The news of Europe's earlier-than-expected reopening -- the 27 EU member states added the United States to its safe travel list June 18 -- most of the attention has been about entry requirements in the EU and Schengen countries, and that makes sense, given the pent-up demand caused by the long border closures that have nearly decimated parts of the travel industry on both sides of the pond.
While we wait for country-by-country clarity on the rules and information on how the EU digital passport could facilitate the arrivals process, there are other factors to consider.
Americans should expect and respect Covid restrictions in Europe
Passengers should be aware that some countries require a prearrival entry form that they can fill out online before departure, and they are encouraged to check individual embassy websites for availability and links.
What's being talked about less is what American travelers can expect on the ground in Europe. For one thing, masks are required not only in many indoor venues and on most public transportation, but some countries still require them outside, as well. It's important for travelers to realize and accept that just because restrictions may have been lifted in their home city or state -- or never existed in the first place -- doesn't mean they can flout the rules abroad. In some cases, there are financial penalties for noncompliance.
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In addition, just because a museum or venue is open doesn't necessarily mean you can just walk in. Many museums are requiring timed, advance reservations, and travelers are being urged to book as far in advance as possible. Ditto restaurants, some of which still have capacity restrictions on indoor dining. Fans of nightlife may also encounter curfews.
Finally, as of this writing, you will need a negative Covid test for the return trip home. Currently, the language on the U.S. Embassy websites (each country has its own link) reads: ... all airline passengers to the United States ages 2 years and older must provide a negative Covid-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel. Alternatively, travelers to the U.S. may provide documentation from a licensed health care provider of having recovered from Covid-19 in the 90 days preceding travel.
Here is an up-to-date list of which European countries are open for travel, but since the rules are still in flux, travel advisors are also encouraged to visit the CDC website, Reopen Europe and individual U.S. Embassy and tourist office websites.