2020 was a rough year for everyone. Now, with 2021 here and no signs of the pandemic letting up anytime soon, I know my fellow travelers are feeling the itch. You may be wondering if it was safe traveling to Jamaica during the pandemic.
Hopefully, the vaccine will roll out, and traveling will be a little easier, but I did travel last year. Some friends and I were originally set to go to Jamaica in May 2020. That obviously got canceled (boo, Covid).
We were fortunate enough to get a full refund and we rebooked the trip for November 2020. We assumed life would definitely be back to normal by then … oh, how we were wrong. We decided to take a leap of faith and go when November rolled around even though there were a bunch of extra hoops to go through.
I wanted to write this post so others could learn from my experience.
This way you can decide if traveling during a pandemic is right for you.
First of all, many countries are still not allowing visitors. However, many of the islands are open to tourists if you are able to present a negative covid test. On Jamaica’s website, they advise that you cannot get the self-administered tests. My friends went to Rite Aid and got the test. They were able to go but that risk is up to you.
We got the rapid Antigen test from an urgent care where a medical professional administered the test. The rapid antigen test doesn’t go to a lab so you get the results in about twenty minutes.
The negative Covid test is super important, without it you will 100% not be able to go. Make sure you print out a copy and keep it handy because they checked it at baggage, at the gate, and then once we arrived in Jamaica.
You must get a covid test less than ten days before your departure date.
A medical professional must perform the covid test. The self-administered ones do not work. If you’re getting a Covid test that goes to a laboratory, I suggest getting it as soon as possible to have an ample amount of time to receive the results. You then have to fill out a travel authorization form within 5 days of your departure. You need this and the covid negative results to get on the plane so make sure you have both printed out.
This whole process was tedious and stressful. It was a lot of moving parts days before you were set to go on your trip. Since we got the rapid test, this helped my stress levels since we knew we were negative for Covid as early as possible. I did like that all tourists were required to get a Covid test. This way I knew everyone on the airplane and at the resort were recently tested.
When we got to the airport, the airline representative at baggage took our papers to the back and it felt like it was an eternity before he came back and gave us our tickets.
The airport was pretty empty so we got through baggage check and TSA fairly quickly. Other than the airline representative at baggage, everything went smoothly for us. It seemed redundant but they checked our negative covid test at the gate as well.
We had to wear a mask during the whole flight and when we landed at the Jamaican airport. Once we landed at the airport in Montego Bay, they immediately took every passenger’s temperature and we waited in a looooonnngggg line to get interviewed. They asked the following questions to give you an idea:
- Have you come into contact with anyone with Covid-19?
- Do you have any symptoms?
- Have you done any other traveling?
- Did you get a flu shot? (I said no for reference)
- Where were you staying?
- How long were you staying?
After you answered these questions, you had to sign a form that stated you would not leave the resort unless it was with an organized excursion. The interview made me nervous but it wasn’t that bad. After that, it was business as usual. We went through customs then went to catch the bus to the resort. You do have to wear a mask on the bus to the resort as well.
My friends and I went to an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica near Montego Bay.
We were upgraded to the nicer side of the resort since the side we were originally staying at was closed down. The resort just didn’t have enough people to justify having both sides open and fully staffed. This upgrade included butler service and the hotel was discounted enough that we sprung for the swim out room and diamond club. The resort was pretty empty so we never had an issue getting enough pool chairs, cabanas, or beach chairs.
The resort did a great job with Covid-19 precautions.
Each restaurant took your temperature before you entered. You were also required to wear a mask when entering and leaving the restaurants.
All the staff members were wearing masks the whole time and did a good job encouraging vacationers to wear them as well. You didn’t have to wear a mask in the pool or on the beach but if you were going to the bar, you needed to wear one. They wouldn’t serve you without a mask.
I felt very safe and didn’t really worry about catching covid-19 while I was there. There weren’t that many guests there so everyone was able to spread out pretty well.
I’ve been to all-inclusive resorts in the past and this experience was definitely different.
The biggest difference for me was that the buffet was only open on the weekends. They also had staff serving the food and putting it on your plate to avoid any kind of contact. This took away from the buffet experience in my opinion since, with the glass and the slight language barriers, it was hard to communicate what I wanted.
I like to try a VERY small tasting of the foods that are local to the island. Since I couldn’t choose my own serving, I didn’t do this as much. Also, since the buffet was only open for the weekends, that didn’t give us much opportunity to do this.
We didn’t have an issue getting a reservation at the restaurant we wanted but the cuisine seemed to be repetitive. It was also harder to go and get a quick snack like usual since they didn’t have anything that was an easy grab and go for sanitation purposes.
The restaurants were limited.
We looked up the restaurants beforehand so it was a little disappointing that they weren’t all open. The biggest disappointment was the Asian/Hibachi style restaurant being closed. It wasn’t all bad though. The steakhouse was open and the food there was divine. I enjoyed the majority of the food I ordered. The room service breakfast was really good.
I did think the resort did a good job with activities since there was something every day at the pool and every night. The ambiance was affected since there weren’t as many people to cheer you on while playing pool games and the nightlife lacked because of the lack of people.
Our butlers were very attentive and brought us drinks to our personal swim-out pools. We could also order room service at any time. The staff overall at the resort was great. We received extra attention since there were fewer people at the resort than usual. We went during the off-season in general but the staff told us how it was definitely less crowded than typical in November.
The drinks tasted stronger to me too which was a good thing. We never had to wait long for drinks since there weren’t enough people for there to be a long line. There were staff members walking around the beach and bringing you drinks too which in the past it was hard to get a drink fast from them.
We did one snorkeling excursion that included going to Dunn River Falls.
If you’re ever in Jamaica, I recommend this excursion if you’re adventurous. This was a really cool experience. I literally climbed up the waterfall. We did need water shoes so plan accordingly if this is something you would like to do.
Guests could only do excursions that were approved from the resort so all excursions also followed covid-19 procedures. We didn’t have to wear a mask while snorkeling or during Dunn River falls but we did get soaked so that would have been challenging. We had to put hand sanitizer on a few times and they took our temperature before we got on the boat.
Overall I had a great time. It was relaxing and it felt like we had the resort to ourselves.
I wouldn’t have been able to afford the swim out room and diamond club service without the heavy discounts so that was definitely a plus. I think we were a little spoiled since we got upgraded to the nicer side of the resort too. The side we were supposed to stay on was closed so we couldn’t get a good look at what we would have gotten but that side was older and the rooms looked smaller.
For full transparency, I would like to go back to this resort to see what it is like when we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic. I do think that an island vacation is not a bad option during the pandemic since everyone is getting tested and the cases on the islands are rather low. I definitely felt safe and the resort did a great job making sure we still had an awesome time. It was a good break from 2020 in my opinion.
Are you planning on going anywhere during the pandemic? Let me know in the comments below.
Until next time,