What are the COVID entry rules for travelers to European countries? | DW Travel | DW | 15.09.2021

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What are the COVID entry rules for travelers to European countries?

The hospitality sector in Europe is breathing a sigh of relief. Many countries have eased restrictions on everyday life, making tourism possible again. DW Travel offers a brief recap of what rules apply in the EU.

People sit outside at a restaurant near Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

Restaurants are open to customers again

Summer, sun, surf, sandy beaches and lots of culture: Vacationing in Europe is again a possibility for many, even if done with caution. 

Across Europe, many countries have lifted lockdowns and eased travel and entry requirements. But as pandemic regulations are being relaxed in some countries, others are tightening their entry rules again because of the surge of the delta variant and a rise in case numbers.

The situation in each country can change daily, meaning tourist, tour operators, hotels and restaurateurs must remain highly flexible.

Tourists from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore, among others, can currently travel to many European countries. For several months US citizens were able to travel to Europe, but many countries reimposed strict entry rules in September

Tourism in Europe is picking up again — albeit under somewhat strict rules in certain cases. Here is an overview of the latest rules and most important information.

The European Union

An overview of EU travel measures, including information on the EU Digital COVID Certificate, is available via the European Commission website.

Detailed information regarding quarantine rules, testing requirements and more in the EU's 27 member states — along with non-EU Schengen countries Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland — can be accessed through the Reopen EU platform. You can also download the Reopen EU smartphone app for up-to-date information on the go.

Please note that every member state maintains its own rules for granting entry to third country travelers already within the EU or Schengen zone. Member states may require a negative COVID test upon arrival, or mandate a quarantine period after entry. In addition, EU countries have implemented a wide variety of social distancing rules, curfews and mask-wearing rules.

An EU road sign, next to a traffic light

The EU has agreed on a traffic light system to make understanding travel restrictions easier

The European Union COVID traffic light system

The EU has introduced a traffic light system for a better overview of the epidemiological situation in individual member states. Three colors — red, orange and green — denote high-, medium- and low-risk areas in the bloc. Grey regions signify areas where insufficient data is available.

Please note: The information listed here is not exhaustive, serves as a reference only and is subject to change at any time. All travelers to and within Europe, the EU and the Schengen Area are strongly advised to consult the official guidance and regulations of local, state and national authorities in the relevant countries.

EU Digital COVID certificate

To ease EU travel, the European Parliament approved a digital COVID certificate that has been rolled out across the entire bloc. It shows that individuals have either been fully vaccinated, tested negative for the virus or recovered from the disease. 

The document is issued by test centers and health authorities, and has been available in all EU member states since July 1. At this stage, however, only COVID-19 vaccination records performed by an official, government-mandated body within the European Union can be logged on the certificate. Vaccinations from outside the EU are not accepted yet.

For more information, visit the COVID Certificate platform.

Germany

Across Germany, coronavirus caseshave been rising since June. Politicians are carefully monitoring the situation. 

As a general rule, anyone arriving in Germany — whether by airplane, car, train or ship — must present either a negative test result, proof of vaccination, or documentation proving their recovery from COVID-19.

Those arriving from designated high-risk and dangerous virus variant regions must meet additional criteria. Before setting off, individuals must register digitally. Arrivals from high-risk areas must quarantine for 10 days, but can cease self-isolating if they produce a negative test result on the fifth day. Germany currently classifies Cyprus, the entire United Kingdom and parts of Ireland, France, Norway and Portugal as high-risk areas. Non-European countries such as the US, Japan, Kenya, India and South Africa are also included on the list.

Germany does not currently consider any regions dangerous virus areas. 

The passport control desk at Hamburg airport

All travelers to Germany must present either a negative test result, proof of vaccination, or documentation proving recovery from COVID prior to departure

In Germany, certain safety precautions continue to apply in general, such as adherence to hygiene rules, keeping a minimum distance of 1.5 meters (5 feet) from others, and wearing a surgical face mask in enclosed, publicly accessible areas, as well as on public transport.
More information here

France

Fancy a jaunt to France, or an extended stay even? Fully vaccinated travelers may enter France without restrictions. They must, however, produce proof of vaccination and fill out an entry form stating that they don't have any COVID-19 symptoms.

Unvaccinated individuals arriving in France from green list countries — currently all EU states alongside Andorra, the Holy See, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, the United States and other nations — must present a negative PCR or antigenic test, or proof of recovery from COVID-19.   

Unvaccinated individuals from red list countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and South Africa — may enter France only for important purposes. They must take further COVID-19 tests and quarantine for 10 days.

All other countries fall on France's orange list, which requires a seven-day quarantine. For detailed information on entry requirements, consult the French Foreign Ministry website.

People walking in the Jardin des Tuileries park in Paris

Vacationing in the French capital Paris isn't out of the question this summer

Meanwhile, French public life is gradually returning to normality. Entry to cultural events, public venues, bars, restaurants, malls, hospitals and other places, however, is possible only for those in possession of a Pass Sanitaire, a certificate showing you are either vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. It is required also for long-distance flights, train and coach journeys.

For tourists who are not fully vaccinated, a vacation in France might quickly become expensive, as COVID-19 tests are no longer offered free of charge.

Meanwhile, hygiene and social distancing rules remain in place. France's nighttime curfew was lifted on June 20. Covering one's mouth and nose, however, is still obligatory in enclosed public places, and when traveling on public transport. Some areas of the country are showing higher incidence rates than others and have been classified by the French government as "red zones."

More information here

Italy

Coronavirus infection rates have stabilized in the popular European tourist destination. Even so, Italy has extended its COVID-19 state of emergency until December. 

Arrivals from the EU or Schengen zone must present a passenger locator form and proof of either full vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or a negative PCR or antigenic test result from the past 48 hours. The EU Digital COVID Certificate is the preferred form of documentation here, as well. 

For everyone else, there is a complicated system consisting of five different levels, which comes with various testing and quarantining obligations. Individuals from Brazil, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka may enter Italy only for essential, non-tourist reasons. 

Authorities have classified the country itself into four color-coded zones — white, yellow, orange and red — in accordance with the local coronavirus infection risk. Currently, most of Italy still falls into the white, low-risk zone, where people can move freely. 

As of August 6, visiting indoor restaurants and bars, sporting events, museums, theaters, swimming pools, gyms, spas, festivals, fairs and amusement parks has been permitted only for those who have been vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative. This rule also applies to domestic flights, train journey and sea travel.

Some beaches in Italy may require prior booking, and some municipalities might issue their own rules and limitations if they experience a spike in cases.

Mask-wearing remains mandatory in enclosed public places, crowded outdoor areas and on public transport. Government buildings and some shops also measure your temperature as you enter the premises. Social distancing is advised. 

More information here 

Gulf of Naples

The city of Naples at sunset, with Mount Vesuvius in the background

Spain

In line with falling infection rates, curfews have been lifted across the country, though some regions still limit social gatherings. Rules differ across Spain and remain in flux.

All travelers to Spain must fill in a health form ahead of their trip. Arrivals from EU/EEA areas are allowed to enter the country without meeting any conditions. Individuals from countries deemed by Spain to pose an infection risk, such as France, Germany and Sweden, must show either a certificate of full vaccination, proof of recovery from COVID-19, or negative PCR or antigen test.

Individuals from a range of low-incidence non-EU third countries may also freely enter Spain. Arrivals from high-risk third countries may enter only if they can show proof of vaccination.

 

Cala Salada lagoon, Ibiza

Many vacationers this summer seek ways of traveling where contact to other people is limited — yachting is one such option, like here at Cala Salada lagoon on Ibiza

Different regions have instituted a maximum capacity for many venues and establishments. Across the entire country, masks must be worn in enclosed public spaces and on public transport but are not necessary outdoors and wherever the minimum social distance of 1.5 meter can be maintained. 

More information here

United Kingdom

UK coronavirus cases have remained consistently high since late June. Most of the recent infections have been attributed to the more contagious delta variant.

The four nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have adopted a traffic light system similar to the EU model, categorizing countries into high-, medium- and low-risk zones. Entry requirements and quarantine rules vary in each of the regions, and are subject to rapid change. Please make sure you get the latest information if you are planning to travel to the UK.

Individuals from red-listed countries and territories — currently including Turkey, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa — may only enter if they are UK or Irish nationals, or hold residency rights in the UK. In this case, they must take a COVID-19 test prior to arrival, then self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel at their own expense, which costs at least £2,285 (€2,700/$3,150).

Two people in a boat being punted by a third person on the Great Stour River in Canterbury, Great Britain

Boating along Canterbury's Great Stour River is popular with tourists

Fully vaccinated individuals from amber-listed countries and territories — currently most European states, the US and others — are required to take a COVID test prior to arrival, and a further PCR tests on day two. Unvaccinated arrivals must take an additional, third PCR test on day eight and self-isolate for ten days.

Arrivals from green-listed countries such as Austria, Denmark, Finland and Germany must take a COVID test prior to arrival, and a further PCR tests on day two. There is no need to quarantine, unless your test result comes back positive.

Travelers must cover the costs for these tests. They must also complete a passenger locator form, regardless of departure country or nationality.

Despite a surge in delta variant cases, the UK hospitality sector has been allowed to fully reopen, as have cultural venues such as museums and many theaters. There is no mask requirement. However, most public transport companies still enforce mask-wearing.
 More information here

Aerial view of parasols on a beach with clear, green water, Greece

Greece was one of the first countries in Europe to reopen to tourists

Greece

Greece has opened its borders for many travelers in hopes of boosting its economy. Residents of the European Union and Schengen Area countries, the UK, US and others may visit Greece for tourist reasons.

Anyone entering the country must fill out a digital passenger locator form before arrival. A QR-code will be part of the document generated by the form, which you have to show at border control. Failing to produce the QR-code may result in a fine of €500. You must also present either a negative molecular PCR or antigen test, proof of recovery or proof of vaccination. (At least 14 days must have passed since the second dose of the vaccine was administered.)

Travelers from all other destinations may enter only for important reasons.

Entering bars, restaurants and cultural venues requires showing proof of vaccination or recovery from COVID-19. Masks are mandatory indoors, yet no longer required in uncrowded outdoor spaces. Social distancing rules also remain in place. 

Under Greek law, local municipalities are allowed to introduce mini-lockdowns with short notice if infection numbers rise rapidly, which chiefly means introducing nighttime curfews and banning music. This might make the planning of holidays in the country less predictable for visitors.

More information here

Austria

Austria is taking the protection of its borders quite seriously. Anyone entering must present either a negative test, proof of recovery or vaccination. Due to the spread of virus variants, nonessential travel from Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Suriname remains prohibited.

Although almost 60% of the population is now fully vaccinated, Austria has seen infections rise since late June.

Austria, view of the village Hallstatt with mountains in the background

Hallstatt, a very popular destination in Austria, is seeing visitors beginning to return

Restaurants, hotels, cultural venues and sports facilities are open. But a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery is required to enter. Access to nightclubs is granted only to persons who have been vaccinated, or can show a negative PCR test result. Most such venues will require you to leave personal details for tracking purposes if required.

Cloth masks are required on public transport, while using taxis, inside grocery stores and in government offices. 

As of September 15, FFP2 masks are mandatory in supermarkets, at chemists, banks, gas stations and on public transport. They are also compulsory in culture venues for those who are unvaccinated, or have not recovered from COVID-19. To attend events and gatherings of 25 people and more, individuals must now show proof of either vaccination, past infection, or negative test.

More information here

Croatia

Arrivals from the EU and Schengen zone must present the EU Digital COVID Certificate to enter Croatia. Alternatively, they may produce a negative PCR or rapid antigen test result, an official certificate showing that they received two doses of an EU-endorsed vaccine, or a certificate showing they have recovered from COVID-19 and have received one dose of the vaccine. 

The same rules apply to arrivals from elsewhere. Arrivals from the UK, Russia, India and Cyprus however must additionally present a negative PCR or antigen test before being granted entry. 

Podrace Beach near Brela and Makarska, Croatia, Europe

Many people visit Croatia because of its beautiful beaches — there are so many that a secluded bay can always be found

Cafes, bars, restaurants and bakeries are open. Individuals are urged to wear masks indoors, unless eating, and outdoors when it is not possible to socially distance. Cinemas, museums, theaters and other such venues are operating with limited capacity and shorter opening hours. There is also a ban on sales of alcohol between the hours of 22:00 and 06:00. There are also limits on the number of people permitted on Croatia's famous beaches.

The overall seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 has surpassed the mark of 148 cases on average in mid-September. 

More information here

The Netherlands

After witnessing a spike in case numbers in July, infections have fallen drastically and stabilized since August. 

The Netherlands considers most EU and Schengen states high-risk regions and therefore requires arrivals from there to show proof of vaccination, proof of recovery or a negative test result to be granted entry. The Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, meanwhile, are classified as low-risk areas. Individuals from these countries can enter without meeting any special requirements.

Persons arriving from safe countries outside the EU and Schengen zone, such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand, must show proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter the Netherlands. 

Those from high-risk and very high-risk areas outside the EU and Schengen zone face far stricter entry requirements. Currently, the United Kingdom is deemed a very high-risk area. Individuals from the UK must quarantine on arrival, even when vaccinated, and show a negative COVID-19 test result.

Amsterdam, boats on a canal, the Netherlands

The Netherlands are begining to return to normal after the overnight curfew was lifted

Almost all establishments such as shops, restaurants and cultural venues are open, though strict hygiene and social distancing rules apply. Restaurants and bars must have assigned seating, and close between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. Cultural events must have assigned seating, as well, and guests must ensure that they adhere to socially distancing rules. Nightclubs remain shut for now. 

Masks remain mandatory on public transport and other passenger transport, at stations and airports, and in secondary schools. 

More information here

Portugal

Entry is granted to arrivals from the EU and Schengen zone if they can show proof of vaccination or recovery from COVID-19 or a negative PCR or antigenic test.

Arrivals from high-risk countries — defined as countries with 500 cases or more per per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 14 days — must isolate for two weeks. Those on essential business or staying in Portugal for less than 48 hours are exempt.

Portugal, people walking on an empty beach at Alentejo Vila Nova de Milfontes

In Portugal, life on the beach is fine, but in Lisbon the country is grappling with the spread of the delta variant

The situation in Portugal has improved, with the number of infections falling since late July. Businesses may open and close as they please, though bars, restaurants, shop and cultural venues operate at reduced capacity. Masks must be worn when using public transport, indoors and outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained. A vaccination certificate or negative test must be presented to visit the indoor areas of many facilities.

More information here 

Switzerland

The country has recorded a considerable increase in coronavirus infections since early August. Its seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 is among the highest out of all European countries.

To contain the surge, Swiss authorities have imposed stricter rules on everyday life. People must now show proof of recovery, vaccination or a negative test result when visiting restaurants, bars, fitness centers and cultural institutions. So far, this was only required in nightclubs and at large events. The EU certificate is recognized.

Anyone traveling to Switzerland must register electronically. This includes people on plane journeys that only stop over in Zurich or any other airport. People arriving via air who have neither received a full vaccination, nor recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months must provide a negative PCR or antigen test. This applies also to arrivals from countries where coronavirus variants are prevalent. 

Individuals from such countries must quarantine in Switzerland unless they have received a full vaccination or recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months.

Everyone is advised to take a coronavirus test upon arrival.

More information here

Denmark

Denmark lifted all domestic restrictions on September 10. Proof of vaccination is no longer required to visit restaurants, sports centers and hairdressers. Nor is the "Corona Pass" needed for entering nightclubs or attending large events. 

Due to the high vaccination rate, the epidemic is under control and now no longer considered a threat to society, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke explained. However, the epidemic is not yet completely over, and his government will act quickly if it again threatens "essential areas" of social coexistence, he further stated.

The country began to gradually ease its restrictions again following the introduction of the COVID passport in April, and now there is no longer a mask mandate. But authorities still recommend socially distancing.

Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen at dusk

The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen is not seeing many tourists these dayys

Residents of an EU or Schengen country may enter Denmark provided they are fully vaccinated, have recently tested negative for the coronavirus, or recovered from COVID-19.

More information here

Czech Republic

Arrivals from the EU may freely enter the Czech Republic. They must neither quarantine on arrival, nor get tested before or after arrival, if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 180 days.

The completion of a digital entry form is mandatory for everyone arriving.

Prague with bridges over the Vltava river

Before COVID-19, Prague was one of Europe's most popular city break destinations

Entry is not possible from countries like Brazil, India and South Africa, which are deemed by the Czech Republic to pose an extreme risk of COVID-19 infection. Exceptions are only granted to Czech citizens, Czech residents, foreigners with long-term residency permits and diplomats.

The Czech capital Prague, meanwhile, is trying hard to woo tourists back. With its "In Prague like at home" program, the city aims to lure visitors back to the city with lots of freebies: Overnight guests receive free tickets to museums, monuments, galleries, or to the zoological gardens. 

More information here

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