The University is committed to facilitating travel under safe conditions, but travel in the presence of COVID-19 can still pose risks for which you should prepare.
COVID-19: Travel Updates and Advice for Harvard Affiliates
Although health conditions have improved in many locations around the world, travel still poses risks, and you should take appropriate precautions and follow all public health requirements at your destination. Even for those who are well-traveled, there are risks that should still be considered.
If you’re planning Harvard-related travel, do your research to determine your requirements, have contingency plans, and be prepared for the possibility of disruptions.
Everyone's risk tolerance varies. So, with all of this in mind, review our considerations, sensible precautions, and resources to help you develop a safe travel plan.
Health and Wellbeing
Talk with your doctor about your individual health and any vaccines, medications, precautions, or other medical necessities, particularly given the risks of COVID-19. Consider the availability of medical care, treatment, and hospital system capacity at your destination.
The availability of vaccines and vaccination rates continue to lag in some countries. Make sure you’re up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines before you travel internationally. Travel with your proof of vaccination, and know whether your destination has specific requirements for how to demonstrate proof of vaccination.
If returning to the US, note that vaccination requirements vary by immigration status.
Research testing requirements, types of tests, availability, costs, and turnaround times for your destination, as these vary by country. Even if it’s not required, consider getting tested with a viral test as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than 3 days) before travel.
If your destination requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test, check whether it specifies an antigen test or a PCR test and if a formal report is required. See Harvard University Health Services' (HUHS) website for more information on rapid antigen and PCR testing options.
The CDC recommends wearing a mask over your nose and mouth in indoor areas of public transportation (including airplanes) and indoors in U.S. transportation hubs (including airports). Your destination may have similar recommendations or requirements.
HUHS strongly encourages using high-quality disposable masks—such as KN95s and KF94s—worn in a way that minimizes air gaps around the edges.
If you test positive for COVID while traveling, consider where you can safely self-isolate or quarantine in your hotel/accommodation or a government-run facility.
“Make sure to have a clear sense of how you will get groceries and basic necessities.” – Harvard traveler, winter 2021
Increased transmission, the emergence of new variants, and the implementation of border restrictions and public health measures on short notice could affect your travels. You may need to adjust your plans or re-evaluate your trip.
In the event of border closures or testing positive for COVID-19, make sure you have contingency plans for lodging and access to food, water, prescription medicine, masks, soap/sanitizer, and basic necessities and services. Budget for these contingencies. Also consider whether a delayed return would affect your ability to resume on-campus research, work, or study.
“Do your very best to prepare for every situation... having to quarantine... flights canceled... and then know that there will be many things that are out of your control. ...So are there things you can do to change your behavior to make you safer?” – Harvard traveler, winter 2021
Registering Your Trip—It's Required
Register with International SOS and download the Assistance App to receive alerts. All Harvard affiliates—students, faculty, staff, and researchers—are required to register their Harvard-related international travel.
You should also register with the U.S. State Department (U.S. citizens) or with your country’s embassy. If conditions deteriorate in your destination, registering with your embassy may expedite access to support.
Emergency Response Program during COVID-19
International SOS, the University’s emergency response program, is available to help you 24/7 during and after a medical, mental health, or security incident abroad, including certain approved medical and security evacuations. You can call International SOS at +1-617-998-0000 or connect through the Assistance App. Case managers will advise you and connect you with appropriate resources.
However, considering the current COVID-19 global pandemic, it is important to understand that quarantine and extended stay costs are generally not covered expenses. Additionally, the presence or resurgence of COVID-19 in a given location, the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant, and border closures due to COVID-19, are not covered causes for an International SOS evacuation. Even if an evacuation is approved, International SOS will be bound by the local government’s regulations and may not be able to evacuate you.
Applying for Visas
Although embassies and consulates are making progress on visa processing backlogs, it can still be difficult to secure a visa appointment. Apply for visas and other travel documents well in advance (12 weeks+).
Travel Booking, Cancellation, and Reimbursements
If feasible for air travel, buy direct flights to avoid layovers. Reconfirm all arrangements prior to departure. If there’s a high likelihood your itinerary could change, consider purchasing refundable tickets and/or travel insurance as budget allows.
If your travel is paid for by Harvard, consider using one of Harvard’s preferred travel agencies to book your trip. If you had travel reservations for University business, the Harvard Travel Policy allows for reimbursement of cancellation or change fees due to a valid business reason. The policy also allows the purchase of refundable tickets when there is a high likelihood that the itinerary may change and when budget and policy allow.
If filing reimbursement requests for Harvard-related travel, submit the required documentation.
COVID-19 International Travel FAQs
University-related international trips include activities that are part of academic or professional work at Harvard, including research, study abroad, attendance at a conference, academic study, travel with a student organization or trek, or a summer or January internship (or similar volunteer or work experience) if registered at Harvard the following term. An international trip is also University-related if Harvard is funding the trip or if it's at the request of a supervisor.
Harvard-related travel does not include personal travel, such as vacations or trips home.
Quarantine and extended stay costs are generally not covered expenses under the University's International SOS membership. You will need to budget for these costs.
Harvard-affiliated offices abroad are part of the campus community. Staff in those offices should follow the same guidance on international travel that all members of the University are asked to follow.
For domestic travel, office staff should follow local health and government travel advisories in the countries where they are based.
Refer to HUHS' website for campus-related COVID-19 information.
You can also contact our International Safety & Security team, firstname.lastname@example.org, with questions related to international travel or programming abroad.