Now that most of Europe’s Covid restrictions are gone, what should travelers expect this summer?
For now, Europe is more stable than it’s been in two years, at least when it comes to travel. But it’s still not 2019. If you’re heading to Europe this summer, you should still expect the unexpected — at least, that’s the consensus of tourism officials.
Europe will be busy. The European Travel Commission says despite the pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine, European travel sentiment has reached a new high. Almost 8 in 10 Europeans plan to travel domestically between now and September.
A new survey by Allianz Partners predicts travel to Europe will soar an eye-popping 600% over last year as countries reopen to visitation from the U.S. London, Paris, Dublin, Reykjavik and Rome, are the most popular destinations.
What to expect before you travel to Europe’s most popular destinations
What are the European travel restrictions? Here’s what you should expect if you’re headed across the pond this summer:
You don’t have to complete a U.K. passenger locator form before traveling. Nor do you need to take a Covid-19 test before you travel or after you arrive. And you don’t have to quarantine, according to the British government.
France has lifted its vaccine pass requirements, but you may have to fill out some paperwork before entering the country, according to the French government. You still have to show a travel certificate showing you are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19.
All Covid-19 travel restrictions have been removed. You no longer have to complete a passenger locator form. You also no longer need proof of vaccination or recovery, or a Covid-19 test, according to the Irish government.
“There are no Covid-19 restrictions in Iceland, either domestically or at the border,” according to the Icelandic government. “Iceland welcomes you.”
Starting May 1, travelers must show either a Covid-19 Green Certificate or an equivalent certificate. It must verify your vaccination and booster status or recovery status, or you must pass a rapid antigen test before arriving, according to the Italian government.
Europe travel restrictions: Here’s what it looks like on the ground
Europe looks almost normal now. In some places, it’s impossible to tell there was ever a pandemic.
I’ve been in regular contact with a friend who lives in Venice, Italy. In the last few weeks, I’ve asked him to show me the view from his room while talking to him on WhatsApp. The scene looks like 2019 all over again. There are crowds and not a mask in sight.
I’ve been traveling through Turkey, which straddles Europe and Asia, and I’ve seen the same thing. In late April, Turkey lifted one of its last remaining pandemic restrictions: wearing masks in crowded indoor locations. There’s a sense of joy among the population that the pandemic seems to finally be over.
At Istanbul International Airport, I watched an employee removing stickers on seats that warned people to maintain social distance. Passengers watching her work were applauding her. But masks are still required on flights, and some Turks continue to wear face coverings voluntarily.
Most travelers from the United States with proof of full Covid-19 vaccination can enter Turkey and don’t need a PCR or antigen test, according to Turkish Airlines. You need a valid passport and an electronic visitor visa, valid for 90 days. The airline says travelers must wear masks while using public transportation, during flights, and at the airport.
In hotels, the masks are off for the most part.
At the Izmir Marriott, a full-service hotel overlooking the Aegean port of Izmir, guests and visitors don’t wear face masks anymore. But you may see some employees continuing to mask up.
“Face masks are not required,” explains Sercan Korkusuz, general manager of the property. “But since we’ve had a number of cases in Turkey, we encourage our team to wear masks to prevent any risk, especially in food and beverage areas and kitchens. This is not required by the law. It’s a precaution.”
Further down the coast, at the GAIA Alaçatı Hotel, a boutique property in the ancient city of Alaçatı, there aren’t any masks to be seen, and there’s a more relaxed vibe. Tourism officials here say now that the Turkish government has removed some of the last requirements, they’re expecting one of the busiest summers in years, and maybe ever.
Already, the streets are crowded with visitors from Turkey, France and Russia — the first of what will almost certainly be many more.
In conversations with visitors across Europe about travel restrictions, I’m left with the same impression. Like Alaçatı, most of Europe has quietly undone most of its Covid restrictions. Tourism officials believe that this will be the first “normal” summer since 2019, and so far, it looks as if visitors are returning.
What to expect this summer if you visit Europe
But what will happen with the European travel restrictions when summer begins?
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” says Lysandros Tsilidis, president of the Federation of Hellenic Associations of Tourist and Travel Agencies.
As of May 1, Greece no longer requires vaccination certificates or Covid tests for entry to the country. It’s a relief for many travelers who found the previous regulations difficult to follow.
“Local businesses are eager to welcome visitors, and people are ready to travel,” he adds.
Greece has already seen an influx of visitors coming from Europe and North America, both in Athens and around the country. Tsilidis says Covid is still out there, “and there is still a feeling that you have to be careful.”
Perhaps the bigger questions for visitors to Europe are the other uncertainties this summer.
“Everyone is aware that there’s a war, and there is a question mark around energy supplies,” says Tsilidis. Those issues have a greater potential for derailing a fragile tourism recovery. For now, there is no evidence that they are diminishing the crowds of visitors expected in Greece, Turkey and the rest of Europe this summer.
Tips for visiting Europe in the summer
If you’re thinking of heading to Europe, here are a few strategies for surviving an uncertain summer.
Keep an eye on Europe’s Covid restrictions
They could change at a moment’s notice. Official sources, such as the ones I linked to earlier in this story, are best. But the travel information site Sherpa also does a terrific job aggregating all the travel requirements. Read those within 36 hours before of when you’re supposed to travel.
Think about ground transportation first
Getting to Europe may be the easy part this summer. Getting around will be more difficult. The car rental shortage that plagued tourists last summer is back. Supply chain issues and fleet shortages have made prices unpredictable. Insider tip: Go somewhere where a car is unnecessary.
Consider travel insurance
And not just any insurance, but the “cancel for any reason” variety. It lets you cancel your trip for any reason and get “a refund of 50% to 75% of your prepaid, nonrefundable expenses. If Europe’s travel restrictions tighten again, this is your way out.
For now, it looks like Americans have a green light to travel to Europe this summer. And Europeans are feeling the heavy weight of Covid slowly being lifted. Whether it stays that way remains to be seen.