Just because America has lifted its global travel warning–and lowered most of the EU to a Level 3 “Reconsider Travel”, does not mean Europe has its arms wide open to Americans.
Dozens of travelers are writing to me asking me about using the U.K. – or other non-EU European countries – as a way to land on the continent. In Britain’s case, after the strict two week home-quarantine period, sure.
Even thinking of this avenue is a minefield, laden with pitfalls. Here’s why:
EU Countries Stick To Travel Ban On U.S.
- Portugal as for Spain and Greece are among those who make it explicitly clear on government and national tourism websites that U.K. travel corridor countries can’t be used as a way into the EU for banned nationalities. In line with official recommendations from Brussels, they authorise entry for citizens from 10 overseas countries only.
- It would be odd for EU members to snub the travel restrictions and be the bad boys of Europe, after agreeing to them in meetings in Brussels.
- The EU travel ban is based on your country of residency, not where you’ve been in the past 14 day. Most countries too appear to adhere to that principle.
- “Proof of residency will be required,” warn Greek authorities. Dutch and Danish governments are among those who clearly say border requirements are based on nationality, and that American tourists are not allowed entry from any country. Germany and France too only allow entry from Americans who fall within fairly EU-wide exceptions for citizens, residents, spouses etc–with a negative Covid test in hand or on arrival. Though both are also making exemptions for binational couples and skilled workers.
- While there clearly have been some loopholes–tales of Americans arriving in Spain by train from the U.K. or Ireland (and flouting quarantine rules)–countries are cracking down on restrictions, as Covid makes a comeback. In any case, it’s not recommended as a way of hassle-free, or zen travel.
UK: Back To Quarantine For EU High-Risk Countries
More are on the cards. So if Brits can’t even use the safe travel corridors, you’re hardly going to be able to as an American.
- Despite Politico’s claims that American travelers are getting into Europe due to the “continent’s weak quarantine enforcement rules and diverging national policies,” I warn against such misconceptions. The story says Spanish officials treated one man who flew from London to Barcelona as “just another visitor from the U.K.”
- I have heard of far many more travelers who tried to do so getting turned back–or were not even allowed to board. Even those with legitimate essential travel reasons or waivers have sometimes had to battle airlines and immigration officials.
- So the idea of American tourists being able to “evade restrictions” en masse is misleading. It may have happened, on rare occasions, but it’s extremely unwise. And truly, is it a gamble you are willing to take at such a potentially big price?
- The Local writes of the “costly gamble” of trying to travel to Italy as a banned American. Even as an ostensibly exempt spouse of an Italian citizen, one traveler was refused boarding.
- The Italian Foreign Affairs ministry makes it clear that other than for pressing work, study and family reasons, “travel for tourism is not allowed.” Tour guides in Italy are not out of business for nothing. “The only demand from American clients we have is from those already in Europe,” says Megan Todd at Context Travel.
Only Exception To The Rule
- The only major exception I am aware of is Croatia–a Schengen, not EU member. Of the 30 so-called EU+ countries, with the travel ban in place since March, it alone is welcoming Americans openly. But you must follow a strict procedure including Covid tests.
- Let’s take Switzerland–another Schengen not EU member– as another example. Following the EU recommendations, it too is only open to a select group of foreigners. As the U.S. Embassy states clearly: “Third country nationals who do not have rights of free movement and do not hold a valid permit allowing them to live or work in Switzerland will be refused entry.” Americans on “essential travel” trips–from work to couple and family reunions–must quarantine for 10 days.
The EU Safe List of Countries Is Shrinking, Not Growing
- Currently the list stands at 10 after both Morocco and Algeria were removed. It is due to be updated later this week after another fortnightly review.
- Some EU and Schengen members have not even reopened borders to all 10 overseas countries.
- With the U.S. new case rate per 100,000 people at 144–things are not looking favourable for now. Yet Spain in past weeks has soared to similar levels (132), and Covid’s grip in France, Belgium, Sweden, Netherlands and Luxembourg has tightened.
- Essential travelers can expect more testing and quarantine rules on arrival. Plus mandatory masks indoors and out, from Paris to Barcelona.
Expanding List Of Exemptions For A Few Americans
- There are a growing number of exemptions being offered to certain categories of travelers including couples, family members and highly-skilled workers. Some EU governments are moving them from the non-essential travel category to essential, as Brussels encourages them to do. Italy notably is yet to join those opening borders for love.
- In Portugal, U.S. citizens traveling for work, study, or compelling family, health and humanitarian reasons get a waiver–so there is a fair amount of scope for travel. But not for tourism, and only with all the required paperwork filled out. The checks are in place.
- In Spain, the U.S. Embassy forewarns those who think that loopholes abound of the consequences: “Are U.S. citizens permitted to enter? No, only in some limited circumstances … If you travel to Spain and are not admitted, you will be placed in immigration detention for up to several days, until a flight on the same airline becomes available to take you back to your point of origin.”
Other Valid Avenues
- The State Department’s Level 3 advisory now applies to nearly all of Europe: close to 40 countries, Eastern, Western and Central, with the big exception being Russia.
- Outside of the EU, other European countries are open to Americans, such as Serbia and Albania (recent Covid flare ups are improving in both).
Forget The EU Loopholes
I would not encourage anyone to hunt for travel loopholes to Europe, if coming from a high-risk country. Use valid and reliable avenues open to you, yes. I am not a vigilante. Now with some of the EU re-zoned as high-risk, and the travel map on the continent shrinking again, to try to enter from the U.K. seems to me like a game of Russian Roulette.
The changeability of Covid travel has not diminished with Europe’s open borders. If anything, it’s increased.