Christmas in New York 2021: US entry requirements, Covid travel restrictions - and things to do in NYC at Xmas

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Visiting the famous New York Christmas Tree is top of the list for a festive holiday in the Big Apple

UK tourists fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will soon be able to holiday in the US again as the country prepares to reopen its borders.

From 8 November, British travellers who are double jabbed will be allowed to enter America after a blanket ban of more than 18 months due to the pandemic.

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The travel ban was introduced by former President Donald Trump in March last year, but the White House has now confirmed that vaccinated tourists will be welcomed back from early this month, in what will be a major boost to the travel industry.

Around 3.8 million Brits visited in the US every year before the pandemic, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and with the borders soon reopening, many may be thinking about heading stateside for a much needed holiday.

New York is one of America’s most popular tourist destinations, particularly around Christmas. So if you are planning a festive US getaway to the Big Apple this winter, here are all Covid-19 travel rules you need to know.

What are the entry requirements for New York?

As of 8 November, foreign visitors arriving in New York by air will need to show proof they are fully vaccinated with any Covid-19 vaccine approved for use by the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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This includes the AstraZeneca, BIBP/Sinopharm, Covishield, Janssen, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines

Children under the age of 18 are exempt from the vaccination requirement.

In addition to proof of vaccination before boarding a flight, travellers will also need to show evidence of a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than three days before departure.

Alternatively, you can show evidence of recovery from Covid-19 in the past three months to the airline before boarding.

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Children aged between two and 17 are also required to take a pre-departure test.

The US will accept the NHS Covid Pass as proof or Covid-19 vaccination and recovery, as well as a printout of a Covid-19 vaccination record or a Covid-19 vaccination certificate issued by an authorised vaccine provider.

All forms of COVID status must include your name and date of birth, the name of the official source issuing the vaccination record, the vaccine manufacturer and the date(s) you received your vaccine.

Travellers who are not fully vaccinated are still banned from entering the country.

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New York is a popular tourists spot in the winter (Photo: Shutterstock)New York is a popular tourists spot in the winter (Photo: Shutterstock)
New York is a popular tourists spot in the winter (Photo: Shutterstock) | Shutterstock

Will I have to quarantine?

Foreign visitors who are fully vaccinated do not have to self-isolate, but will need to take a viral test within three to five days of arrival.

Those who have recovered from Covid-19 within the past 90 days, regardless of vaccination status, do not need to get tested after arrival.

Children until the age of 18 who are not fully vaccinated will be exempt from quarantine, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends they take a test within three to five days, and self-isolate if they notice any symptoms.

What Covid restrictions are in place in New York?

On 21 January 2021 President Biden signed an Executive Order requiring masks to be worn on aircraft, trains, buses and at airports in the US.

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Almost all Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in New York state in June this year after 70% of New Yorkers had received their first vaccine dose.

However, the mayor is continuing to endorse CDC guidance which recommends wearing face coverings indoors, regardless of vaccination status, although no mask mandate is in place.

A “key to NYC” vaccination mandate in New York City has been in effect since mid-September and requires customers and employees of indoor dining, fitness and entertainment venues to show proof they are fully jabbed.

Venues subject to this requirement include restaurants, theatres, nightclubs, museums, restaurants, bowling alleys, gyms and cafes with indoor dining.

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Children under the age of 12, who are not yet eligible for vaccination, will be allowed into venues like restaurants and cinemas providing they wear a face covering, except while eating and drinking.

The city’s popular Broadway area, which is home to New York’s many theatres, is open to tourists, but you must be vaccinated to gain entry and are required to wear a mask while inside, unless you are eating or drinking.

Similarly, New York’s other tourist hotspots like the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and the Metropolitan Museum of Art also require proof of vaccination and wearing of masks indoors.

The huge Christmas tree outside the Rockefeller Center is one of New York City’s most famous sites at Christmas (Photo: Shutterstock)The huge Christmas tree outside the Rockefeller Center is one of New York City’s most famous sites at Christmas (Photo: Shutterstock)
The huge Christmas tree outside the Rockefeller Center is one of New York City’s most famous sites at Christmas (Photo: Shutterstock) | Shutterstock

Those keen to see the famous Christmas tree outside the Rockefeller Center won’t be disappointed as it will be lit on 1 December and will continue to be lit daily from 6am until 12am. On Christmas Day it will stay lit for 24 hours, while on New Year’s Eve it is lit from 6am to 9pm.

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If you take a trip to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck on your visit, or take the Rockefeller Center Tour, you will be required to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination and face masks are required to be worn by all guests over the age of two.

The Rink will also be open at the Rockefeller Center if you want to try your hand at ice skating. Since this is classed as an outdoor activity, proof of vaccination is not required to be allowed to skate, and masks do not need to be worn while skating.

Visitors can also go ice skating in Central Park, with the Wollman Rink being one of the city’s most iconic and popular attractions.

The New York City subway continues to operate a 24-hour service and all travellers are required to wear face masks.

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