COVID-19 Protocols for Tourists: 3 Extreme Examples

Jason boarding the airplane with his Thule bag in backpack format

Recently there have been many news reports about countries that are planning to re-open to tourists, and the measures they plan to take in order to ensure the safety of both citizens and visitors. It’s been really interesting to see the variance in protocols being implemented – in some cases, the requirements have been very minimal such as Mexico,Turkey, the Bahamas or the Maldives (who originally introduced an extremely complex plan only to quickly amend it with almost no entry requirements whatsoever).

On the other end of the spectrum, some countries have put forward extremely rigid requirements for tourists planning to visit. In this post, we share the 3 countries with some of the most extreme protocols we have come across so far:

1- Cambodia

We visited Cambodia in 2016 when we stayed in Siem Reap for a few days. We really enjoyed visiting Angkor Wat, biking through the city and surrounding area, and immersing ourselves in the local culture and cuisine.

Siem Reap at dusk

Phum Baitang Resort
Phum Baitang Resort
Angkor Wat in Siem Reap
Angkor Wat in Siem Reap
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Khmer fish soup for breakfast
Park Hyatt Siem Reap Khmer fish soup for breakfast

Unfortunately it appears visiting Cambodia might be much more complicated (and expensive). Going forward, they are proposing that tourists will be required to:

  • Have documentation showing a health certificate issued less than 72-hours prior to departure stating the traveler is free of SARS-CoV-2 and no less than $50,000 in health insurance cover.

  • Pay a $3,000 deposit to cover the cost of administering SARS-CoV-2 tests on arrival and virus prevention fees. The fee can be paid via credit card or cash and those who test negative will have the deposit refunded, minus the costs of the test and fees for transportation and time spent at the waiting center.

  • The fee is $5 per trip to/from the waiting center, the COVID test is $100, and it is $30 for a day’s stay a hotel and $30 for 3 meals during the wait for the test results.

  • If any passenger on the flight tests positive for SARS-CoV-2, all the passengers will enter a 14 day quarantine that costs $84 dollars a day to pay for the stay in a hotel or quarantine facility, meals, laundry, sanitary services, doctors and security services.

  • During the 14 days quarantine, each SARS-CoV-2 positive patient will have to pay $100 per  test (up to 4 in total).

  • If a patient needs medical treatment, they will need to pay $225 a day for the hospital room, medical treatment, meals, laundry and sanitary services.

  • In case of death, the cremation service charge is $1,500.

2- Sri Lanka:

We visited Sri Lanka in 2017 and fell in love with the country and have wanted to visit again ever since. Sri Lanka has recently outlined their proposed requirements for tourists.

Me hanging out of the train
Max hanging out of the train from Colombo to Galle. Tourists are no longer allowed to take the train
Market in Galle
Market in Galle
Upper Suite during the day
Upper Suite we stayed in at Foort Bazaar in Galle
Sri Lankan Hoppers at Church Street Social
Sri Lankan Hoppers at Church Street Social

While it should be noted that once in Sri Lanka, tourists can travel between different areas and are not bound to one place, they have indicated they will require the following for entry:

  • Have documentation showing a health certificate issued less than 72-hours prior to departure stating the traveller is free of SARS-CoV-2.

  • Must stay for a minimum of 5 days.

  • Must obtain a VISA that will be valid for 30 days and can be extended for up to 6 months at the cost of $100.

  • You will need to stay at one of the approved hotels on the Sri Lanka tourism website.

  • You cannot take public transit and must make transfer arrangements with your hotel.

  • You will be tested on arrival for free; the results will take 24 hours but they are working to get a test that provides the results in 4-6 hours.

  • During your stay, you will be tested for SARS-CoV-2 again by a mobile unit 4-5 days later and if you stay more than 10 days, you will receive another test 4-5 days later.

  • If you test positive for SARS-CoV-2, you will need to remain in quarantine for 14-21 days at a hotel.

3- Saint Lucia:

We’ve been very fortunate to visit neighboring Barbados many times and have been closely monitoring developments in the Caribbean to get a sense as to what Barbados may implement.

Max at Pebbles Beach on Carlisle Bay
Max at Pebbles Beach on Carlisle Bay
Reggae bus in Babados
Reggae bus in Babados

The proposed protocols and visitor requirements vary greatly across the Caribbean, with this island of Saint Lucia currently imposing some of the most restrictive:

  • Have documentation showing a health certificate issued less than 48-hours prior to departure stating the traveler is free of SARS-CoV-2.

  • Temperature screening and possible SARS-CoV-2 if you show symptoms (most likely an elevated temperature).

  • You can only stay at a hotel that has been authorized by the government to receive tourists.

  • You will need to pre-book your transportation to the hotel via the hotel.

  • Once at the hotel, you will need to have your temperature taken during meal times taken at the hotel’s restaurants where serving food is authorized.

  • Limited access to activities and no access to public beaches and attractions.

  • None of the restaurants on the island will be open for dine-in services during phase 1.

  • Masks must be worn at the resort.

  • If a guest at the resort you are staying at ends up testing positive for COVID-19, you will need to go into a 14 day quarantine if you came into contact with this guest.


After many months of lock-downs and border closures, it’s been nice to hear that travel may once again be possible in the near future. As avid travelers we are both hopeful and skeptical as various countries outline their plans to welcome visitors once again. Much like almost everything these days, the news changes fast and it’s hard to keep up. Even locally, we see much variance here in Canada as to how individual provinces are addressing the idea of domestic travel we head into Canada’s busy summer tourist season. Our southern neighbor has similar inconsistencies, with several states (including our favorite destination, Hawaii) currently imposing mandatory 14 day quarantines for arriving visitors.

Travel inherently involves risk, and pre-departure and arrival testing requirements would certainly add another layer of risk for travelers to absorb. Some of these more extreme requirements lead to a lot of additional questions.

Are you able to get a test easily where you live? Will the results be ready before your departure? In some cases, it can take up to 1 week to get the results.

With so may different types of tests, are you sure the one you can get will be accepted?

Would you be willing to risk possible quarantine (including potential additional cost) if you should unknowingly test positive on arrival at your destination?

How about possible quarantine if a passenger on your flight or guest at your hotel tests positive?

Are you willing to undergo multiple layers of testing as outlined by Sri Lanka or Saint Lucia?

Would you be willing to place large monetary deposits as requested by Cambodia?

The questions don’t end there. Whether or not travel insurance will even cover these potential costs is still to be determined.

One can also question the reliability of testing itself. It’s assumed that a negative test 48-72 hours prior to your departure would still be superseded by a positive test on arrival. In that case, a negative test only allows you to board your flight, and therefor (to borrow a popular saying as of late) you are definitely “not of out of the woods yet”. The availability of tests for travelers prior to departure will also be something to consider as we move through different stages of the pandemic as it does appear testing prior to departure is becoming quite popular.

While only time will tell how successful (or unsuccessful), popular (or unpopular) or viable these types of measures will be, it’s certainly going to be interesting to see what happens. Without a doubt, many people and places will be closing monitoring the results.

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5 thoughts on “COVID-19 Protocols for Tourists: 3 Extreme Examples

  1. We were just talking about how crazy the Cambodia restrictions are. And including a fee for cremation?! Are they expecting travelers to die?! I also wouldn’t really trust I would be getting that deposit back.
    In Hawaii not only are they requiring a 14-day quarantine in a hotel like you mentioned, but they’ll take your key card so you don’t leave your room.
    None of that makes us eager to travel abroad anytime soon! I have read some countries like Portugal and Iceland are making it much easier but I feel we sadly may be waiting a while longer. I also wonder if you did travel, how you’d be treated by locals. Would they be welcoming or really unhappy to have a tourist around?
    Such a strange time for us wanderlusts.


    1. We still have “Avoid All Non-Essential Travel” here domestically and if we return from abroad, we need to quarantine for 14 days so no travel planned for us. That being said, we do hope to travel locally during the summer and hope things improve in the fall to get away from here when the weather gets bad, but only time will tell!


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