December 3, 2023

Travel Hawaii

It's Your Travel Hawaii

Everything you need to know about Canada’s incoming travel measures

Canadians are in a much better position now than they were in 2020, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos declared on February 15, before lifting some travel restrictions across the country.

The shift towards looser restrictions was marked by a reduction in the transmission of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, growing numbers of vaccinated Canadians, and lower hospitalization rates.

According to Duclos, it was only made possible by a strong surveillance system, a highly vaccinated population, and continued access to vaccines, therapeutics, and rapid tests.

Canada’s eased border and airport restrictions go into effect on February 28. 

Changes to COVID-19 testing and vaccine requirements

First, the federal government is returning to random PCR testing for vaccinated travellers, which means only people who are selected need to be tested. Travelers eligible to enter Canada who are not fully vaccinated are still subject to mandatory on-arrival and day eight testing.

“Further, and perhaps most importantly, fully vaccinated travellers who are selected under the random testing regime will no longer have to quarantine while awaiting test results,” said Duclos.

They also lifted restrictions for children under 12 who aren’t fully vaccinated but are travelling with fully vaccinated adults. This means young kids won’t have to wait and self-isolate before attending school, daycare, or day camps, and they won’t be subject to testing. 

Fully vaccinated people entering Canada will be subject to mandatory random testing, and don’t have to quarantine while awaiting their test result. However, travelers eligible to enter Canada who are not fully vaccinated are required to quarantine for 14 days.

Travellers can also choose either a rapid test or a PCR test to meet pre-entry requirements for getting into Canada. The antigen test needs to be authorized in the country from which it was purchased and must be administered by a laboratory healthcare or telehealth service.

The rapid test needs to be taken no more than 24 hours before the flight or border crossing.

Anyone who chooses a PCR test needs to take it no less than 72 hours prior. 

To prove a previous COVID-19 infection, the government of Canada will only accept molecular test results from between 10 and 180 calendar days before the traveller entered the country.

Can you travel for non-essential reasons?

Canada’s general health notice has been changed from level three to level two, meaning they no longer recommend Canadians avoid travelling abroad for non-essential purposes.

As of Feb. 28, the ban on international flights to all remaining airports will also be lifted. They will work with various authorities to start safely accepting international flights in the coming weeks and months.

However, Duclos suggests Canadians proceed with caution anyway. 

“There is still the real risk of becoming sick or stranded while abroad and having to extend their trip or find themselves in need of medical assistance, should they test positive for COVID-19 while travelling abroad,” he said. 

He added that border restrictions can also change while they’re abroad.


The measures in place now are transitionary, not permanent, and the feds will be reassessing them in the coming weeks and months. 

If hospitalizations continue to diminish and Canadians continue to get their booster shots, further easing of travel restrictions could happen in the coming weeks, he said. 

“This means that, again, if the situation warrants, the testing exemption for short trips under 72 hours, for instance, could be reinstated, and eventually further testing requirements could be dropped,” said Duclos.

Canadians travelling must continue to use ArriveCAN, said Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety.

Do I still need a PCR test in other countries?

It’s not necessary to take one to get into Canada anymore, but what about other destinations?

The rules depend on where you’re going. For example, the risk in Mexico is at level four, meaning people are being advised against visiting. However, it’s still open to travellers, and you don’t need to provide a negative PCR test or quarantine upon arrival. The most you’ll need to go through there at this time are health screenings at airports and questionnaires at resorts.

In Hawaii, there’s a pre-travel testing program visitors must participate in. They must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test from one of the state-approved partners and complete a State Department of Agriculture paper form distributed on all flights before arrival.

If you’re looking to visit another country or continent, make sure you check the requirements before you travel to avoid any surprises.

What comes next?

No one knows for sure, but the federal ministers making the announcement on February 15 had some ideas.

Duclos closed his address by saying our fight against the virus is not over.

“As we have seen over the past two years, COVID-19 does not follow a predictable path. It does not abide by any timelines. Canada needs to be prepared to face future waves, future variants, which may or may not be smaller than the current Omicron surge, depending on how the virus continues to evolve,” he said. 

“Today’s announcement is very encouraging, but I will repeat it: all measures are subject to constant reevaluation. We will continue to adjust it according to science, prudence, and the epidemiological situation.”

There are no updates on how testing will work on cruise ships yet, but they’ll be coming sometime this spring, according to Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.

Although he knows citizens are desperate to return to “normal,” Minister of Tourism Randy Boissonnault said it’s not the time to lift all the restrictions at once. 

“A gradual process provides us with predictability, provides the industry with predictability, and helps everyone keep moving in one direction,” he said.