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An early sign of Normality: Europe is reopening for visitors

There’s only one certainty about travel in the remainder of 2020: It’s going to be different.
After tough few months in Europe, which saw borders closed, cities in lockdown, and tens of thousands of deaths from COVID-19, early signs of normality are appearing as countries reopen. On June 15, some countries in the Schengen zone—which comprises the majority of European Union member states—started lifting their internal travel bans. On July 1, most E.U. countries also opened their borders to residents of 14 countries whose current infection rates are low enough for the bloc to consider them “safe”—similar to, or lower than, rates in the E.U.
That list of 14 countries does not include the U.S., which currently tops the global infection rate, with almost four million confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The regulations are being revisited every 14 days, although on July 14 no changes had been announced. However, it seems that there’s some way to go before U.S. citizens will be readmitted to E.U. countries. To be considered, the E.U. requires a “stable or decreasing trend of new cases” in the past 14 days, as well as cases per 100,000 inhabitants “close to or below the E.U. average.” It will also take countrywide measures such as testing, containment, and contact tracing into account—as well as reciprocity. (Technically there are 15 countries on the ‘safe list’, including China—but the E.U. will not allow Chinese citizens in unless China reopens its borders to E.U. citizens.) E.U. citizens, long-term residents, and those approved for essential travel, are exempted from the rules.
The U.S., of course, has had a travel ban for E.U. citizens since March 11, and still advises citizens against all international travel. This means that if you do get on a plane against government advice, any travel insurance—something that’s of paramount importance right now—would be invalid.
member states are not obligated to follow the new rules (though most are).
Situations country by country
The United Kingdom
Nearly a quarter of all U.S. travelers to Europe pick the U.K. as their destination, according to 2018 statistics from the National Trade and Tourism Office. The good news: It’s currently open to foreign visitors. The bad: Those open borders have contributed to the U.K. having the world’s third highest coronavirus death toll (over 45,000, at the time of writing). Only the U.S. and Brazil have seen more fatalities.
While there are no current restrictions on travel to the U.K., on arrival, travelers from the U.S. must quarantine for 14 days (isolation is not necessary for more than 50 countries ranked “safer” than the U.K.). Before travel, you’ll be asked for your quarantine address; if a spot check finds you’re not there, you can be fined up to $1,275.
The U.K. is slowly coming out of lockdown. Shops were authorized to reopen on June 15, but many (including department stores) remain closed. Pubs, bars, and restaurants were allowed to reopen July 4 but not all have done so. Domestic travel also restarted on July 4, when hotels and Airbnbs reopened.
It’s unclear whether London theaters will reopen this year—it’s already been announced that musicals Hamilton, Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins, and Les Miserables will not. But there’s a glimmer of hope—the National Gallery reopened July 8, and the Royal Academy a day later. The Tate galleries (Tate Britain and Tate Modern) reopen July 27, and the Natural History Museum reopens August 8. The British Museum has yet to announce a reopening date.
France
President Emmanuel Macron opened borders for anyone in Europe’s Schengen area on June 15, and international borders for that 14 non-E.U. countries on July 1. However, in an address to the nation, he warned that “the summer of 2020 will be a summer unlike any other.”
Bars, restaurants, museums, and cultural attractions have all been given the green light to reopen. Versailles and the Eiffel Tower have both reopened (the latter is only allowing stair access and the elevator remains closed). The Louvre reopened July 6.
Advance booking will be essential for popular museums, and check online for guidelines in advance—Monet’s house and garden at Giverny, which has already reopened, stipulates visitors must wear face masks. Gatherings of more that 10 people are banned throughout France, so there’ll be no more big tour groups.
Italy
The bel paese is normally the third most popular European destination for U.S. travelers, but Italy’s time in the pandemic spotlight has seen bookings tumble.
Italy reopened internally on June 3, one of the first countries in Europe to do so. However, along with most of its E.U. counterparts, U.S. residents are not currently allowed in. Italy has also opted out of the E.U.’s July 1 lifting of restrictions for certain countries, indicating it’s taking border control more cautiously.
Localized spikes—including one in Rome’s residential Garbatella district in June—mean the government is monitoring the situation closely. The National Civil Aviation Authority has banned carry-on luggage that doesn’t fit under seats on all national and international flights, to stop people congregating around overhead lockers. Travelers must also complete pre-flight paperwork certifying that they have not been in known contact with a virus carrier.
Even then, depending on where you’re traveling to, there may be regional hoops to jump through. Arrivals to Lazio and Campania (in other words, Rome and Naples) will have their temperatures tested at the airport—those with a temperature over 99.5 Fahrenheit will be required to take a coronavirus test before being allowed through.
Additionally, three regions require visitors to register your accommodation with the authorities two days ahead of travel. Register online if you’re traveling to Puglia, Sicily, Sardinia, or Basilicata (the last two are in Italian only).
Once you’re in Italy, things should be more straightforward, though again, you should book all museum entries in advance. The Vatican and the Uffizi galleries, for example, are mandating face masks and temperature checks.
Germany
Germany reopened its borders to E.U. arrivals on June 15 and added eight non-E.U. countries on July 2, including Australia and Canada. There’s no word on when the U.S. might be allowed in.
Spain
On July 1, Spain went along with the E.U. advice to reopen its borders to the new “safe” list. The good news is that Spain wants tourists back—and is already running a pilot program in the Balearic Islands for German tourists, who have been able to skip quarantine. Expect the government to relax restrictions when they feel it’s safe. It also reopened its land border with Portugal on July 1.
Greece
Like Spain, Greece is heavily reliant on tourism, and the government has said that bringing visitors back is a priority.
International flights across Greece restarted July 1 (previously they were being rerouted via Athens or Thessaloniki) and the country has added those 14 non-E.U. countries to the list of those allowed in. Direct flights from the U.K. and Sweden, previously banned, started July 15. All passengers must complete a Passenger Locator Form 48 hours ahead of travel, and some will be tested for COVID-19 on arrival. If you’re tested, you must self-isolate for 24 hours while waiting for results.
On the ground, the government is bringing in testing facilities on the islands, designated doctors for each hotel in tourist areas, and created quarantine zones for those who test positive. Masks are compulsory on public transport and taxis. Ferries to the islands require masks and temperature tests pre-boarding.

Portugal
Portugal had made positive signs about bringing back tourists—including from the U.S.—but the increasing infections in the States have caused it to put those plans on hold.
On July 1, the country exited its “state of calamity” and transitioned into a “state of alert.” On the same day, it opened up its land border with Spain and allowed all E.U. residents, including from the U.K., to enter via air.
U.S. students are allowed to enter but must produce negative COVID-19 results from a test taken within the past 72 hours.
Those visiting mainland Portugal will not be required to quarantine but will have their temperature taken upon arrival, and social distancing measures are in effect throughout the country. For more, see our story about Portugal reopening to international visitors.
Croatia
Croatia is not in the Schengen zone and has caused a stir by opening to U.S. residents on July 1 if they are traveling for “pressing” reasons—which includes tourism. As of July 10, U.S. citizens must present negative COVID-19 test results from within the last 48 hours on arrival. If you don’t have one, you will be quarantined. You must also have confirmation of paid-for accommodation. Pre-enter your information here.
However, don’t think this is a route into the rest of Europe: Countries go by where you’re resident, not where you arrived from.
Turkey
U.S. citizens can travel to Turkey, but those over 65 are under curfew between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. and need permission to travel internally. Under 18s must be accompanied by their parents outside. All arrivals will be screened for COVID-19, and those displaying symptoms will be removed to a hospital. Those who’ve come into contact with them must quarantine for 14 days. Once you’re through, masks are mandatory in most cities, including Istanbul.
Ireland
Like the U.K., Ireland never implemented travel restrictions so U.S. travelers are free to visit. But you must fill in a passenger locator form, then quarantine for 14 days on arrival. There’s a $2,820 fine if you fail to comply.
Ireland has been easing lockdown since May, and infection rates have dropped so fast that Irish leader Leo Varadkar has eased restrictions earlier than planned. You can now (post-quarantine) travel anywhere you like within Ireland. Restaurants and bars have also reopened.

Other countries
No country in the Schengen area is currently open to arrivals from the U.S. Belgium and Switzerland reopened borders to E.U. arrivals on June 15, which suggests they may be the first to move as restrictions ease once more. Currently, any (non U.S.-resident) traveler who has been in the U.S. in the past two weeks must quarantine for 10 days.
Travelers to the Netherlands must have confirmed accommodation before traveling. When U.S. visitors are allowed, expect to face the same restrictions.
Austria is now open to all E.U. countries. People flying in on essential journeys from countries that are not covered (including the U.S.) must produce a negative test for COVID-19, carried out in the past four days, or face a 14-day quarantine. While you can’t fly for a vacation to Austria yet, it’s possible that as they lift restrictions, this will be a requirement when they do. Vienna Airport already offers COVID-19 tests, with a waiting time of up to three hours.
Cyprus is creating “quarantine hotels” where travelers who test positive, and their families, can quarantine in style, with room service available and nightly entertainment to be enjoyed from your balcony. They’ll be paid for by the government. They have also designated a hospital specifically for tourists with coronavirus—again, medical costs will be taken care of by the government. There’s no word on when U.S. visitors will be allowed in, but U.K. travelers (who were previously banned) are allowed from August 1.
Iceland does not currently allow U.S. nationals—only residents from the E.U. can enter the country. However, travelers who can visit may circumvent the 14-day quarantine by getting tested at the airport at a cost of $110. Expect that to be the case for U.S. citizens, too, once restrictions are lifted.
Czechia is now open to E.U. citizens and eight of the E.U.-designated “safe” countries.
Sweden’s lack of lockdown has caused anxiety amongst its European counterparts, but it is playing safe with travel. All non-essential travel is barred other than citizens of the E.U. and the “safe” countries.
Albania is open to U.S. citizens through bars, restaurants, and nightclubs are currently closed. U.S. citizens can also visit Serbia and Kosovo. But remember, the U.S. government still advises against all international travel and flying to a European country that will let you in does not mean you can then move freely around within Europe.
By Sanjida Jannat

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