What are the COVID entry rules for travelers to European countries? | DW Travel | DW | 27.07.2021
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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. As COVID incidence rates fall, restrictions are being relaxed, making tourism possible again. DW Travel offers a brief recap of what rules apply in the EU.

People sitting at outdoor tables at Clärchens Ballhaus restaurant in Berlin, Germany

Restaurants are beginning to open to customers again

Summer, sun, surf, sandy beaches, and lots of culture: vacationing in Europe is once again a possibility for many - but only cautiously so. 

As coronavirus infection numbers continue to fall across much of Europe, many countries are lifting lockdowns and easing travel and entry requirements. But while COVID rules are being relaxed in some countries, others are tightening their entry rules again due to the surge of the Delta variant. As was the case before, the situation in each country can change from one day to the next, which again requires flexibility from tourists and tour operators, hotels and restaurateurs in the summer of 2021.

Tourists from Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, among others, can already travel to Europe. And since June 20, US citizens have also been able to do so again.

As of July 1, travel restrictions have been lifted for other countries jointly selected by EU member states. Tourism in Europe is picking up again. 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, European lawmakers 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, 2021. At this stage, however, only COVID vaccination records performed by an official, government-mandated body within the EU 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 infections have initially been falling drastically, dropping to a mere five cases per 100,000 residents within seven days on average early in the summer. In late July, that number had risen to ten cases, with higher rates reported in some areas. Politicians are monitoring the situation with caution. 

As a general rule, before boarding a flight to Germany, all travelers must present either a negative test result, proof of vaccination, or documentation proving their recovery from COVID-19. Before setting off, individuals must also register digitally.

Those arriving from designated risk areas, high incidence regions, and territories marked by concerning virus variants must meet additional criteria: Arrivals from risk areas must quarantine for 10 days, but can cease self-isolating if they produce a negative test result usually on the fifth day. Germany currently classifies parts of Ireland and Denmark, Greece, Spain, the Netherlands and some non-EU regions such as Thailand and the Maldives as such risk areas.

Individuals from high incidence regions must also quarantine for 10 days, but can stop isolating if they can produce a negative test result five days after arrival. Germany classifies Egypt India, Iran, Russia and Colombia among others as high incidence areas. The UK is also now considered a high incidence region after being classified as virus variant region earlier.

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

Travelers from virus variant regions must quarantine for 14 days without exception. Brazil, Malawi, Namibia and South Africa are currently categorized as such — in addition to several others. Only German nationals and individuals with German residency permits are permitted to enter the country from such coronavirus variant regions.

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 ft) 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? The country is pretty much open to visitors, but depending on where you are traveling from, there are certain standards to meet.

Anyone arriving in France from an EU-country has to fill out an entry form stating that they don't have any COVID symptoms in addition to providing proof of full vaccination or recovery status (from the last six months) or a negative PCR-test taken within the preceding 72 hours. The same rules apply to people entering from France's green list countries, which in addition to the EU include Andorra, the Holy See, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, Albania, Australia, Bosnia, Canada, the Comoros, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Ukraine, Vanuatu and the United States.

Entering France from red list countries (Afghanistan, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Russia, Seychelles, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Tunisia, Uruguay and Zambia) is only allowed for important purposes and is subject to additional rules such as having to take further COVID tests and quarantining for ten days.

 

All other countries fall on France's amber 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 a sense of normality — but mainly for those who are vaccinated. The country is reacting to the spread of the Delta variant. Since July 21, entry to cultural sites has no longer been possible without prior proof of vaccination. From August 1, access to long-distance trains, coaches, restaurants, cafés and shopping centers will also only be possible only with a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR or antigen test no more than 48 hours old.

For tourists who are not fully vaccinated, a vacation in France might quickly become expensive, as the COVID 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. It is no longer mandatory to wear masks in public. Covering one's mouth and nose, however, is still obligatory when indoors, and when travelling on public transport. Some areas of the country are showing higher incidence rates than others.

More information here

Italy

Incidence rates are rising again in Italy, which is why various governments, including Germany, recommend not traveling there at the moment. If you do have to enter Italy from an EU country, the Schengen zone, Israel, Canada, Japan or the United States, you won't face any major problems at border control. Arrivals 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 digital EU ceritificate is the preferred form of documentation here as well. Travelers from the UK have to enter five day-quarantine period and get tested again at the end of it.

For everyone else, there is a complicated system consisting of five different levels, which comes with various testing and quarantining obligations. Ultimately, entering and traveling through Italy is prohibited for individuals who in the past fourteen days stayed in or transited through Brazil, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Authorities have classified the country itself into four color-coded zones — ranging from white, yellow, orange to red — in accordance with the local coronavirus infection risk. Currently, all of Italy falls into the white, low-risk zone, where life has almost returned to lively pre-pandemic times. Travel between the various zones is only allowed for those who are vaccinated, recovered or tested.

Bars, restaurants and other establishments are open, with outdoor and indoor seating allowed. Swimming pools have reopened, as have gyms, spas and amusement parks. Mask-wearing remains mandatory, however, 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. Some of the beaches require prior booking to ensure social distancing between sunbathing spots, and a minimum distance of 1,50 meters between sun-lounging sports is required.

More information here

Gulf of Naples at sunset

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

Spain

Spain is recording some of the highest number of cases per capita of all EU countries. Regions like Andalusia and Catalonia are reporting particularly high infection rates, as are the Balearic islands. Some countries, such as Germany, therefore now require mandatory quarantining upon return from Spain. Still, visitors from the European Union and Schengen zone eager to get their fix of Spanish tapas and sunshine can do so, as the country reopened its borders to tourists on June 7.

To enter the country, all travelers must fill in a health form ahead of their trip. Upon arrival, they must also show either a certificate of full vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or negative PCR or antigen test — issued within 48 hours prior to arrival — to be granted entry. Only visitors from Brazil, India and South Africa are still not allowed to enter Spain for tourist purposes. 

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

Most restrictions on ordinary life are being lifted, though these vary by region. Nightclubs may open in areas where the incidence rate remains under 50, though using the dance floor may only be permitted outdoors. Masks have to be worn in clubs, and there is a curfew in place that begins at 3am. Spain's northeastern Catalonia region has instituted a maximum capacity for many such venues and establishments, as case numbers continue to be a point of concern there.

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 1,50 meters can be enforced. Restaurants still require masks to be worn — except while eating.
More information here

United Kingdom

Many governments, including Germany, view the UK as a high incidence area, with travel warnings and quarantine measures upon return in place. Following the UEFA Championship final in London, Britain recorded more than 40,000 new COVID cases within one day - the highest rise since January. Still, the country's doors are open to some and closed to others.

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 Brazil, India 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 test prior to arrival, then self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel at their own expense, which costs at least GBP1,750 (2,000 euros).

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

Individuals from amber-listed countries and territories, which include many EU member states such as France and Germany, are required to take a COVID test prior to arrival, and two further tests on day two and eight after entry. Travelers must cover the costs for these tests. They are also required to quarantine at home, or their temporary residence, for 10 days. They can opt to pay extra to take an additional test on day five to be released from quarantine early.

Entering the United Kingdom from green-listed countries or territories is relatively simple, necessitating only a pre-departure COVID test, and a day two COVID test after arrival. Australia, New Zealand and Singapore among others are currently on this list.

All travelers entering the UK, regardless of departure country or nationality, must complete a passenger locator form.

The UK is unique in its full easing of restrictions, which started on July 19.Despite a surge in SARS-CoV-2 Delta cases, the UK hospitality sector has been allowed to fully reopen, as have cultural venues like museums and many theaters. There is no mask requirement, however, most public transport companies still enforce mask-wearing.

The UK is the only country so far to completely do away with government restrictions but is still advising locals and visitors alike to act with care and caution.
 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

For anyone dreaming of escaping to the seaside, visiting ancient monuments, or simply island-hopping, Greece has gradually opened its borders for many visitors since mid-May. Residents of the European Union and Schengen Area countries, the USA, the UK, Serbia, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the Russian Federation, Israel, Canada, North Macedonia, Ukraine, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Belarus, Bahrain, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Japan, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Jordan, Moldova, Brunei, and Kosovo may visit Greece for tourist reasons.

Anyone entering the country must fill out a digital passenger locator form no later than 48 hours 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) alongside the passenger locator form.

Travelers from all other destinations have to enter a seven day-quarantine.

The Greek government has lifted most of their coronavirus restrictions. However, a nighttime curfew remains in effect from 1:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. and museums and other places of mass tourism remain closed. Taverns have opened their outdoor areas, while distancing rules must be observed on beaches and face masks are mandatory at all public venues. Greece will reexamine its COVID rules on July 26.

More information here

Austria

Austria is taking the protection of its borders still quite seriously. Anyone entering Austria must present either a negative test, proof of recovery or vaccination. A person is considered vaccinated 22 days after receiving their first dose. If you cannot provide any of those documents upon arrival, you are subject to a 90 euro-fine. Due to the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, non-essential travel from the UK remains prohibited.

The seven-day incidence has fallen below 8 in Austria and more than half of the population has been vaccinated at least once.

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, theaters and sports facilities have all reopened. But a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery is still required. The same is true for nightclubs, which have reopened but are only allowed to operate at 75% capacity. This limitation is also expected to be lifted on July 22. Most such places, however, will require you to leave personal details for tracking purposes if required.

Since July 1, masks are no longer be mandatory to be worn if a person can present a negative test or proof of recovery or vaccination. Social distancing rules have also been abolished as long as a negative test or proof of recovery or vaccination can be shown. Cloth masks, however, are still required on public transport, inside shops and in government offices.

Public events will also soon be permitted to take place once more without limits to attendance numbers.

More information here

Croatia

Croatia said it would base its entry rules on the EU's COVID-19 traffic light system, meaning that anyone coming from a green area could enter without restrictions. All others would have to provide a negative test or official proof of vaccination or recovery — but that was only in theory.

On July 1, Croatia surprisingly — and without any prior notice — decided to change its COVID-based entry requirements. Whereas EU citizens from countries with low infection rates, including Germany, were previously able to travel to Croatia without any additional conditions or restrictions, border officials have now started to require all travelers to present the new EU Digital COVID Certificate. Croatian officials are also collecting personal information on travelers coming to the country at their borders.

People who do not have the EU certificate need to produce a negative PCR test result, a rapid antigen test result, an official certificate showing that they received two doses of vaccine used in EU member states or a certificate showing they have recovered from COVID-19 and have received one dose of the vaccine. These new measures have led to long traffic jams at the border crossings in early July.

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

Since June 12, cafes, bars, restaurants, bakeries, and casinos have been allowed to operate in Croatia until midnight. Restaurants are allowed to receive guests in their indoor areas, except for cafés without food service, which are only allowed to serve outside. No alcohol may be sold between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and Croatia's beaches are subject to certain access restrictions during the same times.

Some areas in Croatia are showing higher incidence rates than others; however, the overall incidence rate in the country remained below 20 in mid-July.

More information here

The Netherlands

The Netherlands has issued public advice against tourist travel for the time being, registering more than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days. Those traveling from Germany or other Schengen-countries by land, however, do not have to show a negative PCR or antigen test, nor do they have to go into quarantine. If travelling by air, individuals must complete a health declaration form. Arrivals from high-risk, very high risk and virus variant regions remain obliged to show a negative COVID-19 test result and to quarantine, and must have an important reason for travel.

Amsterdam, boats on a canal, the Netherlands

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

Tighter contact restrictions are once again in place in the Netherlands: night clubs have also been closed, while other recreational facilities operate with capacity restrictions and limited opening hours, subject to hygiene and social distancing rules. These include restaurants, museums and retail stores. Visitors are also required to leave their contact information for tracking purposes in most places. Masks remain mandatory.

These stricter rules are set to apply until at least August 13. Authorities plan to reevaluate the outlook on restrictions then.

People returning from the Netherlands might face restrictions such as having to quarantine when they're back home. Germany is among the countries that has introduced a ten day-quarantine for those coming back from the Netherlands.

More information here

Portugal

Portugal is a good example of how quickly the situation can change. The country seemed to be on its way back to normality when the Delta variant was found to have reached Lisbon last month. Urban areas are now subject to certain restrictions.

The Portuguese government has reintroduced nighttime curfews in parts of of the country; residents of Lisbon and of 45 other municipalities have to stay at home from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekends until further notice. There is also a travel ban between the capital region, which is particularly affected, and the rest of the country.

In certain areas, restaurants have to close at the weekends as early as 15:30. In addition to Lisbon, there are 16 other cities that are affected by this particular restoration — as well as Albufeira region in the Algarve, which is popular with tourists. 

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

Portugal had opened its doors to visitors from the rest of the EU and the UK only in June under the provisor that people from these countries where the COVID infection rate is below 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in a 14-day period are allowed to enter without quarantine requirements. A negative test or a vaccination or recovery record, however, is still required upon entry.

Also, due to the high incidence rate in Portugal, you might face quarantine rules or other restrictions when you return back home. Travellers to Portugal from Germany, for instance, have to quarantine for at least five days and take a test if they are not fully vaccinated. The quarantine obligation does not apply to those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from a COVID infection in recent months.

More information here 

Switzerland

Switzerland has reopened its hotels, museums, stores, theaters, cinemas, zoos and amusement parks to visitors in early June already. Since June 28, the mask requirement has been lifted in outdoor areas including train stations. 

There are no more limitations on group sizes in restaurant terraces, and those who have the EU COVID certificate you are even allowed to go to nightclubs and attend events with up to 5,000 participants.

Everyone entering Switzerland must register electronically and show a negative test. Vaccinated and recovered people do not need to register — for the time being. 

Only those coming from a country designated by Switzerland as a risk area have to go into quarantine. To decide whether a country or area has an increased risk, Switzerland looks at the incidence of new infections per 100,000 people in the last 14 days. If the incidence rate of a country is at least 60 higher than the incidence rate in Switzerland, the country is put on the "black list."

More information here

Denmark

Due to increased infection rates, you a valid reason for entering Denmark. Tourist travel from Germany, for example, is currently not allowed. Denmark also requires a negative COVID-19 test from everyone entering the country. Visitors are also required to take a second COVID-19 test free of charge, which must be done before leaving the airport if this is your method of arrival.

The country follows the EU's traffic light system, which means that fully vaccinated residents from a green, yellow or amber country are exempt from this mandatory testing upon arrival. In addition, children under the age of 15 are not required to be tested, nor are fully vaccinated people if the last dose was more than two weeks ago.

Rather uniquely, Denmark only accepts people who got AstraZeneca for their first vaccination as a fully vaccinated if their second vaccination dose was an mRNA vaccine (Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech).

In Denmark, masks are no longer compulsory, the only exceptions being airports and public transport. In public transport, the mask requirement is scheduled to be dropped on September 1. Restaurants and pubs are allowed to stay open until 2 am. Shops are open throughout Denmark, and cafés, restaurants and bars are all allowed to serve customers indoors as well — however, only if the guests can prove full vaccination or recovery status or show a negative test result.

More information here

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