This post is to update anyone who is thinking of visiting the Azores islands.
My wife and I just returned from a 3 week trip to the Azores, visiting the islands of Terceira and Santa Maria. The main reasons for this visit were for research for my Azores guidebook (the Rick Steves' webmaster knows of my history on this website and my guidebook), and to visit family.
We used travel vouchers from last year's cancelled trip and needed to contact Azores Airlines to book the new tickets. I used SKYPE to call the Ponta Delgada office and the representatives were excellent.
Our family includes medical doctors, and they recommended NOT visiting the island of Sao Miguel, which was one of the islands I was planning to visit. Sao Miguel has continually had the most Covid-19 cases and still does, which is why the government has deemed it a high-risk island. Sometimes access to certain villages are closed and there are many businesses and museums closed because of this. As I needed to also visit Terceira for research and Santa Maria to visit family (they are all vaccinated), and we are vaccinated, these islands were fine to visit. Also, all the other islands are considered low risk, so this was our plan to skip Sao Miguel this year.
Even though Azores is part of Portugal, Covid testing requirements are dictated by the Azores government. All the information you need is on the Azores Airlines website. You must get a PCR test where you live (with a negative result) 72 hours before visiting (we did), or test upon arrival at your final destination Azores island (free). You MUST fill out an online document either proving your test results or your choice to test upon arrival. You will receive an email with a QR code to show upon arrival. There is also a document requiring your inter-island flight information and where you will be staying. Then there is a document attesting that you have a negative PCR test to fly back to the United States (required by the United States government). Print everything out in duplicate, as per the requirements, We took our CDC Covid Vaccination Record Cards with us, but they were never checked. We felt better to bring them just in case.
Testing requirements in the Azores can and do periodically change. We were supposed to test on day 6 and 12, but then were not required to test. While in Terceira, the island was changed to a high risk island, so we needed to test once flying FROM there and arriving in Santa Maria, which actually coincided with the previous day 6 requirement. Test results are emailed within 24 hours, and you must quarantine until your test results are sent to you. Be sure to make an appointment for a test many days before required, either by calling or visiting a test location. Some island have testing sites at the Health Center and airport (Santa Maria), and I know Sao Miguel has pharmacies and labs where testing can also be done (a link to them is on the airline website). A Covid test is required to fly back to the United States, and this costs 65 Euros, cash, and no credit cards are accepted.
Masks are mandated on the airplanes, including the inter-island flights. They are also required in all buildings, unless eating in a restaurant. There is no outdoor mask requirement. Everyone we came in contact with were following this rule. We found many restaurants, cafes, and some businesses closed because of Covid.
I will say the most stressful parts of the trip were waiting for our PCR negative test results, in time for the flights, going and returning. The test location near our home had the results emailed to us in less than 24 hours. The test results taken in Santa Maria, 2 days before flying back to the United States, were emailed to us within 24 hours. We printed 2 copies of all results, for each of us.
The trip was worth the extra effort to see our Azores family and get the much needed research completed.
Please PM me with any questions.