Travel to Europe during omicron: What to know about France, Italy and more


The omicron variant came as a hard hit to the European travel industry, which had just begun to recover from the pandemic. However, leaders in the industry are confident that Europe will again be able to offer a safe experience for travelers.

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“We have clear rules — people, hotels and restaurants are clearly complying in order for you as an American to not only have the best experience, but the safest one,” said Luís Araújo, the president of the European Travel Commission and Tourism ​​Portugal.

One of the biggest recent changes in European travel restrictions, Araújo said, has been the reduction or elimination of quarantine mandates for vaccinated travelers.

Sean Tipton, a spokesperson for ABTA, an association of ​​British travel agents, hopes travel will soon return to pre-pandemic levels.

“We certainly see light at the end of the tunnel now,” Tipton said.

So how safe is it to travel to Europe, and what kinds of restrictions will Americans encounter? Entry requirements can vary widely, from what type of mask to wear on the flight to vaccination proof. We looked at how five major European destinations are handling travel right now to find out.

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France has tightened restrictions for tourists and residents in response to the latest variant. About 75.7 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and as of Jan. 17, the country reported about 282,358 new coronavirus cases per day in the past week.

Entry requirements: Fully vaccinated Americans need to show proof of vaccination, a negative test result from within the past 48 hours, and a signed declaration stating that they do not have symptoms of covid-19. Children under 12 are exempt from testing.

Because France put the United States on its “red list,” unvaccinated travelers may only enter the country for “pressing” reasons. Unvaccinated people must show proof of a negative test taken 48 hours before departure, take a test once they arrive and then quarantine for 10 days at a location disclosed to the French government.

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Restrictions once you’re there: To access most services and businesses in France — including restaurants, museums, concert halls, trains, domestic flights, shopping malls and tourist attractions — people over the age of 12 are required to show a pass sanitaire (health pass).

While some tourist attractions may allow Americans to show the CDC vaccination card for entry, it is generally not accepted. However, you can apply for a French health pass at a designated pharmacy; it costs about $41.

Unvaccinated people can obtain a 24-hour health pass with proof of a negative coronavirus test. However, the French Parliament recently approved plans for health pass legislation that, if passed by the Senate and the National Assembly, would require all people over 16 to be vaccinated to receive a health pass.

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Starting Jan. 15, adults who received their last vaccination dose more than seven months ago, or people vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago, must have a booster shot to obtain a health pass.

Regions of France recently instituted outdoor mask mandates, including in Paris, where everyone 11 years old and up must wear a mask (with some exceptions allowed, including exercise).

In Spain, 81.1 percent of the population is completely vaccinated. The daily average of new coronavirus cases in the past week as of Jan. 17 was more than 138,172.

Entry requirements: Only vaccinated Americans can enter Spain for nonessential purposes. Starting Feb. 1, a booster will be required if your last vaccination was more than 270 days before arrival.

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Americans will need to download a QR code through the Spain Travel Health portal to prove their vaccination status before arrival. If travelers arrive by air or sea, Spanish border agents will take their temperature and do a visual assessment of their health.

Spain is not mandating a quarantine for anyone entering the country. However, if border authorities suspect travelers of having the coronavirus because of an elevated temperature or visible symptoms, they can require those individuals to take a test.

Restrictions once you’re there: Once in Spain, make sure to check the regional restrictions in the areas you’re looking to visit.

The most common restrictions in Spain include masking in public spaces including outdoors, limited capacity in indoor businesses and restaurants, and proof of vaccination to enter restaurants and other public services.

Of these five European countries, Germany has the lowest rates of new cases, with a daily average of 76,257 new cases in the past week as of Jan. 17, but that number has been skyrocketing. About 72.8 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.

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Entry requirements: Travelers coming from the United States, or who have been in the United States within the past 10 days, must provide proof they are fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated children under 12 are allowed to visit Germany as long as they are with at least one fully vaccinated parent.

Restrictions once you are there: Within Germany, there are tight restrictions in many regions, allowing only vaccinated or recovered people to enter nonessential businesses and services. Check requirements of the regions you plan to visit because restrictions may change based on the hospitalization rate.

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Germany has a widely used open-source app for tracking transmission and cases. The free Corona-Warn-App lets people know anonymously and quickly if they have been near someone infected with the coronavirus.

About 75.3 percent of Italians are fully vaccinated, with an average of 176,565 new cases per day in the past week emerging across the country.

The United States is categorized as a “List D” country by the Italian government, which means American travelers have to meet several requirements to enter the country.

Entry requirements: Anyone flying to Italy needs to wear an FFP2 mask, not a surgical or cloth mask. Upon arrival, Americans have to fill out a passenger locator form, provide proof of a negative molecular coronavirus test from the past 72 hours or a negative antigen test from within the past 24 hours, and proof of full vaccination or recovery from the coronavirus.

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Children under 6 years old don’t have to take pre-departure tests or prove their vaccination status, as long as they are with a vaccinated parent. Kids over 6 have to take a test, but they don’t have to quarantine unless their parent needs to.

Restrictions once you’re there: Be prepared to wear an FFP2 mask while riding public transportation and in performance venues, whether indoors or outdoors.

Italy uses a “Green Pass” as a vaccination card, but U.S. vaccination cards and documents proving recovery are widely recognized as an equivalent. You will need to carry this documentation for most public attractions and restaurants, as well as for riding local transportation.

The United Kingdom, which has about 71.8 percent of its population fully vaccinated, is experiencing a precipitous drop in coronavirus cases. As of Jan. 17, the country reported about 98,299 new coronavirus cases per day in the past week. There are currently no countries on the United Kingdom’s “red list” for coronavirus.

Entry requirements: Before leaving for the United Kingdom, all travelers need to book a coronavirus test (lateral flow or a PCR) for two days after they arrive in the country. They’ll also need to fill out a passenger locator form.

To avoid quarantine, Americans over 18 years old will need to prove on arrival that they have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks before landing.

Unvaccinated people are required to quarantine for 10 days, and take a test on day two and day eight. If either are positive, they must continue to isolate. If the tests are negative, the traveler may end their isolation on day 10 or the day they receive their second test result, whichever comes later.

In Northern Ireland, nightclubs and large events are currently closed, but pubs, restaurants and theaters there are also under vaccine restrictions. Those who aren’t fully vaccinated will need to show evidence of a negative lateral flow test from the past 48 hours or a positive PCR test between 30 to180 days old.


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