If you have thought about traveling to the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) during the COVID-19 pandemic, you have come to the right place. We visited the USVI for a week in mid-December, staying on St. Thomas and doing a couple day trips to St. John. While the experience was definitely different than we have had in the past with masks and sanitizer replacing the tourists, we felt safe enough that thoughts of returning as soon as possible dominated our return trip to the States.
Still, not everyone is comfortable with traveling during a pandemic. I hope by the end of this article, however, that you feel more knowledgeable about the whole experience and can put yourself in a better position to make travel decisions for yourself and/or the ones you love.
Pre-arrival is where you will see the most notable difference from the past simply because none of this was required pre-COVID. When we went in mid-December, a negative COVID-19 test was still required. Results of the tests (either molecular/pcr or rapid/antigen) had to be submitted through the USVI’s online travel portal. The portal also required that certain personal, health and travel information be registered as well.
It took less than two minutes to fill out each person’s information online and submit the form. It could not have been easier. I had to do separate submissions because of the timing of testing results on our end but in both cases, the response from the travel portal took less than 24 hours. Note that if you are traveling within 24 hours, you will need to print the form, fill it out manually and bring it with you along with your test results.
Once we received approval from the travel portal, we had to print the approval email and bring it, along with a hard copy of our test results, with us to present to the authorities in the USVI.
At the Airport Stateside and on the Plane
We flew out of O’Hare via American Airlines and had to present our negative test results to the ticket agent. I do not know what she would have done if we did not have them. When we boarded the plane, the flight crew handed us a zip lock bag that had cookies, water and wipes in it. Everything looked and smelled like it had just been wiped down with sanitizer. Everyone wore a mask.
We had to wear masks in the shuttle, in the airport and the entire flight. Make sure to bring comfortable ones as you’ll be wearing them a lot.
When we arrived at the St. Thomas airport, there was what we referred to as the “COVID” line. It was essentially the arrival line but now someone was taking our temperature and collecting the forms. When we arrived, the person checking forms just wanted the confirmation email from the USVI’s travel portal and told us to keep our test results. He quickly perused them to make sure they were all negative for each person in our party.
The line was starting to loop around but it moved fast, especially if you had the correct paperwork. Arrive with the incorrect or insufficient paperwork and the wait will be longer.
Masks were required in every public building in the US Virgin Islands from restaurants to grocery stores to retail shops. In restaurants and bars, we could take them off once we were seated. Most businesses were allowed 50% capacity and a maximum of six people could sit at one table.
On boats, masks also had to be worn. The only exception was if every guest on the boat was from the same family. This included the ferry to St. John.
Mask wearing while walking on sidewalks and streets was about 50/50. They were not required on the beaches or in your private accommodations.
Sanitization products were everywhere so there were ample opportunities to keep our hands clean. The staff at businesses seemed to be constantly spraying and wiping surfaces.
The beaches were not nearly as busy as the last time we were here during the same time of the year back in 2016. This left plenty of room for social distancing and to spread out. While fighting for beach space was a common practice on our previous trip, that was the least of our worries on this one.
Reception from the locals could not have been better. Everyone we encountered was glad to see us and could not have been more pleasant in their interactions with us. This is a point I can’t overemphasize. If you are worried about the reaction of locals towards outsiders visiting their island, don’t fret it. They will welcome you back with open arms – from a distance of six feet, of course. 🙂
Traveling to the US Virgin Islands during the COVID-19 pandemic might not be for everyone. For our family, though, it was the right decision and one we have no regrets about. The USVI government is trying the best they can to keep their citizens safe while still reopening tourism in as prudent a manner as possible. From my standpoint, they have done an excellent job finding that middle ground.
To stay informed of the most up to date travel requirements, be sure and check out the USVI Travel Portal as well at their tourism office. As always, you are free to email me at info (at) beachbarbums (dot) com or leave a comment below with any questions or comments.
Here’s to traveling safe always!
This article is intended for informational purposes only. Consult with health officials, government authorities and medical professionals to determine if traveling anywhere is safe for you.