Can you travel to Europe right now? Yes: the 27 nations of the European Union added the United States to its safe travel list in June.
“The recent Global Rescue survey revealed Europe — along with Canada, Mexico and Argentina — is one of the leading destinations travelers plan to visit in the next several months,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue. “More than half (53%) of those surveyed expect to travel internationally before the end of the year.”
“People are really dying to go back to Europe,” said Mimi Lichtenstein, founder and owner of Truvay Travel, a Global Rescue Safe Travel partner. “My clients are going to Greece, Italy, Croatia, Ireland, Switzerland and France. Some considering Vienna and Budapest for Christmas.”
“Greece was one of the earliest countries to reopen to American tourists. It’s a largely outdoor-focused destination, which naturally offers a more comfortable environment for travelers during a global pandemic,” said Danielle Aronson, co-founder of travelhelix and a Global Rescue Safe Travel partner. “Spontaneous travelers beware: Greece is going to be packed this summer. Avoid Santorini and Mykonos if you don’t already have a plan. There are so many beautiful islands to visit and this might be the perfect opportunity to venture off the beaten path.”
In Europe, travelers still plan to visit their neighbors. A recent European Travel Commission survey found 70% of European respondents are making travel plans for the next six months – an increase from 56% in February 2021. Over half (57%) said they felt more optimistic about planning trips due to vaccination rollouts.
The borders are open, but international travel is unpredictable with frequent changes to country policies, sometimes with little notice. Guidelines may vary across the EU with each individual country deciding their own regulations: testing, quarantine, vaccination or a combination. The U.K., which left the EU in January, has its own restrictions.
Lichtenstein lists the most frequently asked questions from her clients:
- What are the COVID rules to get in? Once there?
- What is it like on the ground now and what do you expect it to be like when we are traveling?
- Will places be open?
- What are the cancellation terms?
To help you plan your trip, Global Rescue experts and Safe Travel partners share suggestions on how to travel safely in Europe this year.
Several European countries — including France, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Greece and Iceland — have already reopened to fully vaccinated non-E.U. travelers, including those from the U.S.
Croatia was one of the first to welcome vaccinated Americans in mid-May. Travel requirements include accommodations booked and paid for ahead of time, proof of vaccination, a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours or an antigen test no older than 48 hours, or proof of recovery from a COVID infection.
Ireland will open to U.S. tourists, vaccinated or not, in July. Those who can provide proof of vaccination can skip the testing and quarantine rules.
If you’re traveling from Italy to France, for example, you’ll have to present a declaration stating no COVID-19 symptoms, no contact with a confirmed case in the 14 days before travel and a PCR test upon arrival. You can only travel from France to countries belonging to the European space — as well as a few other countries — if you have pressing grounds for travel.
Research Europe travel restrictions in advance and factor in time for testing, quarantine or sharing documentation. Global Rescue’s coronavirus blog provides updated travel information, including COVID-19 requirements. The European Union also has a searchable website to help travelers. Another helpful website is #OpenUpToEurope, a collaboration between the European Travel Commission, the European Union and European destinations.
Your Travel Companions
During the travel research and planning process, have a conversation with your travel companions to make sure everyone is on the same page. (You may not need to ask some of these questions to immediate family members.)
Coronavirus: Do they have negative PCR test results and documentation? Do they have vaccination documentation? Is everyone prepared for mandated testing? Once at the destination, are they prepared to follow the country’s mask and social distancing protocols?
Health: Has everyone had a travel health consultation? Do they have the immunizations necessary for the destination? Is there any health history that should be shared with the group?
Finances: Are they covered in case of trip cancellations? Are they prepared financially to quarantine if necessary? Do they have health insurance or a travel protection plan to pay for medical bills or medical evacuations?
Communication: Have you shared emergency contact information with each other? Has everyone agreed to a plan if one person is ill or injured? If you are on a group tour, does the tour operator have a plan for delays and contingencies?
It’s safe to say that if you want to travel to Europe, you should expect to show some sort of vaccination or testing proof, digital or paper. A Global Rescue member was denied boarding a flight to the Turks and Caicos Islands because of incorrect dates on their travel protection membership and IMG travel insurance policy.
The European Union plans to roll out a digital COVID-19 certificate for citizens and visitors in Spain, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Lithuania and Poland. The certificate is stored on a mobile device and a QR code contains the information needed for travel: vaccinated, tested negative for the virus or recovered from infection. According to Lonely Planet, “each hospital, testing center or health authority has its own digital signature, and all of these signatures are stored in a secure database in each country and verified across the bloc in a technical system, or gateway.”
Transiting through European airports requires additional research. The Points Guy suggests double checking transit requirements closer to your date of travel to make sure nothing has changed.
And, according to The Points Guy, “even if you can avoid testing in Europe, you’ll need a negative test to fly back to the U.S., regardless of whether you’ve been vaccinated or not. All travelers 2 and older flying to the U.S. from abroad must show a negative viral COVID-19 test result taken within three days of departure before being allowed to board their flights.”
You’ve always wanted to take a European cruise, but they are currently limited to European residents. But eight river cruise companies are offering options on France’s five major rivers: the Seine, Rhine, Saone/Rhone, Bordeaux/Garonne and Loire. Depending on the country’s restrictions — curfew, closure of nonessential shops, limited entertainment options, reduced visitors to museums and historical sites, to name a few — you may want to adjust your wish list of activities or check the country requirements on a day-by-day basis.
Lichtenstein recommends selecting places where being outside and active is a big part of the experience.
“Charter a yacht or catamaran around Greece or Croatia. Charter a Belmond barge for a river cruise,” she said. “Go places where you can hike, picnic, bike ride, horseback ride, go to the beach, rent a jeep, visit hot springs, ATV, do outdoor wine tasting, jump off cliffs into the sea, do a day cruise on a sailboat, golf or stargaze. There are so many options.”
Europeans are considering different types of vacations post-pandemic. More than half of Europeans (58%) demonstrate a strong desire to embark on fewer but lengthier trips at a single destination, off-season travel is preferred by 44% and 32% are willing to pay extra for “far from the crowd” experiences.
Your Back Up Plans
Don’t leave anything to chance.
“We highly recommend all travelers do their due diligence and verify there are appropriate resources to be tested prior to departure to another country,” said Jeffrey Weinstein, supervisor of the operations department at Global Rescue.
This might mean researching the destination’s health care facilities and abilities. “Not all countries have the capability to perform this type of testing at high quantities,” Weinstein said. “A member can contact us while in country for advisory services and referral to a testing location, but we cannot guarantee the ability to have a member tested, or availability of tests.”
Have a plan if you need to extend your trip. Some countries might offer quarantine lodging, some might not. In Norway, everyone has to register and quarantine for 10 days (7 days subject to two negative tests after arrival). Quarantine hotels are at major entry points. In Ireland, if you’re a traveler from a high-risk country, a hotel quarantine is mandatory and pre-payment is required.
And, above all, be patient.
“Newly opened destinations are rediscovering their operating sea legs: getting back up to speed while navigating ever-changing health and safety measures amidst a surge in demand. Be sure to check specific landmarks and restaurants you hope to visit,” Aronson said. “While everyone adjusts to a newly reopened travel landscape, things may not run as smoothly as you remember. But know these destinations are thrilled to have travelers returning.”
Plan for the Unexpected with Global Rescue
A Global Rescue travel protection membership provides a safety net for any travel to, through and around Europe.
Global Rescue provides members with advisory and transport services in connection with COVID-19 in the same manner as any other infectious condition. So long as it is safe for both the member and the transport team and there are no rules or regulations either in the member’s location or the destination prohibiting it, Global Rescue will provide transport services to members.
We can also connect you to travel insurance to provide coverage against a variety of unexpected expenses, as well as TotalCare telehealth services for access to a team of medical experts for real-time video consultations and treatment.
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