What you need to know before traveling to Europe this summer

(CNN) – In non-pandemic summers, both continental Europe and the United Kingdom draw crowds of tourists from around the world. Last summer, they couldn’t make it. Many should be able to do so this summer this summer, although the tangle of entry requirements will vary by country and could change rapidly.Here is a guide to help you determine where and when you can go on vacation this summer in the 27 member countries of the European Union and in the European countries that are not part of it.

When can I go?

This will vary according to the country to visit and the country of origin of the traveler. Across Europe and the UK, entry conditions and requirements differ from country to country, as does the timing. The EU is trying to create more universal requirements for tourism, but each country retains its sovereign powers to control its borders in an emergency.

There are currently eight countries on the EU’s ‘White List’, one list of countries whose citizens can take non-essential trips (such as holidays) to the European Union. On May 6, when the latest list was released, the countries on the White List were Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and China. This list is expected to be updated shortly and may include the United States.

Parasols on a beach in Agia Pelagia, on the Greek island of Crete, ready for tourists on May 14, 2021. Greece has eased restrictions for some international visitors as EU-wide policies are finalized.
Credit: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP / AFP via Getty Images

On May 20, the EU also adopted a ‘roadmap’, or recommendation, that would allow vaccinated travelers from outside the EU to go to Europe; Details are expected to be finalized in late June. The roadmap will give each country an “emergency brake” mechanism that would close the borders if there were a new outbreak of covid-19, either in the country of destination or in the country of origin of the traveler.

Although policies for the whole of the EU are still being defined, several European countries have opened or will soon open their borders to non-European travelers under certain conditions; among them are Greece, France, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Iceland.

Meanwhile, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the four countries of the United Kingdom, which is no longer part of the European Union, have each set their own criteria for tourist travel, which is reviewed every three weeks. These criteria imply a system of red, amber and green that could entail a quarantine and various tests, depending on the country of origin of the traveler.

Greece advances with the reopening of tourism 0:38

What tests will be required to show that I am completely and correctly vaccinated?

In May, the European Union adopted the concept of an ‘EU Covid Digital Certificate’ for its own citizens, and proposed that it take effect on July 1. This would digitally demonstrate that the certificate holder had been fully vaccinated with an EU approved vaccine (AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, or Pfizer), recovered from COVID-19, or had a negative test result.

Although Americans are expected to be able at some point to provide the same information digitally when traveling to Europe, in order to get there, it is unclear when and how this will happen, in part because the US government has not established a similar digital system. At present, it appears that Americans can present other types of evidence, such as their paper vaccination card, to travel to the EU.

EU tourism

A supermoon at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on April 27, 2021. France has also eased restrictions for some foreign visitors.
Credit: Sam Tarling / Getty Images

Will i need a covid-19 test?

The covid-19 test requirement will totally depend on where you are traveling. For example, from now on, England requires some visitors to be tested before and after arrival. Italy now allows the visit of passengers on special “COVID-proof flights” from the US, Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates; Passengers on these flights must undergo the COVID-19 test prior to departure and arrival in Italy, as well as upon their departure from the country.

Those over 2 years old who fly back to the United States must undergo a test within three days of the departure of their flight or demonstrate that they have recovered from covid-19.

Can I book now, before the rules are final?

Without a doubt yes, but before booking, research thoroughly the cancellation and refund policies of any airline, hotel, tour operator or attraction you are considering, in case something changes, either in your health or in the situation of the pandemic in your country or in the country you are visiting, which forces you to cancel your trip.

Jennifer Tombaugh, president of Tauck, a Connecticut-based tour operator specializing in European travel, says that travelers can “make their reservations now, but they should make sure they are fully aware of cancellation fees and any other restrictions.” The bottom line is that it is very important to read the fine print, understand what payment is required and when, what is refundable and what is not. A well-informed tour operator or travel agency can help you with this. ‘

EU tourism

People visit the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona on May 29, 2021. Spain is planning to expand entry to vaccinated travelers in June.
Credit: Josep Lago / AFP via Getty Images

How fast will destinations be booked once the new rules are announced?

It will depend on the destination and whether it already accepts tourists, for example, from other European countries, the United States or Asia.

Greece, which has been allowing some tourists in from mid-April, is a popular destination that will likely be booked quickly. So is Portugal, which ended the entry ban on British tourists earlier this month (May).

It will probably be easier to book a holiday in a large European or British city, where there will likely be many hotel rooms available, than in a small resort town with few accommodation options.

Will it be difficult to book a flight to Europe at a reasonable price?

Terry Dale, President and CEO of the Association of Tour Operators of America, suggests “book now; if you’re serious, find a temporary reservation. ‘

He and Eduardo Santander, executive director and head of the European Travel Commission, a non-profit organization representing Europe’s national tourism offices, anticipate that there could be a shortage of capacity on flights to Europe, as the Travel to this continent has been very changeable, and it is not easy for airlines to respond quickly to increases in demand.

However, Craig Jenks, an expert in the transatlantic air market, believes that if you “book shortly before, there will be opportunities” somewhere, due to imbalances between demand and supply. It suggests monitoring flights on websites like Google, Expedia, and Travelocity.

Will I be able to cancel the trip if there is a new closure or other unforeseen event?

That will totally depend on the travel provider, such as an airline, hotel or tour operator, that you have booked. Although most airlines have been very flexible in not applying cancellation or change of reservation fees during the pandemic and some have even eliminated certain exchange fees, it is not clear how long their flexibility will last, if the demand for air travel continues to increase.

Travel agencies encourage the purchase of travel insurance. There are now some policies that offer coverage for pandemic-related outages, such as covid-related cancellation, covid medical coverage, and additional accommodation or transportation.

Will I be able to visit more than one country in Europe, whether I travel by land or on some type of cruise?

This situation is changing, as vaccination programs are deployed, which allow the borders to be opened, and as new variants are discovered, which close the borders. When the EU agrees on reopening rules and employs the Covid Digital Certificate, intra-European travel should be relatively easy and possible.

But for now, for example, Americans can go to Greece without quarantine, but they cannot visit Germany or the Netherlands. If you have a tour operator or cruise line, you will have the latest information on intra-European travel.

Will I have to undergo tests or quarantine when I return to my country?

That will totally depend on the regulations of your country of origin. As noted above, nearly all travelers entering the U.S. by air are required to submit to tests prior to arrival or to demonstrate that they have recovered from covid.

What are the best sources of information to help me plan my trip?

Reopen.Europa.EU is an EU-run website that provides an overview of the health situation in European countries and information on the various restrictions in place, including quarantine and testing requirements for travelers, and on mobile tracking apps of coronavirus contacts and alert.

The website Sherpa is an independent resource based in Toronto that provides the latest information on travel documentation and requirements around the world.

The website of the European Travel Commission provides links to specific information on Covid for member countries. Also check the website of the airlines you plan to book for their latest requirements.

Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA, the trade association for European tour operators, believes that major European cities have been affected by the pandemic and will therefore evolve. ‘Europe’s service economy is adapting to huge changes in demand. However, now is a great time to go there. Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ did not catch Covid and they feel very lonely. “

“It will be an exciting and wild time,” predicts Tombaugh. “Expect the unexpected and have a good sense of humor to make the most of the new world of travel that we are all discovering.”

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