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Pandemic Travel Guidance


Travel poses an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions to international and domestic travel. Several government agencies have issued global warning levels advising against travel. We strongly encourage members of the Vanderbilt community to postpone all non-essential personal travel. For personal safety and the safety of others, anyone who chooses to travel should ensure they are in good health and practice good hygiene principles. Travelers should confirm itineraries, closely follow travel alerts and advisories related to their destination and place of return, and also be prepared for interruptions in travel logistics.

Vanderbilt has a team of personnel, including the Global Safety and Security Manager, Travel manager, and Vanderbilt Incident Response for Travel (VIRT) team, who are actively monitoring developments related to the outbreak of COVID-19, and will adjust guidance accordingly.

What to Expect When Traveling

Many countries and states in the U.S. have taken steps to prevent further spread of COVID-19. As governments grapple with the realities of COVID-19 and its impact on people and systems, travelers should expect any range of the following:

  • health screening measures, including health questionnaires, temperature screenings, having to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, full COVID-19 testing upon arrival, contact tracing etc.
  • visibly ill travelers or those displaying symptoms may be subject to further questioning, isolation, and COVID-19 testing.
  • mandatory 10 day quarantine at home or in a designated facility (private or government owned), most often at the traveler’s expense.
  • daily health monitoring and reporting to government officials by phone or through an app.
  • restricted entry due to a high number of cases at point of origin.

Please note this list is not comprehensive, but highlights some of the most common practices being implemented.

Air Travel

Effective December 6, 2021, an order from the CDC requires all air passengers arriving to the US from a foreign country to get tested no more than 1 day prior their arrival in the United States and to present the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight.

If you plan to travel internationally, you will need to get tested no more than 1 day before you travel by air into the United States (US) and show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight, or be prepared to show documentation of recovery (proof of a recent positive viral test and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).

Airports have tried to implement social distancing measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. Airports are closely monitoring queues, posting signage, and increasing physical barriers to separate passengers. Passengers are also encouraged to check-in online and many airports and airlines have mandated that travelers and staff use face masks. The changes in social distancing requirements and enhanced screening measures may lead to longer wait times.

Airlines have increased sanitation and distancing measures aboard flights, with many airlines leaving middle seats open, limiting food and beverage services, and requiring the use of face masks. However, please know that adoption and enforcement of these measures varies.

CDC testing guidance for international air travel

CDC airline checklist: COVID-19 testing or proof of recovery documentation for re-entry to U.S.

CDC guidance for traveling to the United States from a foreign country

Considerations for air travel 

  • Check with your airline about check-in/boarding procedures, when allowed check-in online and/or use an electronic ticket.
  • Allow yourself more time before departure to account for increased wait times.
  • Maintain a safe distance from other passengers and airport staff.
  • Wear a face mask at all times and bring a spare one just in case. A KN95 mask is preferable to cloth.
  • Pack hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in your carry on. Once on your flight, clean your tray table, window shade, armrests, and seat during boarding.
  • Remain in your seat as much as possible and minimize movement around the cabin.
  • Turn on the air vent above your seat.
  • Consider bringing your own food and beverages.

Hotels and Accommodations

Accommodation options for travelers may be severely limited. Across the hospitality industry, many hotels have increased screening measures for employees and guests like temperature checks upon entry, enforced social distancing in common areas, lounges, restaurants, and bars. Some amenities like swimming pools, exercise facilities may be closed to guests depending on local regulations and space limitations. Wearing face masks may also be requirement.

Considerations for hotels and other accommodations

  • When possible, book your stay in a venue that has to comply with local regulations on cleanliness and social distancing.
  • Avoid under-regulated options where stringent health and safety measures cannot be guaranteed.
  • Bring an adequate supply of face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes for the duration of your stay.
  • Practice routine good hygiene like hand washing for at least 20 second, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Practice social distancing of at least 6 feet from other patrons.

Ground Transportation: Taxis, Rideshares, and Car Rentals

Car rental companies and taxi and rideshare operators are also adjusting to the realities of the pandemic. Many car rental companies are offering lower rates. Companies are also implementing health and safety measures including providing hand sanitizer and disinfecting vehicles before and after each trip. Taxis and rideshare operators should be following local health regulations and may require customers to wear face masks or sit in the back of vehicles to promote social distancing.

Considerations for ground transportation

  • Wear a face mask and ride in the rear seat of the vehicle (if in a taxi or rideshare).
  • Keep a window open for the duration of the journey.
  • Handle your own luggage and wipe down your personal items after reaching your destination.
  • Use cashless payment options, if possible.
  • If using rideshare or other delivery service options for food or groceries, opt for contactless drop-off.

Public Transportation: Trains, Railways, and Buses

Due to lockdowns, curfews, travel restrictions, and entry bans many public transportation options have been affected. A reduction in services is likely, ranging from suspended or reduced routes, altered timetables, and onboard amenities and offerings. Transportation operators have adjusted their operating procedures to include a reduction in seat availability, requiring face masks, pre-boarding temperature checks, changes to payment methods, and daily sanitation.

Considerations for public transportation

  • Use an electronic ticket, if possible.
  • Allow enough time to accommodate for changes to boarding procedures.
  • Maintain a safe distance from other passengers and staff.
  • Wear a face mask at all times and bring a spare one just in case.
  • Pack hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in your carry on. Before being seated, clean the areas around your seat.
  • Remain in your seat as much as possible and minimize movement around the cabin.
  • Consider bringing your own food and beverages.

Security Risks

As the pandemic evolves around the world, there are certain security risks that may manifest. Countries are instituting travel restrictions, closing borders, restricting access to certain municipalities within a country, and instituting lockdowns and curfews sometimes with little to no notice. Depending on your location, there may also be an increased government, military, or law enforcement presence. Since the situation is very fluid, we encourage you to closely monitor local news for your destination and place of return.

In-country you may experience disruptions to essential services like healthcare, government agencies, mailing and delivery. Travelers should also be aware of the increased use of fraud through scams, phishing attacks, and malware. Strikes and civil unrest may be more likely to occur as the pandemic progresses due to dissatisfaction in government response and the economic impact of COVID-19. There is also an increased risk for racism and xenophobic attacks toward individuals who are perceived to be responsible for the outbreak.

If you have questions or concerns about your destination, please reach out to the Global Safety and Security team who can guide you toward relevant resources for assessing the security risks.


Global Advisories

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Travel Recommendation by Country

U.S. State Department

Health Organizations 

State and territorial health department websites (within the United States)

World Health Organization (WHO)

CDC: Health Guidance

Data and Outbreak Monitoring

WHO Dashboard

Johns Hopkins Dashboard