Can American travelers go to Europe? This is what you should know

With the number of people vaccinated in the United States against the escalation of the coronavirus, Americans are beginning to explore their prospects for international travel this summer, a season in which Europe is traditionally a huge draw.

Most of Europe has been off-limits to most American citizens for over a year, and the continent is currently grappling with a third wave of coronavirus infections and an increase in new, more contagious variants, so no it is clear when its borders will be reopened. But some European countries have started welcoming vaccinated travelers, including American tourists, and others are preparing to ease restrictions in time for the summer season.

Vaccines and health certificates are being developed that would help speed up travel, which could facilitate the resumption of tourism. All 27 member countries of the European Union have endorsed the idea of ​​a vaccine certificate. While individual European countries will continue to set their own rules, the initiative is expected to establish a coordinated approach across the continent.

“Finally, we have a tangible solution to coordinate and harmonize travel measures,” said Eduardo Santander, executive director of the European Travel Commission, an association of national tourism organizations based in Brussels. “I think other countries like the US will also introduce their own technology solutions that will be compatible and after a trial period this summer, a global standard will be set.”

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommend against traveling, even for those vaccinated, citing the risks of contracting and spreading the virus while away from home. And ultimately, the course of the virus will determine what travel around the world will be like. But this is what we know about how European countries are preparing to restart tourism.

Last summer, when the United States reported more coronavirus infections and deaths than any other country, Americans were barred from entering the European bloc on vacation.

There have been a few exceptions: Turkey has been allowing U.S. citizens to enter if they present evidence of a negative Covid-19 PCR test prior to departure, as have Croatia and several non-European Union countries, including Albania and Armenia.

As the number of cases has increased in Europe and vaccination has been slow, several countries of the European Union have returned to the blockade. France, Belgium and Portugal have reintroduced strict measures restricting non-essential travel, including from within the bloc and within what is known as the Schengen Zone, which includes non-member countries that allow free movement across their borders.

“Right now, in some European countries, it can feel like you’re in the middle of a storm, which is what we felt in the UK a couple of months ago,” said Gloria Guevara Manzo, CEO and President of World Travel. & Tourism Council, a forum that works with governments to raise awareness about the travel industry.

“But I think that once we accelerate the deployment of vaccination while applying strong protocols and safety tests, in the summer we will be in a situation where European countries can open up around the same time,” he added.

But it is likely to be for travel within Europe, rather than between Europe and the United States.

“The current focus is to open up domestic markets within the EU and UK and then depending on reciprocity agreements, more third countries will be included,” said Eric Dresin, Secretary General of the European Association of Travel and Tour Agents. Operators. “But right now, we are not talking about Americans visiting Europe.”

However, American travelers have a few options: After having controlled the virus, Iceland allows all vaccinated travelers, including those from the United States, to enter without being subject to Covid-19 testing or quarantine measures.

Greece, one of the most popular European summer destinations for Americans, announced this month that it would reopen to all tourists in mid-May, provided they show proof of vaccination, antibodies, or a negative Covid-19 test result before traveling. . All visitors will be subject to random testing upon arrival.

Turkey said it would not require international travelers to get vaccinated this summer and will re-evaluate testing policies after April 15.

Other European countries such as Slovenia and Estonia are allowing vaccinated tourists to enter, but not those from the United States.

Spain, which relies heavily on tourism for its economy, said it would reopen to international visitors in the spring, once 30 to 40 percent of its adult population is vaccinated. Portugal also hopes to reopen its borders by May, but it is not yet clear whether Americans will be allowed entry.

Americans were never barred from entering the UK, which left the European Union last year, during the pandemic and can visit today, but they face strict quarantine and testing requirements. In England, where a 10-day quarantine is required, the time can be shortened if a person presents a negative Covid-19 PCR test on day five.

Violations can result in penalties of up to $ 13,860 and 10 years in prison.

Most of Britain is under a strict lockdown and while a stay-at-home order will be lifted on March 29, most shops, restaurants and pubs will be closed until at least mid-April. Scotland has started to ease restrictions and will continue to do so in phases.

Domestic tourism and indoor dining are not expected to resume until May 17 at the earliest. In anticipation of the lifting of restrictions, several cruise lines have announced “home holiday trips” around the British Isles starting in June.

Many Britons traveled last summer when the virus seemed to have subsided and a recent study found that they brought a significant number of infections to the UK. A ban on British travel abroad for pleasure was enacted on January 4 and was expected to expire in May, but the government introduced legislation this week establishing the legal framework to extend the restrictions until the end of June.

It’s unclear when exactly the UK will lift its quarantine requirements for more tourism, but Visit Britain is forecasting a slow recovery that will begin towards the end of the summer.

Earlier this month, the European Commission proposed a digital travel certificate that would prove that a person has been vaccinated, received a negative Covid-19 test result, or recovered after contracting the virus.

To travel to the European Union, you will need to check one of the three boxes.

The document, known as the Digital Green Certificate, would allow European Union residents and their families to travel freely within the bloc’s member states. The commission is also working to coordinate with the World Health Organization to ensure that the certificates are compatible with systems in countries outside of Europe.

The documents would be free and available in digital or paper format and, if the European Parliament approves them, the bloc plans to launch them in three months.

Non-European Union citizens will be able to request a Digital Green Certificate from the member country they plan to visit. The rules for proof of vaccination will be the same as for citizens of the European Union: vaccines that the bloc has authorized will be accepted and individual member states will be able to decide whether to accept others.

“The Digital Green Certificate will not be a precondition for free movement and will not discriminate in any way,” said Didier Reynders, the bloc’s top justice official. “A common EU approach will not only help us gradually restore free movement within the EU and avoid fragmentation. It is also an opportunity to influence global standards and lead by example based on our European values ​​such as data protection. “

Currently, all airline passengers 2 years and older traveling to the United States must provide a negative Covid-19 viral test (NAAT or antigen test) taken within three calendar days of travel. States have different quarantine requirements, so travelers should check what their state requires before booking a vacation abroad.

Each country sets its own rules, but most safety protocols are unlikely to change this summer, even for those who have been vaccinated.

Visitors are expected to wear masks and keep a safe distance in public spaces. Hotels, restaurants, and event spaces will have improved cleaning protocols, and some may impose capacity restrictions.

“I think it is very important that governments strike a balance to ease restrictions this summer, while maintaining security protocols to control the disease,” said Santander of the European Travel Commission. “We really don’t want to find ourselves in a situation in 2022 where we have to close borders again and go into lockdown for another year.”

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