Our 2021 Trip to Jamaica During the Covid-19 Pandemic
We recently returned from a wonderful trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
After nearly two years of being incredibly cautious and staying home with our children, we decided it was time to venture out without them and have a rejuvenating vacation.
Naniji (AKA Grandma) came to stay at our house to watch the kids and the cats, and we were all set!
So what's it like to travel right now? Read on to learn more about our experience travelling during the shoulder season (end of Nov/beginning of Dec) to Jamaica during the covid-19 pandemic.
This article is specific to our experience with the regulations at the time; if you'd like see more pictures and hear our favourite things about our resort and Jamaica, check out my Instagram post here.
First things first, we purchased insurance that would cover us in the event that we tested positive for covid-19 before our trip (and would have to cancel), or during our trip. Next up we looked up the entry requirements for Jamaica. At the time of our trip (Nov 2021) all that was needed was a negative antigen test and an approved travel authorization form. Don't worry, if you're going somewhere and booked through me, I will tell you exactly what you need to do for your destination!
Our resort has a handy online check in that we did in advance, and we checked in for our flights online 24 hours before our departure. With all our travel and vaccination documents ready to go, we headed to the airport.
At the Airport (YYC)
At the airport we used one of the Westjet kiosks to answer our health questionnaire and print our boarding passes. Security was steady and took about twenty to thirty minutes. We could see the lineup getting longer behind us, so we were happy that we had arrived early. The new international area at the Calgary International Airport has a very efficient security process, however!
On the Plane
Our flight was only about half full, but I wouldn't expect that if you're travelling during high season (Canada's cold winter months after Christmas and until spring). The airlines are selling seats at 100% capacity. Masks are required for anyone over the age of five at all times in the airport and on the plane unless actively eating. As of November 29, 2021, all eligible passengers over the age of twelve plus four months must also be fully vaccinated to board a commercial plane leaving Canada. The one thing we were not prepared for on the flight was that there was no food (other than crackers and hummus or chocolate bars) for purchase unless you were in an upgraded seat (with Westjet). For the flight back we purchased food at the airport to bring with us for our supper.
Arriving in Jamaica
When we arrived in Jamaica our temperatures were checked at the airport and our hands were sanitized, and we proceeded to their new and efficient immigration kiosks. A tourist card is printed here which you then bring to an immigration officer before proceeding to collect your luggage and board your transfer to your resort. There are airport employees to guide you to know what to do next and where to go. It was all very quick as we were the only plane that had landed at that time. Once again, I would set your expectations to that it will be busy during high season.
Arriving at the Resort
Since we were staying at a resort in Ocho Rios, our transfer was about an hour and a half. We had to wear our masks for the duration of the transfer, but it did not bother us as there was good air conditioning on the bus. Upon arrival at our resort our temperatures were taken again and we were asked to sanitize our hands once more. At the resort there are hand sanitizer stations everywhere and all the employees are required to wear a mask at all times. Guests are asked to wear a mask only on transfers and in enclosed areas such as the spa and concierge lounge, and must sanitize their hands upon entering a restaurant.
We are usually very adventurous and like to do a lot of excursions. This time we only did two quick ones since it was our first international trip since the beginning of the pandemic, and we were really just looking to catch our breath and relax.
The first excursion we did was the shopping trip. Once again, masks are worn in the transfer bus and inside the stores. Your hands are sanitized every time you enter a store. This excursion was not my favourite as I found it to be a bit too "touristy" for my liking and most of the shopping was items that are made in China and not Jamaica. I think I prefer to shop on my own as opposed to an escorted shopping excursion.
The second excursion was fantastic. We floated down a beautiful and jungly river tubes. The covid-19 protocols were to wear your mask for transfers and while getting your gear, but they gave you a waterproof bag to put it in and tie to your lifejacket since you do not have to wear your mask during the river float.
Our guide was entertaining, the views were gorgeous, and we had a lot of fun! There's even a cup holder on your tube if you would like to have a drink come along with you.
There is also an option to add on zip-lining too if that's something you'd enjoy!
Getting Ready to Come Home
Three days before our flight home, we received an invitation for our PCR testing appointment the following day. It was very quick and painless and we received our results in less than 24 hours. Negative, hurray! We then used the ArriveCan app to upload all of our required information and took a screenshot of the receipt that it gave us saying that we're good to go. When you have travel booked with me I will give you all these instructions about a month before you depart, so that you only just have to follow my step by step guide. Our PCR was free included with our resort, but Jamaica also currently has a great program where they are subsidizing the cost of PCRs for Canadians. Once again, I'll give you all the up to date PCR information before you travel.
At the Airport to Come Home
The Sangster International Airport was a lot busier than in Calgary when we were heading to Jamaica. The lineup with our airline was slow because even if you checked in online they needed to check all of your covid-19 documents. They checked our vaccination records, our PCR test results, passports, and ArriveCan receipt. Most of the reason that it was slow was because not everyone had done their ArriveCan in advance, so we had to wait for them to get through that process.
Going through security was very quick and simple, and we had some time to eat and do some shopping. I actually thought the shopping options were the best at the airport and resort gift shops (Sandals Ochi) compared to the stores that they take you on the shopping excursion.
On the Plane
This time the plane was only 25% full, and once again the food was only available for purchase with a business class or premium seat. This may be the new normal for Westjet, only time will tell. Luckily we were prepared with some delicious food from the Montego Bay airport.
Arriving Back in Canada
We were lucky to get through customs and immigration very quickly, and we were not selected for a random test. In the coming weeks, we will see more people selected for an arrival PCR (with the goal of 100% tested). This will be free of charge and you may be required to quarantine until you receive your results, but they will do their best to get them to you as quickly as possible.
It may seem like a lot, but it was all very easy and convenient. We had an amazing time and arrived back home rejuvenated and refreshed. We are very careful when it comes to covid-19, and we felt very comfortable with all the procedures and efforts that were made to keep everyone healthy and it gave us peace of mind.
If you have any questions, need any guidance for an upcoming trip that you've booked through me, or would like assistance with planning a trip, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time and I'd be happy to help you out!
The information here is up to date for the processes as of December 17, 2021. They can change at any time without notice and it is the travellers responsibility to source the most up to date information from the government authorities.