Summer, sun, surf, sandy beaches, and lots of culture: vacationing in Europe is once again a possibility for many — but only cautiously so.
Across Europe, many countries have lifted lockdowns and eased travel and entry requirements. But as pandemic regulations are being relaxed in some countries, others are tightening their entry rules again because of the surge of the delta variant and rise in case numbers. The situation in each country can change from one day to the next, which requires a great deal offlexibility 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 many European countries. 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 - albeit under somewhat strict rules in certain cases. 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 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.
EU Digital COVID certificate
To ease EU travel, the European Parliament 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. At this stage, however, only COVID-19 vaccination records performed by an official, government-mandated body within the European Union 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 caseshave remained relatively low since July, though some observers say a fourth infection wave may now beginning. 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 countries where certain variants are present 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.
Travelers from regions where variants are prevalent 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 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 feet) from others, and wearing a surgical face mask in enclosed, publicly accessible areas, as well as on public transport.
Fancy a jaunt to France, or an extended stay even? Fully vaccinated travelers may enter France without restrictions. They must, however, produce their proof of vaccination and fill out an entry form stating that they don't have any COVID-19 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 United States and other nations — must present a negative PCR or antigenic test, or proof of recovery from COVID-19.
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-19 tests and quarantine for 10 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.
Meanwhile, French public life is gradually returning to a sense of normality — but mainly for people 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 onward, access to long-distance trains, coaches, restaurants, cafes and shopping centers is only possible with a vaccination certificate or negative PCR or antigen test.
For tourists who are not fully vaccinated, a vacation in France might quickly become expensive, as COVID-19 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 traveling on public transport. Some areas of the country are showing higher incidence rates than others and have been classified by the French government as "red zones."
Incidence rates are rising again in Italy, with multiple travel warnings being issued against visiting the popular European tourist destination. Italy itself has declared a state of emergency due to the current state of public health. If you do have to Italy and 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 EU Digital COVID Certificate is the preferred form of documentation here, as well. Travelers from the United Kingdom, however, have to undergo a five-day quarantine period upon arrival and get tested again at the end of it. Arrivals from those countries who fail to provide this proof have to isolate for ten days and then perform a COVID test.
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 14 days stayed in or transited through Brazil, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Authorities have classified the country itself into four color-coded zones — white, yellow, orange and red — in accordance with the local coronavirus infection risk. Currently, most of Italy still falls into the white, low-risk zone, where people can move freely. This might change if case numbers continue to rise.
As of August 6, visiting indoor restaurants and bars, sporting events, museums, theaters, swimming pools, gyms, spas, festivals, fairs and amusement parks has been permitted only for those who have received at least one vaccine dose, recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative. Some beaches in Italy may require prior booking, and some municipalities might issue their own rules and limitations if they experience a spike in cases.
Mask-wearing remains 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.
Spain is recording some of the highest cases per capita of all EU countries. Regions such as Madrid, Catalonia and Andalusia are reporting particularly high infection rates. Some countries, such as Germany, therefore now require quarantining upon return from Spain.
All travelers to Spain must fill in a health form ahead of their trip. Arrivals from high-risk EU/EEA areas such as Belgium and Portugal must show either a certificate of full vaccination, proof of recovery from COVID-19, or negative PCR or antigen test.
Individuals from a range of non-EU third countries may also enter Spain provided that 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.
Most restrictions on ordinary life have been lifted, though regional regulations remain. The 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 meter can be maintained. Night clubs are only allowed to operate until 03:00 in the morning - if the incidence rate in the region remains below 50.
Many governments, including Germany's, have designated the UK as a high-risk area, with travel warnings and quarantine measures upon return in place. Coronavirus cases have been falling in the UK since late July, yet still remain too high to relax travel warnings. Most of the recent 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-19 test prior to arrival, then self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel at their own expense, which costs at least £2,285 (€2,700/$3,150).
Fully vaccinated travelers and underage persons from most EU countries and the United States as well as from other "green list" points of departure no longer have to go into quarantine after arriving in the UK. As of August 2, only a pre-departure COVID-19 test, and a day two post-arrival follow-up is required from these destinations, which also include Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. These tests are, however, rather expensive, starting usually at roughly £50.
The exemption from the quarantine requirement applies to anyone fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to British 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.
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 delta variant cases, the UK hospitality sector has been allowed to fully reopen, as have cultural venues such as 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 residents and visitors alike to act with care and caution.
While COVID continues to be the biggest long-term issue that the Greek government has to address, the wildfires during the hot summer months have also dramatically effected the country. Several governments have issued travel warnings for Greece because of this reason primarily.
Depending on where you might be traveling from, entering Greece might at least be discouraged by your government. Germany, for example, has declared the popular Greek vacation island of Crete as well as other islands in the southern Aegean Sea such as Rhodes and Mykonos as high-risk areas as of August 24. This means facing stricter rules upon return to Germany, especially for the unvaccinated.
Meanwhile, Greece has gradually opened its borders for many travelers in hopes of boosting its economy. 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 pandemic restrictions. Entering bars, restaurants, cinemas, 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. Social distancing rules also remain in place. There is also a ban on dancing indoors.
Under Greek law, local municipalities are allowed to introduce mini-lockdowns with short notice if infection numbers rise rapidy, which chiefly means introducing nighttime curfews. This might make the planning of holidays in the country less predictable for visitors; however, there haven't been many instances of this emergency break solution actually being used.
Austria is taking the protection of its borders quite seriously. Anyone entering must present either a negative test or proof of recovery or vaccination ß or risk having to pay a fine. A person is considered vaccinated only 22 days after receiving their first dose. Due to the spread of virus variants, nonessential travel from Brazil, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and several other countries remains prohibited.
The seven-day incidence has risen to over 40 in Austria, where more than half of the population is fully vaccinated.
Restaurants, hotels, theaters, night clubs and sports facilities have all reopened. But a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery is still required. Access to nightclubs is granted only to persons who have been vaccinated, or can show a negative PCR test result. Most such places, however, will require you to leave personal details for tracking purposes if required.
Masks are no longer mandatory 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.
Arrivals from the EU and Schengen zone must present the EU Digital COVID Certificate to enter Croatia. Alternatively, they may produce a negative PCR test result, a rapid antigen test result, an official certificate showing that they received two doses of an EU-endorsed vaccine or a certificate showing they have recovered from COVID-19 and have received one dose of the vaccine.
The same rules apply to arrivals from elsewhere. Arrivals from the UK, Russia and Cyprus however must additionally present a negative PCR or antigen test before being granted entry.
Cafes, bars, restaurants and bakeries are open. Individuals are urged to wear masks indoors, unless eating, and outdoors when it is not possible to socially distance. Cinemas, museums, theaters and other such venues are operating with limited capacity and shorter opening hours. There is also in alcohol ban in place between the hours of 22:00 and 06:00. There are also limits on the number of people permitted on Crotia's famous beaches.
The overall seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 has surpassed the mark of 30 cases on average in mid-August, prompting authorities to monitor the situation closely. New limitations may be introduced if that number continues to climb.
After witnessing a spike in case numbers in July, the Netherlands are no longer classified as a red-list country among EU states.
People arriving in the Netherlands from most EU and Schengen countries deemed safe can enter the Netherlands without meeting any special requirements. If traveling by air, individuals must complete a health declaration form. Airlines might still demand a COVID test, though these are not mandated by the Dutch government.
Arrivals from high-risk EU and Schengen countries must show proof of vaccination, proof of recovery or a negative test result. France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and other countries are currently classified as high-risk.
Persons arriving from safe countries outside the EU and Schengen zone must also show proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter.
Arrivals from very-high-risk countries or regions where variants are prevalent are obliged to show a negative COVID-19 test result and quarantine, and must have an important reason for travel.
All arrivals meanwhile are advised to take a COVID-19 test after entering the country.
Almost all establishments such as shops, restaurants and cultural venues are open, though strict hygiene and social distancing rules apply. Restaurants and bars must have assigned seating, and close between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. Cultural events must have assigned seating, as well, and guests must ensure that they adhere to socially distancing rules. Nightclubs remain shut but might reopen in the course of August, as government guidelines continue to be revised.
Masks remain mandatory on public transport and other passenger transport, at stations and airports, and in secondary schools.
Portugal remains a high-risk country, but entry is still granted to arrivals from the EU and Schengen zone if they can show proof of vaccination or recovery from COVID-19 or a negative PCR or antigenic test.
Arrivals from high-risk countries — defined as countries with 500 cases or more per per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 14 days — must isolate for two weeks. Those on essential business or staying in Portugal for less than 48 hours are exempt.
Bars, restaurants, shops and cultural venues may operate only at limited capacity, and in many place have to close on weekends at 15:30. Some 46 municipalities, including the capitol Lisbon, have nighttime curfews in place from 23:00 to 05:00.
Masks must be worn on public transport, in shops, supermarkets and other indoor spaces. They are mandatory outdoors when social distancing is not possible. Maintaining social distance is mandatory, including on the beach.
Public transport operates at reduced capacity to avoid overcrowding.
Portugal has seen coronavirus infections slowly taper off. Nevertheless, numbers remain high, with authorities recording a seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 residents of over 150 in mid-August.
Switzerland reopened its hotels, museums, stores, theaters, cinemas, zoos and amusement parks in early June already. Since late June, masks must be worn only indoors at events that do not necessitate a certificate, in restaurants, shops and on public transport.
Nightclubs and large-scale events are open to the public, provided that attendees can show a COVID-19 certificate.
Anyone traveling to Switzerland must register electronically. This includes people on plane journeys that only stop over in Zurich or any other airport. People arriving via air who have neither received a full vaccination, nor recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months must provide a negative PCR or antigen test. This applies also to arrivals from countries where variants are prevalent.
Individuals from such countries must quarantine in Switzerland unless they have received a full vaccination or recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months.
Everyone is advised to take a coronavirus test upon arrival.
Due to increased infection rates and the classification of Denmark as a risk area by various governments, a valid reason is required to enter Denmark. Touristic travel from Germany and other destinations is not permitted at present.
Outside of these current limitations, Denmark generally classifies countries into green, yellow, orange and red zones, depending on their respective epidemiological situation. Arrivals from all countries except for those that are considered a red zone do not have to quarantine on arrival. They must, however, present a EU Digital COVID Certificate to show that they are either fully vaccinated, have been tested or have recovered from COVID-19. Equivalent documentation is accepted also.
Arrivals from non-EU and non-Schengen countries classified by Denmark as yellow, medium-risk areas, do not need a special reason to enter. They must not quarantine upon arrival. A pre-departure test is, however, required, along with a second test no later than 24 hours after arrival. Fully vaccinated persons with permanent residency in an EU or Schengen country are exempt from testing. People from red countries, however, must complete a 10-day mandatory quarantine.
In Denmark, masks are no longer compulsory, the only exceptions being in airports and on public transport. Restaurants and pubs are allowed to stay open until 2 a.m. Shops are open throughout Denmark, and cafes, 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.