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I’ve been literally counting down the seconds for international travel to begin again. Belize is one of the first countries to offer vaccinated travelers entry without testing or quarantine upon arrival. Ironically, Belize is one of those countries we’ve always wanted to visit but have not had the opportunity to. Now that we are both vaccinated, we decided to venture down and go through the experience firsthand.
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If you didn’t know, Belize is known for its beautiful dive sites – including the infamous Blue Hole. In fact, the second-largest coral reef in the world is located in Belize. The first being the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Finally, it just so happens to be whale shark season. This typically runs during the week of the full moon from March through June. I feel so blessed to be able to travel safely down to Belize with my covid vaccination and be humbled by nature’s beauty!
Belize’s covid entry requirements
To enter Belize there are two steps required:
- Download and Complete the Belize Health Screening Questions. This includes a combination of Covid-19 screening and traditional immigration questions.
- Provide proof of being vaccinated (at least two weeks since the final dose) OR provide proof of a negative Covid PCR test taken within 96 hours OR provide proof of a negative Covid rapid test taken within 48 hours.
You can download the app through this link for Apple or Android users.
* If no test is presented, a Covid-19 test will be administered at the airport for a cost of $50 USD.
Overnight in Denver
Traveling out of Buffalo (BUF) during the pandemic has been challenging due to the reduced number of flights. I was lucky enough to catch a last-minute flight to Denver (DEN) which happened to get delayed in Midway (MDW). Lisa and I arrived at DEN at 2 AM EST with no overnight accommodations pre-planned. Plan A was to stay at the Hyatt Place Denver Airport. Unfortunately, they were sold out along with a handful of the other cheap airport hotels. The shuttles were also closed for the night and a cab ride would have been $40 each way. Since we only had a few hours before our flight, to waste 2 more driving to and from the airport didn’t seem worth it.
Sleeping in DEN
Thankfully DEN is home to one of the best airports to sleep directly in. You can transit through security within 24 hours of a departing flight. This is nice for sleeping directly in the airport prior to an early morning departure. The best seats to sleep in are found in Terminal A on the third floor near the airport lounges. I wish all airports had a designated sleep area like DEN. Luckily when we finally made our way up there we found some open “beds” next to each other!
Basic Pro Tip – Be sure to pack an eye mask and earplugs in case you ever find yourself pulling an unexpected overnight in an airport. It makes a world of difference!
Denver Centurion Lounge
I set my alarm for 6:30 AM and promptly woke up to be first in line at the new Denver Centurion Lounge. The DEN Centurion located in Terminal C just opened a few months ago on February 1st, 2021. It certainly did not disappoint. I will note whether you are a vaccinated traveler or not, masks must be worn in the airport as well as in the lounge. Lisa and I grabbed a delicious breakfast, celebratory mimosa, and recharged prior to heading over to check-in at our gate in Terminal C.
Basic Pro Tip – Moving between the three terminals at DEN is easy thanks to the AirTran which runs approximately every 5 minutes. It took about 15 minutes for us to walk from our “beds” in terminal A to the Centurion Lounge in Terminal C.
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Checking-in at the Gate
In order to board the plane, a pre-departure check-in is required at the gate. The gate agent cleared all of the passengers to board by verifying that our Belize QR health forms were completed and checked that we had valid passports.
Lastly, they did not check for vaccinated travelers or covid testing as this was only required by Belize and not the airline.
It was a pretty smooth boarding process. United boarded from the back to the front of the plane and folks appeared to be socially distant throughout the process. The agent scanned my boarding pass and verified my passport again to board the plane.
United Flight Experience
Each passenger was handed a sanitizer wipe upon entry to the plane. Lisa and I had seat 15A and 15B towards the center of the plane. We cleaned our seats and tray tables with the wipes. Prior to taking off a flight attendant came by to collect the used wipes. Once we hit 30,000 feet, we received an all-in-one pre-packed snack bag which included water, pretzels, and a biscoff cookies. Additionally, the flight crew came by and handed out beverages. I opted for the coffee because I’m a caffeine addict!
Belize Border Entry
We touched down in Belize with a bit of confusion. The airline crew debated among one-another if we were required to complete the typical customs form. This is due to the fact that Belize now has a pre-screening mobile app. We had to complete it prior to boarding the flight and asks all of the same questions. They ended up running out of forms so it was a moot point and we headed down the ramp towards immigration.
Our first stop was a COVID checkpoint where an agent verified negative covid testing results or that we were vaccinated travelers with the CDC vaccination cards. Next, the agent verified that I had a CDC card, handed me the immigration form (which I didn’t complete on the plane), and moved me forward. If I didn’t have this, I would have been sent to a health screening to be tested for $50 USD. Next, another agent reviewed my CDC card and asked which vaccine I had. I replied the Moderna. After verification, she stamped my immigration form. We then were ushered to the typical immigration line. Our passports and the paperwork which I filled out while waiting in line were reviewed. Lastly, one quick stamp, and we were on our way!
Returning back to the USA
To return back to the USA, a negative Covid test must be provided within three days of boarding a flight. Any viral test will be sufficient, including the PCR test or a rapid test. In Belize, our hotel, Mahogany Bay offers testing ($100 per person) or we could complete it at the airport for $75 USD. There are no updates yet for vaccinated travelers on international travel.
Return Update (4-3-2021)
The journey back was pretty straightforward. We ended up opting for the Airport Rapid Testing which cost us $75 each and took exactly 24 Minutes from payment to receiving our results. After paying the testing fee we were led into a private area where a medical worker performed the test using a unique contraption (see photo). We then sat outside and waited for our names to be called. In order to receive a boarding ticket, American Airlines required to see the test results. Upon returning to the US, it was the typical standard customs procedure. We are team Mobile Passport which was a maximum of a 5-minute wait!
Finally, with the Covid vaccine rollout becoming more readily available, I imagine that many countries will continue to increase in vaccinated travel options. It was great to be able to travel again and I felt comfortable throughout the process. I hope that travel continues to head in this positive direction as the world begins to reopen its doors and we can visit in a safe manner.
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