Pop the champagne! European travel restrictions will soon be a thing of the past!
Although it might be just a tad too early to pack your suitcases yet.
In fact, there is some good and some bad news regarding European travel bans and restrictions.
Some countries are creating so-called travel bubbles to allow tourists from their neighbouring countries to start visiting. Others are still enforcing the 14-day quarantine rule. And some are unwilling to open their borders at all.
But overall, countries across Europe are trying to figure out ways to attract tourists and encourage them to return despite the coronavirus remaining a threat.
Let’s see where tourism might flourish again very soon and how much longer we’ll have to wait to travel this year.
Europe travel will soon be possible again as many countries are lifting border restrictions after months of lockdown. However, borders are reopening gradually to Europeans only, and not the rest of the world.
The EU external borders will remain closed until June 15 and possibly longer.
Every country has its own pace and rules. Here are some examples:
In some parts of Germany, travel is already possible, but at a state level.
Spain confirmed it will welcome foreign tourists from July 1, ending its two-week quarantine policy.
Greece is ready to welcome overseas tourists from July 1 too. However, the goal is to let visitors from countries with similar COVID-19 risk profiles enter first.
The Greek Prime Minister promises you can still get a fantastic experience in Greece, even if it’s slightly different from that of previous years.
European travel bubbles
Throughout Europe, so-called travel bubbles are quickly forming, as follows:
- Border crossings will be permitted between neighbours Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland in early summer.
- The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, too, are reopening internal borders to one another. They call that a “Baltic travel bubble.”
- There are talks between the Nordic countries, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Greece, Cyprus and Israel that may soon shape another such bubble.
- The British Transportation Minister is considering “air bridges” which would allow people from some low-risk countries to enter the United Kingdom.
Gradually, the bubbles and bridges will grow bigger and include more foreign arrivals.
Some countries might be initially excluded depending on the situation with their coronavirus outbreaks, but the European Commission warned last week against discriminatory agreements as borders reopen. It said that countries should allow travel from all regions of the EU with similar epidemiological conditions. Not everyone agrees with the idea of "tourist corridors," as many countries’ tourism could suffer when they need it most - Italy, for instance.
European travel restrictions: Can you avoid quarantine on arrival?
A lot of countries still require you to self-isolate on arrival, so make sure to check that in advance.
Travelers to the U.K. can theoretically submit to the mandatory 14-day isolation period and then stay on. But these countries are not welcoming tourists yet.
The UK government has abandoned the idea of exempting travellers from France.
Ireland, which is an EU but not Schengen member, is not accepting even British visitors before July.
Only Europeans will initially be able to avoid quarantine in the passport-free Schengen zone, with the coronavirus travel bubbles that are forming. Others from abroad can't get through border control yet.
But by July or August, all could change. Travel bans and quarantines may disappear in some countries, though with strict health protocols in place.
Meanwhile, outside Europe, bans on international travel from the U.S. to China and New Zealand still apply, as well as the Australian ban. These countries are in no hurry to open their borders, which might take some more months. It’s possible that they’ll miss the summer overseas tourism altogether.
European travel bans lifted but under certain conditions
Europe is confident and determined there will be a tourist season this summer, even with restrictions and limitations.
In places where tourism accounts for much of the economy, officials are urgently considering changes to how hotels, resorts, nightclubs and the like can operate.
The new EU measures include updating health protocols for hotels and public transit and expanding contact-tracing between member states. According to a news release from the European Commission, the goal is “to help the EU tourism sector recover from the pandemic, by supporting businesses and ensuring that Europe continues to be the number one destination for visitors.”
Here are some of the new measures taken in different countries in Europe:
- In a Spanish beach town near Valencia, officials are taking care of social distancing with a system allowing beachgoers to book appointments on the sand via mobile app.
The beach will be divided into a grid of socially distanced sites, with staggered arrival times and the option to choose a morning or an afternoon slot (but not both). This will allow for a maximum of 5,000 people per day, which is about half of the beach’s normal capacity.
A beach that isn’t overcrowded for a change doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, right?
- In Greece, the nightlife scene won’t look as usual. It’s unclear whether bars will be open yet. Solo or socially distanced small-group activities such as kayaking and boating will be encouraged instead.
Why not try a healthier way of partying this summer? Your liver will be thankful.
- Portugal is considering awarding hotels a "Clean&Safe" seal to help tourists choose accommodation safely.
This label will indicate that the establishment - a hotel, restaurant or other venue - has enacted recommended hygiene and safety procedures to protect against the virus.
What’s more, hotel guests won’t be able to check in to their rooms until 24 hours after the last occupant has checked out, which will allow enough time for thorough cleaning and airing of the space.
Besides, it’s unlikely to enjoy buffets this year, but room service is expected to thrive.
On the beach, you would have to keep a social distance of 1.5 metres, with umbrellas at least 3 metres apart.
But that’s not all. There will be new signs and an app using a traffic light system of red, yellow and green to indicate which beaches are full, partly full, or almost empty. Paddle boats and water slides will be completely prohibited.
Here is a list of all European countries with the most important information regarding how lockdown is being lifted across Europe briefly summarized:
- Land borders will open to international tourists from June 1 (+ hotels);
- Some shops and restaurants are already open;
- Public transport is to begin operating again gradually over the next 30 days.
- Borders with Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary will open on June 15;
- Passenger train services between Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Switzerland and the Czech Republic are still suspended;
- Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg airports are operational but with limited services until May 31 at the earliest;
- Restaurants and bars are working, and hotels will be too from May 29;
- Face masks are mandatory on public transport and in shops;
- There will be no large events until June at the earliest;
- You are required to present a health certificate on entry, stating you don’t have coronavirus. If not, you must self-isolate for 14 days. Testing for Covid-19 is available at Vienna airport for €190.
- Borders to international tourists are aimed to reopen by June 15;
- There are some indirect flights with the UK only for essential travel;
- Eurostar has significantly reduced service;
- Face masks are mandatory on public transport;
- Shops and museums are open;
- Cafes, restaurants and some tourist attractions will reopen from June 8 and small open-air events will be permitted;
- Major events are prohibited until after August;
- All arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days;
- Proof of residence and onward travel is required for transit.
- Borders with Greece and Serbia are likely to open from June 1 - without self-isolation; probably followed by Austria and Germany;
- Some direct flights are operating between Sofia and London for essential travel; transit is permitted;
- Some hotels and swimming pools are open, individual outdoor sports permitted;
- Markets, outdoor bars and restaurants are open; all will open from June 1;
- Visiting mountains and national parks is allowed.
- Some border crossings are open with limitations;
- Parks, beaches, shops, museums, hotels and outdoor restaurants and bars are open;
- Some public transport is operating;
- Some international and domestic flights are operating; transit is permitted;
- Most international airlines expect to resume flights in July.
- Airports and seaports will begin gradually resuming operations between June 9 and July 13 at the earliest;
- There is no date yet for borders opening to non-essential travel;
- The outside areas of cafes and restaurants are reopening;
- Use of beaches will be unrestricted after June 9;
- More hotels will open from June 1, together with museums;
- Parks, outdoor play areas, squares and marinas will open from June 21 (but with a 10 people rule), archaeological and historical sites too;
- Tourists might be asked to take a COVID-19 test prior to their arrival.
- Borders with Austria and Germany are to open by June 15;
- Prague airport is working, with limited indirect flights to the UK only for essential travel;
- Transit is permitted with proof of residence and onward travel;
- Domestic travel is permitted;
- Shops, outdoor restaurants, pubs, museums, etc. are open;
- Events with up to 100 people are permitted;
- Hotels and outdoor campsites are now open;
- Taxis are now operating.
- Copenhagen and Billund airports are open, with indirect flights to the UK. Limited transit;
- Shops, parks and some hotels are open;
- Public transport is operating;
- Restaurants and bars are open;
- Sports facilities, theatres and cinemas will reopen after June 8, and events / activities involving 10+ people will be permitted.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
- Only tourists from within the “travel bubble” of the Baltic countries are permitted entry.
- Flights are operating between Finland and the UK for essential travel; transit is permitted;
- Shops are open;
- Restaurants, bars and cultural institutions will open from June 1 (with social distancing measures);
- Events of 50+ people will be allowed from June 1, while big gatherings from July 31;
- Ski resorts and many hotels are still closed.
- Borders with Switzerland and Germany are to reopen from June 15;
- All arrivals must self-isolate for 2 weeks;
- Face masks are mandatory on public transport;
- Some shops are open;
- Restaurants and bars will reopen on June 2 at the earliest;
- Beaches, some parks and larger museums will stay closed at least until June 1;
- A health certificate will be required on entry until at least July (with an alternative of 14 days’ self-isolation);
- A document certifying the reason for travel and proof of address is required for domestic travel beyond 100 km of home;
- Some flights are operating;
- Eurostar is running a limited Paris - London service (with mandatory face masks).
- Emergency measures in France will most likely be in place until at least July 24;
- Non-essential trips are banned; overseas visitors are required to self-isolate.
- Borders are open with Luxembourg, and will open to Switzerland, France and Austria from June 15;
- Arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days if they’re not from the EU, the Schengen area or the UK;
- There are limited flights for essential travel only;
- Shops, restaurants and some hotels are open;
- Large events such as festivals will be allowed after August;
- Restrictions vary in each state.
- June 15 is the “official start of the tourist season”;
- Many direct international flights will resume after July 1;
- All arrivals must self-isolate, but this is likely to be lifted from June 15, when there will be coronavirus testing for arrivals;
- Some domestic flights and ferries are operating at 50% capacity;
- Travel to the Aegean and Ionian islands is permitted;
- Face masks are mandatory in shops and on public transport;
- Some shops, bars and restaurants are open, and throughout June, malls, cinemas, amusement parks, playgrounds and sports facilities will gradually reopen;
- Year-round hotels will open from June 1, seasonal hotels from June 15;
- Public transport and taxis are running (with up to 2 passengers per taxi);
- Large gatherings, including festivals and sporting events, are unlikely this summer;
- Direct flights to Greece from the UK should resume on June 1, with some domestic flights and ferries operating;
- Travel to Evia and Crete from the mainland will be permitted, but all other islands remain restricted.
- Borders with Romania are open;
- Borders with Austria will open on June 15;
- Borders with Slovenia - by 1 June;
- Limited flights are operating;
- Face masks are mandatory in shops and on public transport and taxis;
- In Budapest, shops, parks and the outside areas of bars and restaurants are open, and elsewhere hotels can reopen as well.
- Borders will open to international arrivals on June 15;
- Borders are open to Schengen countries;
- Testing is required on entry, with the alternative of self-isolation or presenting official documentation of a recent negative test;
- Arrivals have to download the country’s contact-tracing app;
- Some flights are operating, including Icelandair; some buses and taxis too;
- Most hotels, attractions, restaurants, nightclubs, gym, shops are open;
- Public gatherings of up to 200 people are permitted (with social distancing);
- Some flights and ferry services operate between Ireland and the UK but all arrivals must self-quarantine and provide details of accommodation while in Ireland;
- UK nationals will be exempt from self-isolation procedure on return home but details yet to be confirmed;
- There is limited public transport;
- Restaurants and some pubs will open on June 20;
- Hotels, museums and galleries will reopen July 20.
- Borders will reopen to international tourists on June 3;
- Parks, bars, restaurants, non-essential shops and museums are open (apart from the Vatican Museums, which will reopen on June 1);
- Some hotels will reopen in June, depending on bookings;
- Some flights are operating. One airport is open per region (Rome Ciampino and Terminal one at Rome Fiumicino airport are closed);
- Trains are operating reduced services, but no international ones.
From June 3 Italy plans to remove the quarantine requirement for people arriving from these countries:
- Members of the European Union;
- Schengen Area members Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland;
- The United Kingdom;
- Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City.
Note that if you're coming from one of the approved countries but have visited somewhere not on the list within 14 days of travelling to Italy, you will still face restrictions.
Tourists from outside this list won’t be allowed to enter until June 15 at the earliest.
- Borders with Germany are open;
- Restaurants, shops and hotels are reopening;
- Outdoor non-contact sports is permitted;
- Face masks are mandatory in supermarkets and on public transport.
- There is no date yet for borders reopening to non-essential travel or tourists;
- The airport could open by the end of May;
- All arrivals must self-isolate;
- Face masks are mandatory in shops and on public transport;
- Some restaurants and nonessential shops are open;
- Hotels may open by early June.
- Borders are open for arrivals from Schengen countries, with the possibility of non-essential travel permitted after June 15;
- Some flights are operating with the UK – airlines require travellers (including those transiting) to complete a health declaration;
- Shops and some hotels are open;
- Face masks are mandatory on public transport from June 1;
- Outdoor restaurants and bars, theatres, music venues, museums and cinemas will open from June 1 (with social distancing);
- Campsites and holiday parks are open, and their communal facilities will open on July 1;
- Events, concerts and festivals with 100+ people may be allowed after September 1.
- Some flights are operating with the UK and transit is permitted (essential travel);
- Some hotels, shops and restaurants are open;
- Organised events with up to 50 people are allowed;
- Some parks, music venues, galleries and other cultural institutions are open, others will reopen from June 15;
- Borders are likely to open to international tourists from June 13;
- Travel to cities, national parks and beaches is now permitted;
- Some international flights are operating;
- All non-essential arrivals must self-isolate;
- Hotels, most shops, restaurants, bars, museums and galleries are open;
- City bike schemes and some public transport are operating;
- Face masks are mandatory in public.
- Arrivals by air would be subject to health checks but not a compulsory quarantine;
- Some flights are operating between London and Lisbon;
- Other international flights (including outside the EU) are likely to begin operating after June 15;
- Measures vary depending on region;
- Public transport across the country is at a reduced capacity, but there are rail and bus links to Lisbon city centre from most parts of the country;
- Taxis are operating;
- Beaches and campsites are open; restaurants and bars in most regions operate at limited capacity;
- Many of the Algarve’s hotels are open and its beaches will open in June;
- Non-essential travel is not permitted to Madeira and the Azores, and there is a mandatory 14-day self-isolation;
- Hotels will start opening from June 1, but discos will be the last places to return.
- Borders with Hungary are open;
- Hotels, some shops, museums and restaurants are open;
- Some direct flights with the UK are resumed (essential travel);
- Face masks are mandatory in enclosed public spaces and on public transport.
- There is no date yet for non-essential travel by tourists;
- Some flights are operating; transit is permitted with proof of onward travel;
- All arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days and register for entry 72 hours in advance;
- Some shops and everything outdoor - markets, sports venues for non-contact sports, tourist attractions, outdoor areas of bars and restaurants are open, as well as museums, galleries and short and long-term accommodation (without catering);
- Taxis and some public transport are operating;
- Face masks are mandatory in public.
- Border with Hungary could be open by June 1;
- Flights are limited;
- All arrivals from outside the EU must self-isolate for seven days and provide proof of accommodation;
- Train connections with Austria are suspended;
- Shops, galleries, some smaller hotels, and bars and restaurants will open outdoor spaces;
- Some public transport and taxis are operating, with mandatory face masks;
- Large events are still prohibited, but some tourist attractions are reopening;
- Mountaineering is being discouraged; mountain huts are still closed.
- Borders will gradually open to international tourists from July, and domestic travel will be permitted from June 22;
- Some measures vary depending on region and throughout the islands;
- Limited flights are running for essential travel only;
- Arrivals must self-isolate for 14 days, but this is likely to be relaxed from July;
- Some hotels are open;
- In less affected regions, outdoor spaces at restaurants and bars are open, but most won’t be fully operational until June;
- Museums and beaches are open, some with limited capacity;
- Non-essential travel from the mainland to the Balearic and Canary islands is not permitted yet;
- In partnership with the WHO, the Canary Islands will be the first destination in the world to trial digital health certificates when they open to international tourists in July.
- Borders are open to UK nationals and those of EU countries but closed to residents of some non-EU countries until June 15 at the earliest;
- Limited flights are operating between London and Stockholm;
- Hotels, shops, bars, restaurants and some museums are open;
- Large gatherings of 50+ people are prohibited.
- Border crossings to and from Germany, France and Austria will open from June 15;
- Hotels, shops, markets and restaurants are open;
- Outdoor sports with up to 5 people are allowed;
- Theatres, museums, cinemas, swimming pools, ski resorts, spas, mountain services and other leisure activities will resume on June 8;
- Large events with a 1000+ people may resume from August 31.
- Limited international flights are operating (more are likely to be scheduled for June onwards);
- Domestic flights are still suspended; inter-city travel is restricted;
- Hotels and restaurants will open from May 27;
- Face masks are mandatory in public;
- Measures vary across provinces.
Different countries will make their own decision regarding domestic travel, but EU regulations allowing free movement of people between borders will depend on the growth rate of coronavirus cases around the world.
There is currently a 14-day quarantine period rule in a lot of countries, which will certainly impede holiday travelers.
However, Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary suggested that British families could easily self-isolate in their homes after returning from holiday. He added that if there was a quarantine period in their holiday destination too, they could simply stay at their holiday accommodation. (Fun! ... That doesn't seem like the right approach though.)
Moreover, Ryanair will require all passengers flying in July and August to fill in details at the point of check-in of how long their planned visit will be, and their address while visiting another EU country. This contact information will be provided to EU governments to help them monitor any isolation regulations.
This article is not exhaustive. Always check the official information in your home country and your potential destination country before making any plans.
The situation is changing rapidly, which is a good thing. Nations are not succumbing to fear and are working hard together to come up with reasonable solutions to every obstacle and situation. They all realize tourism and free movement of people in general are of utmost importance, a key value to our global society.
European travel restrictions are gradually going away. And the summer holidays might be saved, after all.