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The E.U.’s safe list update does not mean you can’t go to Europe

You’ve no doubt heard that the European Union removed the U.S. from its safe list of countries where COVID-19 case counts are lower than 75 per 100,000 people. What you might have had a more difficult time figuring out is what exactly that means for travel to Europe.

First, the E.U.’s recommendation is just that, a recommendation. It is not binding, and the 27 countries that are E.U. members are free to set their own protocols for entry. That does not mean there haven’t been changes, however. Bulgaria has announced it will bar American leisure travelers. The Netherlands has added the U.S. to its list of very high risk countries, meaning a mandatory 10-day quarantine is in effect even if you are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. A negative test can shorten that to five days, and a negative test is required to enter the country. Sweden has also paused non-essential travel for Americans regardless of vaccination status.

Visitors to Italy now need a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours before arrival in addition to proof of vaccination to avoid a five-day quarantine. That means unvaccinated travelers must quarantine. A vaccination card from the CDC is sufficient to enter the country and to use as a Green Pass for museums, restaurants and attractions that require one. Spain will require American visitors to present proof of complete vaccination, certificate of recovery in the last 180 days or a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the country. PCR tests must have been taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival, while antigen tests can be no more than 48 hours old. 

Ireland’s government has clarified that it will not change its protocols, which allow fully vaccinated Americans to enter the republic without testing or quarantine. Unvaccinated travelers are subject to testing and quarantine. Croatia will not change either. Americans traveling there need either proof of vaccination, proof of recovery from infection or a negative test taken within 72 hours before arrival. 

Portugal announced it will not change protocols just yet. “Portugal has confirmed that discretionary, non-essential travel is still allowed, provided visitors present a negative COVID-19 test result at boarding and entry into the country,” a statement from Visit Portugal said. The test needs to be taken within 72 hours before arrival.

Other E.U. members have not made any announcements, which is indication that their previous requirements remain in place. Most began allowing leisure travel in or soon after June, when the E.U. put the U.S. on its safe list. Others, such as Croatia, never banned non-essential travel. The safe list is reviewed every two weeks and recommendations to add or remove countries can be made at that time, so should case counts fall in the U.S. it could get back on the list. 

The E.U. recommendation notably no longer covers the U.K., which formally left the E.U. this year. The U.S. remains on the U.K.’s amber list, meaning fully vaccinated Americans can avoid quarantine but must have a negative test to enter the U.K. and another on Day 2 after arrival. 

Some tour operators, such as Tauck and several cruise lines, have made full vaccination a requirement of travel with them. While not all countries or companies require it, being fully vaccinated opens more doors to travelers. 

You can still go to Europe. As always, consult with your travel advisor about protocols for your particular destination before travel.

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