When Europe began to reopen in May, a vacation to the continent became more promising than ever for vaccinated Americans. But as delta surged this summer, restrictions took hold again, and things became complicated. Mask mandates were reinstated, and vaccination proof became a must for many sights, restaurants and events.

Now, the EU has issued new guidance for its 27 member bloc regarding restrictions on unvaccinated American travelers.

Here’s what we can tell you about travel to Europe right now.

Q: Who can go to Europe?

A: Americans can currently go to some European countries (EU member states and otherwise) by providing an approved negative coronavirus test result, vaccination status and/or quarantining on arrival.

Under a plan announced in May to accept American travelers, anyone who has been fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved for use by the European Union – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson – for at least two weeks may travel to the bloc. Additionally, individual EU member states may accept other World Health Organization-approved options, such as China’s Sinopharm vaccine.

Q: Where in Europe can I go?

The list of European countries open to Americans is changing quickly. Many countries such as Spain, Italy, France, Spain, Greece and Croatia are welcoming vaccinated Americans.

Q: Do I need a vaccine passport?

A: Yes. The European Union has launched its digital certificate system (a.k.a. a vaccine passport system) for EU residents (as well as those of Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) to travel unrestricted within Europe. The goal will be for Americans and other visitors traveling to the EU bloc to eventually connect to the new system, in which they will have to provide proof of vaccination, evidence of a recent recovery from covid-19 or a negative test result to avoid quarantine requirements.

Additional vaccine passports are in the works beyond the EU’s system. Arie Litovsky, co-founder and chief technology officer of the travel app Airheart, says each airline has partnered with a different company to develop technology to verify your vaccination status.

Randle Roper, co-founder and CEO of the LGBTQ travel company Vacaya, doesn’t predict there will ever be one universally accepted vaccine passport, “so it’s important for all travelers to be aware of each country’s requirements and then simply follow those protocols,” he said in an email. “Flexibility and a kind spirit are compulsory.”

Even if you download all the vaccine passports you need, you will also want to have your original vaccination card on hand. Rani Cheema, chief executive and travel curator at Cheema’s Travel, urges travelers not to laminate their original vaccination cards. She recommends that travelers put it in a protective sleeve and tape it to the inner back of their passport. Don’t forget to have a photo on your phone, as well as a physical copy of it for additional safekeeping.

Q: What if I am unvaccinated?

A: EU officials have recommended that its 27-member bloc put restrictions on unvaccinated American travelers, but members are allowed to make the ultimate decision.

Some EU countries are allowing unvaccinated Americans if they can prove they have recovered from COVID-19 or present a negative coronavirus test upon arrival. But a trip could be difficult once you arrive since countries are putting limits on what you can do and where you can eat without proof of vaccination or constant testing.

Q: Will I have to take a test to get into Europe?

It depends on the country. Each EU member state is allowed to set individual requirements.

Many countries, including Italy and France, allow travelers to skip the test if they can prove they’re vaccinated, while others may require a test instead of or in addition to a vaccination proof.

To travel to the U.K., which is not part of the EU, travelers have to show more than their vaccination status. Within three days of their trip, travelers must take a test that meets the standards for pre-departure testing.

Additionally, vaccinated Americans must take a test on or before day two of arrival.

Q: Can unvaccinated kids travel to Europe?

A: Yes. According to the European Commission, unvaccinated children can travel to the continent but will need to have a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. EU member states may require additional testing for kids on arrival. As with everything, check for updated specifics before you go, as not all countries will have the same policy. It’s unclear if this has changed in the new EU guidance.

Q: Will there be restrictions during my vacation?

A: Yes. Eduardo Santander, executive director of the European Travel Commission, says every country will have its own take on coronavirus mandates, so travelers should be prepared to encounter a range of requirements. Many countries, including Italy, France and Greece, require proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test at indoor restaurants, museums, concerts and other indoor events. Indoor mask mandates are back, too, in many places. You should plan to check the embassy site before visiting.

Q: Do I have to take a test to get back home?

A: Yes. Anyone traveling to the United States, regardless of vaccination status, must provide results of a negative coronavirus test taken within three days of departure or show proof that they have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.


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