On August 30, the United States was removed from the European Union’s approved list of countries for entry—only a little more than two months after it had finally been added to the list following a seemingly endless 458-day ban on travel from the U.S. to Europe.
The move left many travelers wondering if and how the decision would affect their upcoming travel plans. The answers depend on how individual countries in the 27-nation European Union respond to the recommendation, which is just that, a recommendation.
America’s spot on the European Council’s approved travel list meant that EU countries could relax restrictions for U.S. leisure travelers, both vaccinated and unvaccinated—and that’s exactly what the vast majority did. Now that the United States has been removed, European countries have responded with a wide range of policy adjustments—from outright bans on travel from the U.S. (such as in Sweden and Bulgaria), to restricting unvaccinated travelers from entering while still allowing vaccinated visitors to come (Italy, Germany, France and Spain have taken this path). And some have changed nothing at all about their policies toward U.S. travelers—at least not yet.
The council’s recommendations state that only vaccinated travelers, those traveling for essential reasons, and those traveling for nonessential reasons from the list of approved countries should be allowed to enter Europe.
But each country in Europe ultimately has the final say on what its requirements are—and will be—for travelers entering its borders. After more than a year and a half of travelers having to chase down constant changes to entry restrictions around the world, the latest round of updates in Europe has proven to be no exception to what has been a never-ending patchwork of new rules and regulations to navigate.
Are Americans banned from traveling to Europe now?
No, Americans are not banned from traveling to all of Europe.
At press time, two European countries—Sweden and Bulgaria—had reintroduced outright bans on U.S. travel. But the majority of European countries remain open to U.S. travelers, particularly those who are vaccinated. Some countries have introduced new regulations barring nonessential travel for unvaccinated U.S. travelers, including France, Germany, Italy, and Spain—meaning no vaccination, no leisure travel.
But Portugal has said it will continue to allow U.S. travelers to enter, regardless of vaccination status, as long as they provide a negative COVID test result upon arrival, and some countries, such as Greece, have not yet instituted changes that cut off access to U.S. travelers.
Once countries reach certain epidemiological benchmarks (no more than 75 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, for instance), they can be considered for the European Council’s approved countries list, which allows for the lifting of restrictions on nonessential travel regardless of vaccination status.
Unfortunately, during the current Delta variant–spurred wave, the United States has surpassed some of those benchmarks and thus has been removed from the list. For instance, one of the requirements is that cases should be stable or decreasing, but the United States has seen a steady uptick in cases in recent weeks.
Of course, there could be additional changes and updates in the coming days and weeks, especially as countries keep a close watch on factors such as the Delta variant and the evolution of the pandemic in general. European Union leaders have agreed on an “emergency brake mechanism” that takes into account the possible risks posed by new variants and allows new restrictions to be imposed quickly if need be.
It is worth noting that the United States still has a ban in place on travel from the European Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, with the exception of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
What kind of proof of vaccination must Americans have to enter Europe?
The European Union is facilitating travel within Europe with the EU Digital COVID Certificate, a digital pass for EU residents who have been vaccinated for COVID-19, tested negative for the virus, or have recovered from it. While the digital document has not yet been made widely available to U.S. travelers, most European countries asking U.S. travelers for proof of vaccination status as one of the requirements for entry have indicated that the CDC-issued paper certificate will suffice.
How can U.S. travelers stay up to date on EU travel restrictions?
One excellent resource is the U.S. State Department’s detailed COVID-19 travel information and country-specific advisories, which are typically updated regularly. We often cross-check these references with entry requirements that are published by each individual country’s foreign or public health affairs office (many of which are linked below). Countries’ official tourism marketing organizations often provide up to date information for travelers as well.
U.S. travelers should be aware that all international passengers age two and older flying into the U.S. (including returning U.S. citizens and permanent residents) must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test procured within three days before boarding their flight to the United States.
In addition, the CDC has detailed recommendations for travel during the pandemic, both for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.
Travelers should also verify all the public health measures and openings and closures that are in place throughout Europe. European countries are all closely monitoring pandemic factors such as the Delta variant. Some businesses and services may have limited operating hours or capacity restrictions, curfews could be in place, and there could be additional regulations on the ground, including COVID passes that are required for entry into certain venues such as in France and Italy. These restrictions can change frequently so it’s important to stay current.
A country-by-country guide to travel restrictions for Americans in Europe
Here’s a brief summary of how some European countries are approaching travel for Americans as of September 8, 2021. This is far from an exhaustive list, but it serves as an example of how different all the rules and regulations continue to be within Europe. It remains vital that travelers heading into Europe and crossing borders within Europe are up to date on the latest travel restrictions related to COVID-19 because they are constantly changing.
Quarantine-free travel from the United States to Austria is allowed as long as travelers present a CDC-issued vaccination certificate indicating they received their second vaccine dose no more than 360 days prior to travel or have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 180 days. Unvaccinated travelers from the U.S. can still enter Austria but must pre-register, present a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival (a PCR from within 72 hours of travel, or an antigen from within 48 hours of travel), and they must quarantine for 10 days, according to the Austrian government.
Nonessential travel from the U.S. to Belgium is permitted provided travelers have a valid vaccine certificate, according to the U.S. Embassy in Belgium. Those who are not vaccinated are not permitted to enter Belgium for nonessential travel purposes. Travelers entering Belgium need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form no more than 48 hours before arrival.
On September 1, Bulgaria classified the United States as a “red zone” country, meaning that all travelers arriving from the U.S., regardless of vaccination status, can only enter if they have a valid exception—in short, nonessential travel is out. “The fact that you are vaccinated or have a negative COVID test result is not considered an exception,” reports the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria. Interestingly, though, Bulgaria’s requirements are based on where you are traveling from, not citizenship, so U.S. travelers arriving from “green” or “orange” zone countries may enter Bulgaria.
Leisure travelers can enter Croatia if they present a COVID-19 vaccination certificate (the final dose must have been administered at least 14 days and no more than 270 days prior to arrival); can present a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival or a negative antigen test taken no more than 48 hours before arrival in Croatia; or were diagnosed with and recovered from COVID-19 (there are several very specific requirements for this, so confirm the latest with the Croatian government). Children under 12 are exempt.
The U.S. Embassy in Croatia reminds travelers that they must fill out an arrival form at Enter Croatia before reaching the border.
Cyprus is following a color-coded system for COVID travel requirements. At press time, the United States was classified as red, meaning that travelers from the U.S. to Cyprus must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test procured within 72 hours of departure and complete an online Cyprus Flight Pass form. They will also need to pay 15–19 euros (US$18–$22) for a PCR test that they will take upon arrival in Cyprus; the result will be available within three hours online. Children under 12 are exempt from the testing.
Czech Republic (Czechia)
The Czech Republic now considers the United States a country with very high risk, and as such U.S. travelers must present proof of vaccination or proof of having recovered from COVID-19 within the last 180 days. Those who are unvaccinated will need to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test from within 72 hours of travel or a negative antigen test from within 48 hours of travel to the Czech Republic. They will then be required to take another PCR test five days after arrival and will have to quarantine until a negative result is procured, according to the Czech government.
Vaccinated U.S. travelers are still welcome to enter Denmark, but those who have recovered from COVID-19 now need a “worthy purpose” to enter—such as for work, studies, family, legal, or real estate matters—and unvaccinated U.S. travelers must quarantine after arrival in addition to providing a negative COVID-19 PCR test from within 72 hours of boarding and then getting tested again upon arrival. (They didn’t have to quarantine before.)
Estonia is only welcoming vaccinated U.S. travelers or unvaccinated travelers who are traveling for an essential work, study, or family reason. Travelers arrriving in Estonia must complete an online health declaration, according to the U.S. Embassy in Estonia.
Finland has reopened its borders to leisure travelers who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, including Americans, with the last dose having been administered at least 14 days prior to arrival.
Fully vaccinated U.S. travelers must present their CDC-issued vaccination certificate upon arrival in Finland, after which there will be no mandatory COVID-19 testing or quarantine.
Unvaccinated travelers from the United States are allowed to enter Finland for essential reasons only, according to the U.S. Embassy in Finland. They must also provide a negative COVID-19 test result, furnish proof of recent recovery from COVID-19, or take two COVID-19 tests upon arrival, the embassy advises.
Unvaccinated minors under 18 can enter with vaccinated parents or guardians.
On September 9, France moved the United States from its “green list” to its “orange list” of countries (or “amber list” depending on which section of the French government’s website you are looking at), meaning that unvaccinated U.S. travelers are no longer allowed to travel to France unless they have a pressing or compelling reason, such as being an EU citizen or resident, for an essential work purpose, or for studies.
Vaccinated travelers from the United States can continue to enter France with no additional requirements other than submitting a health declaration form. Americans who have recovered from COVID-19 within the past six months can present a certificate of recovery to enter France.
Unvaccinated minors traveling from the U.S. are allowed to enter France, but those age 12 and older will have to show a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 or 48 hours, respectively, before their flight.
As of July 21, visitors now need a special COVID pass to ride up the Eiffel Tower or visit French museums or movie theaters. To get the COVID pass, people must show they are either fully vaccinated, have a negative virus test, or provide proof they recently recovered from an infection.
Germany is no longer allowing unvaccinated Americans to enter for leisure travel after removing the United States from its list of unrestricted countries. Those arriving from countries that are not on the list must either be vaccinated or be traveling for an essential reason (such as an approved work purpose). For proof of vaccination, it must have been at least 14 days since the last vaccine dose was administered, and travelers must have a physical copy of their vaccine certificate. (A digital photo of a card will not be accepted.)
Travelers from the United States are allowed to enter Greece without having to quarantine if they meet certain conditions, according to the Greek government.
Those who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 at least 14 days prior to arrival do not need to quarantine and are also not required to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test. Those who are not vaccinated will need to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test that was conducted no more than 72 hours before arrival or a negative antigen test conducted no more than 48 hours prior to arrival in Greece. Children under 12 are exempt.
Every traveler must fill out a passenger locator form no more than 24 hours prior to arriving in Greece.
All international arrivals will be subject to random and mandatory health checks in Greece, which can include a rapid COVID-19 antigen test. Those who test positive for COVID will be transported to a quarantine hotel, paid for by the Greek government, where they will take a COVID-19 PCR test to confirm the results. For travelers who test positive again, they will remain in quarantine for at least 10 days, after which they will undergo a new round of testing to determine if they are COVID-free.
Visit Hungary notes that those who have been vaccinated, who have recovered from COVID-19 within the past six months, or who present a negative molecular COVID test from within 72 hours of travel are not subject to travel restrictions in Hungary.
Iceland welcomes vaccinated travelers and those who have recovered from COVID-19 into the country. They will still have to submit a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test result from within 72 hours ahead of arrival. A second test after arrival is recommended but not required. Those who are not vaccinated may travel to Iceland as well, but they will have to submit to a COVID-19 test upon arriving in Iceland, quarantine for five days, and then undergo a second test after the five-day quarantine. Everyone needs to preregister before visiting the country.
Travelers must provide proof that they have been fully vaccinated (so two doses if two doses are required) at least 14 days prior to arrival.
Read more: Iceland Travel Restrictions Continue to Change—Here’s Everything You Need to Know
Travelers from all non-European countries, including the U.K. and the U.S., are allowed to enter Ireland as of July 19 as long as the country is not on the European Union’s “emergency brake” list—countries that have new or renewed restrictions applied to them due to a worsening epidemiological situation.
Travelers arriving from the U.S. must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to bypass otherwise mandatory COVID-19 testing and quarantine. Those without proof of vaccination will need to present evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken within 72 hours before arrival. They will then need to quarantine after arrival and take a second postarrival test.
In Italy, the latest changes have resulted in a new testing requirement for the vaccinated and no access for unvaccinated leisure travelers. Prior to August 31, Americans could enter Italy as long as they were vaccinated, had recovered from COVID, or presented a negative COVID test result. As of August 31, only those who are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID can enter (which means that unvaccinated leisure travelers won’t be allowed to enter), and they will also need to have a negative molecular or antigen COVID test result from within 72 hours of travel.
As of August 6, Italy requires people to have COVID passes to enter gyms, museums, and movie theaters, sit inside restaurants, and access other venues. To be eligible for a pass, individuals must prove they have received at least one vaccine dose in the last nine months, recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months, or tested negative in the previous 48 hours.
After the Netherlands introduced a new 10-day quarantine requirement for vaccinated U.S. travelers on September 4, the government doubled back on its decision and is dropping the mandatory quarantine for vaccinated U.S. travelers effective September 22, 2021. Vaccinated travelers will need to present a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test performed within 24 hours before departure for the Netherlands. Children under 12 are exempt. Unvaccinated travelers are currently prohibited from entering for nonessential or leisure travel purposes.
Fully vaccinated travelers (meaning it has been at least 14 days since their second dose if two doses were required) entering Poland, including those from the U.S., are exempt from an otherwise mandatory 10-day quarantine.
Following the European Council’s decision to remove the U.S. from its safe travel list, Portugal announced that it will remain open to travelers from the United States. U.S. travelers must present a vaccine certificate or a negative PCR or antigen COVID test procured within 72 hours of boarding their flight to enter Portugal. Children under 12 are exempt.
The U.S. Embassy in Portugal reminds travelers that they must complete a Passenger Locator Card within 48 hours of traveling to Portugal and that proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result is now required upon checking in at hotels, resorts, and vacation rental accommodations.
U.S. travelers who want to visit the Portuguese islands of the Azores or Madeira should be aware that they both have their own rules for entry.
International travelers arriving in Romania, including Americans, can skip a 14-day quarantine requirement if they provide proof of vaccination (completed at least 10 days prior to arrival) or proof of recovery from COVID-19, according to the U.S. Embassy in Romania. Children 3 and younger are exempt. Children age 3 to 16 must provide a negative COVID PCR test from within 72 hours of travel.
Spain is no longer allowing unvaccinated Americans to enter for leisure travel after it removed the United States from its list of countries with unrestricted access. Those arriving from countries that are not on the list must either be vaccinated or be traveling for an essential reason (such as an approved work purpose). Travelers to Spain from the U.S. must also fill out an online Health Control Form and present the resulting QR code upon arrival.
After lifting its ban on travel from the United States on June 30, Sweden has reinstated its U.S. travel ban, effective September 6. From June 30 to September 6, U.S. travelers who presented proof of a negative COVID-19 test from within 48 hours prior to arrival could enter Sweden, regardless of vaccination status. Now, only those Americans who are traveling to Sweden for an exempted purpose, such as residents of Sweden or essential workers, will be allowed to enter; they will still need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result upon arrival. Leisure travelers will be turned away at the border.
As of June 28, fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. can enter Switzerland and will not need to quarantine or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result. They will just need to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated.
Unvaccinated travelers will need to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test from within 72 hours of travel or a negative COVID rapid antigen test result from within 48 hours of travel.
Travelers, regardless of vaccination status, will need to fill out an online form before entering Switzerland.
Vaccinated Americans can enter the United Kingdom without a mandatory quarantine, the British government announced on July 28.
Fully vaccinated Americans arriving into the U.K. are required to submit a predeparture negative COVID-19 test taken prior to arrival and will need to take a COVID-19 PCR test on day 2 after arrival. Those vaccinated in the U.S. will also need to provide proof of U.S. residency.
Children age 11 and younger are exempt from the U.K.’s testing requirements for international arrivals.
Everyone entering the United Kingdom from abroad must fill out a passenger locator form before arrival, on which they will provide U.K. border control with their contact details, including their phone number and the address of their U.K. accommodation.
Unvaccinated Americans arriving in the U.K. are required to quarantine for 10 days and take three COVID tests—one within 3 days prior to departure to the U.K. and two (reserved in advance) after arrival, on day 2 and day 8 of the 10-day quarantine.
This article was originally published on May 6, 2020. It has been updated frequently, most recently on September 17, 2021, to include current information.
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Michelle Baran Michelle Baran is the senior travel news editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, pandemic coverage, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.