Joe Biden is on his way to Europe for his first international trip as president to strategize with G7 democracies and other NATO allies, before confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin on global issues during a meeting in Geneva. (June 7)
As the doors of the European Union reopen to the outside world one by one for the first time since March 2020, tourists will discover a patchwork of systems instead of a single borderless leisure zone because national governments have resisted relinquishing control of their borders amid pandemics. And Britain after Brexit is going its own way completely.
Meanwhile, the welcoming atmosphere is not always mutual. U.S. borders, for example, remain largely closed to non-Americans.
Here’s a look at the current entry rules for some popular European tourist destinations. One caveat: While these are the rules as written by governments, travelers may encounter hiccups when airlines or railroad officials try to make sense of them.
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If you are vaccinated, come to France. But only if you received one of the four EU-approved vaccines: Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. It works for Americans – as long as they can produce official evidence of vaccination – but not for large parts of the world like China and Russia, where other vaccines are used.
France’s borders officially reopened on Wednesday. Vaccinated visitors from outside Europe and a few “green” countries will still be asked for a negative PCR test no older than 72 hours, or a negative antigen test for a maximum of 48 hours. Unvaccinated children are allowed to enter with vaccinated adults, but must show a negative test from 11 years.
► France issues welcome sign to Americans: But only if they have been vaccinated against COVID
Tourists are banned from 16 countries struggling with virus outbreaks and worrying varieties that are on a red list that includes India, South Africa and Brazil.
Also, unvaccinated visitors from “orange list” countries – including the United States and the United Kingdom – cannot come for tourism, only for specific, compelling reasons.
Americans – the second largest group of foreign tourists to Italy – have been welcome since mid-May, and international tourists in general have been welcome since June 3rd. However, they have to isolate themselves on arrival for 10 days, unless they arrive on the so-called “COVID-tested flights.” This means that passengers are tested before and after the flight and must fill in documents about their whereabouts to facilitate contact tracing if necessary.
“COVID-tested” flights from the United States started in December and have also been running since May from Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
Italy also began allowing tourists from the UK and Israel last month, meaning they no longer need a “substantial” reason to visit and do not have to isolate themselves, provided they provide evidence of a negative COVID test taken a maximum of 48 hours prior to arrival.
The same rules apply to travelers from EU countries and those on “COVID-tested” flights from the United States, Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
Tourism-dependent Greece began opening to US travelers back in May, and now visitors from China, the UK and 20 other countries are also allowed to visit for non-essential travel.
Everyone must present a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test and complete a passenger location form on their plans in Greece. This Directive expires on 14 June but may be extended.
Athens pressed for a long time for a common EU approach, but did not wait for one to be realized. On June 1, Greece, Germany, and five other bloc members introduced a COVID certificate system for travelers, weeks before the rollout of the program on July 1 across the 27-nation bloc.
Spain started its summer tourism season on Monday by welcoming vaccinated visitors from the US and most countries as well as European visitors who can prove they are not infected.
Americans and most other non-Europeans need an official vaccine certificate from a health authority. Spain accepts those vaccinated with the four EU-approved vaccines as well as two Chinese vaccines approved by the World Health Organization – as long as visitors are fully vaccinated at least two weeks before the trip.
► Can Americans travel to Spain? Yes, if you have received the COVID-19 vaccine
Arrivals from Brazil, South Africa and India are currently banned due to high infection rates there, and unvaccinated Americans and many other non-EU nationalities cannot come to Spain for tourism until further notice.
But there are exceptions for countries considered low risk, such as UK citizens who can arrive at all without any health documents. EU citizens must provide proof of vaccination, a certificate showing that they have recently recovered from COVID-19, or a negative antigen or PCR test taken within 48 hours of arrival.
There are few, if any, American tourists in the UK at present. The UK has a traffic light system for assessing countries by risk, and the US, along with most European nations, is on the “amber” list, which means that everyone who arrives must isolate themselves at home or in the place where they are staying in 10 days.
British and US airlines and airport operators are pushing for a travel corridor that will allow tourism to resume, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to raise the issue when he meets President Joe Biden at a G-7 summit in England this week.
Meanwhile, anyone traveling between the UK and continental Europe is warned: in addition to the isolation requirement for those arriving or returning to the British coast, growing concern about the delta variant of the virus has prompted some other countries to impose specific restrictions on those arriving from the UK.
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The EU of 27 nations has no overall COVID tourism or border policy, but has been working for several months on a common digital travel certificate for those vaccinated, newly tested or recently recovered from the virus. EU lawmakers approved the plan Wednesday.
The free certificates, which include a QR code with advanced security features, allow people to move between European countries without having to quarantine or undergo additional coronavirus tests on arrival.
Several EU countries have already started using the system, including Spain, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Poland. The rest is expected to start using on July 1st.
It is mainly intended for EU citizens, but Americans and others can also get the certificate – if they can convince the authorities of an EU country, they agree that they qualify for one. And the lack of an official U.S. vaccination certification system can complicate matters.
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Associated Press journalists around Europe contributed to this story
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