Earlier this month, I tested out the new protocols for Covid-vaccinated travellers implemented May 1 by the Bahamian government. If you’re vaccinated and travelling to or within the Bahamas, here are some things you need to know.
Applying For Your Travel Health Visa as a Vaccinated Traveller
YES, even if you’re vaccinated, you still need a Bahamas travel health visa.
Applying for your visa involves two steps. First, you need to create a basic profile, where you’re asked for some basic information about yourself — name, nationality, copy of passport or other ID, etc.
Once your profile’s set up, you can add a trip with your specific travel and accommodation details and (in the case of fully vaccinated travellers) your proof of vaccine.
Under “COVID-19 Vaccine or RT PCR Test Information”, where you’re asked for your “Covid-19 File Type” select “Vaccine” from the drop-down menu and then complete the fields that follow.
You’ll be assigned a trip number, and your trip will show as “pending” while your application is processed.
Note: processing times are random and unpredictable. Some people (like my husband) have received approval within minutes. Others (like me) don’t hear back for days. Between the changes to protocols and the increase of people travelling, I think the system is just overwhelmed.
If you haven’t heard back within 72 hours of applying, or if your trip is imminent and you haven’t received approval, email the Travel Compliance Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at (242) 604-7200 or (242) 502-0829. (You’ll likely have to hold for a bit, so call when you’ve got time to wait.)
If you’re calling from the States or Canada, use the Travel Compliance Dept’s U.S. number — (786) 471-5898 — and save yourself some long-distance charges.
Once your application has been processed, you’ll receive a notification email instructing you to log on and complete your trip. At that point, you’ll be asked for a credit card number to pay the visa fee, and then you’ll receive an email with a PDF copy of your travel visa.
Upon Arrival in The Bahamas
Upon arrival in Treasure Cay, Customs & Immigration asked for my passport, health visa and proof of vaccination. They kept a printout of my health visa and proof of vaccination, so best to bring an extra copy of each to leave with them.
During Your Stay
Per the new, May 1 protocols, as a vaccinated traveller, I’m exempt from having to complete a daily health questionnaire, and from having the five-day rapid antigen test that unvaccinated travellers must undergo.
Still, I received daily questionnaire emails, which I ignored. But on day 6 of my trip, I received an email indicating that I was in violation for not having completed my five-day rapid antigen test.
When I asked around as to whether I needed to submit to the test, I got mixed advice. Some advised me to ignore the emails. Others suggested I get tested “just in case” (the cost is covered by the travel health visa fee anyway) because there are hefty fines for not adhering to the protocols.
I checked with Wynsome Ferguson of the Abaco Tourist Office, however, and she confirmed that although the health visa computer system was still being updated to reflect the new protocols, I did not need to complete the health questionnaire or undergo the five-day rapid antigen test.
I also emailed the Travel Compliance Department directly and received the following note back:
By the time you read this, the system may be updated so that vaccinated people are no longer receiving these reminders and warnings. But if you’re vaccinated and you do receive them, per the information above, you can ignore them.
Vaccinated or not, please remember that you must still wear a mask and social distance in all businesses. Many Abaconians haven’t had any vaccines as yet – others have had only one. Please protect our friends and family members by being safe.
For full details on Bahamian Covid-19-related travel protocols, click HERE.
Are you a vaccinated traveller who’s arrived in the Bahamas in recent days? If so, I’d love to hear how your experiences compare with mine. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below.