Want to travel to Europe this summer? Here’s what you need to know

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The European Union is reportedly planning to reopen to fully vaccinated American tourists this summer.

While details remain murky, it’s an encouraging sign for Americans who are eager to venture abroad and return to some of their favorite destinations in Europe — though an ever-changing landscape with the pandemic means that reopening dates and requirements can always shift.

It will also be up to individual member nations to decide when to relax border restrictions, and some countries will welcome Americans sooner than others. Greece, for example, has already reopened to Americans who can present a valid vaccination certificate or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Italy is in the process of reopening to tourists. And Croatia allows travelers to skip testing and isolation if they’re fully vaccinated.

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But other countries might remain closed to visitors until late summer or even early fall, especially as cases surge in several regions worldwide and Europe continues to trail behind the U.S. in terms of residents who are fully vaccinated. Additionally, the U.S. State Department still recommends that U.S. citizens reconsider traveling abroad, which conflicts with what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said publicly about travel.

To make things even more confusing, some prior reopening announcements have been updated. France (for example) indicated last month that U.S. travelers could begin visiting on June 9 — but that plan remains unclear as of now.

Still, travel is clearly beginning to reopen, and many Americans are wondering whether they’ll be able to take a summer vacation to Europe this year. Since several European countries have indicated they’re ready for tourists again, here’s everything you need to know about traveling to Europe this summer.

When will Europe reopen to Americans?

According to a recent report in The New York Times, the European Union is expected to welcome vaccinated American tourists this summer.

“All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by E.M.A.,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on April 25.

The European Union confirmed in mid-May that it would reopen to fully vaccinated travelers this summer. The group’s member states came to an agreement that will allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter the EU — including Americans — according to a spokesperson.

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Some countries are already open to Americans, while others are expected to reopen soon.

At this time, travelers from the U.S., EU and Schengen area are now permitted to enter Greece. Italy is also open to travelers again. And as of April 11, fully vaccinated visitors to Croatia no longer need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result and are also able to bypass the country’s quarantine requirements.

Other European countries not in the EU that have already eased border restrictions include Iceland, which is now open to vaccinated Americans and travelers who have recovered from COVID-19.

Additional destinations are set to open their borders to Americans in the coming weeks — including Ireland and Spain.

Entry requirements

Travelers must be fully vaccinated with one of the approved vaccines in the EU, which means that any vaccine that’s approved for use in the U.S. will be accepted — Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer. Passengers who aren’t fully vaccinated will likely need a negative COVID-19 test result and may be required to quarantine (depending on the country).

However, as of now, there’s no consistent way to provide proof of vaccination across the continent.

That said, there are ongoing talks to expand the EU’s Digital COVID Certificates (formerly called “green passports“) to Americans.

As of June 2, The New York Times reported that citizens of seven European Union countries — Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland — are able to use these certificates. And all member nations should have access by July 1, 2021.

Under this initiative, EU member states would adopt the same entry requirements for visitors. The agreed-upon notion will see fully vaccinated travelers allowed entry to each of the EU countries without the need for a further COVID-19 test result or quarantine on arrival.

The certificate will apparently be available for free in digital (with QR code) or paper format, and non-EU member states, such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, will also use it. However, that does not include the United Kingdom at this time — and U.S. travelers remain on the U.K.’s “amber” list as of June 3, meaning a 10-day quarantine is still required.

Just remember that even if you can avoid testing in Europe, you’ll need a negative test to fly back to the U.S., regardless of whether you’ve been vaccinated or not. At this time, all travelers 2 and older flying to the U.S. from abroad must show a negative viral COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of departure before being allowed to board their flights. Documented proof from a licensed healthcare provider of recovery from the virus within the past 90 days will also be accepted.

Finally, it’s worth noting that there may be specific transit requirements in the airport(s) you use to enter or travel throughout the EU — and these policies aren’t always clearly disclosed. Be sure to do your research ahead of time so you know exactly what you need to do prior to departing the U.S. — and during your travels to your final European destination.

Bottom line

While several countries worldwide have recently reopened to U.S. travelers (or didn’t close at all), much of Europe has been off-limits to Americans. Fortunately, that’s beginning to change — albeit with some hiccups along the way. While we don’t have all the details at this time, and some precautions (such as pre-travel testing) may remain, a broader reopening of Europe to travelers from the U.S. is a big step in restarting the industry.

Additional reporting by Nick Ewen. 

Featured photo by Emeric Fohlen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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