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Travelling to the EU & EU Tourism Amid COVID-19

Despite a surge in coronavirus cases worldwide, many travellers are eager to get back to their favourite places – and one of the most popular is the European Union. EU travel saw an uptick over the summer months and often sees another around Christmas time as tourists flock to markets and picturesque holiday displays.

This year, however, is going to be much different. Let’s go over various restrictions on EU tourism, including who can travel there and what’s open

What Are The Current Rules For EU Travel?

As a general rule, most EU countries are allowing residents of the EU, UK and Schengen Area to enter without additional requirements. However, the situation is always in flux, and certain countries or parts of countries may be subject to testing or quarantine, so make sure you confirm the rules before travelling to the EU.

Most EU countries are also allowing travel from the European Council’s list of approved third countries:

  • Algeria
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Georgia
  • Japan
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • New Zealand
  • Rwanda
  • Serbia
  • South Korea
  • Thailand
  • Tunisia
  • Uruguay
  • China (on the condition of reciprocity)

Like the regulations for EU and Schengen Area countries, the rules for arrivals from the above approved countries vary depending on the current rules of your destination. For example, many popular EU travel destinations are now requiring Canadian citizens to quarantine for 14 days. Always follow the biggest rule for EU tourism right now: Check the current rules with your local embassy.

Tourism-Heavy Countries That Are Re-Opening

With these general EU travel regulations in mind, we’ll focus on countries that are reopening their borders to travellers from countries beyond the EU, Schengen Area and Council-approved lists.

Malta

Malta is allowing anyone who has quarantined for 14 days in a safe corridor country to enter without restrictions. This means Americans travelling to Europe could quarantine in the UK, Ireland or Turkey, for 14 days and then enjoy a Malta holiday.

UK

The UK is open to travellers from the US and other third countries, with a requirement to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. That’s why many Americans and others travelling to the EU are using the UK as a corridor country, from which they can enter the rest of Europe. UK travel restrictions do vary by region, so even residents of the EU will want to check the requirements ahead of time.

Ireland

Ireland’s relatively lax tourism restrictions have caused some friction recently as tourists have not been following the 14-day quarantine requirement. Nevertheless, travel is still allowed from many third countries, including the US. The list of travellers who may enter without taking a test or quarantining is relatively small, and includes residents of Estonia, Finland, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Slovakia.

Croatia

Croatia was one of the first countries to open its borders to tourism and currently allows citizens of the EU, UK, Iceland and Schengen Area to enter without taking a test or quarantine. Croatia allows travellers from other third countries, including the US, but you will be required to have a negative test result within 48 hours or quarantine for 14 days.

Montenegro

South of Croatia, the coastal country of Montenegro is allowing travellers from third countries, including the US, who can prove a negative test within 72 hours. Check out Herceg Novi, which has been compared to Croatia’s most famous city, Dubrovnik.

Albania

South of Croatia, the coastal country of Albania is also allowing travellers from any third country to enter with no testing or quarantine requirements. However, you will undergo a health screening at the airport.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria is allowing tourists from a longer list of 46 countries to enter without restrictions. This includes all of the EU, the UK, Schengen Area, the Council’s list of 13 approved countries, as well as Iceland and the Ukraine.

Cyprus

The eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus is a popular spot for EU travel year-round, and is eager to get its international tourism industry going again. Travellers from Australia, Finland, Germany, Korea, Latvia, New Zealand and Thailand can enter without a test or quarantine, while those from several other third countries, including Canada, and most EU countries can enter with proof of a negative test. Unfortunately, Americans are still now allowed.

Czech Republic

If you were hoping to visit the Czech Republic’s famous Christmas markets this year, you may be out of luck. The country recently tightened its tourism restrictions amid a surge in cases, and the markets may not make the list. Still, residents of most EU and Schengen Area countries as well as the Council’s approved third countries can enter the Czech Republic with no restrictions and enjoy the Christmas decorations.

New Health and Safety Restrictions Being Put In Place

If you encounter testing or quarantine requirements for EU travel, make sure you follow them. Once you prove a negative test or self-isolate for 14 days, you’ll be allowed to take part in your traditional EU tourism activities. But aside from the restrictions on EU travel from other member states and third countries, there are additional guidelines on social distancing, what’s open and how many people can congregate together that also vary by country.

First, the common rules that are likely to apply in every country, as recommended by the  European Centre for Disease and Control (ECDC):

  • Face masks are required in indoor public places, including public transit
  • Social distancing of 1 metre in public places

Beyond these recommendations, many countries are enacting further health and safety guidelines for EU travel. Before you consider travelling to the EU, it’s worth it to ask yourself: What is open in the country I want to visit? Here is a list of countries who have most recently changed their guidelines for social distancing and put in place new rules and restrictions.

Belgium

Bars and cafes in the capital of Brussels are closed; they remain open in other parts of the country, but groups can be no larger than four and they must close by 11:00pm. In outdoor areas of the capital, wearing a face mask is not required. Nightclubs are closed and festivals and street markets, including outdoors, are not allowed.

France

France recently enacted a curfew in nine cities: Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Paris, Rouen, Saint-Etienne and Toulouse. The curfew restricts movement from 9:00p to 6:00am. Gatherings are limited to 10 people and organized events including wedding receptions are banned throughout France. Face coverings are required even in outdoor spaces in Lille, Lyon, Nice, Paris and Toulouse.

Germany

Berlin recently enacted an 11:00pm curfew for restaurants and bars, with a maximum group size of five. The rest of the country limits private gatherings to 25 people and public gatherings to 50.

Ireland

Indoor dining has been banned in Dublin since mid-September and the ban was recently extended to the rest of the country. Outdoor dining and other gatherings are permitted with a limit of 15 people per group. Household visits are also banned throughout the country.

Italy

Masks are mandatory in outdoor spaces in Italy. Bars and restaurants must close by midnight, or by 9:00pm if they don’t serve food. Gatherings both indoors and outdoors are banned, but wedding receptions can proceed with fewer than 30 people.

The Netherlands

Bars, restaurants and coffee shops are closed and alcohol sales must end by 8:00pm. Outside, groups of more than four are banned, and even visitors to homes are restricted to three per day.

Spain

It’s not a great time for EU travel to Madrid: The city recently enacted some of the toughest tourism restrictions due to a state of emergency. Entering and leaving for non-essential reasons is prohibited, and restaurants must close by 11:00pm. Social gathering are limited to six people. In addition, bars and restaurants in Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, are closed.

How Tourism Has Been Affected During COVID-19

EU tourism employs 12 million people, making up 5% of total jobs. In 2018, the tourism industry directly accounted for nearly 4% of the EU’s GDP, and the number of people travelling to the EU was a stunning 671 million. The EU accounts for half of all tourist arrivals globally and is hugely dependent on both international and intra-EU travel for income. It has also been one of the biggest losers of tourism dollars due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has predicted that the EU could lose up to half of its tourism jobs, or 6.4 million jobs, in 2020. Air travel is hard hit as well: Airports Council International predicts a 28% decrease in passengers and a loss of €14 billion in revenue. Hotels and restaurants are expected to see a 50% decrease in revenue, while tour operators will be even harder hit, at a 70% decrease.

The most affected countries are France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. One International Monetary Fund report predicted that EU tourism losses in Portugal and Greece could be as much as 3% of the GDP.

Taking all of this into account, it’s no surprise that some popular places for EU travel are eager to open back up. However, it’s essential to keep safety in mind when travelling to the EU – or anywhere else in the world.

How To Plan Ahead For Safe Travel

You know that you need to plan ahead and always stay up to date on the latest travel restrictions. Here’s how to take part in EU travel the smart way during the pandemic:

  1. Call your embassy. Call the embassy of your home country in the country that you wish to travel to. They’ll have all the latest updates on travel rules, restrictions and quarantine requirements.
  2. Get tested. Having a negative COVID-19 test is a requirement for entry to many EU travel destinations, regardless of where you’re travelling from. Cover all your bases and get tested so that you have the proof if you need it.
  3. Have a plan B. Tourism restrictions are always changing. You may be allowed today, but not allowed by the time it’s time to travel. Or you may need to take alternate transportation. Make a backup plan for transit, and be prepared to take a “staycation” instead.
  4. Know your travel rights. Even if you’ve purchased a refundable ticket or travel insurance, read the fine print – claims related to the coronavirus may not be covered. However, many hotels and airlines are offering extra-flexible policies currently.

Don’t forget about your flight passenger rights. EU-261, which provides compensation for delayed and cancelled flights in some circumstances, is still in effect. Travel Refund is here to help. Contact us to learn about your rights and see if you’re eligible for a delayed flight claim or cancelled flight claim. In these uncertain times, it’s always smart to have a professional on your side.