On March 17, during a peak of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the European Union imposed travel restrictions on its borders for all non-essential travel coming from outside its 27 member states. In late June, they announced they would begin lifting external border restrictions starting July 1—but only for a select 15 countries. Currently accounting for about a quarter of the world's 13.4 million confirmed cases and 580,000 deaths, it's no surprise the U.S. didn't make the cut. It seemed as though Europe would be closed to Americans for the foreseeable future. However, a few days later, Croatia made headlines when it announced that it would be welcoming tourists from all countries, including the U.S.
While the initial announcement touted that U.S. travelers would not only be free to enter Croatia and could do so without an imposed quarantine, Croatia has since back-tracked slightly, possibly due to the country's recent rise in coronavirus case numbers and the ever-increasing caseload in the U.S. Others point the finger at opened borders. However, Croatia's Health Minister claims tourism has not caused the local spike in cases.
American travelers looking to land in the eastern European country should be prepared to jump through a few hoops to get to their dream Croatian vacation. Right now, Croatia requires all incoming travelers to present a negative SARS-Cov-2 PCR swab test taken no more than 48 hours prior. In place of a negative test, travelers will be mandated to enter into a 14-day quarantine at their own expense. After seven days in quarantine, there's an option to take a local SARS-CoV-2 PCR test, with negative results exempting the traveler from the remaining quarantine period. Tests cost around $230, and results usually come back within 48 hours.
On arrival, travelers must fill out a tourist registration form and show proof of accommodation. All visitors are also required to adhere to a strict set of social and health guidelines created by the Croatian Institute of Public Health. These rules and recommendations must be followed for the first 14 days of any stay, even with a negative test result. Most of the regulations can seriously put a damper on any vacation vibes, and include rules like not leaving your accommodation unless necessary, following elevated hygiene protocols, avoiding public transit and public gatherings, limiting contact with anyone outside of your traveling party, and sticking to food delivery or self-catering options. Anyone found to be breaking self-isolation rules will be fined, with increments increasing with each offense.
Travelers hoping to skirt European border restrictions by entering another E.U. country by way of Croatia should be warned that they will be denied entry to other countries with current bans on U.S. travelers. But what about flights with stopovers or layovers in European countries that have closed their borders to U.S. travelers? It's tricky, variable, and very likely to change. However, a Delta customer service representative suggested: "If the flight is available for travel in the system, they will allow for a stopover."
As virus numbers fluctuate around the globe, it's imperative to check for updates on case numbers and transmission rates, travel restrictions, and entry requirements. Currently, the U.S. Department of State maintains a Level 4: Do Not Travel health advisory, calling for "U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic." Likewise, the CDC recommends avoiding all non-essential international travel due to "widespread ongoing transmission" of SARS-CoV-2; if you must travel, they suggest travelers follow the Global COVID-19 Pandemic Notice health safety guidelines as well as any local recommendations for your destination.