Following a relatively free summer and the waning of Covid, it might seem like the world has finally moved on from the pandemic and strict mandates are a thing of the past. This may be the case for most of Europe, Mexico and the like, but it is definitely not yet a reality in South America, where only a single country has dropped all travel restrictions.
For more than two years, the Southern Hemisphere has barred international travel in an attempt to keep variants from getting imported from abroad. Despite enjoying a robust protection, with countries like Brazil being world leaders in vaccination coverage, the region has continued to refuse entry to certain categories of travelers.
Most notably, unvaccinated Americans, with the exception of one:
Most Of South America Is Still Closed To Unvaccinated Americans
South America is an incredibly vast, and culturally diverse continent that for decades has attracted American tourists due to its high affordability and natural landmarks. Sadly, for the better part of 2022, a huge percentage of Americans, roughly 30%, is still prevented from returning based on their vaccination status.
Nearly every single South American country continues to impose a vaccine requirement at their external entry points, be it land crossings, airports or cruise terminals. Out of twelve, only one has mirrored the steps of Central American counterparts and Europe when it became the 27th country to return to their pre-2020 entry guidelines: Argentina*.
*The territory of French Guiana is free of restrictions, but as it is not a sovereign entity, being an integral part of France, in spite of being in South America, it is not taken into account
Argentina is the first in Mercosur, and on an extent in South America, to lift the pandemic-era restrictions affecting American travelers and other foreign visitors. As soon as April 2022, the home of Tango abandoned its hard-stance approach, which had made it into a completely isolated nation for a period, in favor of much more relaxed policies.
Argentina Has Been The Only South American Country To Drop All Restrictions So Far
Prior to that date, even Mercosur citizens, a bloc of which Argentina is a part of and where freedom of movement applies, had been barred from crossing the border. Now, any foreigner can enter Argentina, irrespective of their purpose of travel, and with no other requirement than a valid passport and/or visa when applicable.
For Americans, this effectively means:
- No vaccination required
- No boosters needed
- No pre-departure tests
- No post-arrival tests
- No quarantine
Conversely, all of Argentina's neighbors remain ‘partially restrictive', according to IATA's Covid-19 Travel Regulations Map. Much like the EU in the earlier days of the crisis, Mercosur and its associated members have failed to coordinate actions in both introducing, and removing pandemic measures, leading to a confusing patchwork of rules.
European states, on the other hand, have worked through their differences and now a majority is open for travel. Below the Equator line, this level of cross-border harmonization has not been achieved as of this point. The most obvious disparity is seen between Brazil and Argentina, South America's closest neighbors and top destinations.
The Confusing Patchwork Of Rules Affecting Tourists In The Region
While Argentina is open, Brazil only allows American visitors with proof of vaccination. A negative PCR or rapid antigen test, or even recovery certificates, are not considered valid proof of entry, though in Uruguay, bordering Southern Brazil, unvaccinated U.S. citizens are permitted to enter when presenting a negative test within 72 hours of departure.
Moving West, Paraguay accepts all of the above, on top of positive Covid tests (antigen, LAMP, NAAT or PCR) issued ‘at least 10 days and at most 90 days before boarding'. On the Pacific Coast, Chile accepts both vaccine certificates and PCRs not older than 48 hours, and travelers remain subject to testing on arrival, a controversial policy also enacted by Canada.
North of Chile, the Inca heartland of Peru, a favorite among hikers, has similar provisions, except it does not test tourists randomly upon landing. Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Suriname all follow the ‘vaccine or test' model, while Guyana – not the French one – mimics Brazil in banning those who are not fully immunized.
Other regional discrepancies include:
- In Peru, tests must be of the NAAT kind, including RT-PCRs and RTLamps, and they must not be older than 48 hours
- Bolivia accepts PCR test results issued within 72 hours of departure, or Rapid Antigen tests taken at most 48 hours before boarding
- In Colombia, besides the 72-hour/48-hour rules for PCR and Rapid Antigen respectively, passengers must submit their personal information online via the Check Mig form ahead of traveling
- Venezuela imposes a validity date of 270 days on two-dose certificates, requiring tourists to present proof of a booster dose once this period has elapsed in order to be granted entry on the grounds of being immunized
- Venezuela only accepts PCR test results obtained 72 hours preceding arrival, as opposed to departure
- Guyana arrivals may be subject to random Covid tests on arrival, even when fulfilling other criteria such as being vaccinated
- Suriname‘s pre-departure test validity is 48 hours for PCR, 24 hours for Rapid Antigen
- Suriname is accepting recovery certificates issued up to 6 months prior to the date of travel
*Other rules may apply for any of the above countries. We advise our readers planning an international trip to keep up to date with the evolving regulations by visiting their country of destination's Consulate website, where official requirements are described.
As you can see, the rest of South America has a lot of catching up to do with La Tierra de Los Hermanos and other Central American competitors in terms of post-pandemic management. As things stand, it is one of the strictest continents to travel right now, unless visitors qualify for exemptions as vaccinated foreigners or returning residents.
Luckily, the up-and-coming digital nomad hub of Argentina, a poster nation for travel freedom, is already welcoming Americans with open arms.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.