Will it be possible for Americans to vacation in Europe this summer?

is it safe to travel to europe this summer
Photo via Carl Campbell/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The COVID-19 pandemic brought international travel to a screeching halt in 2020, as many countries closed their borders to travelers. As a result, many Americans turned to road trips and destinations like national parks to satisfy their wanderlust. With COVID-19 vaccinations inundating the United States, however, some people are starting to wonder if it will be safe to travel to Europe this summer. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its guidelines with some good news: It is safe for fully vaccinated people to travel internationally, including to Europe, this summer without pre-testing or quarantining.

While Americans will be allowed to travel to Europe this summer, other countries may be a safer bet for the time being. Europe is currently seeing a third wave of infections and a surge in contagious COVID-19 variants. While Europe grapples with these new roadblocks, other countries have begun making preparations to welcome American tourists this summer.

In an interview with CBS NewsFace the Nation on April 18, French President Emmanuel Macron said that France is planning to “progressively” lift travel restrictions at the beginning of May. This will allow European and American visitors. 

(A few days later, the European Union announced that vaccinated Americans could enter its countries this summer.)

“We are working hard to propose a very concrete solution, especially for U.S. citizens who are vaccinated—so with a special pass, I would say,” Macron said. “In terms of method, we are building a European certificate to facilitate the travels after these restrictions between the different European countries with testing and vaccination. And the idea is to offer that to American citizens when they decide to vaccinate or test negative. So the idea is indeed to always control the virus, to maximize the vaccination, and to progressively lift the restrictions.”

Macron is referring to the Digital Green Certificate, a document that aims to allow European Union residents to travel freely within member states. The European Parliament, which has fast-tracked the process, could have these certificates in circulation as soon as June. The commission is also coordinating with the World Health Organization to ensure that vaccine passports will be compatible with systems in countries outside Europe.

Macron’s remarks came as Greece also announced plans to open its borders to tourists from the European Union and several other countries, including the United States, without a self-imposed quarantine. Travelers must present a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival or offer proof of complete vaccination.

“Greece is opening its borders gradually, in a safe and doable manner,” the country’s website on travel protocols reads. The rollout was initially announced to begin on April 19, but plans for a more generalized opening by May 14 are still forthcoming.

Currently, every traveler who arrives in Greece, regardless of vaccination certificate or negative test, may be subject to a random health check. The country reserves the right to refuse entry to anyone who will not comply.

Other countries in the European Union are still holding off on welcoming visitors from the United States. Italy is not currently permitting tourists from the U.S., and Spain has very specific requirements for American visitors. If granted admission, travelers must complete a health form and present negative COVID-19 test results taken within 72 hours.

The United Kingdom has likewise not presented a clear timeline of when it will begin to lift restrictions. Expectations are leaning toward late summer.

Some European countries outside the union are beginning to allow entry from the U.S., including Turkey, Ukraine, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and North Macedonia. These countries may also require testing or quarantine conditions, so the Skyscanner travel website recommends carefully reviewing any government guidelines before booking flights.

To accommodate surges in demand, United Airlines recently announced it would be adding three new international flights to Croatia, Athens, and Reykjavik, Iceland, starting in July. United said flight searches on its website were up 61% for those three destinations over the last month.

“As countries around the world begin the process of reopening, leisure travelers are eager to take a long-awaited getaway to new international destinations,” Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of international network and alliances, said in a statement. “These three new routes unlock the natural beauty of the outdoors for our guests.”

Regardless of where you plan to travel, safety protocols in most countries are unlikely to change by summer, even for those who have proof of a full vaccination. Travelers can expect mask and social distancing requirements in most public locations, both domestically and abroad. Hotels and restaurants may also impose capacity restrictions and charge additional PPE fees for enhanced cleaning protocols.

“I think it’s very important that governments strike a balance of easing restrictions this summer while maintaining safety protocols to control the disease,” Eduardo Santander, chief executive of the European Travel Commission, told the New York Times in March. “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.”

After you get the vaccine, is it safe to …

Sources: Washington Post, New York Times, Skyscanner

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