Months into this global pandemic, restrictions are starting to ease in many countries around the world and travel is picking back up again.
With cold winter weather already hitting spots in Canada and the USA, many people are considering the idea of heading down to Mexico for some fun in the sun—but is it safe?
Here’s what you need to know about visiting Mexico right now, including quarantine rules, health regulations, and tips for where to go to get away from the crowds.
Note: This article details my experience travelling in Baja California Sur; experiences may vary in other parts of Mexico.
Why I chose to travel to Mexico
As a full-time travel writer, 2020 has been challenging to say the least. Plans to jet off to places like Hawaii and the Dominican Republic were suddenly shelved when the virus hit; instead, I hardly left the house for months, wear a mask religiously, and have been exploring my own backyard instead of venturing off to foreign countries.
I hit my breaking point in September when devastating forest fires meant we couldn’t even go outside for five days because the smoke was so bad. A seat sale at the same time promising we’d have the entire row to ourselves was too tempting to resist, and just like that I found myself jetting down to San Jose del Cabo for my first flight in seven months.
I did not take the decision lightly, but there are a few reasons I felt comfortable with our decision. First, we spent a bit of extra money for a direct flight instead of ones with layovers through busy airports to avoid needless exposure to more people, and booked a rental car so we wouldn’t ever be in a vehicle with anyone else. Second, we stayed at small properties with private casitas/villas that are hours away from Cabo, versus a large resort on the strip which would likely have more guests, shared hallways and elevators, buffet lines, etc. Finally, the areas we planned to visit have large open-air restaurants, lots of outdoor activities, and deserted beaches which are perfect for social distancing.
Who can go to Mexico, and is there a quarantine?
As of October 2020, there are no travel restrictions in place for visitors from Canada or the USA flying into Mexico for a vacation, as well as no quarantine or COVID test required upon arrival. Those flying back to the USA also are not subject to any restrictions when they land, whereas Canadians must quarantine at home for 14 days. However, a pilot project at the airport in Calgary, Alberta means that visitors arriving at YYC on a direct, international flight may only need to quarantine for as little as two days.
What’s it like at the airport?
We flew into San Jose del Cabo (SJD) and found the arrivals process to be very orderly with very few lines. We were given a form to fill out for contact tracing purposes, and there were signs all around reminding everyone that masks are mandatory as well as lots of hand sanitizer and markings on the floor to ensure travellers gave each other space. Getting through immigration and customs was speedy, and there were no temperature checks or required proof of a negative COVID test.
It was a different scene in the departures terminal, which was just as busy as I’ve ever seen it. While virtually everyone wore masks (except while seated at the airport restaurant), it was difficult to socially-distance. Each passenger is required to fill out another contact tracing form, and there’s a large machine heading into the security area that sets off an alert if someone walks past it with a high temperature reading.
What kind of precautions are in place, and are people wearing masks?
Overall, I was satisfied with the safety protocols in place, though there is room for improvement (such as not having to take or provide proof of a negative PCR test) and a huge factor seems to be where you go in Mexico.
I travelled to three areas which are a couple hours north of Cabo: Todos Santos which is known for its cuisine, art and great beaches, and Los Barilles and La Ventana which are popular spots for wind sports and deep-sea fishing. Each of them are off the beaten path compared to popular Mexican vacation spots like Cancun and Cabo, which means a fraction of the tourists and a more authentic cultural experience.
Todos Santos was fantastic when it comes to safety measures, especially at restaurants. Most performed temperature checks before you were allowed in, and at a few the servers wore not just one, but two masks. In fact, about 97 per cent of the people I saw during my few days there wore masks, even while sitting at the outdoor taco stands when no one else was around! There were also big jugs of sanitizer everywhere, and occupancy limits at hotels.
While there were similar protocols in place in La Ventana and Los Barriles, it seemed both the locals and guests were more lax about it, perhaps because certain people don’t believe they should have to wear them (one American guy even joked ‘oh, we don’t wear those here!’ when we walked into the resort restaurant wearing ours).
Some employees at places like hotels and coffee shops weren’t wearing them at all or had them hanging halfway down so their noses weren’t covered, and mask use didn’t seem to be enforced anywhere. It’s also a challenge to wear them when doing physical activities around the water, like a fishing trip or kiteboarding lesson.
While I didn’t visit any of the large resorts in Cabos San Lucas or Los Cabos this time, I did speak with a couple at the airport who said both they and their bags were ‘sanitized’ upon arrival at their hotel in Cabo, but after that point almost no one wore masks the whole time.
Where to go in Mexico
Again, so much seems to be dependent on where you go and the type of crowd it attracts, so if safety is a top priority it may be best to avoid large hotels in popular areas in favour of smaller properties in lesser-known spots. I adore Los Colibris Casitas in Todos Santos, which has 11 different villas that are fully detached, beautifully decorated and have private patios where you can watch the spectacular sunset while keeping an eye out for whales. Plus, how gorgeous is the infinity pool? Click here to book
Another fun option is Chilo Chill, a glamping resort along one of the best beaches in La Ventana which also has a kiteboarding school. Each one of the white canvas tents has its own bathroom, and there are fences between them for additional privacy. Spend your day relaxing in a swinging hammock or cushy lounger just steps from the water, or go for a dip in the shimmering sea. This is the kind of place where you’ll go days without wearing shoes, and is perfect for social distancing. Click here to book
Safety tips for travelling in Mexico right now
- Book direct flights and book a rental car if possible, to limit the number of people you come into contact with.
- Masks are mandatory in many places, so ensure you have a few different options on hand. Disposable N95 masks work well since you can throw them away once you make it through the airport to avoid possible contamination, and some travellers also wear a plastic face shield for additional protection.
- Pack a travel-size container of hand sanitizer in your carry-on.
- Travel insurance is more important than ever before, so read the fine print to confirm that the plan you’re purchasing covers COVID-related emergencies. Some airlines like Air Canada and WestJet are including this type of insurance for passengers with international bookings.
Portions of Globe Guide’s trip to Baja were supported by La Paz Tourism, Todos Santos Eco Adventures and ChiloChill. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.
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