Restaurants are beginning to open to customers again(edpics/Zoonar/picture alliance)
Restaurants are beginning to open to customers again(edpics/Zoonar/picture alliance)

What are the Covid entry rules for travellers to European countries?

  • As Europe begins to open up, here's a brief recap of what travel restrictions apply within the EU.
By Deutsche Welle, Delhi
UPDATED ON AUG 11, 2021 10:52 AM IST

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.

Summer, sun, surf, sandy beaches, and lots of cultures: 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 pandemic regulations are being relaxed in some countries, others are tightening their entry rules again because of 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 many European countries. 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 travellers 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 colours — 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 travellers 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 centres 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.

Germany

Across Germany, coronavirus infections have 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 10 cases, with higher rates reported in some areas. Politicians are monitoring the situation with caution.

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 countries where certain variants are present 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, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom as high-risk areas, alongside numerous non-European countries such as Egypt, India and South Africa.

Travellers from regions where variants are prevalent must quarantine for 14 days without exception. Brazil and Uruguay are currently categorized as such. Only German nationals and individuals with German residency permits are permitted to enter the country from such 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 feet) from others, and wearing a surgical face mask in enclosed, publicly accessible areas, as well as on public transport.

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 travelling from, there are certain standards to meet.

Fully vaccinated travellers may enter France without restrictions. They must, however, show 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 a green list country — currently all EU countries 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 — currently Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Maldives, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Russia, Seychelles, South Africa, Suriname, Tunisia — 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.

Meanwhile, French public life is gradually returning to a sense of normality — but mainly for people who are vaccinated. The country is reacting to the spread of the delta variant. Since July 21, entry to cultural events and public venues is no longer possible without prior proof of vaccination. From August onward, access to long-distance trains, coaches, restaurants, cafes and shopping centres is only possible with a vaccination certificate or negative PCR or antigen test.

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. 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.

Italy

Incidence rates are rising again in Italy. If you enter the country from an EU state, the Schengen zone, Israel, Canada, Japan or the United States, you won't face any major problems at border controls. 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 EU Digital Covid Certificate is the preferred form of documentation here, as well. Travellers from the United Kingdom, however, have to undergo a 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. Entering and travelling through Italy is prohibited for individuals who in the past 14 days stayed in or transited through Brazil, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Authorities have classified the country itself into four colour-coded zones — white, yellow, orange and 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.

As of August 6, visiting indoor restaurants and bars, sporting events, museums, theatres, swimming pools, gyms, spas, festivals, fairs and amusement parks has been permitted only for those who have received at least one vaccine dose, recovered from Covid-19 or tested negative. Mask-wearing is 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.

Spain

Spain is recording some of the highest cases per capita of all EU countries. Regions such as Madrid, Catalonia and Andalusia are reporting particularly high infection rates. Some countries, such as Germany, therefore require quarantining upon return from Spain.

All travellers must fill in a health form ahead of their trip. Arrivals from high-risk EU/EEA areas such as Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands 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 non-EU third countries may also enter Spain provided that they can show proof of vaccination, recovery from Covid-19 or negative test.

Arrivals from Brazil, South Africa, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Namibia must quarantine for 10 days upon entry.

Most restrictions on ordinary life have been lifted, though regional regulations remain. The Madrid, Catalonia and Andalusia regions have instituted a maximum capacity for many 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 1,5 meters can be maintained.

United Kingdom

Many governments, including Germany's, have designated the UK as a high-risk area, with travel warnings and quarantine measures upon return in place. Coronavirus cases have been falling since late July, yet remain high. 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 the UK or Irish nationals, or hold residency rights in the UK. In this case, they must take a Covid-19 test before arrival, then self-isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel at their own expense, which costs at least £1,750 (€2,000/$2,400).

Fully vaccinated travellers and underage persons from most EU countries and the United States no longer have to go into quarantine after arriving in the UK. As of August 2, only a pre-departure Covid-19 test, and a day two post-arrival follow-up is required. These tests are, however, rather expensive.

The exemption from the quarantine requirement applies to anyone fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to officials. Previously, only people who had been vaccinated in the United Kingdom were exempt from the quarantine rules.

Individuals from amber-listed countries and territories — Belgium, Denmark, France and Greece, among others — are required to take a Covid test before arrival, and two further tests on days two and eight after entry. Travellers 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-19 test, and a follow-up two days after arrival. Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, among other countries, are currently on this list. Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will be added as of August 8.

All travellers 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 delta variant cases, the UK hospitality sector has been allowed to fully reopen, as have cultural venues such as museums and many theatres. 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 residents and visitors alike to act with care and caution.

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 US, UK, Serbia, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, 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 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.)

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

The Greek government has lifted most pandemic restrictions. Entering bars, restaurants, nightclubs and other venues, however, requires showing proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. Masks are mandatory indoors, yet no longer required in uncrowded outdoor spaces. Greece has, however, imposed a nighttime curfew and banned music on two popular tourist islands for a week beginning on August 6, to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The areas affected are the island of Zakynthos in western Greece and the city of Chania on Crete.

Austria

Austria is taking the protection of its borders quite seriously. Anyone entering must present either a negative test or proof of recovery or vaccination. A person is considered vaccinated 22 days after receiving their first dose. Due to the spread of virus variants, nonessential travel from Brazil, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and several other countries remains prohibited.

The seven-day incidence has risen to over 40 in Austria, where more than half of the population is fully vaccinated.

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

Masks are no longer mandatory 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.

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 test result, a 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 and Cyprus must additionally present a negative PCR or antigen test before being granted entry.

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, theatres and other such venues are operating with limited capacity and shorter opening hours.

The overall seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 surpassed 30 in mid-August.

The Netherlands

People arriving from the EU and Schengen countries deemed safe can enter the Netherlands without meeting any special requirements. If travelling by air, individuals must complete a health declaration form.

Arrivals from high-risk EU and Schengen countries must show proof of vaccination, proof of recovery or a negative test result. France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and other countries are currently classified as high-risk.

Persons arriving from safe countries outside the EU and Schengen zone must show proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter.

Arrivals from very-high-risk countries or regions where variants are prevalent are obliged to show a negative Covid-19 test result and quarantine and must have an important reason for travel.

All arrivals are advised to take a Covid-19 test after entering the country.

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 midnight and 6 a.m. Cultural events must have assigned seating, as well, and guests must socially distance themselves. Nightclubs are shut.

These rules are in force until at least August 13.

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

Portugal

Entry to Portugal 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 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.

Curfews have been lifted. Bars, restaurants, shops and cultural venues may operate only at limited capacity.

Masks must be worn on public transport, in shops, supermarkets and other indoor spaces. They are mandatory outdoors when social distancing is not possible. Maintaining social distance is mandatory, including on the beach.

Public transport operates at reduced capacity to avoid overcrowding.

Portugal has seen coronavirus infections slowly taper off. Nevertheless, numbers remain high, with authorities recording a seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 residents of over 150 in mid-August.

Switzerland

Switzerland reopened its hotels, museums, stores, theatres, cinemas, zoos and amusement parks in early June. Since late June, masks must be worn only indoors at events that do not necessitate a certificate, in restaurants, shops and on public transport.

Nightclubs and large-scale events are open to the public, provided that attendees can show a Covid-19 certificate.

Anyone travelling to Switzerland by plane must register electronically. This includes stopovers. 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 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.

Denmark

Denmark classifies countries into green, yellow, orange and red zones, depending on their respective epidemiological situation.

Currently, most EU and Schengen zone countries fall into the green category. Arrivals from these countries can enter Denmark without needing a special reason or having to quarantine on arrival. They must, however, present an EU Digital Covid Certificate to show that they are either fully vaccinated, have been tested or have recovered from Covid-19. Equivalent documentation is accepted also.

Arrivals from non-EU and non-Schengen countries classified by Denmark as yellow, medium-risk areas, do not need a special reason to enter. They must not quarantine upon arrival. A pre-departure test is, however, required, along with a second test no later than 24 hours after the arrival. Fully vaccinated persons with permanent residency in an EU or Schengen country are exempt from testing.

People from orange and red countries need a special reason for entering Denmark and must complete a 10-day mandatory quarantine.

In Denmark, masks are no longer compulsory, the only exceptions being in airports and on public transport. Restaurants and pubs are allowed to stay open until 2 a.m. Shops are open throughout Denmark, and cafes, 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.

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