Expat Essentials

Expat Essentials: Post-pandemic travel is opening our favorite European destinations

(Editor’s note: This post on post-pandemic travel in Europe will be updated. Also see our guide here to countries embracing vaccination passports. CNN has the most comprehensive global list of destinations that are opening to tourism. You can see it here. But the circumstances are changing daily, and we’ve found that even reputable news sites and government websites have conflicting information, so double check before you fly.)

Finally.

We can think about quarantine-free travel in Europe again. Across the continent, we’re seeing the preliminary steps toward a return to freedom of movement. And in the United States, President Joe Biden has stated he wants to reopen travel by 4 July, American Independence Day.

This represents the convergence of two positive trends. The first is, more COVID-19 vaccines are getting into people’s arms from Portugal to Poland. The second is, travel and tourism revenues are a significant enough piece of European economies to keep countries such as Greece and Croatia from sliding into recession. So, there’s an economic impetus to get heads in the beds and butts on the beaches.

Are we recommending that you go? Kinda. Our legal staff makes us include caveats such as “check local pandemic restrictions and local regulations and know that travel entails certain hazards.” But you know … we’re just as tired of staring at the same four walls as everyone else, so go for it.

ALBANIA

Suddenly Croatia South, tourism is increasingly important to this quirky country with miles and miles of coastline on the Adriatic Sea and its own alps. So Albania is open – no COVID-19 requirements or quarantine.

See their tourism website here for details.

AUSTRIA

Austria, another EU economy that depends heavily on tourism, is reopening 1 July. Austria loosened its travel restrictions on 19 May. Basically, tourists from ever country in the European Union, Switzerland and Norway, as well as travelers from Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea can enter without quarantine as long as they can show a negative COVID-19 test, a vaccine passport or proof that they’ve already been infected.

See the official website for information about exactly which documents are required.

BULGARIA

This Balkan country offers a wide variety of travel options from spas to beaches to skiing and outdoor adventure. As of 28 May, Bulgaria is open to all tourists as long as they can provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test.

That said, even though it’s in the EU, Bulgaria has its own list of safe and high-risk countries. You can see more details here.

CROATIA

Croatia is among the countries jumping on the COVID passport bandwagon, desperate to restart its tourism sector, which accounts for a whopping 25 percent of GDP … at least.

EU/EEA countries including Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino are allowed to enter Croatia as long as they can provide a coronavirus test no older than 48 hours, or they can pay to get tested upon arrival.

The country also has started a “Stay Safe in Croatia” program, designating airlines, hotels and accommodations, ground transport and tourist attractions that have adopted national and world standards for health and hygiene protection.

Here are all the rules.

CYPRUS

Cyprus has allowed in travelers with full immunization since 17 May, according to the BBC. COVID-19 tests are administered at the ports of entry, including airports, and arrivals must pay 30 euros.

Here are the official rules and requirements.

DENMARK

Denmark started reopening to tourists in May and has a spiffy new “Official Travel Guide” website with the latest rules and requirements. However, that website has so many rabbit holes with so much info you have to almost devote a morning to perusing it.

Here’s one important point: You’ll need a corona passport to enter restaurants, cafés and bars.

You should also check out the color-coding system for rating countries.

DUTCH LEEWARD ANTILLES

The southern Dutch Antilles, or the ABC islands, down in the Caribbean technically are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. All three – Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao – have economies that are incredibly dependent on tourism. So tourists from the EU can enter with a current negative COVID-19 test.

See Aruba’s rules here.

Here are Bonaire’s rules.

Here are the rules for Curaçao.

FRANCE

France is lifting travel restrictions 9 June for international travelers beyond the EU citizens already allowed in. French Foreign Ministry officials have announced that people flying in from Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Singapore will no longer need to have a compelling reason to travel. Even Americans are welcome.

And even though the infection rate is still high, French officials opened restaurants and cafés outdoor seating areas on 19 May, though at half-capacity. Indoor service will resume at half-capacity on 9 June, according to France24. All shops and shopping centers also opened 19 May.

If you’re a European Union citizen or resident, you’re already allowed to travel to France. BUT, you must be able to prove you have been vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test no more than 72-hours old.

France24 has the latest details here.

France is going to a color-designation tourism travel system effective 9 June that classifies countries as green, orange or red. You can see the details here.

GREECE

Greece was – as far as we can find – the first country to put a date on reopening travel. On 14 May, Greece started allowing in anyone who has been vaccinated or who has tested negative for COVID-19. Visitors from a list of 53 approved countries must fill in a passenger locator form the day before they travel, listing where they are staying and supplying a vaccine certificate, a negative PCR test or a documentation of recent recovery from COVID-19, according to the BBC.

The rules are a precursor to the EU-wide digital certificate that is supposed to be in place by the end of June.

Tourism and travel contribute anywhere from seven percent to Greece’s GDP to 36 percent, depending on the source. So, yeah, the Greeks are anxious to get people back to work and the economy back up to speed.

The New York Times has a good overview of how important tourism is to the country.

ICELAND

Iceland was the first country to introduce a COVID-19 passport. And the island nation expects to have all its citizens vaccinated by mid-summer 2021. But it’s still not allowing in Americans.

Iceland currently admits EU citizens as well as EEA/EFTA citizens from Liechtenstein, Norway, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican. Iceland also permits travelers from the European Commission’s approved list of non-EU countries, which include Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. 

You can see the rules here.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

After one of the longest and most stringent lockdowns in Europe, Ireland is reopening as of 19 July. Until them, only essential travel is allowed.

After 19 July, passengers from outside the European Union with proof of vaccination can visit so long as the countries they are arriving from are not deemed to be at high risk of spreading Covid-19 variants, according to the Guardian. Unvaccinated travellers must arrive with a negative test and self-quarantine until they take a second post-arrival test.

ITALY

Italy began its journey back on 26 April. Internal travel will recommence and restaurants reopened outdoor seating on 1 June. You can see details here. Italian officials have repeatedly said the country will reopen, well, now. But as of 12 May, there have been no firm dates or guidelines.

CNN is reporting that Italy has come up with a concept for “COVID-free trains” to the main tourist destinations such as Rome and Venice starting with Rome to Milan. Just as with Italy’s COVID-free flights, passengers and crew will be tested before boarding, and passengers are required to arrive at the station an hour ahead of boarding.

You can read more here on the website of the official Italian train system Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane.

MONACO

Billionaire Dispatches readers, you’ll be relieved to know Monaco is open and listed among the safest destinations in Europe.

There are, however, pandemic rules in place including a pretty punitive curfew – 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., which has to be killing the casinos. (Like the Monégasque need the money.) Most of those rules including the curfew will stay in place till 16 May.

However, there’s still the sea, with temperatures in the 80s (23 degrees-plus Celsius) as of early June. Restaurants are open, with parties limited to six.

MONTENEGRO

Montenegro is allowing tourists who have either a current negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination to enter. Here’s the official government page.

NORWAY

Norway is in the process of opening its borders to foreigners residing in countries in EEA/Schengen/UK that meet the criteria for low infection levels, listed as “yellow” or “green” areas. Read more on the official website about exactly who can travel to Norway at the moment, and about the required tests upon entering the country.

PORTUGAL/MADEIRA

Travellers from EU and Schengen travel area countries are allowed to fly in, as are residents of Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.  British tourists were allowed enter Portugal on 17 May. Then British authorities removed it from their “green” list, requiring British tourists to self-quarantine on arrival back in the UK.

While mainland Portugal was hugely impacted by COVID-19 and is now only exiting the pandemic, the Portuguese island of Madeira is ranked among the safest places to travel in Europe. The island also is hosting a digital nomad village this summer.

Read more about Madeira here from Dispatches travel writer Beth Hoke. And by the way, the border with Spain is back open.

SABA

Like the ABC Islands above, Saba technically is part of the Netherlands. This off-the-radar, beachless island in the Caribbean reopened to tourism on 1 May. Here’s the official tourism website with all the details. As far as we can tell, neither St. Maarten nor St. Eustatius have reopened.

SLOVENIA

Slovenia has also reopened to tourism with its own red/yellow/green system and testing requirements, according to CNN. You can see the various and sundry requirements here, though if you’re coming from an EU country, it’s all good. But still double-check, right?

SPAIN

Spanish tourism officials have sent us multiple emails stating the country is open again to Americans and to non-EU visitors as of 7 June if they have completed their vaccine schedule at least two weeks before arrival. Official vaccination certificates, issued by the country’s health authorities, in English, Spanish, French, and German are accepted, if the vaccine is authorized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or included in the WHO emergency use list. These vaccines are currently those manufactured by Pfizer-Biontech, Moderna, Astra-Zeneca, Jansen/Johnson&Johnson, Sinovac, and Sinopharm.

All passengers arriving in Spain by air or sea, including those in transit and those under 6 years of age, must complete a health control form before departure through the www.spth.gob.es website or the Spain Travel Health app.

Here’s the link to the official government information.

On 14 May, Spain joined the countries embracing COVID passports.

SWITZERLAND

The magic date in Switzerland is 28 June. That’s when visitors from non-Schengen Area countries can re-enter without coronavirus testing as long as they can prove they’re vaccinated, or have had COVID-19. Here’s the official announcement.

As of early June, Switzerland is hammering out the legal framework to join the EU’s vaccine passport scheme with its own document. Switzerland is distributing COVID-19 certificates to people who have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from infection as a way to open travel with the rest of Europe.

If we missed a country you’re interested in, ping us at: [email protected] and we’ll include it.

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