Vaccinated travelers may soon be able to travel to Hawaii without testing or quarantine, about eight months after the state put in place its strict Safe Travels program.
In the past few days, Hawaii Governor David Ige has issued a series of guidelines on travel and other aspects of the further reopening of the state, which has had the strictest entry requirements of any US state since the pandemic began.
When Hawaii hits a vaccination rate of 60 percent, people who have been vaccinated in the United States and are traveling domestically can bypass testing and quarantine requirements with a proof of vaccination. As of Tuesday, quarantine and testing requirements for travel between counties will end. And when the state hits a vaccination rate of 70 percent, all travel restrictions will be lifted and the state’s Safe Travels program will end.
By Wednesday, 53 percent of Hawaii residents were fully vaccinated and 60 percent had received their first vaccination.
“As Hawaii’s public health outcomes appear to be improving and our economy appears to be stabilizing, I am ending several of the emergency provisions that have been in place for over a year,” Ige said in a statement Tuesday.
His words have been welcomed by travelers eager to travel to the islands at high prices (one travel agent describes interest in visiting Hawaii as “off the charts” in recent weeks). But for the many who have recently been to the state – and locals who have traveled between the islands – the governor’s plans come a little late, and after much confusion, frustration and what they say is a waste of money.
To visit or switch between the islands, travelers, whether vaccinated or not, must present a negative Covid test result within 72 hours of the trip. These tests vary in price, with some people paying $ 200 or $ 300.
Vaccinated travelers complain that the tests are expensive and unnecessary, and that it is too difficult to get the correct information about the required requirements.
“Traveling to Hawaii today is a lot harder than you might think,” said Cheryl Temple, a former mayor of Orting, Washington, who is currently in Kauai. “As you research, read every word and click on every link. It’s all there, but I missed a small but important piece. “
Ms. Temple’s son lives on the island of Kauai but recently had an operation on Oahu. She flew there to meet him and then flew with him to Kauai, where she planned to take care of him at his home. She is fully vaccinated and had a negative Covid test before traveling to Oahu from the mainland. But when she landed on Kauai, she was told that she would either have to fly back to Oahu and get tested, or immediately quarantine a hotel in Kauai for 10 days, apart from her son. She flew back to Oahu, got tested for $ 150 and tested, then flew back to Kauai.
Other travelers report similarly frustrating experiences when traveling between islands. They said the rules for tests to get to Hawaii from the mainland were clear and well explained on Safe Travel’s website, but the rules for inter-island travel were vague and harder to understand.
Desiree Baker went to TikTok this week to share her frustrations after traveling to Hawaii from Boston. She landed on Maui first, then went to Oahu for a few days before returning to Maui. Ms. Baker and a friend did not get tested before leaving Oahu for Maui. When they landed, National Guard officers at Maui Airport told them they had to return to Oahu for testing or immediate quarantine. She said she would quarantine her Airbnb where she left her belongings during the days she was in Oahu.
“They said it was against the law to be quarantined on an Airbnb,” she said. “We had to stay at one of their hotels they work with, which was $ 300 a night and we couldn’t get our things from our Airbnb.”
She instead opted for a $ 155 round-trip ticket to Oahu to get a covid test for $ 140.
Janet Flagg, travel advisor at Boost Journeys, a boutique agency focused on luxury travel, recently traveled from Boston to Hawaii, to the Big Island. She and others said airlines should better tell people what to expect when they land.
“It’s a 13-hour trip so they’ve had a captive audience for so long and they still aren’t preparing for what you get when you land,” she said. “It was chaos at the airport.”
She said the people are divided into different lines: one for the residents; another for visitors, which is then divided into separate lines for vaccinated travelers and unvaccinated travelers. She found that many travelers had not completed parts of the pre-flight onboarding process: answering a questionnaire about their health in the 24 hours prior to the flight or uploading their test results to Safe Travel Website. Pausing the queue while they completed these steps created delays for everyone, she said.
Those charged with verifying travelers’ travel details appeared to be irritated by travelers, and travelers appeared to be irritated by them, Ms. Flagg said.
There is still a chance that those who manage to exit the airport will need to be quarantined.
Betsy Blair, a Milwaukee-based health psychologist, traveled to Hawaii with her wife this month. The couple prepared their records, got tested negative by a state-approved test provider, and made their way to Hawaii. They flew to Kona on the Big Island with no problem, then to Maui for a couple of nights, and then to Hilo, back on the Big Island. Ms. Blair said she repeatedly asked people at her Maui hotel if she and her wife would need a test to return to the Big Island, but they were told they wouldn’t.
“Between scouring the site and asking people who we thought knew the rules, we went to Hilo,” she said. They were immediately quarantined, but were allowed to sit on their Airbnb. To make matters worse, their car rental was canceled immediately as the quarantine and reservation information is linked in the state’s Safe Travels app.
The state’s tourism board said Hawaii’s rental car fleet declined more than 40 percent during the pandemic as many auto companies sold their cars. Janice Berman, who recently traveled to Maui, said she was given a $ 3,000 award to rent a car for 12 days.
The cost of carpooling with services like Uber and Lyft is also extremely high. The tourism authority is encouraging travelers to use other modes of transport to explore the islands.
Ms. Blair said she was lucky and found an Uber driver willing to take her and her wife for a Covid test and then to a grocery store before dropping them off at their place. A day later, they got their negative test results, but they still didn’t have a car.
Travelers said they had to show the QR code at every turn that they received when they uploaded their test results before boarding a flight – when renting a car, checking into a hotel, some restaurants and the Participation in various excursions. Some found the procedure cumbersome and unnecessarily strict. A simpler solution, many said, would be to be able to prove the one-time vaccination – upon arrival at the airport. And those who travel between the islands said one test should be enough. The assumption should be that when you are in Hawaii you have gone through the rigorous screening process to get there. However, authorities said the state put in place the strict testing rules to keep locals safe.
But some travelers, like Ms. Blair, said they understand the plethora of precautionary measures the state is taking. Others said they chose Hawaii specifically because they knew the coronavirus was being taken seriously there and they were safe. Jumping through the hoops is said to be a small price to pay for paradise.
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