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When Will We Be Able to Travel to Europe?

By Michelle Baran

Aug 15, 2020

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With coronavirus precautions in place, Croatia is inviting back travelers from around the world.

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With coronavirus precautions in place, Croatia is inviting back travelers from around the world.

Internal and external borders have started to reopen—but many foreign travelers remain banned from visiting Europe.

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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 U.S. 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 9.6 million Americans traveled to Europe between March and July, according to U.S. Commerce Department data. But rather than hop the pond these past several months, we have been staying home 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 July 1, 2020, when the European Union began welcoming back travelers from a list of 14 countries that had been approved by its leaders.

The list is being updated regularly, which leaves open the possibility for countries to be added to or removed from it, but none of the versions (including the most recent one of 10 countries, which was released on August 7) have thus far included the United States. The European Union states that it has barred travelers from the United States and from any other countries not on the list because those countries have not brought the coronavirus outbreak under control.

The 10 countries currently on the list are: Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay. (Algeria, Montenegro, Morocco and Serbia had been on previous incarnations of the list, but have since been removed.) China could also be included if China agrees to allow EU travelers to visit as well. Residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican are considered EU residents as part of the lifting of travel restrictions.

It’s not a legally binding list, but EU leaders have agreed that member countries should not independently lift travel restrictions for unlisted countries before it’s been decided upon in a coordinated manner.

Nevertheless, there have already been some deviances, including Germany, which is only allowing in 7 of the 10 countries on the list, and Croatia, which on July 10 opened up its borders to all international travelers as long as they provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result procured within 48 hours of arriving at the Croatian border, or submit to an otherwise mandatory quarantine.

There are also numerous exceptions to the European travel ban, including for family members, passengers in transit, and students.

Meanwhile, Europe’s internal borders, which had been shut down in the wake of the pandemic as well, began opening back up to a patchwork of rules and restrictions on June 15.

Prior to the June 30 announcement, airlines that had slashed their international capacity up to 80 and 90 percent in some cases had begun adding some of their transatlantic airlift back into the schedule for the summer and fall. Delta, American, and United are still planning to resume several European routes in the next few months, predominantly to major hubs such as London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam.

Here is a breakdown of how several European countries are approaching travel from within and beyond Europe.

Anyone can travel to Croatia if they present a recent, negative coronavirus test result

Dubrovnik is within reach for any traveler willing and able to take a rapid-result COVID-19 test.

On July 10, the Croatian Institute for Public Health came to the decision that non-EU citizens, including those from the United States, who enter Croatia as tourists, business travelers, or as students can do so freely as long as they provide evidence of a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic test (also known as the nasal swab test) for COVID-19. The result must have been procured within 48 hours of arriving at the Croatian border. Otherwise, there is a mandatory 14 days of self-isolation (at travelers’ own expense), which can be shortened to one week for travelers who take a COVID-19 test within 7 days after entering Croatia and who receive a negative test result. COVID-19 testing in Croatia costs about $230 and the results can be expected in 1 to 2 days, according to the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb.

The embassy also cautioned travelers that Croatian health authorities are monitoring and enforcing quarantine orders, and they are authorized to fine individuals who violate the orders anywhere from 8,000 Croatian kuna (about US$1,200) for a first violation up to 120,000 Croatian kuna (or US$18,000) for repeat offenders.

Prior to arrival, visitors must fill in a travel form that is available online. On that form, they must provide evidence of their confirmed hotel or accommodation booking. After filling out the form, travelers will receive confirmation that it was submitted, and they will get instructions regarding the rules and regulations for traveling to and within Croatia at this time.

How to get there: There are no direct flights to Croatia, but there are connecting flights from the United States to Zagreb available on American, Delta, United, Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, and other carriers. The European Union’s travel restrictions include an exception for passengers in transit. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are allowed to enter the United States from European Schengen countries, but they must fly into one of 13 U.S. airports when they do so, according to guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The majority of airlines now require travelers to wear a mask during their flight.

France is welcoming travelers from the EU and from countries on the European Commission list

Beaches in France reopened in June.

As of June 22, France lifted all of its travel restrictions for those coming to the country from within Europe. (France reopened its borders to the majority of inter-Europe travelers on June 15 and to those coming from Spain on June 22.) People from EU member states as well as from Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the Vatican can now enter France sans restrictions. Visitors from the United Kingdom are subject to a two-week quarantine.

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On July 1, France opened its doors to visitors from outside Europe who are traveling from any of the countries granted access to the EU by the European Commission. As long as their country remains on the list (which is scheduled to be updated regularly), travelers from those nations will be able to enter France, stay in hotels, eat at the country’s restaurants, and visit museums and tourist sites throughout the country.

Effective August 10, face masks became a requirement in some outdoor areas of Paris amid an uptick in reported coronavirus cases. Face masks are mandatory in the country for anyone age 11 and older who is on public transportation, in a taxi or rideshare, or in any enclosed public space. Throughout France, museums and landmarks are open with masks required; bars, cafés and restaurants are open with public health measures in place (masks when moving about and socially distanced seating). Cinemas and performance venues have been allowed to reopen (with a maximum capacity of 5,000 people), but nightclubs remain closed.

Caroline Leboucher, the managing director of Atout-France, the country’s tourism marketing organization, said in a statement that visitors can expect to find a combination of a “strict application of health protocols approved by the government, with the promise, however, of keeping intact the spirit of vacation and the French art of living.”

How to get there: American Airlines will resume its New York (JFK) to Paris (CDG) service in winter 2020. 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.

Italy reopened to travelers on June 3—but not to those from the United States

Rome’s Ciampino Airport and the Vespucci Airport in Florence reopened on May 4.

On June 3, Italy became the first country in Europe to reopen its international and regional borders.

But these 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 be subjected to mandatory quarantine measures. (Officials did not provide details on how exactly they would be checking or confirming travelers’ contacts.) Travelers arriving and departing from Rome’s airports will be subjected to health checks, including temperature checks from thermal scanners at the entrances to both Fiumicino and Ciampino airports. 

The Italian National 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.

The United Kingdom’s mandatory quarantine doesn’t apply to all travelers

On May 13, the United Kingdom began to ease lockdown measures.

Nonessential travel to and from the United Kingdom is not currently recommended but it is not forbidden either.

Anyone who arrives in the United Kingdom from one of the countries or territories on a list of exempted nations is not required to self-isolate for 14 days. Those coming from countries that are not on the list will still have to abide by the 14-day quarantine rule that was put in place on June 8, including travelers coming from the United States.

The list of exempted countries and territories includes Australia, Austria, Bermuda, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, Turkey, and Vietnam. The list is being amended regularly.

The 14 British overseas territories are also exempt, as are travelers arriving from within the United Kingdom and from Ireland. The government said that the list could be altered as the situation evolves.

People traveling from countries and territories that are not on the list, including both international visitors and British nationals returning home from abroad, will have to provide U.K. border control with their contact details, including their phone number, and the address of their U.K. accommodation where they will self-isolate for two weeks. Failure to self-isolate can result in a fine of up to £1,000 (or approximately US$1,270), and failure to provide correct contact details can result in a fine of up to £3,200 (about US$4,070).

As of July 4, the majority of U.K. businesses were allowed to reopen as long as they follow COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, according to a coronavirus fact sheet provided by the government. That includes hotels, vacation rentals, retail stores, restaurants, and pubs (with outdoor seating), museums, galleries, cinemas, theaters, and concert halls.

How to get there: United is currently flying from Newark and Chicago O’Hare International Airport to London Heathrow Airport. American has service to London Heathrow from Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Los Angeles, Chicago O’Hare, Philadelphia, Phoenix Sky Harbor, Raleigh-Durham, and New York (JFK).

Germany has lifted restrictions for some of the European Commission’s recommended countries—but not all

German foreign minister Heiko Maas has warned Germans not to expect crowded beaches and mountain chalets this summer.

Travel into Germany from within Europe was allowed as of June 16, according to Germany’s Federal Foreign Office. The only exception was Spain, from which travel to Germany was permitted as of June 22.

Based on the European Commission’s recommendation for lifting the travel ban for residents of certain countries, Germany has lifted its restrictions on travel for residents coming from seven (initially it was eight but Montenegro was dropped from the list) of those countries: Australia, Georgia, Canada, New Zealand, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay. Germany’s interior ministry stated that restrictions could also be lifted for travelers from Japan, South Korea, and China upon confirmation of reciprocal travel benefits.

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 resumed service between Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Frankfurt on June 4.

Spain has reopened, but only to European travelers for now

For the time being, Spanish cities such as Bilbao are only available to travelers from within Europe.

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According to the U.S. Embassy in Spain, Spain is currently only allowing in travelers who are Spanish nationals, legal residents of Spain, long-term visa holders, or those who are coming from European Schengen countries. Spouses, parents, and descendents (those under the age of 21 or who are still supported by their parents) of Spanish nationals are also being permitted to enter the country, as are essential workers, students, and passengers in transit.

Spain’s state of emergency ended on June 21, marking the end of severe lockdown measures that began on March 14. 

But the country has been experiencing a recent resurgence in coronavirus cases. A government order requires face masks for everyone age six and older when they are in enclosed spaces and in areas where it is not possible to maintain six feet of distance between one another.

How to get there: American plans to resume service to Barcelona and Madrid in September.

Greece considers opening to more travelers—including from the United States

Travel to Greece from the United States could be a possibility in the near future.

On July 13, Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said the country is evaluating whether or not to open up to more travelers later this summer—including to those from the United States.

Nevertheless, the Greek government has not made an official announcement regarding this possibility.

After six weeks of strict coronavirus lockdowns banning all nonessential movement across the country, Greece started to gradually reopen its economy in early May. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared the official start date of Greece’s tourist season as June 15, and since then, international travelers from countries with acceptably low rates of virus infection have been permitted to enter Greece.

An updated list of countries from which travelers can enter Greece by land, sea, or air is available through the Greek Tourism Board.

As of July 15, travelers to Greece are required to produce a negative COVID-19 test, taken no more than 72 hours before arrival in the country. Twenty-four hours before arriving in Greece, travelers also have to fill out a Passenger Locator Form (PLF), which requires that they provide  “detailed information on their point of departure, the duration of previous stays in other countries, and the address of their stay while in Greece,” according to the government

Portugal has started reopening for travel from within Europe and from a handful of non-European countries

Hotels in Portugal reopened in June.

May 2 marked the end of Portugal’s state of emergency since the country went into lockdown on March 14. On June 1, the country entered the final phase of its reopening plan. The public can now go back to theaters, cinemas (at reduced capacity), and shopping centers.

Currently, travelers from EU countries, as well as Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, are allowed entry by air, according to information posted at Portugal’s Immigration and Borders Service website. Travelers from the following countries are allowed to enter as well: Australia, Canada, China, South Korea, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

Additionally, eligible travelers from Portuguese-speaking countries and those with large Portuguese communities, like the United Kingdom, Venezuela, Canada, South Africa, and the United States, are permitted—provided that reciprocity is met for Portuguese citizens. 

Because of the United States’ ban on travel from Europe (including Portugal) that went into effect on March 13, that means currently only Portuguese residents, dual citizens, and family members may enter Portugal from the United States, according to information provided by Visit Portugal.

Hotels are open, and visitors to Portugal can look for the blue and white “Clean & Safe” label that verifies that hotels and other tourism businesses are respecting public health and hygiene measures. Portugal’s beaches reopened on June 6 with health regulations and a color-coded sign system in place to indicate beach capacity so visitors can safely enjoy the country’s 500-plus miles of coastline. 

Elsewhere in Europe, restrictions beginning to ease

Sweden is scheduled to open to travelers from outside the EU on August 31.

The ban on nonessential travel to Sweden from non-EU countries is scheduled to end on August 31, and Sweden does not require inbound travelers to quarantine. Travel to Sweden from EU countries, the U.K., and Switzerland is currently not restricted.

Travelers from most European countries, with the exception of those from Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Malta, Romania and Bulgaria, are allowed to enter Denmark. Denmark’s borders are also open to travelers from Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

As of July 15, Iceland has reopened to citizens from a list of countries outside the EU/Schengen area that includes Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay. Travelers will 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.

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.

The Mediterranean island nation of Malta opened its airport to international flights from within Europe on July 1, and it is welcoming flights from all other destinations as of July 15. There are no direct flights from the United States to Malta, but there are connecting flight options.

On June 12, Turkey lifted its coronavirus travel restrictions entirely. International travelers can visit Turkey and will simply be subject to a medical screening upon arrival. Turkish Airlines currently offers flights to and from Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Miami and will add flights to and from New York, San Francisco, and Houston on July 1, 15, and 26, respectively.

The key takeaways

As avid and responsible travelers, we’re all worried about the same things 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, Sara Button, and Katherine LaGrave contributed reporting to this story. It originally appeared on May 6, 2020, and has been updated regularly to include current information.

>> Next: When Will We Travel Abroad Again?

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