Updated every few days. Last update: 23rd October 2021.
How is the COVID-19 situation looking in South America? After over a year of living through the pandemic, this is the question on everybody’s lips! Whilst travel in many other parts of the world is still impossible, some countries in South America have tentatively started to welcome travellers again.
If you’re anything like us, you’re desperate to hop on a plane and get back to exploring this rich and diverse continent. But what is the situation actually like on the ground? Is it even worth arranging a backpacking trip at the moment?
The travel restrictions in South America are constantly changing so we’re updating this article to reflect our understanding of the rules currently in place, the moment they become public knowledge. Whether you’re wondering which countries are open for tourism or you’re looking to find out what the quarantine or mask-wearing requirements are, we’ve got you covered!
COVID-19 in South America – A Quick Overview
If you’ve been following the news over the last year, you’ll probably know that the situation with COVID-19 in South America hasn’t been great. Brazil has been one of the most badly hit countries around the world and high levels of COVID infections have plighted Colombia, Argentina and Peru, to name a few.
Many parts of the continent are still under local restrictions, including mandatory quarantine periods and curfews. The talk of vaccine passports continues, but right now, many countries remain closed to tourism.
There are a few countries that are open to visitors but travel is still a long way from normal and at the moment, hopping on a plane to South America comes with all sorts of caveats. These can include, potential proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, negative PCR test results or the completion of a mandatory quarantine in a state-run facility.
Currently, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay are all open for travel. However, there are still restrictions that prohibit entry to those from areas where variants of concern are circulating. Even if you are allowed in, travel to these countries is not always simple either. Mandatory quarantine requirements and local restrictions mean that trips are more costly and traveller freedoms may be curbed.
Here at South America Backpacker, we have everything crossed 🤞, hoping for a return to more normality by the end of the year. After all, if we don’t have hope, we don’t have anything, right?! The fact that many South American countries have begun to relax their restrictions and open their borders is a hugely positive start.
If you’re hoping to head off to South America in the near or distant future, you’re in the right place! Bookmark this article now and keep up with the latest news hot off the press!
Our recommended travel insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic is Safety Wing’s Nomad Insurance. SafetyWing is one of the only travel insurance companies that are offering full COVID-19 cover as part of their International Medical Cover. Ideal for backpackers and digital nomads.
Read Next (Opens in new tab):
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- Safest South American Countries
COVID-19 Travel Restrictions across South America (Countries Listed A-Z) – October 2021
Argentina Travel Restrictions
20th October 2021 – Argentina removed the requirement for fully vaccinated travellers to take a PCR test upon arrival. Source.
25th September 2021 – Argentina to open its borders to fully vaccinated visitors from Chile and Uruguay on 1st October, then from the rest of the world on 1st November 2021. Source.
21st September – “Almost all” Covid restrictions lifted as rates of both cases and deaths drop significantly. Source.
- Open to international travellers: Partial. Argentina is open to fully vaccianted visitors from Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. The rest of the world is expected to be allowed to enter the country from 1st November 2021.
- Visa on arrival: Not available.
- Requirements before departure: If you fulfil the above criteria, you will need to present a negative PCR test upon arrival and an electronic ‘sworn statement’, no earlier than 48 hours before you travel.
- Quarantine: Any unvaccinated arrivals must quarantine for 7 days.
- Current internal travel restrictions: Restrictions vary across the country, dependent on risk level. In some of the most high-risk areas, curfews are in place.
- Face coverings: Face masks are required in all public spaces.
- Border crossings: Land and sea borders are closed.
READ MORE: COVID-19 Argentina Travel Restrictions.
Bolivia Travel Restrictions
Flight restrictions from Europe have been relaxed. Source.
- Open to international travellers: Yes. Bolivia is open to travellers across the world.
- Visa on arrival: Yes, these are available.
- Requirements before departure: All travellers to Bolivia will need to present a negative PCR test to board the plane and hold medical insurance which covers COVID-19.
- Quarantine: A 10-day quarantine is required for all travellers. (However, one local tour provider has told us this is not being enforced.)
- Extra costs: You will need to pay for a PCR test on your 7th day of quarantine.
- Current internal travel restrictions: Local authorities are responsible for setting their own restrictions in regards to COVID-19. Curfews are in place in some areas, including in the La Paz department.
- Face coverings: Face coverings are a requirement in all public places.
- Border crossings: Land borders between Brazil and Bolvia are closed. Other land borders, on the Bolivian side are open but it’s only possible to cross into Paraguay as all other neighbouring countries have kept their borders closed.
READ MORE: COVID-19 Bolivia Travel Restrictions.
Brazil Travel Restrictions
22nd October 2021 – Brazil confirms that by the end of 2021, cruise ships will once again be operational along its coastline and in its ports. Source.
19th September 2021 – Germany relaxes travel restrictions from Brazil, which is no longer listed as a “high risk country”. Source.
As of 20th August 2021, there is a mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals who have been in the UK, India or South Africa in the 14 days before their arrival into Brazil. Source.
- Open to international travellers: Brazil is open for tourism unless you are travelling from or via one of the countries listed above.
- Visa on arrival: Yes.
- Requirements before departure: All travellers to Brazil are required to present proof of a negative PCR test taken no earlier than 72 hours before boarding their flight. Passengers must also complete a ‘Health Declaration Form’ within 72 hours of boarding.
- Quarantine: If you have permission to enter the country and have travelled from or via the UK (or stopped over in the last 14-days) you will be required to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine. There is no other quarantine requirements for visitors to Brazil.
- Extra costs: If you begin to experience COVID-19 symptoms, you are advised to self-isolate for 15 days at your own expense.
- Current internal travel restrictions: Restrictions vary by region and are decided by the local government. Regional lockdowns are in effect in some areas.
- Face coverings: Face masks are required in public spaces and for use on public transport.
- Border crossings: Most of Brazil’s land borders are closed to non-residents. The border with Paraguay has just reopened.
READ MORE: COVID-19 Brazil Travel Restrictions.
Chile Travel Restrictions
20th October – As of 1st November, interregional travel in Chile will be possible for vaccinated travellers with just a Mobility Pass. This replaces the previous Health Passport which is still a requirement for interregional travel until 1st November. Source.
15th October – As of 1st November, Chile will allow fully vaccinated tourists to enter without quarantine. Source.
16th September – Chile to reopen its borders to tourists from October 1st. Source.
Foreign travel restrictions are being eased for fully jabbed nationals. Source.
- Open to international travellers: Yes, from October 1st 2021 fully vaccinated international tourists will be able to travel to Chile.
- Visa on arrival: Yes.
- Requirements before departure: You will need to make sure you have taken a PCR test no more than 72 hours prior to your journey. This test must be negative. You will also need adequate medical insurance for $30,000 USD that covers potential COVID-19 infection for the duration of your stay. You must have received two doses of approved Covid-19 vaccine and have validated your vaccinated status with mevacuno.gob.cl (part of the Chilean Ministry of Health). You will need to complete the ‘Affidavit’ form before your arrival which will generate a QR code needed to enter the country.
- Quarantine: There is a compulsory 7-day quarantine for all arrivals into Chile (from October 1st 2021, quarantine is reduced to five days for those who have a mobility pass), including for residents and nationals. Vaccination will not exempt travellers from this quarantine. The first five days of this must be completed in a ‘transitionary hotel’. If you test negative at the end of this period, you can complete the remainder of the quarantine in your own accommodation. During your first fourteen days in the country, you must contactable via email and will be required to complete follow-up processes in a timely manner when asked of you.
- Extra costs: You may be charged for PCR tests, quarantine hotel and transfers.
- Current internal travel restrictions: Restrictions vary across the country and are determined by local authorities. There are currently two levels of curfew, dependent on the general public health status and the number of vaccinated residents in an area.
- Face coverings: Face coverings are compulsory on public transport and in public spaces.
- Border crossings: Land borders are still closed.
READ MORE: COVID-19 Chile Travel Restrictions.
Colombia Travel Restrictions
On June 4th, Colombia scrapped its requirement for travellers entering by air to produce a negative COVID-19 test. Source.
- Open to international travellers: Yes, Colombia is open for most visitors. Foreign nationals travelling from India or the UK are not permitted entry. Direct flights to/from London are currently suspended.
- Visa on arrival: Yes.
- Requirements before departure: Passengers will also need to complete the ‘Check-Mig’ form between 1-24 hours of departing for the country. Any traveller who has symptoms of COVID-19, has tested positive or been in contact with somebody who has tested positive in the last 14 days, will not be allowed to enter the country.
- Quarantine: There is no longer a quarantine period in place for travellers.
- Current internal travel restrictions: Internal travel around the country is allowed at present, however, different regions may be under different COVID-19 restrictions. These rules can change quickly with little notice.
- Face coverings: Face masks are compulsory in all public spaces and whilst using public transport. All passengers (over two years old) on aeroplanes to Colombia must wear surgical face coverings.
- Border crossings: Most land borders with Colombia are open. The exceptions are those between Venezuela and Panama.
READ MORE: COVID-19 Colombia Travel Restrictions.
Ecuador Travel Restrictions
- NEWS –
- 22nd October – Fully vaccinated travellers entering the Galapagos Islands will no longer need to provide a negative PCR test, taken no more than 72 hours prior to their arrival. Instead, a vaccination certificate will be enough. However, the use of vaccination certificates by foriegn nationals will be constantly under review. Source.
- Open to international travellers: Yes, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands are open for international tourism.
- Visa on arrival: Visas are available on arrival but may be subject to proof of return travel.
- Requirements before departure: Most travellers heading to Ecuador will need to take a PCR test no earlier than 72 hours before arriving in the country. If you have proof that you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you do not need to provide a negative PCR test. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 but it has been over a month since you last had symptoms and you are still testing positive, you can get an official medical certificate to bypass the testing requirement. Travel medical insurance is a requirement for all passengers. All travellers will be required to fill out a Health Declaration Form with their itinerary and local contact information.
- Quarantine: There is no quarantine for most travellers entering the country. The exception is those who test positive for COVID-19 on arrival. They will need to quarantine for 10 days.
- Extra costs: Additional PCR tests (if required). You will need to do an additional test if you are heading to the Galapagos Islands.
- Current internal travel restrictions: Local authorities are determining COVID-19 restrictions. Rules can change with little notice.
- Face coverings: These must be worn in all public places.
- Border crossings: Land borders with neighbouring countries are closed to foreigners.
READ MORE: COVID-19 Ecuador Travel Restrictions.
Paraguay Travel Restrictions
- Open to international travellers: Yes but with some caveats.
- Visa on arrival: Yes.
- Requirements before departure: All travellers heading to Paraguay will need to provide proof of a negative PCR test result. This test should be taken no earlier than 72 hours before entering the country. If you have previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14-90 days, you will be able to skip the test requirement if you can provide proof of this. You must complete a ‘health declaration’ when you enter the country and upload your vaccination status proof if you have it. Make sure you are covered by travel medical insurance.
- Quarantine: Those who provide proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to quarantine. All other passengers will be required to quarantine for five days after their pre-departure COVID-19 test.
- Current internal travel restrictions: Restrictions vary depending on which part of the country you are in. These rules change often and sometimes, with very little notice.
- Face coverings: Face masks should be worn in public areas.
- Border crossings: The land border with Brazil is open.
READ MORE: COVID-19 Paraguay Travel Restrictions.
Peru Travel Restrictions
From November 15th, all travellers over 45 using commercial transport to travel between provinces must provide proof of vaccination to travel. Source.
On 6th May, Peru announced it is allowing in flights from the UK after suspending them previously. Flights from South Africa are still suspended. Source.
- Open to international travellers: Yes, for most people. Commercial travel into Peru restarted on 5th October 2020. However, foreign nationals from South Africa are still not permitted to enter.
- Visa on arrival: Yes. However, many nationalities do not require a visa for entry into Peru.
- Requirements before departure: Fully vaccinated travellers may need to present proof upon arrival and are not required to do a COVID-19 test. All other passengers travelling to Peru must have proof of a negative RT-PCR test (antigen or molecular) taken no earlier than 72 hours prior to your flight departure.
- Quarantine: For travellers who can provide proof of a negative PCR test or are fully vaccinated, there is no quarantine requirement. Peruvian nationals or residents who have travelled from or via South Africa have to quarantine for 14 days.
- Extra costs: If you test positive at any point, you will need to pay for the cost of your quarantine.
- Current internal travel restrictions: The state of emergency in the country has been extended and regions are currently operating under a tier system according to COVID-19 risk.
- Face coverings: These must be worn in all public spaces and on public transport. There are stricter rules regarding face coverings which apply to crowded places such as markets and supermarkets. Double masking is common throughout the country.
- Border crossings: Land borders are closed.
READ MORE: COVID-19 Peru Travel Restrictions.
Uruguay Travel Restrictions
Uruguay plans to open borders on November 1st, 2021 for fully vaccinated foreign travellers who can produce a negative PCR test. Source.
- Open to international travellers: No, unless you are entering with special permission from the National Immigration department. Aside from these exemptions, the only people able to enter Uruguay are residents and nationals.
- Visa on arrival: Not available.
- Requirements before departure: You must take a PCR test no earlier than 72 hours before you travel. You must also hold medical insurance which covers COVID-19 for the duration of your stay.
- Quarantine: There is a mandatory 14-day quarantine in place for all travellers who are not fully vaccinated. If you are fully vaccinated, you won’t have to quarantine if you can provide a negative PCR test no earlier than 72 hours before you travel and another a week later.
- Current internal travel restrictions: Social distancing measures are still in place. In some areas, certain facilities are closed. Be aware that restrictions can change quickly.
- Face coverings: These are being encouraged for use in all public spaces.
- Border crossings: Land borders remain closed.
READ MORE: COVID-19 Uruguay Travel Restrictions.
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