Europe is opening up to Americans and other visitors after more than a year of COVID-induced restrictions, in hopes of attracting tourists – and their dollars – to the trattorias, vistas and cultural treasures of the continent. But travelers will need patience to figure out who is allowed in which country, how, and when.
As the doors of the European Union reopen one by one to the outside world for the first time since March 2020, tourists will discover a patchwork of systems instead of a single borderless recreation area as national governments have resisted the abandonment of their border control in the midst of the pandemic. And post-Brexit Britain is following its own path.
Meanwhile, the welcoming atmosphere is not always mutual. American borders, for example, remain largely closed to non-Americans.
Here is an overview of the current entry rules for some popular European tourist destinations. One caveat: Although these are regulations as written by governments, travelers can run into problems when airlines or railway officials try to understand them.
If you are vaccinated, come to France. But only if you have received one of the four vaccines approved by the EU: Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. It works for Americans – as long as they can produce official proof of vaccination – but not for large areas of the world like China and Russia where other vaccines are used.
The borders of France officially reopened on Wednesday. Visitors vaccinated outside of Europe and some “green” countries will still be asked for a negative PCR test of less than 72 hours, or a negative antigen test of less than 48 hours. Unvaccinated children will be admitted with vaccinated adults, but must show a negative test from the age of 11.
Tourists are banned from 16 countries struggling with virus outbreaks and disturbing variants that are on a red list that includes India, South Africa and Brazil.
Unvaccinated visitors from “Orange List” countries – including the United States and Great Britain – also cannot come for tourism, only for specific and compelling reasons.
Americans – the second largest group of foreign tourists to Italy – have been welcome since mid-May. However, they must self-isolate upon arrival for 10 days, unless they arrive on so-called “COVID-tested flights”. This means that passengers are tested before and after the flight and must complete documents about their whereabouts to facilitate contact tracing if necessary.
“COVID-tested” flights from the United States started in december and have also been operating since May from Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
Italy also started allowing British and Israeli tourists last month, meaning they no longer need a “core” reason to visit and don’t have to isolate themselves, provided they ‘they present proof of a negative COVID test carried out no more than 48 hours before on arrival.
The same rules apply to travelers from EU countries and those on “COVID-tested” flights from the United States, Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
Greece dependent on tourism has started opening to American travelers in April, and now visitors from China, Britain and 20 other countries are also allowed to visit for non-essential travel.
All must provide a vaccination certificate or negative PCR test and complete a passenger locator form on their plans in Greece. This directive expires on June 14, but could be extended.
Athens has long pushed for a common European approach, but did not wait for it to materialize. On June 1, Greece, Germany and five other members of the bloc introduced a system of COVID certificates for travelers, a few weeks before the program rolled out on July 1 in the bloc of 27 countries.
Spain launched its summer tourist season Monday by welcoming vaccinated visitors from the United States and most countries, as well as visitors from Europe who can prove they are not infected.
Americans and most other non-Europeans need an official vaccine certificate from a health authority. Spain accepts those who have been vaccinated with the four vaccines approved by the EU as well as two Chinese vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization – provided visitors are fully vaccinated at least two weeks before travel.
Arrivals from Brazil, South Africa and India are prohibited at this time due to the high infection rates there, and unvaccinated Americans and many other non-European nationalities cannot come in. Spain for tourism at the moment.
But there are exemptions for countries considered low risk, such as UK citizens, which can arrive without any health documents. EU citizens must provide proof of vaccination, a certificate showing they have recently recovered from COVID-19, or a negative antigen or PCR test taken within 48 hours of arrival.
There are few, if any, American tourists in the UK today. Britain has a traffic light system to assess countries by risk, and the United States as well as most European countries are on the ‘amber’ list, which means anyone arriving should self-isolate at home. her or where she stays for 10 days.
UK and US airlines and airport operators are pushing for a travel corridor to allow tourism to resume, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to raise the issue when he meets President Joe Biden at a summit in the G-7 in England this week.
Meanwhile, anyone traveling between Britain and mainland Europe, be warned: in addition to the isolation requirement for those arriving or returning to UK shores, growing concern over the delta variant of the virus has prompted some other countries to introduce special restrictions for those arriving from Brittany.
The 27-country EU does not have a unified tourism or COVID border policy, but has been working for months on a common digital travel certificate for people vaccinated, newly tested or recently recovered from the virus. EU lawmakers approved the plan on Wednesday.
The free certificates, which will contain a QR code with advanced security features, will allow people to move between European countries without having to quarantine themselves or undergo additional coronavirus tests upon arrival.
Several EU countries have already started using the system, including Spain, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Poland. The rest are expected to start using it on July 1.
It is primarily aimed at EU citizens, but Americans and others can get the certificate as well – if they can convince the authorities of an EU country that they are entering that they are entitled to it. And the lack of an official vaccination certification system in the United States can complicate matters.