OARS Response to COVID-19: What to Expect

Last updated August 4, 2022 – Originally posted March 11, 2020

Now well into our third season of operating during the pandemic we’ve learned a lot and we’re more confident than ever in our ability to facilitate life-changing experiences for our guests regardless of the circumstances.

We know people who are fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 are less likely to experience severe illness and less likely to end up in the hospital. We also know even fully vaccinated and boosted people can still contract and transmit the disease. At this point, most of our staff have been vaccinated and we continue to encourage all staff to get vaccinated by offering to pay unvaccinated staff for their time to get the recommended vaccinations.

Rafting with OARS in the COVID Era - What to Expect

With high rates of vaccination among our staff, the ability to maintain smaller group sizes, and evidence that outdoor transmission of the virus is less common, we continue to believe our current mitigation plan—which includes pre-screening protocols, enhanced sanitation procedures, face coverings in enclosed spaces, and reasonable physical distancing measures—helps us to feel good about operating group outdoor adventures during the pandemic.

If you’re already booked on or considering an OARS adventure in the future, read on to learn more about some of our current protocols and mitigation efforts.

Read Full Mitigation Plan

Current COVID Measures

OARS Response to COVID-19: What to Expect

Enhanced Screening

We expect all guides, staff and guests to be familiar with and follow our COVID-19 mitigation plan along with any guidance provided by state and local authorities. Leading up to your trip, it is critical that you exercise extra caution to reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19, monitor yourself and your family for any symptoms, and get tested for COVID-19 if exhibiting any signs of illness.

If you or anyone in your travel unit experience any symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 within 10 days prior to your trip, we reserve the right to refuse service and offer a partial credit toward a future trip instead.

Because there are costs that you will incur if you cancel your reservation, if you get sick before your trip, or in the event you need to be evacuated during the trip due to illness or injury, we strongly encourage our guests to purchase an optional travel protection plan. A travel protection plan can reimburse you for non-refundable payments for cancellations due to covered medical reasons; and trip participants must understand that in the event of illness or injury on a wilderness trip, evacuation can be prolonged, difficult and expensive.
For complete details and to purchase the plan we highly recommend, visit: https://www.oars.com/tpp

Face Coverings

Despite a recent ruling against the CDC mask mandate for public transportation, OARS continues to follow CDC guidance—as we have since the beginning of the pandemic—and still requires the use of a properly-worn face covering while riding in shuttle vehicles and entering enclosed spaces.

Face coverings are not required while outside during your river trip.

To adhere to these guidelines, we’re asking all guests to arrive with their own face coverings.

Maintaining hygiene on river trips

Sanitation & Hygiene

OARS has always adhered to a high standard of sanitation and hygiene, and we continue to improve our protocols when it comes to transportation, equipment, hand washing, and food service.

Transportation — Hand washing/sanitizing is advised before boarding any vehicle, including planes and helicopters where applicable, and face coverings must be worn for the duration of travel. Once on board additional precautions include: opening windows whenever possible, and eliminating the use of recirculation mode for the air conditioner/heater. All vehicles are cleaned and sanitized after each use.

EquipmentWith an emphasis on reducing the use of shared items, communal items are sanitized regularly. Additionally, following every trip, all equipment is properly sanitized or laundered, plus tents and sleeping pads are sanitized and/or cycled out of use for 24 hours.

Hand washing — In camp, there is an added emphasis on hand washing with two to three foot pump-operated hand wash stations at every camp. We also bring a supply of hand sanitizer and each boat is equipped with soap and/or hand sanitizer. We recommend guests also bring their own supply of hand sanitizer for more convenient personal use when other options are not available.

Food service — When packing, preparing, or otherwise handling food or beverages, staff will adhere to applicable local, state, and federal food handling requirements.

Breakfast on a Tuolumne River rafting trip

Physical Distancing

Despite the communal nature of our trips, we’re asking guests to be mindful of the physical distance (>6 feet) that other people, who are not part of your household, or with whom you did not travel (your travel unit), may wish to maintain.

COVID Protocols

If a guest or guide exhibits COVID symptoms while on a trip, we will consult with local agencies on availability and justification for evacuation as soon as possible. One liaison (guide or a family member/traveling companion) will be identified to provide care to this person. These individuals will also be isolated from others and we will follow EMS/WFR protocols to provide appropriate medical treatment. Family members and friends who were traveling with the person who displayed positive symptoms will also be placed on a separate raft and required to wear a face covering. Testing for COVID-19 will be performed at the earliest opportunity and OARS will notify the appropriate agencies along with all trip participants of the results.

Traveling Responsibly

Please be aware of your potential impacts on the small communities you may travel through on your trip. Physical distancing, using a face covering when you’re close to others outside of your travel unit, avoiding crowded places like restaurants and bars, and not traveling at all if you have symptoms are important considerations.

Read Full Mitigation Plan

OARS International Trips

OARS and our affiliate operators are excited to be operating trips and providing great adventures to our guests! Travel world wide has resumed, bringing much needed work and revenue to the travel industry. Tourism is critical to the livelihood of our affiliate operators—the local guides, transportation services, hotels, camps, etc. These are small local businesses that support resident communities, and we’re proud to consider them part of our team.

As travel restrictions vary from country to country and may change from day to day, staying up to date on the most current information can be a challenge. Here at OARS, we work to keep our guests informed about the status of their upcoming trip, any requirements in place for arrival, and to provide the information needed to consider options for future travel.

Once in a country, local regulations for wearing a face covering, physical distancing, and other guidelines will apply. It is up to you, the traveler, to familiarize yourself with those regulations and abide by them during your visit.

For information about current entry requirements for travel to the United States, visit the CDC.

Below is a list of destinations offered by OARS International and the status of traveling there. (This list is intended for citizens and travelers originating from the U.S. If you’re a citizen or traveling from another country, you’re best served checking the website of that country’s embassy in the destination you’re inquiring about.)

Alaska – open to U.S. and foreign travelers. Requirements for entry include: None. For more COVID-19 and travel information click here.

Baja, Mexico – open to U.S. travelers arriving by air. Requirements for entry include: none. For more information about travel during COVID and about the Baja Sur region, visit http://www.visitbajasur.travel/en/aviso/.

*Please note, the OARS affiliate operator in Baja asks that all guests be fully vaccinated. At least 2 shots are required and a booster received within 6 months of the trip is highly recommended. Proof of vaccination can be a vaccine card, photocopy of the card, or a digital version.

Canada – open to U.S. travelers. Requirements for entry include: For the purpose of tourism, all travelers must be vaccinated (applies to eligible ages). A 2nd dose must have been administered at least 14 days prior to arrival. Children ages 5 to 11 traveling with a vaccinated adult do not have any entry requirements. All travelers must register for travel on the ArriveCAN system. More information can be found at https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid.

For our trips in the Yukon Territory, you can find information specific to that region here. For our trips in British Columbia, you can find information specific to that region here.

Chile – open to U.S. travelers. Requirements for entry include: a completed “Travel Affidavit” form (done no more than 48-hours prior to the scheduled departing time of a flight to Chile, available online). Incoming travelers will be randomly chosen to take a COVID test upon arrival. For more information visit https://chile.travel/en/traveltochileplan.

Please note that although not required for entry to Chile, accreditation of vaccination (via the “Mobility Pass” available online) is required for all public transportation (including domestic flights), entry to restaurants, and other public venues.

Costa Rica – open to U.S. travelers. Requirements for entry include: none. For more information visit the Visit Costa Rica website.

Croatia – open to U.S. travelers. Requirements for entry include: none. You can find current COVID-19 information on the Croatian government’s website at www.koronavirus.hr/en.

Cuba – open to U.S. travelers. Requirements for entry include: each traveler must submit a sworn declaration about their biographic data and COVID-19 vaccination status (available online) and will then receive a QR code to be presented upon arrival.

Ecuador & Galapagos – open to U.S. travelers. Requirements for entry include: travelers age 3 & older must present one of the following three items:

  • A vaccination card with QR code or a vaccination certificate showing the traveler received a complete series of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to entering Ecuador.
  • A negative result from a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to boarding a flight to Ecuador.
  • Travelers entering Ecuador who were diagnosed as COVID-19 positive, and after one month continue to obtain a positive result from a PCR test, may present a medical certificate from their country of origin attesting to their recovery, absence of symptoms, and that they are no longer contagious.

All travelers must present the digital “Traveler’s Health Declaration” when boarding the incoming flight (available online). For more information visit the Ecuador. Travel website.

To enter the Galapagos: all persons age 3 & older must present either a vaccination certificate with its QR code or a valid vaccination card with at least 14 days validity before arrival, OR: provide a negative result from a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to boarding a flight to Galapagos.

*Please note, the OARS affiliate operator in Galapagos requires all guests present a negative result from a PCR test taken within 72 hours of our scheduled flight time to Galapagos the morning of itinerary day two.

Fiji – open to U.S. travelers. Requirements for entry include: all travelers age 16 & older must have proof of a completed vaccination series (a booster is not required). Travelers must have proof of travel medical insurance that covers COVID-19.  All travelers age 12 & older are required to pre-book an antigen test to be taken 48-72 hours after their arrival to Fiji (available online). For more information about travel to Fiji and current COVID restrictions, visit the Travel Fiji website at www.fiji.travel/covid-19/travelling-to-fiji.

Peru – open to U.S. travelers. Requirements for entry include: travelers 12 years & older must present proof of being fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to boarding an incoming flight. Travelers 12 years & older who are not fully vaccinated must present a negative result from a PCR test taken within 48 hours of boarding an incoming flight. Travelers under 12 years of age must only be asymptomatic prior to boarding an incoming flight. All travelers must complete an “Affidavit of Health and Geolocation Authorization” (available online). More information about travel to Peru is available on the Peru Travel website.

Domestic flights and all other public transport requirements include: travelers 12 years & older must present proof of being fully vaccinated and travelers age 18 & older must also have proof of a 3rd (booster) vaccine, otherwise must present a negative result from a PCR test taken within 48 hours of boarding. Travelers 12 years & older who are not fully vaccinated must present a negative result from a PCR test taken within 48 hours of boarding a domestic flight. Travelers under 12 years of age must be asymptomatic.

Zambia & Botswana – both open to U.S. travelers. Requirements for entry to each country include: proof of a completed vaccination series OR a negative result from a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior departure from the country of origin.

For travel through South Africa: A valid vaccination certificate with a QR code OR a negative result from a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before the travel date. All travelers should have the COVID Alert South Africa mobile app on their phone or device and have completed the pre-travel questionnaire (available online). More information can be found at the South Africa Tourism website.

The payment, reschedule, and cancellation policy for international trips varies depending on the OARS International destination you choose. We understand how important it is for our guests to know what payments are expected, when those are collected, and what policies are in place to assure a future credit or refund should the trip not take place. Our work ethic is to be transparent and up-front with guests, so you can rest assured you’re well-informed and kept up-to-date on the status of your reservation and trip. To discuss the various destinations and travel options with OARS International, please call our International Reservations Manager, Tom Patoff, at 209-753-4799.

Rafting with OARS during the COVID era - What to expect


If you need to cancel your trip — Please give us a call ASAP to discuss your options. To provide for some additional flexibility during these uncertain times, we’ve revised our final payment due dates and modified our cancel/transfer policies for many of our trips, which will allow you, under certain criteria, to transfer your trip payments to a hold account or request a refund at a reduced cost.

If OARS has to cancel your trip — If a trip (operated by OARS in the lower 48) must be canceled or postponed due to factors outside our control, OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover any payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers, however we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.

One for the Books!

Thank you to all of you who have trusted us with your vacation over the last few years, or are planning to travel with us soon. We are in the midst of another busy season in 2022 and we wouldn’t be able to be out there doing what we love most if it wasn’t for the cooperation and understanding of all our stellar guests.

As always, we’ll continue to watch, read, listen, and consult with health professionals, permitting agencies, local communities, and colleagues until we can officially say we’re on the other side.

With Gratitude,

Steve Markle
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
The OARS Family of Companies