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Traveling to Europe in 2021: What to Know About the New Restrictions

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 8, 2021

On August 30, with Covid cases spiking in America, the EU reinstated its bloc-wide recommendation for member countries to impose travel restrictions on U.S. arrivals. The news sent shock waves—and sparked a lot of initial confusion. Thankfully, in the days since, it’s become clear that most European countries will continue to welcome American visitors, with extra precaution in place to protect both U.S. travelers and European citizens.

We’re monitoring and assessing the situation as it evolves. Here’s what we know now about what the EU’s new Covid travel restrictions entail, and how they will impact U.S. passport holders hoping to visit Europe.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer for more information on coronavirus travel safety in Europe, including the destinations that are open to travel, new COVID-19 hotel policies, the safest routes or transportation options available, future trip-planning advice, inspiration and ideas.

Why the EU Reversed Its Earlier Decision

The European Council updates its “Safe Travel” list every two weeks, based on current Coronavirus infection rates. It added the US the list back in the spring, when cases were dropping and vaccination rates were rising. Four months later, the U.S. no longer meets the EU’s “Safe List” threshold, averaging more than 150,000 new cases per day.

The Covid Travel Restrictions in Europe Are a Country-By-Country Decision

With the U.S. removed from the European Council’s “Safe List,” the body now recommends EU member countries implement restrictions on American arrivals in some way. As in the spring, when the EU added the US to the list, it is once again up to individual countries to set their own policies. Since August 30, multiple EU member states have confirmed they plan to continue welcoming fully vaccinated U.S. arrivals. Some have added new testing requirements to adhere to the EU’s recommendation, while others have confirmed they will continue as is. The new policies impact unvaccinated travelers most, as the list of countries open to them has shrunk. Here’s where we stand now:

For Vaccinated Travelers:

To enter CroatiaDenmark,  France , GreeceIreland and Spain, Americans need only show proof of vaccination. Other countries, Italy, have added a new Covid-testing requirement for vaccinated U.S. arrivals following the EU’s announcement. It’s worth noting that non-EU member states, including Montenegro, Iceland, Switzerland and the UK (where England and Scotland both have quarantine requirements), have not changed their policies of allowing vaccinated U.S. arrivals

There are a couple of outliers: Sweden and Bulgaria have closed their borders for non-essential travel from America (although a press release from Sweden’s government suggests that their restrictions will be lifted for vaccinated travelers soon) and the Netherlands has reinstated its 10-day quarantine for all arrivals, regardless of vaccination status, with the option to test-out after Day Five.

For Unvaccinated Travelers:

Much of Europe now requires unvaccinated arrivals to quarantine, if they can enter at all.  In countries such as France and Spain, unvaccinated leisure travelers are prohibited.  Portugal is still allowing anyone to enter so long as show proof of a negative Covid test from the previous 48 hours.

One common exception: unvaccinated travelers who have medical evidence of having recovered from Covid-19 within the last six months can circumvent the vaccine requirement in several countries.

Related: Coronavirus Travel Information: What’s Open to Americans Now

You’ll Need Your Physical CDC Vaccination Card for Proof

U.S. travelers must have their original physical Covid vaccination record for proof of their immunization status. American digital passes (like New York’s Excelsior Pass), photos and photocopies of the card itself will not be accepted.

Your CDC Vaccination Card Qualifies You for European Health Passes

To enter restaurants, museums and other indoor venues, Italy and France are now requiring their citizens show a digital health pass proving they are fully vaccinated. In Italy, the physical CDC vaccination card will suffice as evidence. (If you don’t have one, you’ll need to show negative test results from a test conducted within 48 hours.) In France, it should be possible to show your CDC card as proof for all venues. Note: There have been anecdotes of some American visitors have been turned away from restaurants without a French pass sanitaire, but this seems extremely rare.  Americans can apply for the pass in advance, but the government has been slow to approve them. It should also be possible for local pharmacies to give you a French pass sanitaire if you show them your original vaccine card.

Europe Is Getting Vaccinated (But Isn’t Back to Normal Yet)

After a slow launch, Europe’s vaccine rollout is in full force. Portugal and Malta have some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, and many countries, including ItalyAustria, SpainIcelandGermany, France,  Switzerland and the UK now have higher vaccination rates than the United States.

Like in the U.S., Europe’s day-to-day, on-the-ground situation is still not yet back to pre-pandemic normalcy. Most countries now require masks, for example, either indoors or in public spaces.

Traveling with Kids Is Possible, With Caveats

In most cases, unvaccinated children can travel with vaccinated adults if they provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel (this is usually not required for younger children).

Countries could require additional testing upon arrival, as is currently the case in Iceland. In Greece, though, only the initial test result is required. And in France, beginning October 1, children above the age of 12 will need to show their vaccination pass or a negative Covid test before entering restaurants. The bottom line: Traveling is children will be possible in most places, but may involve extra Covid tests and potential quarantine periods. We recommend purchasing travel insurance and evacuation coverage in case of illness as a precautionary measure.

Related: Indagare’s Guide to Traveling Safely and Responsibly During Covid

Yes, You’ll Still Need a PCR Test to Come Home

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not reversed its policy of requiring all international arrivals—including vaccinated U.S. citizens—to show proof of a negative viral test result (PCR or rapid) before re-entering the country. This means that travelers to Europe will need to schedule a test and receive results within 72 hours prior to their return flight. Note that some states also require a quarantine period at home following international travel. Indagare is working closely with our partners to help our members locate reliable testing sites, where possible, during their travels.

When Should You Go?

Traveling nowadays is a deeply personal choice. And while vaccinations are proven to significantly lower the risk of getting a serious case of Covid-19, there are still risks. Yale School of Medicine infectious diseases expert Dr. Manisha Juthani recommends travelers head to destinations with a low rate of new Covid cases. With case numbers still worrisome, the State Department has issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel warning to many European countries, including the U.K.,France, Spain, Switzerland and Greece, it is important to note that much of the world, including the U.S., is also labeled as a Level 4, according to the CDC. Please find the CDC’s COVID-19 risk assessment map here.

Still have questions about traveling in the age of Covid? Read our FAQ.

 

Related: Coronavirus Travel Information: What’s Open to Americans Now

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer for more information on coronavirus travel safety in Europe, including the destinations that are open to travel, new COVID-19 hotel policies, the safest routes or transportation options available, future trip-planning advice, inspiration and ideas.

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 8, 2021

– Peter Schlesinger on June 8, 2021

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