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

  • Many countries have eased restrictions on everyday life, making tourism possible again this autumn. DW Travel offers a brief recap of what rules apply in the EU.
What are the Covid entry rules for travellers to European countries?(Maja Hitij/Getty/Images)
What are the Covid entry rules for travellers to European countries?(Maja Hitij/Getty/Images)
Published on Oct 26, 2021 08:35 AM IST
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ByDeutsche Welle, Delhi

Across Europe, many countries have lifted lockdowns and eased travel and entry requirements. But as pandemic regulations are being relaxed in some countries, others are tightening their entry rules again because of the surge of the delta variant and a rise in case numbers.

The situation in each country can change daily, meaning tourists, tour operators, hotels and restaurateurs must remain highly flexible.

Tourists from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Singapore, among others, can currently travel to many European countries. For several months US citizens were able to travel to Europe, but many countries reimposed strict entry rules in September. US authorities, meanwhile, announced that fully vaccinated visitors from the EU and UK will be permitted back into the country from November. Meanwhile, the UK announced that fully vaccinated tourists not on its red list could enter without needing to quarantine.

Tourism in Europe is picking up again — albeit under somewhat strict rules in certain cases. 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. It serves as a reference 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

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 dangerous virus variant regions must meet additional criteria. Before setting off, individuals must register digitally. Arrivals from high-risk areas without proof of full vaccination or recovery must quarantine for 10 days. They may cease self-isolating if they can produce a negative test result on the fifth day. Germany does not currently consider any regions dangerous virus areas, although several fall under the high risk category, including the United Kingdom and parts of Ireland, Romania, Lithuania, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine. New additions include the European countries of Bulgaria and Croatia, as well as Cameroon and the Republic of Congo in Africa, and Singapore in Asia.

Honduras, Iraq, Kenya and Kosovo have been removed from the list of high-risk areas (as of October 25).

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? Fully vaccinated travellers may enter France without restrictions. They must, however, produce 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 green list countries — currently all EU states alongside Andorra, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and others — must present a negative PCR or antigen test, or proof of recovery from Covid-19.

Unvaccinated individuals from orange list countries such as the USA, and red list countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and South Africa — may enter France only for important purposes. They must take further Covid-19 tests and quarantine for 10 days, or 7 days if on the orange list.

For detailed information on entry requirements, consult the French Foreign Ministry website.

French public life is gradually returning to normal. Entry to cultural events, public venues, bars, restaurants, malls, hospitals and other places, however, is possible only for those in possession of a Pass Sanitaire, a certificate showing you are either vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19. It is required also for long-distance flights, train and bus journeys.

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.

Hygiene and social distancing rules remain in place. France's night-time curfew was lifted on June 20. Covering one's mouth and nose, however, is still obligatory in enclosed public places, and when traveling on public transport. Some areas of the country are showing higher incidence rates than others and have been classified by the French government as "red zones."

Italy

Coronavirus infection rates have stabilized in the popular European tourist destination. Even so, Italy has extended its Covid-19 state of emergency until December.

Arrivals from the EU or Schengen zone 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.

For everyone else, there is a complicated system consisting of five different levels, which comes with various testing and quarantining obligations. Individuals from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka may enter Italy only for essential, non-tourist reasons.

Authorities have classified the country itself into four color-coded zones — white, yellow, orange and red — in accordance with the local coronavirus infection risk. Currently, all regions of Italy apart from Sicily fall into the white, low-risk zone, where people can move freely.

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 been vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 or tested negative. This rule also applies to domestic flights, train journey and sea travel.

Some beaches in Italy may require prior booking, and some municipalities might issue their own rules and limitations if they experience a spike in cases.

Mask-wearing remains 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

In line with falling infection rates, curfews have been lifted across the country, though some regions still limit social gatherings. Rules differ across Spain and remain in flux.

All travellers to Spain must fill in a health form ahead of their trip. Many EU/EEA countries — such as France, Germany and Sweden — are currently deemed by Spain to pose an infection risk. Arrivals from these areas must show either a certificate of full vaccination, proof of recovery from Covid-19, or negative PCR or antigen test.

Different regions have instituted a maximum capacity for many venues and establishments. 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 meter can be maintained.

United Kingdom

UK coronavirus cases have remained consistently high since late June. Most of the recent infections have been attributed to the more contagious delta variant.

The four nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have overhauled and simplified their travel rules. A single red list now designates 54 countries and territories deemed an infection risk. UK authorities will, however, reduce this list to just seven Latin American destinations from October 11.

Fully vaccinated arrivals from countries not on the red list can enter without needing to quarantine. From October 24, inoculated persons will be permitted to take a more affordable rapid antigenic test on or before day 2 of their arrival into the UK. Anyone who tests positive must complete a second PCR test, free of charge.

All arrivals must still fill out a passenger locator form.

Only British or Irish citizens, and individuals with UK residency rights, are permitted to enter from red list countries. These currently include Colombia, Panama, Venezuela and others.

Even fully vaccinated arrivals from such countries must take a Covid-19 test prior to arrival, then self-isolate in a UK quarantine hotel at their own expense, and take two post-arrival Covid-19 tests.

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.

Greece

Greece has opened its borders for many travellers in hopes of boosting its economy. Residents of the European Union and Schengen Area countries, the UK, US and others may visit Greece for tourism purposes. They must show either proof of vaccination, a negative test result, or recovery from Covid-19 to enter. Travelers from all other destinations may visit only for important 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 the inability to enter the country and a fine. 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.

Entering bars, restaurants and cultural venues and nightclubs requires showing proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. In the gastronomy sector, a negative test is not sufficient for entry to bars, cafes and restaurants. Masks are mandatory indoors and social distancing rules also remain in place.

Under Greek law, local municipalities are allowed to introduce mini-lockdowns with short notice if infection numbers rise rapidly, which chiefly means introducing night-time curfews and banning music.

Austria

Austria is taking the protection of its borders quite seriously. Anyone entering must present either a negative test, proof of recovery or vaccination. Due to the spread of virus variants, nonessential travel from Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Suriname remains prohibited.

Although over 60 per cent of the population is now fully vaccinated, Austria has seen infections rise since late June.

Unvaccinated people are obliged to wear FFP2 masks to enter pharmacies, banks, gas stations, nursing homes and cultural venues. Those who are inoculated must don FFP2 masks only in shops. To attend events and gatherings of 25 people and more, individuals must now show proof of either vaccination, past infection, or negative test.

Restaurants, hotels, cultural venues and sports facilities are open. As of October the "3-G" rule will apply, whereby guests will have to register and provide proof of their low epidemiological risk, either by being fully vaccinated, tested or having recovered. Access to nightclubs is granted only to persons who have been vaccinated, recovered or can show a negative PCR test result.

Strict rules will come into effect for the next ski season. Winter sports enthusiasts will have to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test result to use cable cars, gondola lifts and access ski cabins. FFP2 masks must be worn when using these modes of transport.

Croatia

The popular travel destination is currently considered a high-risk area (as of 25.10.2021). Arrivals from the EU and Schengen zone must present the EU Digital Covid Certificate to enter Croatia. Alternatively, they may produce a negative PCR or 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.

Children under the age of twelve traveling with a parent or guardian are also exempt from presenting a negative test result or self-isolation if the parent or guardian can present the EU Digital Covid Certificate.

Upon entry, travellers must register their contact details and where they will be staying for the duration of their stay Croatia. The Croatian Ministry of the Interior recommends that the contact and residence data be submitted online in advance to avoid wait times up on entry.

The same rules apply to arrivals from elsewhere. Arrivals from the UK, Russia, India and Cyprus, however, 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. There is also a ban on the sale of alcohol at night and limits on the number of people permitted on Croatia's famous beaches.

The Netherlands

After witnessing a spike in case numbers in the summer, infections fell drastically and stabilized since August. As of October 25, around 67 per cent of the population in vaccinated.

The Netherlands considers most EU and Schengen states high-risk regions and therefore requires arrivals from there to show proof of vaccination, proof of recovery or a negative test result to be granted entry. The Czech Republic, Poland and Malta, meanwhile, are classified as low-risk areas. Individuals from these countries can enter without meeting any special requirements.

Persons arriving from "safe" countries outside the EU and Schengen zone, such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand, must show proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter the Netherlands.

Those from high-risk and very high-risk areas outside the EU and Schengen zone face far stricter entry requirements. Currently, the United Kingdom is deemed a very high-risk area. Individuals from the UK must quarantine on arrival, even when vaccinated, and show a negative Covid-19 test result.

As of September 25, admission to all bars, restaurants, sports and cultural events — whether indoors or outdoors — requires proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test result. Social distancing rules will be scrapped, meaning that bars and restaurants can again operate at full capacity. All hospitality venues must still, however, close between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. Nightclubs remain shut for now.

Masks remain mandatory on public transport and other passenger transport and at airports.

Portugal

Entry 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 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.

The situation in Portugal has improved, with the number of infections falling since late July. Businesses may open and close as they please, though bars, restaurants, shop and cultural venues operate at reduced capacity. Masks must be worn when using public transport, indoors and outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained. A vaccination certificate or negative test must be presented to visit the indoor areas of many facilities.

Switzerland

Anyone traveling to Switzerland must register electronically. This includes people on plane journeys that only stop over in Zurich or any other airport. Anyone arriving in the country — whether by air, road or rail — must show a negative PCR or antigen test if they have neither received a full vaccination, nor recovered from Covid-19. In these cases, a second test four to seven days after arrival is mandatory as well.

To dine indoors, and attend indoor culture and leisure facilities, visitors must show a valid Covid certificate proving that they are either fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid. The same holds true for large-scale events and nightclubs The EU certificate is recognized.

Denmark

Denmark lifted all domestic restrictions on September 10. Proof of vaccination is no longer required to visit restaurants, sports centres and hairdressers. Nor is the "Corona Pass" needed for entering nightclubs or attending large events. There are no restrictions on the number of people who can gather.

Due to the high vaccination rate, 77 per cent of the population as of October 25, the epidemic is under control and now no longer considered a threat to society, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke explained. However, the epidemic is not yet completely over, and his government will act quickly if it again threatens "essential areas" of social coexistence, he further stated.

The country began to gradually ease its restrictions again following the introduction of the Covid passport in April, and now there is no longer a mask mandate. But authorities still recommend socially distancing.

Effective immediately (October 25, 2021), the country will cease its Covid-19-related border controls. Those who have not been vaccinated or recovered will won’t need to be tested for stays of less than 24 hours after entry. In Denmark itself, everyone can move freely. However, random checks may be made at the borders, so you should have your passport or ID card handy.

Czech Republic

The completion of a digital entry form is mandatory for everyone upon arrival to the Czech Republic. Arrivals from the EU must neither quarantine on arrival, nor get tested before or after arrival if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 in the past 180 days. Unvaccinated travellers are obliged to undergo tests to determine the presence of SARS-CoV-2 and eventually undergo self-isolation according to the colour of the country they hail from and how it falls into the traffic light system, ranging from green to very dark red (high risk). As of October 18, Finland, Luxembourg and Hungary moved to the red category, while the orange category expanded to include Poland and Switzerland.

Entry is not possible from countries deemed by the Czech Republic to pose an extreme risk of Covid-19 infection. Exceptions are only granted to Czech citizens, Czech residents, foreigners with long-term residency permits and diplomats.

The Czech capital Prague, meanwhile, is trying hard to woo tourists. With its "In Prague like at home" program, the city aims to lure visitors back to the city with lots of freebies: Overnight guests receive free tickets to museums, monuments, galleries, or to the zoological gardens.

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