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Thursday, December 8, 2022

What are the COVID entry rules for travelers to European countries?

Many countries are reimposing restrictions on everyday life amid rising infections. DW Travel offers a brief recap of what rules apply in the EU.

Across Europe, many countries are tightening their entry rules again because of the surge of the delta and omicron coronavirus variants. The situation in each country can change daily, meaning tourists, tour operators, hotels and restaurateurs must remain highly flexible.

The EU recommends travel restrictions should be scrapped for tourists from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and several other non-EU states. While the US has been removed from the EU safe travel list, fully vaccinated visitors from the EU and UK, who can also show proof of a negative COVID test result, may enter the US

Tourism in Europe has been picking up — 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 EU has agreed on a traffic light system to make understanding travel restrictions easier

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.

Please note: The information listed here is not exhaustive. It serves as a reference and is subject to change at any time. All travelers to and within Europe, the EU and the Schengen Area are strongly advised to consult the official guidance and regulations of local, state and national authorities in the relevant countries.

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.

Germany

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 dangerous virus variant regions must meet additional criteria. Before setting off, individuals must register digitally. Arrivals from high-risk areas without proof of full vaccination or recovery must quarantine for 10 days. They may cease self-isolating if they can produce a negative test result on the fifth day.

Germany has declared the United Kingdom, South Africa, Zimbabwe and numerous other African states virus variant areas. Only German citizens and persons with German residency permits may enter from these countries. Moreover, all arrivals must quarantine for 14 days, even if they have been vaccinated or recovered.

Furthermore, Germany classifies several regions as high risk, among them Denmark, France,   Greece, much of Austria, Croatia and Ukraine. 

All travelers to Germany must present either a negative test result, proof of vaccination, or documentation proving recovery from COVID prior to departure

As cases surge, Germany has barred unvaccinated people from entering most non-essential businesses, including bars and restaurants. 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.
More information here

France

Travelers may enter France if they can show proof of vaccination, recovery, or a recent negative test result. Everyone must fill out an entry form stating that they don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms. As of December 4, all non-EU arrivals will have to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours, even if they have been vaccinated.

Unvaccinated individuals arriving from green list countries — currently all EU states alongside Andorra, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and others — must present a negative PCR or antigen test, or proof of recovery from COVID-19.   

Vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals from scarlet red list countries (virus variant) such as South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Zimbabwe — may enter France only for compelling reasons. They must take a COVID-19 test upon arrival and quarantine for 10 days.

For detailed information on entry requirements, consult the French Foreign Ministry website.

Vacationing in the French capital Paris isn’t out of the question

Vacationing in the French capital Paris isn’t out of the question

Entry to cultural events, public venues, bars, restaurants, malls, hospitals and access to long-distance flights, trains and busses, however, is possible only for those in possession of a Pass Sanitaire, a certificate showing you are either vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. Alternatively, persons may show a negative coronavirus test no more than 24 hours old. 

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.

Hygiene and social distancing rules remain in place. France’s nighttime curfew was lifted on June 20. Covering one’s mouth and nose, however, is still obligatory in enclosed public places, crowded spaces 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.”

More information here

Italy

Coronavirus infection rates have been climbing since October and a COVID-19 state of emergency has been extended until March 2022. 

Arrivals from the EU or Schengen zone must present a passenger locator form and proof of either full vaccination or recovery from COVID-19. They must also present a negative COVID test result. Unvaccinated arrivals must qurantine for five days. 

For everyone else, there is a complicated system consisting of five different levels, which comes with various testing and quarantining obligations. 

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, Calabria, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Liguria, Marche, PA Bolzano, PA Trento and Veneto are deemed yellow, medium-risk regions. All other parts of Italy fall into the white, low-risk zone, where people can move freely. 

Visiting indoor restaurants and bars, sporting events, museums, theaters, swimming pools, gyms, spas, festivals, fairs and amusement parks is permitted only for those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. Travelers wishing to board flights, trains and boats must fulfill one of these two requirements, or present a negative test result.

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. 

More information here 

The Amalfi coast in Italy is a popular tourist destination all year round

Spain

Infection rates have been edging upwards since late October, with the province of Madrid most heavily affected. 

All travelers to Spain must fill in a health form ahead of their trip. Most EU/EEA countries — such as France, Germany and Sweden — are currently deemed by Spain to pose an infection risk. Arrivals from these areas must show either a certificate of full vaccination, proof of recovery from COVID-19, or negative PCR or antigen test. In early December, Spain closed its borders to unvaccinated arrivals from the United Kingdom. 

Many vacationers this summer seek ways of traveling where contact to other people is limited — yachting is one such option, like here at Cala Salada lagoon on Ibiza

Regions can institute individual coronavirus safety rules, such as a maximum capacity for certain venues and establishments and limits on social gatherings. Across the entire country, masks must be worn in enclosed public spaces and on public transport but are not necessary outdoors if a minimum social distance of 1.5 meters can be maintained.  

More information here

United Kingdom

UK coronavirus cases have remained consistently high since late June. In order to combat the omicron variant, as of December 6, anyone traveling to the UK, vaccinated or not, must present a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours prior to departure. Arrivals must then quarantine in their homes or destinations and take a PCR test on day two. If the test is negative, they may end their quarantine. All travelers must also fill out a passenger locator form.

A single red list designates countries deemed to pose a heightened infection risk. Even fully vaccinated arrivals from these countries must take a COVID-19 test prior to arrival, then self-isolate in a UK quarantine hotel at their own expense, and take two post-arrival COVID-19 tests. Arrivals must also complete a passenger locator form. 

In mid-December, however, England removed all remaining countries from its red list given that the omicron variant is already present in and spreading throughout the country.

The UK government regularly reviews and updates it red list.

England has instituted a raft of restrictions to help curb the spread of omicron variant. Face masks are obligatory in most indoor public venues, including theaters and cinemas, as well as on public transport. Access to nightclubs and large, public events is now granted only to those who are vaccinated, have recovered, or tested negative. 

 More information here

Greece was one of the first countries in Europe to reopen to tourists

Greece

Greece opened its borders for many travelers in hopes of boosting its economy. Anyone wishing to enter the country must take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, regardless whether they are vaccinated or have recovered. 

All arrivals to 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 refusal to enter the country and a fine. 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.

COVID-19 cases spiked in late fall but have tapered off since late November. Even so, strict rules apply for the unvaccinated. Many indoor spaces such as banks, public offices, retail outlets, shopping malls and entertainment venues are now inaccessible to anyone who is not immunized. Restaurants, and cafes are open, though patrons must be vaccinated, or have recovered, when sitting indoors. Masks are mandatory in enclosed spaces and on public transport.

Under Greek law, local municipalities are also allowed to introduce mini-lockdowns with short notice if infection numbers rise rapidly, which chiefly means introducing nighttime curfews and banning music. 

More information here

Austria

While travel to Austria is possible, arrivals must show proof of full vaccination, or recovery, in addition to a recent booster jab or negative PCR test. Failure to show proof of the latter two results in a ten-day quarantine.

Due to the spread of virus variants, nonessential travel from South Africa, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Suriname is prohibited.

Only about 65% of the population are fully vaccinated and Austria has recently seen a record number of infections.

Hallstatt, a very popular destination in Austria, has seen visitors return

The country’s latest lockdown has been lifted, though very strict rules now apply for the unvaccinated. Hotels, restaurants, bars, cultural institutions, leisure centers are off-limits to them. Moreover, the unvaccinted may only leave their homes for important purposes such as communting to work or buying grocies. Authorities are enforcing the new measures and steep fines of €500 and more can be imposed for violations.

Winter sports enthusiasts have to show proof of vaccination or recovery to use cable cars, gondola lifts and access ski cabins. FFP2 masks must be worn in all publicly accessible indoor spaces and on public transport.

More information here

Croatia

Arrivals from EU countries and the Schengen zone must present the EU Digital COVID Certificate to enter Croatia. Alternatively, they may produce a negative PCR or rapid antigen test result, an official certificate showing they have 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. Children under the age of twelve are exempt from presenting proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test result. 

Third-country nationals may enter Croatia only if they have pressing grounds for doing so.

Upon entry, travelers must register their contact details and where they will be staying in Croatia. The Croatian Ministry of the Interior recommends that the contact and residence data be submitted online in advance to avoid wait times up on entry.

Croatia presently bars passengers arriving from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe from entering the country. 

Many people visit Croatia because of its beautiful national parks, which offer enough space to socially distance

Cafes, bars, restaurants and bakeries are open. Individuals must wear masks indoors, unless eating, and outdoors when it is impossible to socially distance. Cinemas, museums, theaters and other such venues are operating with limited capacity and shorter opening hours. There is also a ban on the sale of alcohol at night.

More information here

The Netherlands

Stringent lockdown measures have come into force in the Netherlands, as it tries to curb a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 cases that is swamping its healthcare system and growing concerns over the new omicron variant. Non-essential shops and venues, bars, gyms hairdressers and other public venues remain shut until mid-January 2022. People in the Netherlands encouraged to stay at home and avoid socializing.

The Netherlands considers most EU and Schengen states high-risk regions and therefore requires passengers arriving from these countries to show proof of vaccination, proof of recovery or a negative test result to be granted entry. 
Persons arriving from “safe” countries outside the EU and Schengen zone, such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand, must similarly show proof of vaccination or a negative test result to enter the Netherlands. 

After a sharp increase in infections the Netherlands have entered into a partial lockdown

Those from high-risk and very high-risk areas outside the EU and Schengen zone face far stricter entry requirements. The Dutch government has restricted air traffic from southern Africa due to concerns over the new omicron coronavirus variant. 

Face masks remain mandatory on public transport, at airports and in shops. Once lockdown measures have been lifted, access to bars, restaurants and other venues will be restricted to those who have been vaccinated, or can show of recovery.

More information here

Portugal

A recent rise in coronavirus infections has compelled the government to reintroduce tighter pandemic restrictions. As of December 1, all arrivals must present a negative PCR or antigen rest, regardless of their vaccination status. Those arriving by air must also complete a passenger locator form. 

Arrivals from high-risk countries — defined as countries with 500 cases or more per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 14 days — are required to isolate for two weeks. Those on essential business or staying in Portugal for less than 48 hours are exempt.

In Portugal, life on the beach is fine and allows plenty of space

From December 1, wearing a face mask is once again mandatory in enclosed spaces; a digital certificate proving vaccination or recovery from the coronavirus must be shown to enter restaurants, cinemas and hotels; and even inoculated people must have a negative test to visit hospitals, elderly care homes, sports events, bars and discos. Regulations can vary by region. 

Flights to and from southern African countries, specifically South Africa, Botswana, Essuatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe, are suspended as of December 1.

More information here 

Switzerland

Like many other countries, Switzerland has stepped up its testing requirement. Anyone traveling to Switzerland must register electronically. All arrivals, irrespective of their vaccination or recovery status, must show a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of entry. A second test four to seven days after arrival is also mandatory. 

To dine indoors, and visit indoor culture and leisure facilities, guests must show a valid COVID certificate proving that they are either fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. The same holds true for large-scale events and nightclubs.

More information here

Denmark

Coronavirus infections have spiked since late September, despite the country’s high vaccination rate, prompting authorities to reintroduce stringent safety regulations. Anyone wishing to enter restaurants, cafes and the like must show proof of vaccination, COVID-19 recovery, or a negative test result. The same conditions apply for indoor events with 200 attendees or more, and outdoor events with over 2,000 guests.

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen is not seeing many tourists these days

It is possible to enter the country and move around freely for vaccinated passengers, as long as they have not been to a country with a COVID-19 variant of concern within 10 days of arriving to Denmark. Anyone traveling from one of these countries must take a PCR test before flying, another test within 24 hours of arrival and self-isolate for 10 days. All other travelers must prove they are either fully vaccinated, or have recovered from COVID-19. Alternatively, they may show a negative test result. In Denmark, tests can be taken free of charge.

Mask-wearing is obligatory at airports, in shops, on public transport, at test centers and hospitals.

More information here

Czech Republic

The completion of a digital entry form is mandatory for everyone upon arrival to the Czech Republic. Additonal entry requirements depend on wether your country of departure is deemed a low-, medium-, high- or very high-risk destination (designated by a color-coded traffic light system).

Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Chile, Indonesia, Colombia, Korea, Canada and several other countries presently fall into the green, low-risk category. Entry is possible for anyone showing proof of vacciantion or recovery. Alternatively, a negative test result is accepted.

Many EU states, among them Belgium, Denmark, Croatia, France and Germany, fall into the dark red, high-risk category. Arrivals from these places must register and take PCR or antigen test, unless they can show proof of vacciantion or recovery. 

As of November 27, the Czech Republic has shut its borders to anyone who has stayed in South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia for more than 12 hours in the last 14 days.  

Before COVID-19, Prague was one of Europe’s most popular city break destinations

A state of emergency remains in effect until late December 2021. The government has introduced measures to stop the spread of COVID which include a ban on all Christmas markets across the country and people not being allowed to drink alcohol in public places. Bars, restaurants, nightclubs, discotheques and casinos have to close at 10 p.m. 

More information here

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