This could be one of the biggest summers in the history of European travel, and travel to Europe, or an utterly disappointing dud. Will you be a part of it?
In recent weeks, many European countries have begun rolling back both domestic covid-19 restrictions and the travel related restrictions which were creating barriers for entry, signaling a summer of adventure, as close to “care free” as it once was.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, with Russia inciting war by attacking the sovereign border of Ukraine. And naturally, Covid-19 is never far from people’s minds either, but each passing day brings new hope that the post-pandemic recovery is here.
Some countries have dropped travel testing requirements, and some have also even dropped proof of vaccination needs as competition heats up to lure in visitors. A clear and unified strategy for all EU states to follow has also been proposed to streamline any travel woes, which has many positives and a few negatives.
If you’re considering a trip to Europe this summer, here’s what to expect, given the current situations, as well as what might improve.
Europe Wants People To Travel
Some parts of the world are more reliant on tourism than Europe, others less so, but one key differentiator with Europe and other parts of the world which aren’t yet fully open, is that Europe really wants people to travel.
Travel accounts for circa 10% of the economy in Europe, and in some vital regions, tourism is absolutely vital, accounting for much more. If there’s a “safe” way to bring it back, the Europe Union is all for it and in recent years, it’s been one of the more open areas, particularly during the summer.
I was able to visit Greece in the summer of 2020 and 2021, and will come back again this summer as well. You just can’t say that about many other regions in the last few years.
European Union Announces Framework For Reopening
The European Commission, which makes recommendations to the various European Union countries recently came out with a proposed framework to help countries open travel safely and usher in tourism.
Among the many proposals is a system in which testing would be dropped as much as possible in favor of vaccination proof. EU countries can choose to follow the guidance, or not and as it stands, various countries within Europe have varying policies.
Basically, the EU bloc would like fully vaccinated travelers to be able to move around freely without the worry of testing restrictions, but for now, in some countries that only applies to travelers within the EU and from “approved” outside countries.
That’s important, since fear of testing positive while abroad remains a key concern among those who haven’t yet returned to international travel.
Surprisingly, the United States now lags many European countries in open access to travel by requiring people to test negative for Covid-19 within one day of their return to the country, regardless of vaccination status.
No Testing To Visit Europe?
The question of whether you’ll need a test to visit Europe this summer boils down to one main thing: where your proof of vaccination is from. If it’s from an EU approved outside country, or from within Europe, you likely won’t need to test at all to visit.
If it’s from a country outside of Europe which isn’t on the “approved” list, it’s up to the country you’re planning on visiting, to determine whether they’ll accept your Covid-19 vaccination proof rather than require testing, or if they’ll instead require both.
A perfect example of this is currently Portugal versus Spain. Spain will happily accept US vaccination cards and those from other countries which aren’t currently part of the EU outside country list which prove Covid-19 vaccination, but Portugal will not.
The US isn’t on the EU’s reciprocal “third country” proof of vaccination list, so Portugal requires fully vaccinated US visitors to still test negative before departure. If the USA joins that third party reciprocal list before summer, which currently has 35 countries, they would not be required to test.
This list is subject to change and should always be verified by an official party, but currently, there’s no Covid-19 testing required for most fully vaccinated people to visit the following European countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Spain. There may be more.
Airlines To The Rescue
Airlines were slow to comprehend just what an issue these chaotic and ever changing travel restrictions would be, but finally, they now provide some of the best resources for navigating them.
If you’re still confused about what’ll be required to enter a given country, be sure to use official country resources from tourism pages, or check with the IATA Travel Tool, or an airline you’re likeliest to fly.
The Experience On The Ground In Europe
Again, this will vary by country, but the trend is fewer restrictions.
Masks are still required indoors in some countries, but many have recently ditched them. By summer, they could largely be gone. Proof of vaccination to dine indoors has also been dropped in some places.
Outdoors, it’s pretty much life as it once was before. Of course, people are free to don masks anywhere they wish, and can even put on full scale PPE if it makes them feel a bit better, but it’s not mandatory.
The beauty of Europe in the summer is that the weather tends to be fantastic and outdoor seating near a city square, ocean or river views tends to be what people want anyway.
Expect More Countries To Drop Testing
Though not a part of European Union, the United Kingdom recently led the way in reducing testing and dropped most of the international travel restrictions, as well as domestic mask or vaccination rules.
It’s possible for a fully vaccinated visitor to enter the UK without taking a test, and none are required post arrival either. Domestically, there are no covid-19 rules at all. No one is required to wear a mask indoors or out, or socially distance.
In response, planes bound for the UK have been flying at higher capacity, as the UK attracts tourists looking to reconnect with the iconic cultures and parts of the world that Europe brings, sans hassle.
Following their lead, most Scandinavian countries dropped both travel and domestic restrictions and that seems to be the way things are headed. Much could change in the time between now and the summer — hopefully not World War III — but for now, travel in Europe is looking extremely promising for summer 2022.
Will you be there?