What to know about traveling to Europe this summer as an American
Victoria M. Walker is a former TPG senior travel reporter. She previously taught multimedia journalism at Howard University and was the breaking news video editor at The Washington Post.
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It’s an encouraging sign for Americans who are eager to venture abroad and return to some of their favorite destinations in Europe — though an ever-changing landscape with the pandemic means that reopening dates and requirements can constantly shift.
It will also be up to individual member nations to decide when to relax border restrictions, and some countries will welcome Americans sooner than others. Greece, for example, has already reopened to Americans who can present a valid vaccination certificate or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Italy has also reopened to tourists. And Croatia allows travelers to skip testing and isolation if they’re fully vaccinated.
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But other countries might remain closed to visitors until late summer or even early fall, especially as cases surge in several regions worldwide and Europe continues to trail behind the U.S. in terms of vaccination rates. Additionally, the U.S. State Department still recommends that U.S. citizens reconsider traveling abroad, which conflicts with what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said publicly about travel.
And some prior reopening announcements have been updated or amended, which has made things even more confusing.
Still, travel is beginning to reopen, and many Americans are wondering whether they’ll be able to take a summer vacation to Europe this year. Since several European countries have indicated they’re ready for tourists again, we’re answering all your questions about hopping across the pond to Europe this summer.
When will Europe reopen to Americans?
The European Union is expected to welcome vaccinated American tourists this summer.
“All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by E.M.A.,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on April 25.
The European Union confirmed in mid-May that it would reopen to fully vaccinated travelers this summer. According to a spokesperson, the group’s member states came to an agreement that will allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter the EU — including Americans.
What countries are open to Americans?
The European Union could add the United States and several other countries to its travel “white list” as early as Wednesday, allowing vaccinated visitors to forgo quarantine requirements and move more freely between the 27 EU nations.
A handful of European nations popular with American travelers have already reopened their borders to vaccinated U.S. citizens, including Iceland, France, Spain, Portugal, Croatia and Greece.
Portugal on Tuesday, June 15 said that nonessential travel — which includes tourism — from the U.S. to mainland Portugal is now allowed for travelers with proof of a negative COVID-19 test. And fully vaccinated visitors to Croatia no longer need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result and can also bypass the country’s quarantine requirements.
France has reopened to tourists from a handful of nations, including the U.S. Those coming from the U.S. must still possess proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test to gain entry to the country without mandatory quarantine.
Other European countries not in the EU with already eased border restrictions include Iceland, which is now open to vaccinated Americans and travelers who have recovered from COVID-19.
What do I need to travel to the EU?
Travelers must be fully vaccinated with one of the approved vaccines in the EU, which means that any vaccine approved for use in the U.S. will be accepted — Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer. People who aren’t fully vaccinated will likely need a negative COVID-19 test result and may be required to quarantine (depending on the country).
As of now, however, there’s no consistent way to provide proof of vaccination across the continent. That said, there are ongoing talks to expand the EU’s Digital COVID Certificates (formerly called “green passports”) to Americans.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that citizens of seven European Union countries — Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland — can use these certificates. All member nations should have access by July 1, 2021.
Under this initiative, EU member states would adopt the same entry requirements for visitors. The agreed-upon notion will see fully vaccinated travelers allowed entry to each EU country without the need for a further COVID-19 test result or quarantine on arrival.
The certificate will be available for free in digital (with QR code) or paper format, and non-EU member states, such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, will also use it. That does not, however, include the United Kingdom at this time — and U.S. travelers remain on the U.K.’s “amber” list, meaning a 10-day quarantine is still required even for fully vaccinated Americans.
Just remember that even if you can avoid testing in Europe, you’ll need a negative test to fly back to the U.S., regardless of whether you’ve been vaccinated or not. All travelers 2 and older flying to the U.S. from abroad must show a negative viral COVID-19 test result taken within three days of departure before being allowed to board their flights. Documented proof from a licensed healthcare provider of recovery from the virus within the past 90 days will also be accepted.
What if I’m transiting through Europe?
There may be specific transit requirements in the airports you use to enter or travel throughout the EU — and these policies aren’t always clearly disclosed. Be sure to do your research ahead of time, so you know exactly what you need to do before departing the U.S. — and during your travels to your final European destination.
For instance, all passengers (including transiting travelers) who fly to Lisbon (LIS) are required to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken within 72 hours prior to departure. All passengers traveling to the U.K. — including transiting passengers — are also required to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result. That means travelers simply passing through London Heathrow (LHR) who aren’t leaving the airport still required to have a negative test result in order to board their flight.
According to Copenhagen Airport, passengers who transit via the airport are required to have proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test taken no more than 48 hours prior to boarding a plane bound for Denmark.
The Netherlands, however, says that passengers can travel to a third country via Schiphol. The passenger must stay in Schiphol’s transit zone and leave within 48 hours in order to transit — you must be able to prove that you have a connecting flight within 48 hours. However, transiting travelers no longer need to provide a negative COVID-19 test as of June 1.
What if my children aren’t vaccinated yet?
Currently, there’s an age limit on all three vaccines available under the Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only vaccine available for kids 12 to 17 so far. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are only available for adults 18 and older.
That means if you’re planning travel as a family, there’s a possibility not every member of your household will be fully vaccinated, and navigating different sets of rules can get confusing.
Some countries allow people traveling with unvaccinated children entry with a negative coronavirus test result, similar to what several cruise lines have done.
For instance, travelers from the U.S., EU and Schengen area are now permitted to enter Greece by providing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. This requirement would apply to nonvaccinated children, but children under 6 are exempt.
Italy is also open to travelers again with similar requirements, as is Croatia. As more European countries open their borders, you can expect to see other vaccination and negative COVID-19 test requirements. In brief: It will be quicker and easier to bring vaccinated teens and tweens across borders, but younger kids should still be able to travel with you as long they test negative for COVID-19.
Can I use a vaccine passport to travel to Europe?
Digital International Certificate of Covid-19 Vaccination. The certificate indicates that the holder has been vaccinated against Coronavirus Covid-19 (Image by courtneyk/Getty Images)
Many destinations will accept proof of vaccination to allow some travelers to skip COVID-19 tests and lengthy quarantines. This proof, in some countries, may come in the form of a vaccine passport.
The EU is rolling out a vaccine passport dubbed the EU Digital COVID Certificate. The Digital COVID Certificate will show that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from the virus.
Fully vaccinated travelers would be allowed entry to each EU country without the need for an additional COVID-19 test result or quarantine on arrival. However, the certificate is only available to EU residents at the moment.
And, while not an EU member, United Kingdom residents already have access to the NHS app, a digital vaccine passport only available to travelers in England.
While several countries worldwide have recently reopened to U.S. travelers (or didn’t close at all), much of Europe has been off-limits to Americans. That’s now beginning to change — albeit with some hiccups along the way. While we don’t have all the details at this time, and some precautions (such as pre-travel testing) may remain, a broader reopening of Europe to travelers from the U.S. is a big step in restarting the industry.
7 Signs Europe Will Be Open For World Tourism By Summer
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Last Updated 2 years ago
Europe in general, but especially nations included the European Union, have been virtually sealed off to much of the world for over a year now, but the latest news shows signs this is about to change.
Signals, press releases and statements from officials all across Europe are showing a massive trend in positive reopening news, which all point to suggest Europe will be ready to receive international tourists this summer. In fact, most of the recent news theorizes that the European tourism season might be kicking off as early as May, which seems to be a key month in most plans.
Here are 7 major news events this week that all point to Europe reopening for worldwide tourism this summer:
Portugal has managed to dramatically flatten their curve of new cases over the last 6 weeks, which has led some officials to make some promising statements.
Rita Marques, the secretary of state for tourism in Portugal told the BBC “For the time being non-essential journeys have to be restricted but we believe Portugal can allow unrestricted travel very soon – not just for vaccinated people but for those who are immune or who have tested negative.”
Plans are expected to be announced by the government this week about easing lockdowns and opening up services and activities throughout different regions, which could begin as early as April 1, 2021.
Spain has also been buzzing with news of reopening tourism, especially around vaccines.
Maraa Reyes Maroto, Spain’s tourism minister, stated the government plans to start reopening the country’s tourism sector when 30-40% of the nation’s population has vaccinated. With current supply and incoming orders, this could happen as early as May.
Many regions in Spain are also considering utilizing vaccine passports to allow tourism to return before summer. Take Ibiza for example, they have plans to run their own vaccine certificate program to allow passengers from all over the world to visit the island by the summer, Schengen Visa Info reported earlier today.
The UK’s travel ban is set to lift May 17, 2021, in which having a planned end date has allowed time for not only the tourism industry to prepare, but also gives confidence for holidaymakers to start planning trips.
Many surrounding nations rely on a steady stream of incoming British travelers for a successful tourism season, all while the UK remains a vital transit hub for global travelers. The restart of international travel for the UK in May will also reboot many struggling airlines and resume dozens of important flight routes back into service.
“Tourists will be welcome if before travel they are either vaccinated, or have antibodies, or test negative. All tourists will be subject to random testing,” stated their tourism minister, Haris Theoharis.
Greece has been one of the only EU nations to slowly expand the list of approved third-party countries beyond the list suggest by the EU, including countries like Israel, UAE, and most recently Russia. Greece’s flexibility gives positive signals about expanding their third-party list even further, which will hopefully soon include North America.
While France still has the highest active case numbers second only to the USA, even they have begun to relax some entry rules bit by bit.
Today France announced the list of third-party approved nations (including Australia, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore) will no longer need to have a compelling reason to travel to France. Importantly, France also added the UK and Israel to the approved third-party list, which shows movement and flexibility not seen from the nation in months.
Vaccines aide in reopening plans for many EU nations
Currently, 5 EU nations have already amended their entry requirements to acknowledge and make exceptions for fully vaccinated travelers to enter without restrictions. Yes, at this point they only include travelers from fellow EU nations, but the quick pivot in re-writing their border rules shows positive signs that this could quickly expand to visitors beyond the EU this summer.
The EU countries that have already changed border laws include: Romania, Cyprus, Iceland, Lithuania and Poland. Greece, Denmark, Spain, and Portugal are all rumored to soon join the list.
Iceland has announced that all travelers in the EU and approved third-party countries who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will have restriction free entry beginning on May 1st, 2021.
Lithuania, as of Feb 22, 2021, is now allowing fully vaccinated passengers to be exempt from the 48-hour pre-flight PCR test as well as the 10-day isolation requirements.
The Polish government has announced that all travelers coming from approved countries who have been vaccinated for Covid-19 will be exempt from the mandatory 10 day quarantine.
Romania has lifted all travel restrictions for tourists who have been vaccinated within the EU, allowing them to bypass the 14-day quarantine.
Cyprus announced they will be allowing vaccinated tourists to bypass testing/quarantines from Israel as of April 1, 2021, and from the UK as of May 1, 2021.
While the EU has announced plans for a digital vaccine passport ahead of summer, some EU nations (like Portugal and Greece) have recently expressed their intention to also allow non-vaccinated tourists in as well, as long as they can show recovery from the virus or bring a negative test with them.
Cruises Are Returning To Major EU Ports
Many are unaware but major cruise line MSC has been sailing successful back-to-back itineraries throughout Italy, Malta, and Greece for weeks already. Due to their success of cruising during the pandemic, in May they are adding additional ships and resuming port stops in additional countries like Croatia, Montenegro, and Albania.
The UK has also announced that when the travel ban is set to be lifted in mid-May, cruising will also be permitted to resume.
It seems that as of March 2021, we are on the precipice of major changes in the tourism industry. The next 6-8 weeks will be key in determining which European countries can safely welcome back the tourists that yearn to be there.
What Will Travel To Europe Look Like This Summer?
This could be one of the biggest summers in the history of European travel, and travel to Europe, or an utterly disappointing dud. Will you be a part of it?
In recent weeks, many European countries have begun rolling back both domestic covid-19 restrictions and the travel related restrictions which were creating barriers for entry, signaling a summer of adventure, as close to “care free” as it once was.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, with Russia inciting war by attacking the sovereign border of Ukraine. And naturally, Covid-19 is never far from people’s minds either, but each passing day brings new hope that the post-pandemic recovery is here.
Some countries have dropped travel testing requirements, and some have also even dropped proof of vaccination needs as competition heats up to lure in visitors. A clear and unified strategy for all EU states to follow has also been proposed to streamline any travel woes, which has many positives and a few negatives.
If you’re considering a trip to Europe this summer, here’s what to expect, given the current situations, as well as what might improve.
Europe Wants People To Travel
Some parts of the world are more reliant on tourism than Europe, others less so, but one key differentiator with Europe and other parts of the world which aren’t yet fully open, is that Europe really wants people to travel.
Travel accounts for circa 10% of the economy in Europe, and in some vital regions, tourism is absolutely vital, accounting for much more. If there’s a “safe” way to bring it back, the Europe Union is all for it and in recent years, it’s been one of the more open areas, particularly during the summer.
I was able to visit Greece in the summer of 2020 and 2021, and will come back again this summer as well. You just can’t say that about many other regions in the last few years.
European Union Announces Framework For Reopening
The European Commission, which makes recommendations to the various European Union countries recently came out with a proposed framework to help countries open travel safely and usher in tourism.
Among the many proposals is a system in which testing would be dropped as much as possible in favor of vaccination proof. EU countries can choose to follow the guidance, or not and as it stands, various countries within Europe have varying policies.
Basically, the EU bloc would like fully vaccinated travelers to be able to move around freely without the worry of testing restrictions, but for now, in some countries that only applies to travelers within the EU and from “approved” outside countries.
That’s important, since fear of testing positive while abroad remains a key concern among those who haven’t yet returned to international travel.
Surprisingly, the United States now lags many European countries in open access to travel by requiring people to test negative for Covid-19 within one day of their return to the country, regardless of vaccination status.
No Testing To Visit Europe?
The question of whether you’ll need a test to visit Europe this summer boils down to one main thing: where your proof of vaccination is from. If it’s from an EU approved outside country, or from within Europe, you likely won’t need to test at all to visit.
If it’s from a country outside of Europe which isn’t on the “approved” list, it’s up to the country you’re planning on visiting, to determine whether they’ll accept your Covid-19 vaccination proof rather than require testing, or if they’ll instead require both.
A perfect example of this is currently Portugal versus Spain. Spain will happily accept US vaccination cards and those from other countries which aren’t currently part of the EU outside country list which prove Covid-19 vaccination, but Portugal will not.
The US isn’t on the EU’s reciprocal “third country” proof of vaccination list, so Portugal requires fully vaccinated US visitors to still test negative before departure. If the USA joins that third party reciprocal list before summer, which currently has 35 countries, they would not be required to test.
This list is subject to change and should always be verified by an official party, but currently, there’s no Covid-19 testing required for most fully vaccinated people to visit the following European countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Spain. There may be more.
Airlines To The Rescue
Airlines were slow to comprehend just what an issue these chaotic and ever changing travel restrictions would be, but finally, they now provide some of the best resources for navigating them.
Delta and British Airways each have their own travel restriction sections, which provide a good, relatively simple outlook. Delta’s tends to be the clearest and easiest to read.
If you’re still confused about what’ll be required to enter a given country, be sure to use official country resources from tourism pages, or check with the IATA Travel Tool, or an airline you’re likeliest to fly.
Duomo at sunrise, Milan, Europe.
The Experience On The Ground In Europe
Again, this will vary by country, but the trend is fewer restrictions.
Masks are still required indoors in some countries, but many have recently ditched them. By summer, they could largely be gone. Proof of vaccination to dine indoors has also been dropped in some places.
Outdoors, it’s pretty much life as it once was before. Of course, people are free to don masks anywhere they wish, and can even put on full scale PPE if it makes them feel a bit better, but it’s not mandatory.
The beauty of Europe in the summer is that the weather tends to be fantastic and outdoor seating near a city square, ocean or river views tends to be what people want anyway.
Expect More Countries To Drop Testing
Though not a part of European Union, the United Kingdom recently led the way in reducing testing and dropped most of the international travel restrictions, as well as domestic mask or vaccination rules.
It’s possible for a fully vaccinated visitor to enter the UK without taking a test, and none are required post arrival either. Domestically, there are no covid-19 rules at all. No one is required to wear a mask indoors or out, or socially distance.
In response, planes bound for the UK have been flying at higher capacity, as the UK attracts tourists looking to reconnect with the iconic cultures and parts of the world that Europe brings, sans hassle.
Following their lead, most Scandinavian countries dropped both travel and domestic restrictions and that seems to be the way things are headed. Much could change in the time between now and the summer — hopefully not World War III — but for now, travel in Europe is looking extremely promising for summer 2022.