Taking an international flight during a global pandemic might seem intimidating or unsafe, but it actually felt quite normalizing to travel again during these strange times, and felt perfectly safe. That first moment of lift-off from Portland felt magical. For my fellow travel-lovers, you know. Trying to describe the feeling: You know how when you’re sad, it feels so BIG and momentous? And when you feel happy it feels like little pockets of joy? Well, at the moment the wheels went up, I felt a BIG happy – it covered my whole body and soul. Everything just felt right.
As a digital nomad (I do not particularly enjoy this term, but I think it broadly captures the scope of my location independent life I am currently working to create.) without a permanent home base, I’ve been keeping a maniacal eye on the Covid-19 border situation around the world since spring. (That is only slightly less obsessive than it sounds.)
After returning suddenly to Portland in March of this year, I kept one eye on flights and which countries were allowing United States citizens with American passports. South America was high on my list, but their borders weren’t opening anytime soon. Greece was my first choice…. but when the EU came to gather all her children and enacted a comprehensive border policy – which makes total sense – Greece fell off the table. Then Mexico. Then family matters came into play and I took a step back from thinking about leaving for a couple months.
This is a long way of saying leaving the US again was pretty consistently on my mind for most of 2020. The further I researched, the clearer Croatia became my choice. For multiple reasons, including:
- They split (no pun intended) from the EU’s guidelines and in July announced they were opening to all tourists who met their requirements, including tourism.
- Using the last of my Alaska miles, I could get a flight from Portland to Dubrovnik for $32.
- Tourism is a valid reason to enter the country; you just have to show proof of paid accommodation upon entry.
- I’ve never been to Croatia and it is close to my favorite part of the world, central/eastern Europe.
- But really, because it is one of half a dozen countries actually allowing Americans in.
Note: Most countries in the EU/Schengen Area operate from where your passport is from/or maybe where you legally reside. It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from; it matters what your passport or residency card says. Some countries are starting to stray from this; keep an eye on US Embassy websites in individual countries for up-to-date information.
Entering Croatia from the United States During Covid Times
Here is what is needed to enter Croatia, as of this writing, as an American citizen from the United States:
- a negative PCR swab test from within 48 hours of landing (OR if you arrive with an expired negative test, you can quarantine until you take a local test at your own expense OR if you haven’t received your results yet you can quarantine until you do and then email the local Epidemiological Clinic OR you can quarantine for 14 days without a test at all and then go on your merry way)
- printed proof of accommodation
Now, here is my experience:
Trip report: US to Croatia with American passport, 30/Sept.
I flew from Portland to Chicago (Alaska Air) to Dublin (Aer Lingus) to Dubrovnik (Ryan Air). My original flight from Dublin to Dubrovnik on Aer Lingus was canceled, so I had to rebook on Ryan Air. One reason why I chose the date I did for flying out is because with everything unknown, I wanted to have a back-up plan. I saw that Ryan Air flew twice a week from Dublin to Dubrovnik – so I booked a flight purposely on one of those days so I could have a built-in back up plan if needed.
– Covid/transfer flight paperwork upon arrival in Dublin
– printed proof of negative Covid-19 rest results from within 48 hours of landing
– printed receipt of 7 day Dubrovnik Airbnb stay
I had ready the overland border crossing certificate (for people traveling by car) just in case, and receipt of month-long stay in Split in case I needed to show longer proof of accommodation, but neither were needed. I also didn’t need proof of outgoing travel.
My Covid test results were from a rapid test I got at Walgreens and the border agent approved my entry easily.
The flights themselves were mostly empty. Alaska and Aer Lingus blocked the middle seats, and both planes were less than 1/4 full anyway. Every passenger and flight attendant wore masks. Sanitizer was everywhere. Alaska did not serve food or alcohol, while Aer Lingus served 2 meals and no hard alcohol, but beer and wine were available for purchase. Ryan Air was a little different – still less than half full flight, and most people wore masks, though some did the tuck below the nose thing.
Now here I am in Croatia! I spent the first week in Dubrovnik. Because that’s where my miles took me, I booked seven days here in case my Covid test result wasn’t accepted and I had to retake a test. (luckily that didn’t happen!) Then I headed up to Split for one month. I am legally allowed to be here on a tourist visa for 90 days. I don’t know yet where I’ll go when my 90 days are up – I’ll of course be keeping an eye on any borders opening, and will hope that maybe one of my favorite cities in Romania or Bulgaria might let me in, if numbers stay down. If not though I have a few options I’m considering.
Here are a couple questions I got on Instagram:
Q: “How did you make sure that you would get your results in time/how did you time your test?” – MiryaRose
A: A LOT of research. Croatia, like most countries, requires a PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) test, which detects the virus’ genetic material. These are widely seen as more accurate than rapid tests or antibody tests. Typically in the U.S. these tests take anywhere from 2-7 days to receive your results.
A few trip reports in my Covid-19 Info Croatia group on Facebook mentioned that if you arrived at the border and did not have your results yet, you’d be allowed in, but you’d have to quarantine until you received your results. After carefully considering the time zones on my Google calendar, I decided to make an appointment for Monday morning at 9AM. This would give me about 42 hours to receive results. And I figured I could just quarantine until I received my results if they weren’t emailed to me yet.
Fun twist – Walgreens updated their website to show that they ONLY offered rapid tests – not PCR. Shoot. I decided to go for it anyway. It was a free test (as opposed to the other Portland-area tests I researched), so I figured I’d show up at the border with these results and if the agent accepted them – great! If not, I’d quarantine until I made an appointment for a local PCR test (which costs, in Dubrovnik, $100-$200. It seems Dubrovnik is the most expensive city in Croatia for a test.)
Luckily, they accepted my rapid test results at the border entry. Your mileage may vary.
Q: “Very curious about mask usage and physical distancing during the non-plane portions of the trip” – seanopia
A: Honestly? Everyone I saw was masked up in the airports and various transfer points. Airport employees, airline employees, travelers… everyone I noticed, both on the airplanes and off, followed procedure.
What questions do you have? Leave ’em in the comments below!
- Croatia/US Embassy Covid Info
- Covid Testing Facilities in Croatia
- Recommendations and Instructions from the Croatian Institute of Health
- Safety Wing Insurance (covers Covid-19 – good if you’ll be traveling for several months or more)
- Testing centers in Croatia
- Epidemiologists by County
- 7 Things to Know for Vegans Traveling to Croatia
- Online grocery delivery services in Croatia (in case you have to quarantine)
What questions do you have? Leave ’em in the comments below!