Summer, sun, surf, sandy beaches, and lots of culture: vacationing in Europe is once again a possibility for many – but only cautiously so.
As coronavirus infection numbers continue to fall across much of Europe, many countries are lifting lockdowns and easing travel and entry requirements. But while COVID rules are being relaxed in some countries, others are tightening their entry rules again due to the surge of the Delta variant. As was the case before, the situation in each country can change from one day to the next, which again requires flexibility from tourists and tour operators, hotels and restaurateurs in the summer of 2021.
Tourists from Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, among others, can already travel to Europe. And since June 20, US citizens have also been able to do so again.
As of July 1, travel restrictions have been lifted for other countries jointly selected by EU member states. Tourism in Europe is picking up again. Here is an overview of the latest rules and most important information.
The European Union
An overview of EU travel measures, including information on the EU Digital COVID Certificate, is available via the European Commission website.
Detailed information regarding quarantine rules, testing requirements and more in the EU’s 27 member states — along with non-EU Schengen countries Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland — can be accessed through the Reopen EU platform. You can also download the Reopen EU smartphone app for up-to-date information on the go.
Please note that every member state maintains its own rules for granting entry to third country travelers already within the EU or Schengen zone. Member states may require a negative COVID test upon arrival, or mandate a quarantine period after entry. In addition, EU countries have implemented a wide variety of social distancing rules, curfews and mask-wearing rules.
The EU has agreed on a traffic light system to make understanding travel restrictions easier
The European Union COVID traffic light system
The EU has introduced a traffic light system for a better overview of the epidemiological situation in individual member states. Three colors — red, orange and green — denote high-, medium- and low-risk areas in the bloc. Grey regions signify areas where insufficient data is available.
Please note: The information listed here is not exhaustive, serves as a reference only and is subject to change at any time. All travelers to and within Europe, the EU and the Schengen area are strongly advised to consult the official guidance and regulations of local, state and national authorities in the relevant countries.
EU digital COVID certificate
To ease EU travel, European lawmakers approved a digital COVID certificate that has been rolled out across the entire bloc. It shows that individuals have either been fully vaccinated, tested negative for the virus, or recovered from the disease.
The document is issued by test centers and health authorities, and has been available in all EU member states since July 1, 2021. At this stage, however, only COVID vaccination records performed by an official, government-mandated body within the EU can be logged on the certificate. Vaccinations from outside the EU are not accepted yet.
For more information, visit the COVID Certificate platform.
Across Germany, coronavirus infections have been falling drastically, dropping to a mere five cases per 100,000 residents within seven days on average early in the summer. In late July, that number had risen to ten cases, with higher rates reported in some areas. Politicians are monitoring the situation with caution.
As a general rule, anyone arriving in Germany — whether by airplane, car, train or ship — must present either a negative test result, proof of vaccination, or documentation proving their recovery from COVID-19.
Those arriving from designated high-risk and virus variant countries must meet additional criteria. Before setting off, individuals must register digitally. Arrivals from high-risk areas must quarantine for 10 days, but can cease self-isolating if they produce a negative test result on the fifth day. Germany currently classifies Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and United Kingdom as high-risk areas, alongside numerous non-European countries such as Egypt, India and South Africa.
All travelers to Germany must present either a negative test result, proof of vaccination, or documentation proving recovery from COVID prior to departure
Travelers from virus variant regions must quarantine for 14 days without exception. Brazil and Uruguay are currently categorized as such. Only German nationals and individuals with German residency permits are permitted to enter the country from such coronavirus variant regions.
In Germany, certain safety precautions continue to apply in general, such as adherence to hygiene rules, keeping a minimum distance of 1.5 meters (5 ft) from others, and wearing a surgical face mask in enclosed, publicly accessible areas as well as on public transport.
More information here
Fancy a jaunt to France, or an extended stay even? The country is pretty much open to visitors, but depending on where you are traveling from, there are certain standards to meet.
Fully vaccinated travelers may enter France without restrictions. They must, however, show proof of vaccination and fill out an entry form stating they don’t have any COVID symptoms.
Unvaccinated individuals arriving in France from a green list country — currently all EU countries alongside Andorra, the Holy See, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, the US, and others — must present a negative PCR or antigenic test, or proof of recovery from COVID.
Unvaccinated individuals from red list countries — currently Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Maldives, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Russia, Seychelles, South Africa, Suriname, Tunisia — may enter France only for important purposes. They must take further COVID tests and quarantine for ten days.
All other countries fall on France’s orange list, which requires a seven-day quarantine. For detailed information on entry requirements, consult the French foreign ministry website.
Vacationing in the French capital Paris isn’t out of the question this summer
Meanwhile, French public life is gradually returning to a sense of normality — but mainly for those who are vaccinated. The country is reacting to the spread of the Delta variant. Since July 21, entry to cultural events and public venues is no longer possible without prior proof of vaccination. From August onwards, access to long-distance trains, coaches, restaurants, cafés and shopping centers is only possible with a vaccination certificate, negative PCR or antigen test.
For tourists who are not fully vaccinated, a vacation in France might quickly become expensive, as COVID tests are no longer offered free of charge.
Meanwhile, hygiene and social distancing rules remain in place. France’s nighttime curfew was lifted on June 20. It is no longer mandatory to wear masks in public. Covering one’s mouth and nose, however, is still obligatory when indoors, and when travelling on public transport. Some areas of the country are showing higher incidence rates than others.
More information here
Incidence rates are rising again in Italy. If you enter the country from an EU state, the Schengen zone, Israel, Canada, Japan or the United States, you won’t face any major problems at border controls. Arrivals must present a passenger locator form and proof of either full vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or a negative PCR or antigenic test result from the past 48 hours. The digital EU COVID certificate is the preferred form of documentation here as well. Travelers from the United Kingdom, however, have to enter a five day-quarantine period and get tested again at the end of it.
For everyone else, there is a complicated system consisting of five different levels, which comes with various testing and quarantining obligations. Entering and traveling through Italy is prohibited for individuals who in the past fourteen days stayed in or transited through Brazil, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Authorities have classified the country itself into four color-coded zones — ranging from white, yellow, orange to red — in accordance with the local coronavirus infection risk. Currently, all of Italy falls into the white, low-risk zone, where life has almost returned to lively pre-pandemic times.
As of August 6, visiting indoor restaurants and bars, sporting events, museums, theaters, swimming pools, gyms, spas, festivals, fairs and amusement parks will be permitted only for those who have received at least one vaccine dose, recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative. Mask-wearing is mandatory in enclosed public places, crowded outdoor areas and on public transport. Government buildings and some shops also measure your temperature as you enter the premises. Social distancing is advised.
More information here
The city of Naples at sunrise, with Mount Vesuvius in the background
Spain is recording some of the highest number of cases per capita of all EU countries. Regions like Madrid, Catalonia and Andalusia are reporting particularly high infection rates. Some countries, such as Germany, therefore require mandatory quarantining upon return from Spain.
All travelers must fill in a health form ahead of their trip. Arrivals from high-risk EU/EEA areas, such as Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands, must show either a certificate of full vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or negative PCR or antigen test.
Individuals from a range of non-EU third countries may also enter Spain provided they can show proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or negative test.
Arrivals from Brazil, South Africa, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Namibia must quarantine for 10 days upon entry.
Many vacationers this summer seek ways of traveling where contact to other people is limited — yachting is one such option, like here at Cala Salada lagoon on Ibiza
Most restrictions on ordinary life have been lifted, though regional variations remain. Spain’s Madrid, Catalonia and Andalusia regions have instituted a maximum capacity for many venues and establishments, as case numbers continue to be a point of concern there.
Across the entire country, masks must be worn in enclosed public spaces and on public transport but are not necessary outdoors and wherever the minimum social distance of 1,5 meters can be maintained.
More information here
Many governments, including Germany, view the UK as a high-risk area, with travel warnings and quarantine measures upon return in place. Coronavirus cases have been falling since late July, yet still remain high. Infections have been attributed to the more contagious Delta variant.
The four nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have adopted a traffic light system similar to the EU model, categorizing countries into high-, medium- and low-risk zones. Entry requirements and quarantine rules vary in each of the regions, and are subject to rapid change. Please make sure you get the latest information if you are planning to travel to the UK.
Individuals from red-listed countries and territories — currently including Turkey, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa — may only enter if they are UK or Irish nationals, or hold residency rights in the UK. In this case, they must take a COVID test prior to arrival, then self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel at their own expense, which costs at least £1,750 (2,000 euro).
Boating along Canterbury’s Great Stour River is popular with tourists
Fully vaccinated travelers and underage persons from most EU countries and the USA no longer have to go into quarantine after arriving in the UK. As of August 2, only a pre-departure COVID test, and a day two post-arrival COVID test is required. These tests are however rather expensive.
The exemption from the quarantine requirement applies to anyone fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to officials. Previously, only people who had been vaccinated in the United Kingdom were exempt from the quarantine rules.
Individuals from amber-listed countries and territories — Belgium, Denmark, France and Greece among others — are required to take a COVID test prior to arrival, and two further tests on day two and eight after entry. Travelers must cover the costs for these tests. They are also required to quarantine at home, or their temporary residence, for 10 days. They can opt to pay extra to take an additional test on day five to be released from quarantine early.
Entering the United Kingdom from green-listed countries or territories is relatively simple, necessitating only a pre-departure COVID test, and a day two COVID test after arrival. Australia, New Zealand and Singapore among others are currently on this list. Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will be added as of August 8.
All travelers entering the UK, regardless of departure country or nationality, must complete a passenger locator form.
The UK is unique in its full easing of restrictions, which started on July 19.Despite a surge in SARS-CoV-2 Delta cases, the UK hospitality sector has been allowed to fully reopen, as have cultural venues like museums and many theaters. There is no mask requirement, however, most public transport companies still enforce mask-wearing.
The UK is the only country so far to completely do away with government restrictions but is still advising locals and visitors alike to act with care and caution.
More information here
Greece was one of the first countries in Europe to reopen to tourists
For anyone dreaming of escaping to the seaside, visiting ancient monuments, or simply island-hopping, Greece has gradually opened its borders for many visitors since mid-May. Residents of the European Union and Schengen Area countries, the US, UK, Serbia, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Israel, Canada, North Macedonia, Ukraine, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Belarus, Bahrain, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Japan, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Jordan, Moldova, Brunei, and Kosovo may visit Greece for tourist reasons.
Anyone entering the country must fill out a digital passenger locator form before arrival. A QR-code will be part of the document generated by the form, which you have to show at border control. Failing to produce the QR-code may result in a fine of €500. You must also present either a negative molecular PCR or antigen test, proof of recovery, or proof of vaccination (at least 14 days must have passed since the second dose of the vaccine was administered).
Travelers from all other destinations may enter only for important reasons.
The Greek government has lifted most coronavirus restrictions. Entering bars, restaurants, nightclubs and other venues, however, requires showing proof of vaccination, or recovery from COVID-19. Masks are mandatory indoors, yet no longer required in uncrowded outdoor spaces. Greece has however imposed a night time curfew and banned music on two popular tourist islands for a week begining on August 6, to contain the spread of COVID-19. The areas affected are the island of Zakynthos in western Greece, and the city of Chania on Crete.
More information here
Austria is taking the protection of its borders still quite seriously. Anyone entering Austria must present either a negative test, proof of recovery or vaccination. A person is considered vaccinated 22 days after receiving their first dose. If you cannot provide any of those documents upon arrival, you are subject to a 90 euro-fine. Due to the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, non-essential travel from the UK remains prohibited.
The seven-day incidence has fallen below 8 in Austria and more than half of the population has been vaccinated at least once.
Hallstatt, a very popular destination in Austria, is seeing visitors beginning to return
Restaurants, hotels, theaters and sports facilities have all reopened. But a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery is still required. The same is true for nightclubs, which have reopened but are only allowed to operate at 75% capacity. This limitation is also expected to be lifted on July 22. Most such places, however, will require you to leave personal details for tracking purposes if required.
Since July 1, masks are no longer be mandatory to be worn if a person can present a negative test or proof of recovery or vaccination. Social distancing rules have also been abolished as long as a negative test or proof of recovery or vaccination can be shown. Cloth masks, however, are still required on public transport, inside shops and in government offices.
Public events will also soon be permitted to take place once more without limits to attendance numbers.
More information here
Croatia said it would base its entry rules on the EU’s COVID-19 traffic light system, meaning that anyone coming from a green area could enter without restrictions. All others would have to provide a negative test or official proof of vaccination or recovery — but that was only in theory.
On July 1, Croatia surprisingly — and without any prior notice — decided to change its COVID-based entry requirements. Whereas EU citizens from countries with low infection rates, including Germany, were previously able to travel to Croatia without any additional conditions or restrictions, border officials have now started to require all travelers to present the new EU Digital COVID Certificate. Croatian officials are also collecting personal information on travelers coming to the country at their borders.
People who do not have the EU certificate need to produce a negative PCR test result, a rapid antigen test result, an official certificate showing that they received two doses of vaccine used in EU member states or a certificate showing they have recovered from COVID-19 and have received one dose of the vaccine. These new measures have led to long traffic jams at the border crossings in early July.
Many people visit Croatia because of its beautiful beaches — there are so many that a secluded bay can always be found
Since June 12, cafes, bars, restaurants, bakeries, and casinos have been allowed to operate in Croatia until midnight. Restaurants are allowed to receive guests in their indoor areas, except for cafés without food service, which are only allowed to serve outside. No alcohol may be sold between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and Croatia’s beaches are subject to certain access restrictions during the same times.
Some areas in Croatia are showing higher incidence rates than others; however, the overall incidence rate in the country remained below 20 in mid-July.
More information here
The Netherlands has issued public advice against tourist travel for the time being, registering more than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days. Those traveling from Germany or other Schengen-countries by land, however, do not have to show a negative PCR or antigen test, nor do they have to go into quarantine. If travelling by air, individuals must complete a health declaration form. Arrivals from high-risk, very high risk and virus variant regions remain obliged to show a negative COVID-19 test result and to quarantine, and must have an important reason for travel.
The Netherlands are begining to return to normal after the overnight curfew was lifted
Tighter contact restrictions are once again in place in the Netherlands: night clubs have also been closed, while other recreational facilities operate with capacity restrictions and limited opening hours, subject to hygiene and social distancing rules. These include restaurants, museums and retail stores. Visitors are also required to leave their contact information for tracking purposes in most places. Masks remain mandatory.
These stricter rules are set to apply until at least August 13. Authorities plan to reevaluate the outlook on restrictions then.
People returning from the Netherlands might face restrictions such as having to quarantine when they’re back home. Germany is among the countries that has introduced a ten day-quarantine for those coming back from the Netherlands.
More information here
Portugal is a good example of how quickly the situation can change. The country seemed to be on its way back to normality when the Delta variant was found to have reached Lisbon last month. Urban areas are now subject to certain restrictions.
The Portuguese government has reintroduced nighttime curfews in parts of of the country; residents of Lisbon and of 45 other municipalities have to stay at home from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekends until further notice. There is also a travel ban between the capital region, which is particularly affected, and the rest of the country.
In certain areas, restaurants have to close at the weekends as early as 15:30. In addition to Lisbon, there are 16 other cities that are affected by this particular restoration — as well as Albufeira region in the Algarve, which is popular with tourists.
In Portugal, life on the beach is fine, but in Lisbon the country is grappling with the spread of the delta variant
Portugal had opened its doors to visitors from the rest of the EU and the UK only in June under the provisor that people from these countries where the COVID infection rate is below 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in a 14-day period are allowed to enter without quarantine requirements. A negative test or a vaccination or recovery record, however, is still required upon entry.
Also, due to the high incidence rate in Portugal, you might face quarantine rules or other restrictions when you return back home. Travellers to Portugal from Germany, for instance, have to quarantine for at least five days and take a test if they are not fully vaccinated. The quarantine obligation does not apply to those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from a COVID infection in recent months.
More information here
Switzerland has reopened its hotels, museums, stores, theaters, cinemas, zoos and amusement parks to visitors in early June already. Since June 28, the mask requirement has been lifted in outdoor areas including train stations.
There are no more limitations on group sizes in restaurant terraces, and those who have the EU COVID certificate you are even allowed to go to nightclubs and attend events with up to 5,000 participants.
Everyone entering Switzerland must register electronically and show a negative test. Vaccinated and recovered people do not need to register — for the time being.
Only those coming from a country designated by Switzerland as a risk area have to go into quarantine. To decide whether a country or area has an increased risk, Switzerland looks at the incidence of new infections per 100,000 people in the last 14 days. If the incidence rate of a country is at least 60 higher than the incidence rate in Switzerland, the country is put on the “black list.”
More information here
Due to increased infection rates, you a valid reason for entering Denmark. Tourist travel from Germany, for example, is currently not allowed. Denmark also requires a negative COVID-19 test from everyone entering the country. Visitors are also required to take a second COVID-19 test free of charge, which must be done before leaving the airport if this is your method of arrival.
The country follows the EU’s traffic light system, which means that fully vaccinated residents from a green, yellow or amber country are exempt from this mandatory testing upon arrival. In addition, children under the age of 15 are not required to be tested, nor are fully vaccinated people if the last dose was more than two weeks ago.
Rather uniquely, Denmark only accepts people who got AstraZeneca for their first vaccination as a fully vaccinated if their second vaccination dose was an mRNA vaccine (Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech).
In Denmark, masks are no longer compulsory, the only exceptions being airports and public transport. In public transport, the mask requirement is scheduled to be dropped on September 1. Restaurants and pubs are allowed to stay open until 2 am. Shops are open throughout Denmark, and cafés, restaurants and bars are all allowed to serve customers indoors as well — however, only if the guests can prove full vaccination or recovery status or show a negative test result.
More information here