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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 night-time 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 re-evaluate 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.