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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Brits get around US travel ban with a Yucatán stopover

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This way to the cenote. Photo: iStock

A British freelance journalist thought he was a “pandemic travel pioneer” by hanging out for two weeks in Mérida to launder his travel status.

Wanting to go to the US for a meeting, Jamie Fullerton was faced with that country’s ban on UK travelers. But Mexico provides a loophole.

“I read reams of US government website blurb, and emerged 90% sure I’d processed it correctly: go to Mexico for 14 days, get a negative PCR test, and I could fly on to the US,” Fullerton wrote in the Independent.

“The tax on my ‘origin country laundering’ plan? A couple of grand for a fortnight of Mayan temples and gorging on tacos,” Fullerton continued.

Turns out, his idea wasn’t so unique. The flight was jammed with other Brits doing the same thing, he said.

One fellow passenger told him she was working as a private tutor in Los Angeles, but the family she worked for let her hole up at an all-inclusive resort in Cancun to satisfy country-of-origin rules.

“Nearby, yet more posh British accents chirped about the prospect of sunny LA after their two-week Yucatán holiday. There was far more talk of tacos than the Covid cases spiking in both the US and Mexico,” write Fullerton.

At the Cancun airport, he was waved through, with no one checking the health form he was told to fill out. No COVID test results or proof of vaccination required.

On the advice of friends, he decided to camp in Mérida.

“Friends had told me it was a good place in which to stay out of trouble,” Fullerton said.

Mérida people tended to be much more cautious than their neighbors in Quintana Roo. Curfews were followed despite the cost to nightlife and face masks were worn inside and out, despite the heat.

Avoiding crowds, he visited deserted cenotes. Cenote Mani-Chan in Homún felt like “a vast, empty pool of Evian.”

On the Mérida streets, city officials sprayed sanitizer on the hands of a smattering of tourists, mainly from the US, entering the historical center. Every shop and restaurant zapped foreheads checking for high temperatures, but many museums and galleries were closed altogether, he noted.

Biding time in Yucatán to enter the US seems like a “faff” — British slang for a time-waster — and expenses pile up. Uncertainties weigh on the mind — what if travel rules change before the US flight? But the side-trip on the Yucatán Peninsula has worked for countless Brits trying to enter the US, he concluded.

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