All you need to know as Europe reopens to U.S. travelers
Europe is slowly reopening to recreational visitors from the United States, provided they have evidence of vaccination or a negative PCR test result, or sometimes both of them. However, with travel restrictions changing so often, travelers must be prepared for a last-minute change of regulations.
Apart from changes in regulations due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, another change, way more stable is in its way – the new EU and Schengen online travel permit – ETIAS.
ETIAS will allow all visa-exempt nationals to continue visiting Europe visa-free. All they will need to do is to apply for their online travel authorization for both the EU and the Schengen Zone.
If you’re planning a vacation to Europe this fall, here’s what you should know:
Europe is “partially open” meaning the multicountry travel is still very difficult and unpredictible.
However, going to Europe this fall will be possible if you follow the news.
On June 5th, 7th, and 9th , Denmark, Spain, and France have opened their borders. Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Sweden have joined a few weeks later. Ireland re-opened on July 19.
Tourists returning to Europe
According to the European Travel Commission, 6.6 million Americans visited Europe in 2020, a huge decrease from the more than 36 million in 2019 and backyard travel or traveling within one’s own country has been the most popular kind of tourism for months.
The U.S. tourists being back to the Continent is no doubt a positive fact for the EU economy.
Each country opens at its own pace
On June 18 2021, the European Union permitted member states to remove restrictions on US visitors.
The EU noted, however, that the finer details, including opening dates and entrance criteria, will be determined on a national level.
Despite this, many of the EU countries, including Greece, Croatia, and Cyprus, as well as other European states not members of the Union, such as Iceland, have already allowed US citizens to travel for tourism.
However, due to a rise in Covid-19 cases, several countries, such as Spain, France, and Greece, have had to halt their plans to open borders to international tourists.
Rules of border passing and safety procedures are constantly changing
Entry restrictions, as well as the wear of masks requirements, curfews, and the need of showing evidence of immunization, vary per country.
For example, Italy recently removed the ten days quarantine rule for vaccinated Americans as well as for those with a negative Covid-19 test or proof of recovery from the virus.
Only passengers coming on coronavirus-tested aircraft are exempt from the above.
Meanwhile, anyone aged 12 and above in possession of a “Digital Green Certificate” is allowed entry to specific businesses and services, including restaurants, clubs, and patisseries with tables indoors, sports events, and museums.
France, similar legislation applies to the tourists and will be extended to those aged 12 and above as of the end of September 2021.
Malta declared that it would no longer recognize CDC immunization cards, but quickly reversed its decision.
To enter the nation, however, Americans must use the VeriFLY app to submit their medical information and papers. The quarantine asked for vaccinated U.S. Citizens is already lifted. The testing requirement though remains in place.
At the same time, the U.S. State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have raised their travel advisories for numerous European countries, including Spain, Portugal, the U.K., and Cyprus, warning visitors to avoid these countries.
Digital resources to keep travelers informed
Check out the European Union’s Re-open EU website and the State Department’s covid-related FAQs prepared by its embassies and consulates for up-to-date information on international travel.
Country and local tourist agencies can be also very helpful in providing useful information.
Travel businesses and groups have developed interactive maps for the whole globe to provide a wider perspective.
Stick to a single destination
Sticking to a single country is a good idea in such unstable times. Experts suggest visiting one state rather than starting on a Grand Tour until tourists can easily transition between countries.
Looking on the bright side: travel and accommodation are cheaper and the tourists’ spots even, believe it or not, Venice, are less crowdy. Independent tourists can also take advantage of the eager-to-work local tour guides for their trips.
Majority of the main attractions have reopened
Commercial, gastronomic, and cultural activity throughout Europe is heating back up now that the lockdowns are mostly in the rearview mirror.
Most attractions, such as landmarks and museums, are open or will return in the next weeks.
Looking at Paris, the Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, and the Picasso and Rodin museums, as well as over a dozen chateaus, including Versailles, are among the more than 50 museums and exhibition sites available.
On July 16, the Eiffel Tower welcomed back visitors.
Many establishments may need reservations and/or have limited hours, so check their websites ahead of time. For example, the Louvre requires “all visitors, even those entitled to free entry, to reserve a time slot.”
The cost of flying can be shockingly low
Prices have been lowered as a result of the constantly changing circumstances.
Fares are comparable to those in 2019 and even cheaper in certain cities. However, when a state announces its reopening date, flight searches increase.
Instead of boosting rates, airlines react by increasing capacity and flights. There are even more inexpensive flights than there were before the pandemic, as airlines are still eager for transatlantic customers.
Granted, not all tickets are cheap
No matter what, demand for last-minute summer flights to Europe will always be strong. Therefore, be patient and often check the prices to get a decent deal. Most airlines will allow you to rebook your ticket without additional charge and you will have to pay only the difference in price in case a country closes its borders.
The airline will also give you a credit if the original price is higher.
If a country allows foreign aircraft to land, you may alternatively retain the flight and utilize the original destination as a transit stop.
Hotel prices reduced as is the availability…
Pricing for services like hotels, transportation, and restaurants has remained relatively stable since the outbreak.
In fact, there was a drop in average daily hotel rates in many locations during certain summer months, such as July in Athens and Mykonos, Greece, July through September in Reykjavik, Iceland, late summer in Madrid, and July in Paris.
The hotel prices averaged $137 per night in May 2019, while the occupancy rate was 75%. Two years after, the percentages had fallen to 32% and prices to $104, respectively. Rates were approximately $30 lower in the first half of June 2020 compared to the same time in 2019.
While low prices may be abundant, rooms may be scarce due to a combination of factors such as decreased occupancy, pent-up demand, and restricted travel choices.
Some locations, such as smaller towns in Scotland or Iceland, are running out of capacity for the remainder of the season – due to local travel as well.
A great chance to experience Europe without the crowds
As tourism isn’t anticipated to pick up until 2022, visitors will have a rare chance to see Europe without the usual crowds. The number of visitors from the United States is yet insignificant. Others, such as tourists from Brazil, South Africa, and India, who are on the list of high-risk nations, may also opt out this season.
Although Venice is gaining popularity again the scope of visiting is still far from the one seen in 2019. An incredibly calm atmosphere can be experienced in Spain too, with no queues or crowds. You can enjoy a flamenco performance in Granada without the arena bursting at all seams.
How dependent is the EU on American tourism?
Europe is the most popular tourist destination for U.S. tourists. For the first half of 2021, the lack of American visitors has lost the European business billions of euros.
France, Italy, Germany, and Spain are among the countries that depend most on American tourists. Europe is the most popular tourist destination in the world, generating 10% of EU GDP and employing 26 million people.
To put it in context, Americans accounted for roughly 18 million of the 538 million travelers who arrived in the United States in 2017.
In 2016, Americans accounted for more than half of all hotels’ stays in Europe.