The borders have been closed for over a year. However, Europe is starting to reopen to travelers. That means a European vacation may be just what you need to refresh and recharge.
While essential travel is still allowed, the non-essential travel ban that started in March 2020 is still in effect. As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, COVID-positive test rates are declining. Meaning the European Union (EU) and the United States are getting closer to lifting the ban. If vaccine use continues to rise and positive COVID test rates continue to decline, the travel ban could be lifted this summer. Leaving travelers with many questions. Here are the answers to some common ones below.
Is it safe to book travel to Europe for the summer?
The travel ban will be lifted soon. Once lifted, Americans will again be allowed to travel to Europe.
The airlines feel confident that this will happen soon. Jet Blue plans to expand its roster of flights to London later this summer. (Source: AP News) Meanwhile, United Airlines will add 400 flights to its schedule in July. (Source: PR Newswire)
Additionally, some countries are already welcoming tourists back.
Forbes reports that Croatia, Iceland, Italy, and Greece currently allow tourists from America. Other countries like France and Germany are working with the U.S. government to reopen borders to tourists.
More countries within the EU have plans in the works to reopen this summer.
The United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland), which is no longer a part of the EU, has different rules. According to CNN, American visitors must provide a negative COVID test before traveling. After they arrive they must quarantine for up to 10 days. You’ll need to purchase a quarantine package for your stay. That packages includes COVID testing and a quarantine hotel. There’s no word yet on when the aforementioned restrictions will be lifted.
How can I find the latest travel restrictions in Europe?
The rules for travel during the pandemic change frequently. The EU knows this and has created a website with the latest travel information. Reopen EU is run by the EU and provides information on travel restrictions for each EU member.
The site will give you the most current information on what countries are open and what countries aren’t. It also offers information about COVID rates in each country and requirements for travel. If you’re planning a trip to one of the 27 countries that make up the EU, you should start your planning at Reopen EU.
For countries outside of the EU, you will have to check with each country before you travel.
Why is now an excellent time to book travel to Europe?
With all of these rules, it may seem like the wrong time to purchase travel to Europe, but it’s precisely the opposite. It’s the uncertainty that’s going to save you money. Since there is no clear picture of when countries will open to tourists, prices are low.
Those prices will go up the moment a change in travel restrictions is announced. If you’re willing to take on a little risk to save a buck, take advantage of the current uncertainty and plan your trip now.
The airlines are gambling on higher rates of travel this summer; you should too.
How to avoid quarantine on a trip to Europe?
Even if the countries are open, there may still be quarantine rules that you’ll need to abide by. Each country has different rules, but your best chance to avoid quarantine when you arrive is to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“It’s possible to waive travel restrictions, like a mandatory 10-day quarantine, by being fully vaccinated. Travelers may also have to get a pre-travel diagnostic test to waive the travel restrictions. Children that are too young to receive a vaccine can enter restriction-free.” (Source: Forbes)
If you are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, you may be required to quarantine for 10-days regardless of whether you test negative for COVID-19 before your flight.
While all of the countries belong to the EU, each country has a different level of comfort. If you are not fully vaccinated and do not plan to be, you should check on the COVID-19 quarantine requirements before booking your trip.
What is the European Union COVID Passport, and do I need it?
The EU is also working on creating an EU COVID Passport, also known as the Digital COVID Certificate or Digital Green Certificate. It’s digital or physical proof of your COVID status.
“The EU’s plan is for a single system to facilitate safe travel by verifying the pass holder’s coronavirus status – whether through vaccination, a recent negative test result, or proof of recovery from the virus.” (Source: EuroNews)
Countries are just starting to roll out the program. So far, seven EU countries have signed on, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia, and Poland. The New York Times reports that all countries in the EU hope to have Digital COVID Certificates available by July 1.
With the certificate, you would be able to travel from country to country within the EU and simply present a QR code that would provide government officials with your COVID status.
Right now, visitors would have to apply for a certificate upon arrival in the EU. Still, The Times reports that the European Commission is working with the United States to streamline the process for American travelers.
What happens when I return to the United States after traveling abroad?
Travelers don’t just have to worry about what happens when they arrive in Europe; they also have to worry about what happens when they return.
Even U.S. citizens must take a COVID-19 test to re-enter the United States without a mandatory quarantine.
The CDC warns that you may have been exposed to COVID-19 on your travels. Even if you feel well and have no symptoms, but you can still be infected. If you are infected you could spread the virus to others. You and your travel companions (including children) pose a risk to your family, friends, and community for 14 days after you travel.
The CDC suggests that all travelers, whether fully vaccinated or not, self-quarantine and get a viral test 3-5 days after returning to the U.S. If you test positive, you’ll have to self-quarantine longer. If you’re unvaccinated, the CDC says you should still self-quarantine for seven days, even if the COVID test comes back negative.
If you are fully vaccinated or plan to be in the next few weeks, now is an ideal time to travel to Europe. Not only are the prices on flights low, but the crowds are smaller. Those typically crowded tourist attractions won’t be as busy as they usually are during peak tourist season as many travelers are still gently easing into international travel.
Written by Erika Towne