Covid & How to Travel to Abaco in 2021 – Updated 5/18/21

We had GREAT news from the Prime Minister yesterday (Wednesday, April 21st)!
Even if you are vaccinated, YOU STILL HAVE TO APPLY FOR A BAHAMAS TRAVEL HEALTH VISA and submit your vaccination card.
If you have not been vaccinated, you still can visit!….see the process below, and for now now…the USA is still requiring a Rapid Antigen Test within 3 days of your return to the USA.
We are very thankful that so many past guests and potential guests WANT to visit Abaco this year!  SO…I want to explain the current process and Bahamas Government protocols for Covid 19.  Right now to visit the Bahamas (if you are not vaccinated), you (11 years old and older) have to have a negative PCR Covid test within 5 days of traveling.  (For example: If you test on Monday, you could fly any time through Saturday.)  We followed this procedure to come to Abaco on December 5, 2020, without any problems.  We did drive through testing at our local Walgreens. Once you receive your negative results – you apply for a Bahamas Travel Health Visa.  (This is the link to the government website: https://travel.gov.bs/ )  It is an easy process – online, and they are providing very fast turnaround. It costs $60, and provides some health insurance to cover medical evacuation if you DID contract the virus.  It also covers the cost of a required rapid test that you get after being here 5 days.  Our best place for the 5 day rapid test is Dr. Charite’s office (or Siren Davis – at the Sandpiper Inn, Schooner Bay – see below) near the airport – Integrated Medical Centre is the name of his office, and the phone number is:  242-699-1304.  (driving from Casuarina Point, take the 2nd left on the airport roundabout (the new road to the port).  Dr. Charite’s office is on the left right before the next roundabout.)  Two of our children were here, with their families, over the holidays, and we all had a quick and easy experience for the re-test.  Because of these testing requirements they do not require any quarantining, so it seems like a pretty good strategy to me, and it is keeping the Covid numbers down in the Bahamas.
You will need to print out and bring 1 copy of your covid test and 2 copies of your travel visa, because you have to turn them in to immigration when you arrive, and the extra travel visa is what you present (you can show it on your phone, but I think it is best to just bring 2) when you go for your quick test – so they it will cover the cost and also report that you complied with the requirement.
While you are in Abaco they will send a short survey everyday – 5 or 6 questions that you fill out online.  It asks if you have been exposed to Covid since being in the Bahamas, and asks if you have any symptoms.
Starting January 26, 2021, a negative Covid test is required to return to the United States:  U.S.-bound air travelers (2 years of age and older) must get tested no more than three days before flying and bring written or electronic proof of the results. Airlines can accept both PCR and Rapid Antigen tests. If you don’t have the documentation with you, airlines won’t allow you to board, according to the CDC’s order.
The GOOD NEWS for stays of 6 – 8 days is that the test you take on your 5th day is what you will need to return home to the USA.  Very convenient!  If you are staying longer than 8 nights, you can still go to Integrated Medical to get a Rapid Antigen test.  They ask you to wait about 15 minutes and give you printed results that you present when you check in for your flight.  We did this, and it was easy.  We were never asked for it again – only at checkin for our flight departing Marsh Harbour.  I THOUGHT US Immigration would want to see it, too, but they did not ask for it.  We went through Miami, and Immigration and Customs were a quick walkthrough – fast and easy.
A NEW OPTION FOR YOUR 5 DAY TEST AND RETURN TO THE US TEST:
The Sandpiper Inn at Schooner Bay is now offering the 5 day COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test (required as part of your Travel Health Visa) and also the same Rapid Antigen Test that is required within 3 days of your return to the US.  There is a charge here (I think $20) for the 5 day test, and the charge for the test to return to the US is similar to the charge at Integrated Medical – $50, the last I heard.  I want you to know this option in case it is more convenient for you.  You might dine at the Sandpiper and get your test the same visit.  Call Siren Davis for an appointment for the test at the Sandpiper:  1-242-829-3322.
***ONE MORE NOTE 5/18/21:  Our son, Stephen, is fully vaccinated and is visiting us in Abaco now.  He said that filling out the information for the Health Visa was a lot like the Immigration form that you fill out to present to Immigration upon arrival – easy.  (I send you a sample of the Immigration Card in your package.)  If you are a VACCINATED VISITOR you DO NOT have to fill out the daily health survey.  We were surprised when today he received a ‘non-compliant’ email saying he missed his 5 day test.  The 5 day test is NOT required for vaccinated guests, so they should not be sending out that email to him, but we are not concerned – will just ignore it.  I hope they will fix this glitch in their system soon.  He WILL take a Rapid Antigen test to return home later this week.
ALL THIS COULD CHANGE, but it seems to be working for them, Covid numbers are down, so I think it may still be required for a while.  Bahamians go through this same process to travel.  Abaco is a GREAT place to be right now – low density, warm weather, and lots of fresh air!

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