Please enjoy this guest blog post from TierOne Travel Consultant, Tara Sparshu, who recently traveled to Mexico and visited various hotels.
In this blog post, Tara shares with us the experience of traveling to Mexico right now as a Canadian and what the entire process is like traveling again during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I just recently completed my second international trip “post-pandemic”. My first trip was in August to Switzerland, and in October, I traveled to Mexico. I thought I would share my experience of what it was like traveling to Mexico!
The biggest thing I can say is documentation, documentation, documentation! Be prepared, and know the process. And be flexible, and ready for changes. Protocols and procedures can change at any time!
The first thing to know is that the Government of Canada requires all passengers over the age of 12 to show proof of vaccination to travel (negative PCR tests are accepted until November 30, 2021).
Mexico does not require proof of vaccination, however, they do require that a health declaration form be completed. This must be done online. To do this, first, you must create an account online and fill in the information. Once you have filled in the information it will give you a QR code to present to airport officials. You will need to do this for all passengers, for travel in both directions.
I will say that when I arrived at the Cancun airport, they did not ask for it at customs, but they do say it is required, so it is better to have it all completed and ready than to be unprepared. Departing Mexico, however, we were asked to present them, upon arrival at security.
The check-in process I was still able to do online like normal with the airlines. (I traveled both Air Canada and Westjet). Even if you do your check-in online, you will still need to see a check-in agent or baggage drop agent, as they do check your papers and confirm that you have all the documentation required to enter the country of your final destination.
For example, when departing for Mexico, they would be confirming that you have your proof of vaccination (or negative PCR test until Nov.30) for the Canadian requirement, your medical declaration form, and a valid passport for entry to Mexico.
The airport process was pretty much the same as pre-pandemic. A couple of changes – if you are using any of the airport parking and shuttle services, currently there is no baggage assistance, so you will need to lift your own baggage in and out of the shuttle vehicle.
Another change; wearing your mask. Masks are required through the airport and throughout the flight. The only exception to this is when you are actively eating or drinking.
Though it will be different with every airline, they are all typically doing something with regards to the sanitization process. When I flew with Westjet, they did provide Lysol wipes to clean my seat area. Air Canada provides you with a clean care kit, which included sanitization wipes, sanitization gel, and a mask. I still take along my little trusty bottle of hand sanitizer, just so that I know I have it when needed.
Arrival transfer and departure transfers in destination are the same process as normal, with the exception again that masks are required throughout the transfer.
I asked a lot of questions during my transfer. It is mandatory for all hotel staff to have their vaccination, and all staff must wear face coverings. The other thing that I found interesting is that a lot of the hotels do temperature checks every day as their staff arrives. At Dreams Natura, my first hotel, they even temperature-checked my shuttle driver as well when we arrived! So, that’s just something to be aware of in regards to staff and COVID-19 safety.
Check-in processes at the hotel will vary, depending on your hotel and their specific COVID-19 protocols. During my recent trip to Mexico, I stayed at two different hotels, so I was able to see protocols in two different spots.
When I arrived at both hotels, they sanitize your hands, have you step on a mat to sanitize your shoes, and take your temperature. They do deliver your luggage and it does come after you are taken to your room. This is because they take the luggage and sanitize the outside of all luggage before it’s delivered to the rooms.
A few things that I noticed during my stay:
They say masks are mandatory indoors, and in restaurants when you are not seated at your table. In the Lobby, they say they are mandatory, but there were a lot of people that were not wearing them. I did wear mine through the lobby area unless I was drinking….and I did have a few people look at me strangely. No masks are required outdoors, in both the pool area or beach area.
Most hotels will also take guest temperatures. At the Hilton Playa del Carmen, the second hotel that I stayed at, they took our temperature every time we entered the property. We also visited all of the Playa hotels during my stay and this was standard arrival at all of their properties.
One thing that has changed at most hotels are the buffets. Some hotels have closed them completely and have gone to straight a la carte service for breakfast. Some hotels still have the buffet open, but do require that you wear a mask and gloves. Other hotels, like the Playa hotels, have gone to a service-style buffet. The setup is the same as a regular buffet, however there is a plastic barrier between the guests and the food. A hotel employee will take your plate. You advise them what you want and they dish up your plate for you. Once they have finished serving, the plate is handed to you to take to your table. This way, the staff are the only ones coming in contact with serving utensils or the food.
Another change is the room service. At the first hotel, I found it was hit or miss. Some days they came. Some days they didn’t. They typically came for “cleaning” in the day, but rarely for turndown service. If you don’t want them entering your room, you can advise the front desk that you do not wish to have service and if you need fresh towels or the minibar restocked, you can call down to the front desk for delivery.
The second hotel they asked me at check-in if I wanted housekeeping services and if I would like it daily or every second day. And again if you wanted items restocked, you can call down to the front desk to have items brought to you.
Those are the big changes I noticed in the resorts. Again it will vary from resort to resort, but every resort does have some type of COVID-19 protocols and procedures. In my experience this time, it was pretty similar between the two hotels, and they were hotels from different hotel chains. Most resorts will have the protocols listed on their website if you are concerned and want to check them out prior to your arrival. Or, if you have your trip booked with a travel agent like me and want to know the protocols, we can help you find them.
The last thing…coming home.
I highly recommend the purchase of COVID-19 travel insurance. The COVID-19 insurance that we offer through Manulife currently includes emergency medical insurance. If you are double-vaccinated, it also includes COVID-19 insurance, which is your emergency medical due to COVID-19. This is over and above the coverage for regular emergency medical expenses. It also includes quarantine coverage. As you hopefully are aware, currently you do need a PCR test done 72 hours prior to your return flight home to Canada. Hopefully, it comes back negative, but in the chance that it does not, you will be required to quarantine. The insurance has a quarantine coverage per day for up to 14 days in case you need to quarantine in destination. It also has coverage to assist with an additional cost in changing your return flight home.
It’s been very affordable. I’ve had it for both my out-of-country trips, and I highly recommend it! The COVID-19 coverage can be added at any time up until your departure from Canada.
PCR testing: Currently, it is mandatory to do it within 72 hours of your flight home. Most hotels will have the testing done right onsite. So, what you are going to want to do is upon arrival, make arrangements with the hotel to have this testing done prior to your departure. They assist you with setting up your appointment time, tell you what the process is and where you pay the fee for your PCR test.
For us, when we checked into the Hilton Playa del Carmen, they sent us to a room that they had set aside specifically for COVID-19 testing. They actually had two rooms set aside for the process: one for the paperwork and one for the testing process.
Upon arrival, we went to the first room where we filled out the paperwork and paid the medical staff our fee for the COVID-19 testing. With them, we arranged the date and time for our testing. The day of our testing we came to the room next door, had our swab done, and away we went.
The cost for the PCR testing does vary based on destination, and even resort to resort, as it depends on the arrangements they have with the medical facility. If you’re booked with me, as we get closer to your departure, I can find out what the cost is at your specific hotel. Because it’s ever-changing, it’s best to find out closer to your departure date and keep in mind it is a guideline as it could change at any time.
Once you had your testing done, the lab emails you the results. We received our email within 24 hours of our testing. They email them to you in a PDF format. If you want a printed-off copy of your results, most hotels will have somewhere that they can be printed off. I saved mine as a pdf to my phone and also took a screenshot.
The next step is for your arrival coming back into Canada is the ArriveCan app. You will create a login and provide them with some information. This can only be done within 72 hours of your flight home. I waited until I had my test results back to complete this process.
The information required to complete the ArriveCan process includes your passport, flight details, your proof of vaccination uploaded (it does say the two receipts for your vaccines), negative COVID-19 test results, and a quarantine plan. If for some reason they deem that you are not eligible for the quarantine upon arrival into Canada, they do want you to have a quarantine plan in place. For your quarantine plan, they ask questions such as: if you can quarantine safely, do you have other household members, and if so can you can quarantine away from them, etc. Just a few questions on where and with who you would quarantine with if you did have to quarantine.
Once you submit that, you will receive a confirmation number. I was also emailed a QR code. When I came home from Switzerland, the customs agent did ask for the ArriveCan confirmation number and my proof of vaccine. Upon my return from Mexico, they did not – they only asked for my passport. Just be prepared and have the information ready in case they do ask for anything.
I know it was a lot, but I wanted to be as thorough as I could be based on my recent experiences.
Please keep in mind, COVID-19 is a fluid situation and things are constantly changing! When working with an agent, we are here to help you wade through the requirements and the changes.
When you’re ready to plan your own exciting adventure, Our TierOne Travel Consultants are here and ready to help you plan. Give us a call to plan your dream getaway at the best possible price – we’ll make sure you don’t miss any bucket list item for that destination!
One call; endless experiences!
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” – Anonymous