The past year has taken a toll on me mentally and physically. As the pandemic kicked off, I was a finishing a short trip to Houston to support my son in one of his sporting events. During the visit, I was able to visit the Houston North Marriott and take my final commercial airline flight. Since that I time, I have moved because of work and have a few surgeries to correct some issues. Needless to say, I have more hardware in my body than aisle 14 at Home Depot. I digress. Wanting to change the change my travel for the year, I booked a short itinerary from Oklahoma City to Abilene, Texas. As it turns out, this was my first and last time flying commercially this year, so far.
For the past couple of months, I have been looking into taking a short trip to either Costa Rica or Panama. I have traveled to both countries and was looking forward to experiencing the peace and tranquility that comes with a visit to the countries. The first thing I do prior to traveling anywhere is check the entry requirements. This was a huge deal my visit to Beijing a few years ago.
Panama and Costa Rica have some fairly relaxed rules when it comes to international travel. This is because international travelers make up a big portion of their economies. I expected the countries to be similar to Mexico, a country that has not closed during the pandemic, but came across a requirement for international health insurance to enter.
Here is a list of requirements for the countries:
- negative COVID-19 test (PCR or Antigen) within 48 hours prior to traveling to Panama
- If you do not have a test, or the test was done more than 48 hours before traveling to Panama, you will be required to take a test at the airport at your expense ($50.00)
- If you test positive, you will be required to quarantine at a designated hotel. After seven days you will be tested again; if you test negative you will be allowed to leave; otherwise, you must remain in quarantine for 14 days or until you test negative.
- Prior to check-in, all incoming travelers will be required to complete an Electronic Affidavit (sworn statement) agreeing to comply with al sanitary control measures, provide residence information for the stay in panama, and confirm the traveler is healthy and have not been exposed to COVID in the last 14 days.
- Health insurance is not a requirement for entry but is highly recommended
- Passport valid for duration of stay. Immigration may deny entry if passport is damaged
- Return ticket or proof of onward travel to another country
- Proof of yellow fever vaccination if you are arriving from certain countries in South America or Africa.
- Proof of funds for at least $100 USD per month of proposed stay
- Complete the digital form called HEALTH PASS 48 hours before boarding
- Purchase health insurance that covers quarantine accommodation and medical expenses due to COVID-19 disease
Even though the health insurance is a recommendation for Panama, my thoughts concerning this extra “wrinkle” are not at all positive. Travel is expensive as it is, but to add another expense makes me want to travel locally (within the United States) for the foreseeable future.
Here are my “would be” expenses for a five day visit to either one of the locations:
PCR Test (entry into the country/re-entry into United States): $100
Entertainment (food/UBER/sightseeing): ~$1000
International Health Insurance: $368/month for at least six months
I did not include expenses resulting from a positive coronavirus test. One positive test could increase the hotel and entertainment expenses significantly. Even though I have planned for the ticket, hotels, entertainment, and PCR tests (currently awaiting second COVID vaccine dose), the international health insurance policy irritates me.
Although I have insurance through my employer, it is not on the list of suggested international health insurance providers. The countries want the health insurance policy to explicitly state that it covers all COVID related expenses (hotel, food, and any miscellaneous) after testing positive. I decided to get a quote for international health insurance, for Ss and Gs (um, “poops” and giggles for anyone who did not know). A quick Google search led me to AETNA’s website. I input my information and received a quote for $368/month. The kicker is that AETNA does not offer a monthly plan. The plans actually begin at six months. This means I would have to pay at least $2400 for international health insurance. WTF?
This is infuriating on two fronts. 1) I have health insurance, why can I not use it if needed?, and 2) if I have to purchase international health insurance, why are weekly or monthly policies not available?
This was a long rant to say I have come to the conclusion that international travel, as I knew it, may never return. I love to travel to near and far places but to include what I feel is a money grab into entry requirements is a bit too much for me. I will not purchase additional insurance for the sake of traveling to any country. If travelers test positive prior to leaving, it is something we should be prepared to cover. The ongoing pandemic, coupled with this “new” health insurance requirement has turned me off to traveling to Central America. I do not have the bandwidth to deal with rapidly changing travel requirements, so I will start planning local itineraries.
Am I overreacting to the health insurance requirement?