Travel to the U.S. is increasing by record rates since the start of the pandemic, and now with the end in sight of the EU travel ban in November, more arrivals are expected throughout the fall and winter months. With New York City coming in first place as the most visited city in the States, travelers should be aware of the new vaccine passport rules now in effect that will impact their trip.
Travel Off Path recently spent one month in New York City, testing the vaccine passport rules in different venues and seeing how widely it’s being enforced. Here’s everything we know about what you’ll need to show as a visitor to the Big Apple in order to gain access to indoor dining, concerts, and other tourist attractions.
Enforcement of NYC’s vaccine rules officially started September 13, 2021
While many businesses have been asking for proof of at least one dose since August 17th, the start date for enforcement of the vaccine passport didn’t officially begin until September 13th.
Places and Venues in NYC That Require Proof of Vaccination
- Indoor Dining & Bars
- Gyms and Fitness Centers
- Indoor Entertainment Venues (like comedy clubs or nightclubs)
- Concert Halls (both indoor and outdoor)
- Movie Theatres (both indoor and outdoor)
- Museums, Aquariums and Zoos
- Bowling Alleys, Arcades, and Pool Halls
- Professional Sports Arenas
Places and Venues in NYC That Likely WON’T Require Proof of Vaccination
- Outdoor dining on open-air patios
- Getting takeout from a café, restaurant, or fast-food establishment
- Shopping: At a mall, department store, bodega, grocery store, souvenir shop, etc.
- Outdoor exercise: Like walking around Central Park or Bryant Park for example
- Public Transit: like the Metro, Uber’s, Taxis, etc.
- To obtain accommodation in hotels
What Kind Of ‘Proof’ Do I Need To Show?
Residents of New York have several different digital apps to show as proof of vaccination, which are easy to access on smartphones, but not available for foreign tourists to sign up for.
I was personally in NYC for 30 days, and as a Canadian, didn’t have access to the NYC Covid Safe App or the Excelsior Pass App.
Show a copy on your phone – I was vaccinated in the U.S. earlier in 2021, so I have the paper CDC card, of which I just showed a photo of it on my phone. You don’t need to bring around a paper copy of your vaccination records. The official NYC website states a photo or a photocopy of your vaccination record will suffice. At one indoor dining situation, I was with another Canadian who had a photo of her Ontario vaccination record on her phone, which worked fine.
You’ll need to show ID that matches the photo of your vaccination record – In all cases, I had to show an official government ID that matched the photo of my CDC paper card. I either used my British Colombia driver’s license or my Canadian passport. In 100% of all times, I was asked to show proof of vaccination, I was also asked to match it to ID. Don’t leave your hotel room without both.
Proof of vaccination must be in English – The people checking these are mostly hostesses at restaurants and they cannot be expected to translate documents. If you are arriving from a foreign country, your proof of vaccination should be in English or expect delays.
Places I Was Asked to Show Proof of Vaccination
All indoor dining
I did a LOT of dining in New York City during my one-month stay, and most of it was indoors. 100% of the time I was asked for proof of vaccination and proof of ID. This includes high tea at the Plaza Hotel, dinner at the RH Rooftop Restaurant, drinks at the Whitby Hotel Bar, and even lunch at the TWA Hotel at JFK waiting for my flight to LAX.
Even moving from outdoor dining inside, I was required to show proof. I was dining on the poolside rooftop of the Dominick Hotel with a friend and we moved inside due to a super windy evening, and just the act of grabbing an indoor table meant they were checking vaccination status.
I attended a Bleachers concert at the outdoor venue Pier 17, where proof of vaccination was checked for every single person entering the event. It slowed down entrance massively, and the headliners had to delay going on stage. From lineup to stage-side, it took about 1.5 hours to get inside, which normally would have taken about 20 minutes in pre-covid times. If you have a concert or performance booked, show up earlier than normal and expect major delays.
Bryant Park shows movies on a big screen throughout the summer, so obviously, I had to attend. Even though the venue is 100% outdoors, proof of vaccination was still required to sit on the grassy lawn to watch. There were people at all entrances asking to see proof in order to gain access.
While visiting the Museum of Modern Arts, I had to pre-book a ticket, show up around 30 minutes early, and show proof of vaccination to enter. The MOMA is even strict about what types of vaccines can be used. They state they only accept: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson for U.S. residents and AstraZeneca/SK Bioscience, Serum Institute of India/COVISHIELD and Vaxzevria, Sinopharm-BBIBP, or Sinovac for foreign tourists. This could shut out some tourists from visiting, like many Mexican residents who have been vaccinated with Sputnik.
Places I Was Not Asked To Show Proof of Vaccination
Riding the metro does not require proof of vaccination, but you will need a mask on 100% of the time. Almost every rider is compliant with this. You will also need a mask to ride in a taxi, bus or Uber.
Patios, Take-Out and Outdoor Dining
I booked an outdoor table at Upstairs, the rooftop bar in the Kimberley Hotel, and was not required to show proof of vaccination to have drinks and bar snacks during my time there. Another example was grabbing a pie at Joe’s Pizza in Soho. They only have about 2 indoor seats so most people grab pizza and eat it standing up outside on the sidewalk around high tables. Obviously, no one was checking vaccination records to grab a pizza to go. At no point in time was I asked to show proof while grabbing a coffee at Starbucks, picking up a smoothie bowl from Loco Coco, or getting a smoothie at Joe’s Juice.
Never was I required to show proof of vaccination at any mall, department store, boutique, or grocery store. Masks are generally asked to be worn at the time in these establishments, and about 90% of people were compliant with this.
The only time I needed to show proof of vaccination inside a department store was in the Nordstrom Flagship location. This is only because I noticed there was a bar in the middle of the women’s shoe department, and well, YOLO!
Did you know Saks on 5th ave has a hair salon inside? Neither did I! I wasn’t sure if proof of vaccination would be required so I came prepared, but it’s not required for services like this.
What Happens If I Don’t Show Proof?
Businesses that don’t properly comply with asking for proof of vaccination are subject to fines, which can be extremely difficult as they climb out this pandemic. If you are trying to access a venue that requires proof and you don’t have it or aren’t comfortable showing it, you should go somewhere that you won’t be asked, such as outdoor dining, as you will be turned away.
Grab a salad at Whole Foods and have a picnic in Bryant Park, or enjoy a burger on a patio like the Grey Dog in Nolita.
What Are Current Mask Rules in NYC?
Optional for some areas and required for others.
Most of the places I went in NYC had signs that said “Masks are mandatory for unvaccinated people and optional for fully vaccinated individuals”, however, I saw about 80%-90% of people wearing masks at all times indoors anyway. There were a few shops and businesses that required them to be worn for entry, but the majority said optional providing you are fully vaccinated.
NYC’s official health authority states this for current mask rules:
If you are unvaccinated, you must wear a mask covering:
• Whenever you are in a public space, indoors or outdoors, and cannot maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others. Examples include walking on a busy street, shopping in stores, going to the doctor, dining at a restaurant (when not eating or drinking), going to your place of worship, being in a shared office or attending a gathering.
• When riding public transportation (including taxis and car services).
• When around someone who is sick, or if you need to leave home while sick.
Once you are fully vaccinated (two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine or your second dose of a two-dose vaccine), you do not need to wear a mask outdoors or when gathering with friends and family at home or in other private settings. However, masks are still required:
• When riding public transportation (including taxis and car services).
• When in a school or health care setting.
• In certain group residential facilities, such as nursing homes and homeless shelters.
• When in a store, restaurant or other public space where the owner or operator requires masks.
• At work, if required by your employer.
I found almost all businesses and situations fully enforced the proof of vaccination rules during my entire month in New York City, even before September 13th when the official enforcement rules came into place. If you are planning a trip to NYC, be aware that you’ll need to have at least one dose in order to gain access to many things, including any indoor dining. While NYC’s vaccine passport doesn’t have an official end date, I would predict it will likely be in place until at least Spring 2022.
- U.S. Will Require Proof Of Vaccination For All International Arrivals
- The 10 Most Romantic Places To Visit In New York City
- Top 6 Ways To See New York City Like A Local
- Eight Free Things To Do In New York City For 2021
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories