By Contributing Author
You can fly to Europe but be prepared for COVID health requirements.
The world of travel is quite different from what it was just 12 months ago. Many countries have restricted entry to foreign visitors and Europe is no exception.
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If you plan to travel to Europe right now, it’s absolutely necessary to be fully prepared to deal with the many EU COVID regulations currently in place. Since the start of the outbreak, the European bloc has restricted its borders to only a limited number of travelers. However, it is still possible to enter the region under certain conditions.
Traveling to Europe is still partially allowed and if you cannot avoid making the journey you’ll have to make sure you follow the right protocols and fit the criteria perfectly. We answer some of the most common questions about how this works below.
Who Can Travel to Europe Right Now?
As a result of the discovery of new variants of COVID-19, such as the UK and South Africa strains of the virus, Europe has tightly restricted which nationalities may enter the region. At present the following countries’ citizens are allowed to enter the bloc’s borders:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- China (including Hong Kong and Macau)
Travelers from the countries listed above may enter Europe for any reason. This list has been decided based on a number of factors such as the current containment measures in place and the rate of transmission within the country in question.
Things are more restrictive for visitors from other countries (such as the United States). However, there are some exceptions.
Firstly, passengers arriving by air or sea from other nations not included on the safe list may enter provided they have an essential reason to travel. This allows residents and their family members, students, and other vital travelers such as health workers to pass through border controls.
What is deemed essential travel, in this case, is decided by each individual country within the EU. Therefore it is essential to first review what the rules are for the specific nation you are visiting. For more information, the EU has created a special tool allowing travelers to check the rules for each country.
Is a PCR Test Required to Enter Europe?
Yes, at the moment all European countries oblige travelers to provide a negative PCR test. The test will only be accepted if it has been taken no less than 72 hours before departure.
Only specific types of test certificates may be accepted on arrival. These can be from any of the following types of COVID-19 tests:
- RT-PCR tests
- Rapid Antigen tests
You will need to confirm before boarding a boat or plane to Europe if you have a valid test certificate showing a negative result. Failure to do so could see you blocked from traveling.
Are COVID Vaccinations Obligatory?
At the moment it is not obligatory to have a vaccination against COVID-19 to enter Europe. The EU nor any of its member states make this a prerequisite for travelers.
However, as more of the world population gets vaccinated and domestic case numbers fall, this could become a requirement in the future. This is quite likely to be the situation once international travel starts to open up more to tourism again.
If you’ve already had the vaccine, it’s best to keep hold of any records showing the date and brand of vaccination you’ve had against COVID-19, in case this becomes necessary. This may need to be shown when traveling to Europe in the coming months in the same way you would need a yellow fever vaccine certificate in some countries.
Will I have to Quarantine When I Arrive?
Depending on the country, you may be required to quarantine if you are arriving from a non-EU nation. The EU allows each individual member state to set its own rules on which nationals must isolate themselves.
In some cases, this will require passengers to quarantine themselves for up to 14 days even with a negative COVID-19 test. Once again, make sure to check if this will apply to your chosen destination before setting out so you can make any necessary advance arrangements on where you will stay during isolation.
Can I Travel Within Other Countries in the EU?
Yes, as long as you’ve met the necessary health requirements when entering the bloc such as a negative PCR test, an essential reason to travel, and/or have quarantined, you may visit any other country in the Schengen area with very few restrictions.
The EU has made efforts to facilitate flights and travel internally between member countries. There are a few restrictions for European travelers entering other member states; these are set at a national level. However, these rules are far less restrictive than those applied to third-country arriving passengers entering from outside the EU.
In most countries, however, you will need to fill in a passenger locator form on arrival. Each member nation has introduced its own version of these documents, which can be found on each country’s official website.
Travel may be tricky at the moment but under the right circumstances, foreign visitors are allowed to enter Europe. As always, make sure to check carefully what rules apply in your chosen destination, and make preparations appropriately.