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Photo by Andrew Mayovskyy/Shutterstock
Greece has a plan to welcome tourists back by July.
Lockdowns are gradually being lifted—but that doesn’t mean borders will come flying open. Here’s what you can (realistically) expect.
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This is a developing story. For up-to-date information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
If you’re wondering when travelers from the United States are going to be able to visit Europe again, you are far from alone—last year 4.7 million Americans traveled to Europe during the months of March, April, and May, according to U.S. Commerce Department data. But rather than hop the pond this spring, we have all been home, sheltering in place and working to help flatten the coronavirus curve. During this sedentary time, we can’t help but ask ourselves when, and in what form, we’ll be able to travel to Europe again as we dream about summers and autumns spent sauntering along the Seine and lounging on the Mediterranean.
On March 17, as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the continent, European Union leaders agreed to impose travel restrictions on most foreigners entering Europe for at least 30 days to limit the spread of COVID-19. Those restrictions were extended until May 15, 2020, and this month the European Commission recommended another 30-day extension, which would leave the ban in place until June 15, 2020.
In the meantime, each individual European country has voiced its own, slightly different approach to the possibility of reopening to travel. For now, governments are (rightfully) focused predominantly inward as they, like the United States, work to navigate the lifting of weeks-long lockdown measures for their citizens, and discover what living with the coronavirus pandemic can and will look like within their own borders.
For the vast majority of European countries, it’s still unclear when exactly they might open up to international visitors—and what it will entail when they do. But recent statements and measures, such as the implementation of mandatory quarantines, have offered some clues. Concrete actions are also being planned—Greece recently unveiled its strategy for welcoming tourists back by July.
Additionally, airlines that have slashed their international capacity up to 80 and 90 percent in some cases have plans to start adding some of their transatlantic airlift back into the schedule for the summer and fall—Delta, American, and United have all decided that they will resume several European routes between June and October, predominantly to major hubs such as London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam—another indication that international travel that has come to a near standstill in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic may slowly start to pick up in the coming months.
Here’s a breakdown of what the situation is on the ground and the potential for travel to several European countries.
On May 11, France began easing some of its lockdown measures as part of what government officials are calling its “deconfinement plan,” which marks the end of a strict two-month stay-at-home order. In the first phase, schools and stores can reopen, as well as parks and gardens in areas that don’t have high coronavirus transmission. French citizens can finally travel up to 100 kilometers (or 62 miles) away from their homes. In early June, restaurants, bars, cafés, museums, and beaches in the country will tentatively be allowed to open—all of which is contingent on the number of new coronavirus cases remaining somewhat under control.
That’s positive news for life inside of France, but there’s still a lot that needs to happen for those who would like to visit France from outside the country. Currently, the French Foreign Ministry requires a certificate of travel for anyone coming into France or one of its overseas territories from abroad. The certificate deems that your main residence is France or the EU, that you hold a French or European residence permit or long-stay visa, or that you are an essential worker or a diplomat. The certificate will be needed “until further notice,” according to the foreign ministry.
It’s not clear when France will fully lift its international travel restrictions, but there’s a good chance that when the country does open up to travelers, they will be required to quarantine. A new bill that was recently introduced by France’s Health Minister Oliver Veran proposes to extend France’s state of emergency until July 24 and would require incoming visitors to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival. While a two-week quarantine just to be able to visit Paris or Provence definitely seems like pretty high stakes, the fact that the country’s officials are weighing the quarantine possibility signals that France is also looking at how it can open up to (some) travelers safely.
How to get there: Despite a drastic reduction in international air capacity, you can still book flights to France, including on American, which will resume its New York (JFK) to Paris (CDG) service on July 7, and Miami (MIA) and Philadelphia (PHL) to CDG will resume on October 25. United plans to operate a flight three times a week from Newark (EWR) to Paris (CDG) beginning on June 4. Delta is currently operating flights from Atlanta to Paris (CDG). Air France continues to operate flights to and from New York, Los Angeles, and Montreal. All of these airlines currently require that you wear a face mask.
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On May 16, Italy’s government announced that it would open its borders to travelers in early June. But the new regulations don’t apply to residents of the United States. According to the government decree, these new rules only apply to people arriving from member countries of the European Union, countries within the Schengen Zone, as well as the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and the microstates and principalities of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican.
The government decree also says those who test positive for COVID-19 or have had close contact with people with the virus will still be subjected to mandatory quarantine measures. (Officials did not provide details on how exactly they would be checking or confirming travelers’ contacts.)
Since Italy went into lockdown in the second week of March, travel into the country and between its regions has been strictly limited. Airports and railway stations remained open only to allow those with proven work needs or other urgent or health-related reasons to travel with a form verifying their purpose. Italian citizens were also allowed to return home from abroad and foreign tourists could leave the country.
“Tourism in Italy will start again, with all precautions and in maximum safety,” Palmucci said. “Those who love Italy must be allowed to return to enjoy it, in compliance with governmental and regional guidelines.”
The tourist board told AFAR that there is no specific date available yet for when travelers from the United States will be allowed to enter Italy.
How to get there: American’s New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP) and Miami to Milan routes will resume on October 25. Alitalia is still operating flights between New York and Rome and Milan, as well as between Los Angeles and Rome and Milan.
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this month announced the country’s multi-phase plan for easing coronavirus lockdown measures, including the goal of reopening some of its hospitality industry by July. Unfortunately, there will be one big caveat for international travelers—a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The government did not set a precise date for when the quarantine measures will begin and said that additional details would be forthcoming. Travelers coming from Ireland will be exempt.
Travel to the United Kingdom from the United States is not currently recommended by either government but it is not forbidden either—and there is currently no isolation required for international arrivals. For the time being, anyone who flies to the United Kingdom from abroad is subject to enhanced screenings and is being asked to report any symptoms they develop during the flight, upon arrival, or after leaving the airport.
However, most U.K. hotels have been closed until further notice. There are a handful of properties in London that are open for passengers who are in transit, with some stays at those hotels limited to between 24 and 48 hours, according to a notice from the U.S. embassy in the United Kingdom.
As of May 13, citizens are allowed to spend time outside and exercise outdoors as often as they want, and they can take day trips to an outdoor open space in their own car as long as they follow social-distancing recommendations.
Public pools and playgrounds are still off limits, as are any attractions, and it’s still forbidden to gather in a group of more than two people (other than members of the same household).
Opening of nonessential retail is expected to happen in phases starting on June 1. The government anticipates that no earlier than July 4, the hospitality industry will be able to reopen, including businesses such as restaurants, pubs, and accommodations as well as cinemas, all of which is contingent on a constant and ongoing monitoring of coronavirus cases throughout the country.
How to get there: United is currently flying from Newark and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to London Heathrow Airport (LHR). American has two flights to London Heathrow each day, one from Dallas/Fort Worth and one from Miami. American will also be adding more in the coming months—Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) to Heathrow will resume on July 7; and flights from Los Angeles, Chicago O’Hare, Philadelphia, Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX), Raleigh-Durham (RDU), and New York (JFK) to Heathrow all resume on June 4.
Alongside other countries in Europe, Germany introduced travel restrictions for non-EU nationals on March 17—and those restrictions remain in place. Travelers without an urgent reason (such as the need for medical treatment or death of a family member), or travelers with symptoms that could indicate coronavirus infection, are not permitted to enter or leave Germany. And even travel for an urgent reason will only be allowed on a case-by-case basis, according to Germany’s Interior Ministry.
Germany’s Federal Foreign Office has extended its warning against any international travel until June 14, 2020, even as the country has eased some of its coronavirus lockdown measures, such as allowing small stores to reopen at the end of April.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recently said that the country’s fight against the pandemic was not at a stage where he could “recommend carefree travel,” the BBC reported. “People won’t be able to spend a holiday as they usually know it,” added Maas, noting people shouldn’t expect to experience full beaches or crowded mountain chalets this summer.
How to get there: United is flying daily service between Newark (EWR) and Frankfurt (FRA) and between Washington Dulles and Frankfurt. American will have flights between North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) and Frankfurt (starting October 25), and between CLT and Munich (MUC) (starting on July 7). American plans to resume service between Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Frankfurt on June 4.
Like other countries in Europe, Spain this month began easing its lockdown measures, ending the country’s strict two-month stay-at-home order. Spaniards are now able to enjoy up to an hour outside each day, and they, like in France, can travel up to 100 kilometers (or 62 miles) from their home.
On May 11, hotels in Spain were allowed to reopen as long as proper health and social distancing measures were put in place. But even though hotels can open, foreign travel into the country now comes with a mandatory 14-day quarantine, according to a recent announcement made by the country's Health Ministry.
The quarantine requirement went into effect on May 15 and will remain in place throughout the duration of the country’s state of alert (which is set to expire on May 24 but can be extended if the government deems it necessary), Spanish newspaper El País reported.
How to get there: American’s service from New York (JFK), Philadelphia, and Miami to Madrid will resume on July 7.
After six weeks of strict lockdowns banning all nonessential movement across the country, Greece last week began easing those restrictions and unveiled a plan that includes the possibility of welcoming travelers this summer.
The plan, according to Greece’s tourism minister Harry Theoharis, is to welcome tourists back to the country by July. “This season is not going to be like the other years,” Theoharis explained in a statement to Reuters. “I would be a fool to believe that this could ever be the case. However, there is a lot that we can do to reopen the tourist economy.”
In a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that the Greek government will review its rolled-back measures every 24 hours to monitor for possible outbreaks of the coronavirus. The government is expected to announce further guidelines for restaurants, hotels, salons, swimming pools, and beaches in the near future.
For the time being Greece’s borders remain closed to travelers from non-EU countries until further notice, and a 14-day quarantine is required for any new arrivals to the country. There is also a ban on all cruise ships, yachts, and sailboats docking at Greece’s ports.
Iceland plans to begin opening back up to travelers by June 15, but with a few caveats. Travelers will likely be given three choices upon entry into the country: get tested for COVID-19 upon landing at Keflavik Airport (if the results are negative, they may continue with their travels); go into a two-week quarantine; or provide proof that they recently tested negative for COVID-19. Government officials expect to make more definitive announcements about travel restrictions at the end of May.
May 2 marked the end of Portugal’s state of emergency since the country went into lockdown on March 14. Hotels in Portugal are making plans to reopen in July, and TAP, the national air carrier, is planning to resume some U.S. flights in June. Turismo de Portugal, the country’s tourism marketing arm, has developed a “Clean and Safe” certification to verify that hotels and other tourism businesses are respecting public health and hygiene measures.
Government regulations in Austria currently require that all travelers to the country present a less than four-day-old medical certificate confirming their negative COVID-19 test results or else begin a strict 14-day quarantine to curb the spread of the coronavirus. However, as of May 4, passengers at the Vienna International Airport can opt to undergo COVID-19 testing inside the airport (at a cost of 190 euros or roughly US$250 each), allowing individuals with negative results to avoid two weeks of mandatory self-isolation.
There are no restrictions on travel to Ireland from the United States, but the Irish Health Authorities require anyone coming into Ireland (other than from Northern Ireland) to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.
As avid and responsible travelers, we’re all worried about the same thing above all—the safety and health of the global village that has become inextricably linked by this international public health crisis. As we wait and watch to see how different governments respond to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s also important for travelers to be real and honest with themselves regarding what they are comfortable with and the ways in which they can and would travel that would minimize their impact when moving through the world.
Perhaps the question isn’t when we will be able to travel to Europe, but when should we? And that is one that will in some ways remain in the hands of the pandemic itself and how it continues to play out, as well as with public health experts, government officials, and private enterprises all working together to find ways to help us live—and ultimately travel—safely in the age of coronavirus.
—Sarah Buder, Lyndsey Matthews and Sara Button contributed reporting to this story. This story originally appeared on May 6, 2020, and has been updated to include current information.