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Europe’s Entry Rules Just Got More Confusing

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As of September 4, vaccinated U.S. travelers heading to the Netherlands must quarantine for 10 days.

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As of September 4, vaccinated U.S. travelers heading to the Netherlands must quarantine for 10 days.

European countries have been updating their entry requirements since the United States was removed from the EU safe travel list—and the policies are anything but uniform.

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From a new ban on U.S. travel to Sweden and Bulgaria to a green light from Portugal and a new quarantine requirement in the Netherlands, the updated entry requirements from various countries since the European Council removed the United States from its approved travel list have been all over the place.

After the European Council announced its decision to remove the U.S. from its safe travel list on August 30, many travelers were left wondering if and how the decision would affect their travel plans. The answers depend on how individual countries in the 27-nation Europe Union respond to the recommendation, which is just that, a nonbinding recommendation.

Each country in Europe ultimately has the final say on what its requirements are—and will be—for travelers entering its borders. Thus far, a handful of European countries have updated their policies since August 30, offering a sense of how individual governments are reacting. After more than a year and a half of travelers having to chase down constant changes to entry requirements around the world (and honestly getting rather used to them), the latest round of updates in Europe has proven to be no exception to what has been a never-ending patchwork of new rules and regulations to navigate.

For the latest rules and regulations in Europe, we are continually updating this story: Which European Countries Can Americans Travel To?

Sweden and Bulgaria ban travel from the U.S.

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On the one hand, you have Sweden and Bulgaria, which in the days after the European Council decision, banned leisure travel from the United States altogether.

After lifting its ban on travel from the United States on June 30, Sweden has reinstated its U.S. travel ban, effective September 6. From June 30 to September 6, U.S. travelers who presented proof of a negative COVID-19 test from within 48 hours prior to arrival could enter Sweden, regardless of vaccination status. Now, only those Americans who are traveling to Sweden for an exempted purpose, such as residents of Sweden or essential workers, will be allowed to enter; they will still need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result upon arrival. Leisure travelers will be turned away at the border.

And on September 1, Bulgaria classified the United States as a “red zone” country, meaning that all travelers arriving from the U.S., regardless of vaccination status, can only enter if they have a valid exception—in short, nonessential travel is out. “The fact that you are vaccinated or have a negative COVID test result is not considered an exception,” reports the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria. Interestingly, though, Bulgaria’s requirements are based on where you are traveling from, not citizenship, so U.S. travelers arriving from “green” or “orange” zone countries may enter Bulgaria.

Portugal remains open to U.S. travelers

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On the other hand, Portugal announced earlier this month that it will remain open to travelers from the United States despite the European Council decision. Just as before, travelers from the U.S., regardless of vaccination status, must simply present a negative PCR or antigen COVID test procured within 72 hours of boarding their flight to enter Portugal. Children under 12 are exempt.

The Netherlands adds a quarantine for vaccinated travelers

As of September 4, the Netherlands has classified the United States as “very high risk,” meaning that travelers from the U.S. can only enter the country if they are fully vaccinated and submit to a mandatory 10-day quarantine. As of September 6, a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test performed within 24 hours prior to departure is also required of vaccinated travelers entering the Netherlands. 

Italy restricts unvaccinated leisure travelers, adds test for vaccinated

In Italy, the latest changes have resulted in a new testing requirement for the vaccinated and no access for unvaccinated leisure travelers. Prior to August 31, Americans could enter Italy as long as they were vaccinated, had recovered from COVID, or presented a negative COVID test result. As of August 31, only those who are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID can enter (which means that unvaccinated leisure travelers won’t be allowed to enter), and they will also need to have a negative molecular or antigen COVID test result from within 72 hours of travel.

Spain and Germany prohibit unvaccinated leisure travelers

Similar to Italy, Spain and Germany are no longer allowing unvaccinated Americans to enter for leisure travel after removing the United States from their respective unrestricted countries lists. Those arriving from countries that are not on the list must either be vaccinated or be traveling for an essential reason (such as an approved work purpose).

Denmark requires unvaccinated U.S. travelers to quarantine

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In Denmark, the rules have also changed. Vaccinated U.S. travelers are still welcome to enter Denmark, but those who have recovered from COVID-19 now need a “worthy purpose” to enter—such as for work, studies, family, legal, or real estate matters—and unvaccinated U.S. travelers must now quarantine after arrival in addition to providing a negative COVID-19 PCR test from within 72 hours of boarding and then getting tested again upon arrival (they didn’t have to quarantine before). 

France, Greece, Austria, and other European countries have not yet announced changes

Neither FranceGreece, nor Austria has updated its entry requirements yet, and it is unclear when or whether they will do so. The same is true for several additional countries in Europe.

The European Council recommends that only vaccinated travelers, those traveling for essential reasons, and those traveling for nonessential reasons from the list of approved countries should be allowed to enter the European Union. So, it is likely that as new conditions continue to be implemented, they will be most significant for unvaccinated travelers. 

But as we’ve seen above in instances such as Sweden, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands, vaccinated U.S. travelers are not being totally spared prohibitive entry restrictions. Thus, travelers with forthcoming plans to travel to Europe, regardless of vaccination status, should keep a very close watch as updates continue throughout Europe.

This story was originally published on September 3, 2021, and was updated on September 7, 2021, to include current information.

>> Next: How Can I Get a Vaccine Passport?

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