Cancun has been one of the most popular destinations in the world throughout the pandemic and has most recently been smashing arrival records where demand is higher than ever before.
With millions of Americans flying into Cancun and other parts of Mexico for an easy vacation, what happens when it’s time to test to return home and the Covid-19 test results come back positive? With cases soaring across all the U.S., and also on the rise in Mexico, the possibility of receiving a positive test, especially if asymptomatic, is not that far-fetched. Here is the complete guide on what to do if you test positive for Covid-19 on vacation in Cancun.
Testing is not required to enter Cancun but is required to return home
Since every passenger returning to the U.S. or Canada must test in Mexico before departing on their flight home, a rise in positive Omicron test results has been trending in Mexico’s most popular vacation destinations.
Americans are required to take a rapid antigen test within 24-hours of their flight home, of which a positive result can lead to a lot of last-minute scrambling.
However, travelers shouldn’t be too worried. If anything, Mexico is one of the easiest places in the world right now to isolate if you should test positive, as all the big hotel and resort chains have policies and protocols in place, some of which include a free hotel room until you test negative again.
It goes without saying the below advice is direct on what to do about flights, hotels, and other vacation-related topics should you test positive. Please ask a doctor for health-related topics.
What To Do If You Test Positive for COVID-19 on Vacation in Cancun
Step 1 –Coordinate isolation accommodation with your Cancun hotel
Almost every hotel in popular destinations like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo, etc, has updated procedures for this very circumstance. They handle cases just like yours every day.
The hotel will either:
- Give you the option to isolate in your room for a period of time, usually the lesser of 5-10 days or until you test negative again, at a reduced rate.
- Give you the option to isolate in your room for a period of time, usually the lesser of 5-10 days or until you test negative again, completely free and at their cost.
- Give you the option to transfer to a different hotel that specializes in isolation, or to an AirBnB or private accommodation of your choice.
90% of hotels in popular tourist spots are offering A or B options, with only a few we’ve seen asking guests to find other accommodation.
For example, the Hard Rock Riviera Maya will cover any guests who have booked at least 3-nights, allowing guests to isolate at the hotel for free if they test positive. This takes a lot of the stress out of testing positive when tourists know they are not paying out of pocket to isolate.
Sandos Resorts, Palace Resorts, and AM Resorts are also offering up to 14-day free stays for guests that test positive in their properties located across Mexico.
Other hotels are offering deeply discounted rates for positive cases, like the many Marriott properties, Tafer Resorts and the GrupoPresidente chain, which is offering a $5 per night rate for those needing to isolate.
Don’t worry, the hotel staff will bring you meals, water, and make sure you have everything you need while you isolate.
Step 2 – Call your airline and postpone your flight home
Call your airline and cancel, rebook or postpone your flight. Most airline carriers are offering no-fee cancelations within 24-2 hours before a flight to accommodate the everchanging needs of passengers.
The CDC recently changed their recommended isolation period from 10 days to 5 days, with many airlines having already updated their policies to match. On almost every major U.S. airline, guests can board the aircraft and fly 5 days after a positive test, as long as they are symptom-free.
Frontier, Southwest, United, JetBlue, American, and others have confirmed the 5-day update. As of writing this article, Delta’s website is still showing 10-days, but a representative told TravelOffPath they will be updating this to 5 days soon.
This means that you may fly home 5-days after your positive test at the hotel, providing you either are now testing negative, or you have a letter of recovery after 5-days has elapsed and you are symptom-free. Any traveler with symptoms should stay isolated at their hotel in Mexico for a few extra days until symptoms subside.
Step 3 – Contact your travel insurance provider
In the case that the hotel or airline is not covering your changes, your travel insurance likely will, providing you got a beefy covid policy. HeyMondo covers things like accommodation costs due to quarantine, PCR tests ordered by a doctor, and most importantly medical care should you need it abroad.
Step 4 – Get a negative test or a letter of recovery to fly home
Re-testing at the hotel until the passenger receives a negative test is the best way to return home.
Travel Off Path spoke with Jean and Davis from Brookhaven, Georgia, who tested positive during their stay at a Cancun all-inclusive resort on December 28th.
“We were so surprised to get a positive result 15 minutes after we took the test because we were both totally asymptomatic and feeling completely fine. We sort of panicked at first because our flight was the next day and this wasn’t something we expected to deal with last minute.” Jean explained, “Thankfully our hotel covered our stay and we were able to isolate in our room, so we didn’t have to move anywhere, but of course, it wasn’t the vacation extension one would dream of.”
Jean and Davis tested negative on January 2 and flew home on Frontier airlines.
As of December 6, 2021, all passengers must provide a negative antigen test within 24-hours before boarding their flight from Mexico back into the U.S. This can be tricky for someone who has just tested positive in Mexico because even after they’ve recovered and are no longer contagious or symptomatic, they can still test positive for days or even weeks after covid-19 infection.
Letter of Recovery + Your Positive Test
For this reason, the U.S. allows passengers to also enter with a copy of the original positive test, plus a letter of recovery from a doctor. Many doctors in Mexico are accommodating their American patients by following the CDC’s 5-day guidelines and issuing a letter of recovery 5 days after the patient’s positive test result. However, tourists should be aware that while less common, some Mexican-based doctors may choose to stick to a 10-day guideline, which is in their rights as healthcare practitioners.
Tips: Ensure the resort doctor or local clinic doctor writes the letter of recovery on professional letterhead including your full name and date of birth as they appear on your passport. More tips on Page 5 of this CDC document.
What if you need medical care?
First-timers to Mexico or those who haven’t been outside the walls of an all-inclusive resort might be surprised to know that Mexico has very advanced medical care. Should you require medical attention during your isolation period, you should feel confident that Mexico has wonderful doctors and clinics that are prepared and qualified to treat covid-19 infections. Your hotel, resort, or travel insurance provider will be able to direct you to the best health care professional in your area, should you need it.
Yes, testing positive in Mexico before returning home is a major bummer, especially if you are asymptotic, which seems to be on an upward trend with the Omicron strain. However, there are many policies and procedures in place to make it less stressful than ever before. From airlines offering easy cancellations, to hotels covering stays for positive guests, to insurance policies picking up costs that might fall through the cracks, the blow may be lessened for vacationers trying to return home.
Make sure you’re organized and have all your travel provider’s numbers handy and stay calm in the event of a positive test. Go through all the steps one by one and utilize any of the programs and coverages you can. Contact a healthcare professional if needed.
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