Can Americans travel to Mexico now? The short answer is: Yes, if you travel by Airplane. No, if you travel by Land (drive or walk through the border). In early July 2020, I traveled for 2 weeks throughout Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Here are my experiences traveling during the COVID Pandemic, what to expect, what is open/closed, how the locals are treating it, and tips for you as a traveler if you decide to go.
Media Outlets are unclear, as headlines say “US and Mexico have agreed to shut their borders until late July“. Most don’t specify details. But if you look at the US Embassy & Consulate of Mexico website, it specifies that Land Travel between US and Mexico is prohibited (with the exception of “Essential Travel”). Scroll down further and it does mention that Air Travel is exempt from these rules. They don’t give any further details about Air Travel as this is likely to not promote travel at all while letting those that really want to go: figure it out. So what do you do when you are unsure about traveling to a destination? Whether it’s local laws, politics, or media sensations making you hesitate? You ask the locals or tourism board! I contacted several friends from various states throughout Mexico and all said that air travel is allowed.
Things to Know and Tips on Traveling to Mexico during Covid
The riskiest part of traveling during Covid is the flight, as you are in an enclosed space. Once you arrive at the destination, you can easily social distance just as you would in your home town. Since you are wearing a mask on the flight (many wear the plastic face shield over the mask), you have reduced your chances of contracting viruses significantly.
Booking your Flight to Mexico
Most airlines are still offering free changes or flight credits if you cancel. I traveled to Puerto Vallarta from LAX, a 2.5 hour flight on July 6. It cost only $95 one way and it was as easy to travel as any other time. We flew American Airlines, who currently are not capping their passenger limits as other airlines are. Thankfully, our flight on AA was only about 30% full, so I had a whole aisle to myself. Cabin staff and passengers are all required to wear a mask. Delta, Southwest and Alaska are currently blocking out middle-seats with the exception of families traveling together.
Make Sure you Test Negative for Covid before Traveling!
As decency to the destination and people you are traveling to, make sure you test negative for COVID before arriving. You should schedule the test 3 days before, or however many days it’ll take to get the results by your travel date. Then minimize contact with others until your results and departure. Besides the worry of contracting COVID during your travels, it is crucial you do your best not to spread it. Tests are easy to come by now in the US, most insurance companies cover the test.
Getting through Customs & Immigration in Mexico
Once I arrived in Puerto Vallarta, we were the only flight that arrived at the time. Everyone in line (socially distanced, with markers on the airport floor) had their temperatures taken. Once I approached the customs officer, no questions were asked. I was stamped and approved to enter Mexico officially within 1 minute.
5 days later, I flew from Puerto Vallarta to Cancun on Aeromexico. This Mexican Airline took more precautions than AA did, as they:
- Checked each passenger’s temperature upon boarding
- Sprayed sanitizers throughout the plane before departing
- All Cabin Crew wore plastic face shields on top of their face mask
- Passengers were all required to wear masks
Rent a Car to Social Distance More!
We rented a car as it is not only much most cost-efficient, safe and convenient, it is also easier to social distance. The car rental for a Compact Kia cost only $40 for a whole week + $90 insurance ($130 total!). That is the same cost as a roundtrip cab just to and from the Cancun Airport to Tulum!
Hotel VS Airbnb?
There are pros and cons to staying at each. With an Airbnb, you have your own space within your group. You’ll have a kitchen where you can prepare meals in (reducing going out to restaurants all the time).
A hotel, on the other hand, you’ll interact with other people, and be in shared spaces such as the elevator and pool. Big brand Hotels though, I trust to clean the facilities to the best of their ability.
If this is your first time booking Airbnb, use my referral code to get $30 off your first booking here!
Restaurants, Businesses, Cab Drivers all wear Masks
I actually felt a lot safer walking around in public in Mexico than in the US. Almost everyone we encountered wore masks. Most of the people not wearing masks were American travelers and Expatriates. Restaurants, stores, hotels, businesses all wear masks inside, and you are required to as well when you enter. Most places will take your temperature, pump Hand Sanitizer into your hands as well as have you step onto a placemat with sanitizer before entering indoors.
If you are taking Ubers or Cabs, they all wear masks while driving. Personally, I always open the windows so there is fresh air circulating.
Consider Tipping 25%
Like everywhere in the world, the people of Mexico have really suffered financially during this crisis and lockdown. Businesses barely started to re-open mid-June of 2020. As usual, Mexicans and Latin culture in general are very hospitable people. They welcomed us in with open arms (pero no hugs now!) and treated us with courtesy. They are happy that visitors are coming back and are risking their lives to make income for their families again.
If you can afford to travel, or eat out at this time, do consider tipping your servers (including cab drivers, hotel staff) at least 25% +. Por Favor.
Are Restaurants and Hotels Open in Mexico?
Most who can afford to re-open, have re-opened. Prices of most hotels and accommodations have gone down significantly. Clubs and most Bars are not open. Most restaurants close by 11pm. As far as menus go, most restaurants ask you to scan a QR Code from your phone, which links to their menu.
Hotels and Airbnbs are doing their very best to sanitize their establishments for guests to have the safest experience.
So, is it Worth Traveling to Mexico, or Anywhere Now?
That is ultimately up to you of course. Staying at home and only seeing the people you live with would be your safest bet during this pandemic. But there are people (some who are judging us for traveling now), who are attending gatherings on a weekly basis with friends and family (without wearing masks). And those people they meet are also seeing other people. At that point, there is no difference if you are doing that. Or traveling abroad and social distancing there.
But who knows when and if a Covid19 (and future flu’s of this magnitude) will find a vaccine and cure in the next year. My 3 friends who joined on this trip are all frequent travelers. We felt our mental health decline as a result of being stuck at home for the past 4 months. And certainly, being able to travel now is of the ultimate privilege. But also remember, you are helping local communities who rely on tourism at this time. And from my understanding, the Mexican government did not help much with aid to those who couldn’t work for the past few months. The locals need tourism dollars.
What to Pack:
- Enough Masks for your Trip, especially if they are disposable
- Hand Sanitizer and Sanitizing Wipes
Previously, I also wrote about what it’s like to fly post-Covid-Lockdown about my experience traveling within the US: from Los Angeles to South Carolina. Laws and information will continually change in the upcoming weeks and months. For official information on if Americans can travel to Mexico now (and to specific states) during the COVID crisis, visit the U.S. Embassy & Consulates of Mexico website.