The coronavirus has had an enormous effect on the travel industry. Flight bookings dropped by 55% between March and April 2020. Airlines could lose up to $314 billion in revenue. And so far, 217 countries have put travel restrictions in place, including Europe. In fact, Europe is expected to lose the most tourism dollars of any region in 2020. None of that has stopped the region from putting its citizens first and implementing an EU travel ban on US residents.
But the ban isn’t without issues. Leaving the details up to individual member states has created confusion and left the policy unevenly enforced. And while many people in general are choosing not to travel, especially by plane, the ban hasn’t put a complete halt on Americans travelling to Europe. US citizens are looking for loopholes in the EU travel ban, and for those who are willing to make the effort, getting into Europe is still possible. We’ll cover everything you need to know about the ban, and how some travellers are getting around it.
Can Americans Travel to Europe?
Technically, Americans cannot travel to Europe: There is still an EU travel ban on US residents. The European Council did recently revise its list of approved countries, but America isn’t on it. The only “third countries” – that is, countries that aren’t part of the EU – who can send travellers to EU member states are Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. (China may be added to the list based on reciprocity.)
While each EU member state creates its own rules and regulations, most of them are leaning toward banning more countries rather than fewer. However, there are a few places Americans travelling to Europe can go.
Croatia opened its borders to all international travellers in May. Despite this, it remains relatively low in terms of total cases, just behind Greece and far behind other countries such as Spain, France, and Italy. However, don’t let that give you an illusion of safety. Always follow guidelines like wearing a mask in public, washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your face.
The EU travel ban on US citizens has also been lifted in the UK and Ireland, but travellers must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. And, although they are not in the EU, the nearby countries of Serbia and Turkey are also open to all international travellers.
The island of Malta also recently opened travel to anyone who has quarantined for 14 days in a corridor country. This means Americans travelling to Europe could quarantine in the UK for 14 days and then legally travel on to Malta.
The EU travel ban on the US also includes various exemptions, including for health care workers, scientists, passengers in transit and travel due to essential family reasons. This is providing a way around the ban for some travellers.
It gets even more complicated when you consider that some EU countries are banning travellers based on nationality, while others are basing it on departure country. If Americans travelling to Europe are headed to a country whose ban is based on nationality, they won’t be able to get in, even if they come from a corridor country or quarantined for 14 days. But if the ban is based on departure country, they may be able to legally enter a corridor country, then travel to another EU country.
So, can Americans travel to Europe legally? The answer is yes – sometimes. However, many travellers are choosing to skirt the rules: US citizens are looking for loopholes in the EU travel ban, and often finding them. Let’s first look at the EU’s rules before diving into how Americans are getting around them.
Why Aren’t Americans Allowed in the EU?
The European Council creates guidelines for the region regarding air travel and border regulations. While the guidelines aren’t law, many countries choose to implement them – or implement even stricter measures. The EC’s list of approved countries is based on data regarding the coronavirus situation in each region, so it makes sense that the first requirement is that the country have a reliable reporting system. This is a big reason so many countries don’t make the list. Countries must also have systems in place to test, trace, contain and treat the virus effectively.
By the numbers, a country’s number of new cases per 100,000 people needs to be near or below the EU average over the past 14 days, and this number must be stable or decreasing, also in comparison to the last 14 days. If the EC still can’t make a decision, they may consider the country’s International Health Regulations score.
If you’re one of the people wondering, “Can Americans travel to Europe?,” this should answer your questions about why they cannot enter most countries, at least according to the EU travel ban on US citizens. America’s number of new cases exceeds Europe’s, and is not yet steadily decreasing. The only countries officially approved for EU travel are Uruguay, Tunisia, Thailand, South Korea, Rwanda, New Zealand, Japan, Georgia, Canada and Australia. But for Americans travelling to Europe, the truth is more complicated.
Ways Americans Are Working Around Regulations
Some EU countries appear more concerned about Americans travelling to Europe than others. In addition, US citizens looking for loopholes in the EU travel ban are finding that it is unevenly enforced and sometimes not enforced at all. If you want to travel to Europe, it may still be possible. However, please be sure you follow all testing and quarantine rules at your destination country, and always wear a mask and follow local guidelines.
Travel Through a Corridor Country
Many Americans travelling to Europe are finding that simply landing in a country that allows them, like the UK, Ireland or Croatia, and then moving on to their final destination is relatively straightforward. Some quarantine for the required 14 days, while others do not. Travellers also find that continuing to the destination country by car or train is the most under-the-radar option, but some are flying as well. Keep in mind that no matter how you travel, or if you quarantine in the corridor country, you may not be guaranteed entry at your destination.
Travel For Essential Reasons
Some US citizens looking for loopholes in the EU travel ban need look no further than a simple piece of paper. We’d never recommend lying, but if you legitimately need to travel for important business or family reasons, you may be able to get a letter stating this that will allow you to skirt the travel ban.
As stated before, the actual enforcement of the EU travel ban on US residents is uneven at best and confusing at worst. Different countries have various bans in place as well as various requirements once you arrive, such as proving a negative test or quarantining for 10 or 14 days. Plus, enforcement seems to be greater for air travel than for travel by land – although even air travel is difficult to enforce. Officials in several countries have admitted that it simply isn’t possible to screen everyone.
What Else Should Americans Travelling to Europe Know?
It’s always essential to stay up to date on your travel plans, but especially during these unpredictable times. Although there is a blanket EU travel ban on US residents, the rules for each country change individually – and frequently. Always do your research not only as you plan your holiday, but also before you leave. Know the rules of the country you’re visiting and get your paperwork in order. It’s also a good idea to get tested within 72 hours of travelling, just to be safe, as many countries require a negative test. And keep in mind that you’re not guaranteed entry, no matter what. Some travellers have been able to travel through a corridor country, but others have not. Unless you’re visiting a country that is directly allowing Americans travelling to Europe to enter, be prepared for the worst.
Always follow basic travel safety guidelines: wear a mask in public places, sanitize or wash your hands frequently and keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters from those around you. Airports have been asked to install sanitizing stations and institute other measures to ensure cleanliness and help stop the virus from spreading.
You should also be prepared for delayed or cancelled flights. As the airline industry has taken a financial hit, more and more flights are being cancelled. Many travellers are choosing to book refundable or cancellable flights, just in case. However, in trying economic times, that’s not feasible for all travellers, as these flights can cost hundreds of dollars more. The good news is that the EU’s Passenger Rights Law, or EU 261, which allows passengers to claim a refund plus damages for certain delayed or cancelled flights, is still in effect. Unlucky Americans travelling to Europe whose flights are cancelled or delayed may be able to file for compensation. Contact us to learn more about your rights.