September 22, 2021

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Just Do Travel

E.U. Travel Restrictions: What U.S. Travelers Should Know

4 min read

On Monday, the European Union removed the United States from its “safe list” of countries whose residents can travel to its 27 member states without requirements such as quarantine and testing. This generated confusion, with some people writing on social media that Americans have been banned from visiting Europe. That’s not actually what the recommendation means.

Americans have not been explicitly prohibited from going anywhere in Europe. But as of Tuesday, at least one country had put new restrictions on travelers depending on their vaccination status: Italy said it would require unvaccinated travelers to quarantine for five days; vaccinated travelers must take a test for the coronavirus before entering. Here’s a look at what the new developments mean for vaccinated and unvaccinated people:

Since June, the United States has been on the European Union’s safe list for travel, which cleared the way for American travelers to visit many E.U. member countries without quarantining. In addition to taking the United States off the safe list on Monday, the European Council, the European Union’s governing body, released a recommendation urging member countries to issue travel restrictions for visitors from the United States who are unvaccinated against the coronavirus. The European Union is encouraging authorities across Europe to reinstate the sort of mandatory quarantine and testing requirements that seemed to be on their way out, though primarily for unvaccinated travelers.

Ultimately it’s up to a given country to decide if it wants to issue new requirements, however.

The first notable changes were announced Tuesday, by Italy. Even if visitors are vaccinated, they must now obtain a negative coronavirus test 72 hours before arrival. Previously, some airlines, such as Delta Air Lines, required this, but the Italian government did not.

In general, though, if you are fully vaccinated with an E.U.-approved vaccine, which include those manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, the requirements you face entering an E.U. country are unlikely to change significantly. Many member states have already been urging travelers to bring proof of vaccination and waiving quarantine requirements for those who can show proof of vaccination.

Countries beyond Italy could decide to add new restrictions, but it’s unclear how many will. Still, you’d be wise to have your Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine record card handy no matter where you are headed.

Under Italy’s newly announced policy, unvaccinated American travelers will now have to “self-isolate” for five days upon arrival in the country according to the Italian National Tourist Board.

Previously, unvaccinated visitors from the United States needed to take a coronavirus test 48 hours before touching down in Italy, but they did not have to quarantine.

As of Tuesday afternoon, it was not yet clear how the new recommendation would change travel beyond Italy.

Tom Milanovic, a marketing manager for the Spanish tourism authority, said that many worried people had called him on Monday, wondering if they had to cancel upcoming trips. But so far, the European Union’s recommendation has not altered Spain’s requirements even for unvaccinated travelers, he said.

“Any U.S. citizen regardless of their status is still good to go,” he said, adding that the country issues new guidelines each week. The current guidelines, which hold until Sept. 5, continue to categorize the United States as “low risk,” meaning Americans don’t have to show a negative antigen test before flying to Spain.

Tourism authorities from several other countries said that they were not at liberty to discuss the new requirements, but as far as they were aware, the European Union’s recommendation did not change anything immediately.

No, but it underscores how quickly rules and regulations continue to change. Unvaccinated travelers should be prepared to keep hitting refresh on the entry requirements for their chosen location until the moment they set out to the airport. It’s also worth remembering that long before this recommendation, some countries were already requiring unvaccinated travelers to quarantine.

If children are too young to get vaccinated, then the new recommendation does not affect them, a European Union official said.

The new recommendation makes an exception for essential travel.

No, this does not change anything yet. There is no guarantee that the person sitting next to you on your flight has been vaccinated.

You can certainly try.

Kate Kilcoyne, a travel adviser for All-Travel, a Los Angeles-based travel agency, said that it’s too soon to know how airlines and cruises will respond to this new development, but her clients have generally had more success receiving credits rather than cash refunds when canceling their travel plans.

Tammy O’Hara, a travel agent for Million Miles Travel Agency, a boutique company based in New York, echoed this point. Most hotels, she has found, are more willing than airlines to offer full refunds, she added.

Standard travel insurance may not be all that helpful, said Svetlana Stein, the president of L&B Travel, L.L.C., an agency in Los Angeles.

“Covid-19 is now considered a foreseen situation and is often not accepted as a covered reason for cancellation,” she said. Ms. Stein urged travelers to buy insurance that offers a “cancel for any reason” feature for this reason.