a trip in mid-April to go with that Frontier flight shows a $177 nightly rate at the Lindbergh Bay Hotel and Villas, according to Hotels.com.
Restrictions still remain in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but there’s no doubt the requirements are beginning to loosen as COVID cases decline. Be sure to check with the USVI Department of Tourism before your trip to make sure you are up to speed on the latest health protocols.