Here's What a Return to European Travel Will Actually Look Like

The EU has announced its official proposal to allow non-essential travel

Elevador da Bica funicular in Lisbon, Portugal
Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

As we (joyously) reported last week, vaccinated individuals will soon be able to travel to Europe for non-essential reasons. While that news had us dreaming of plates of cacio e pepe and sunset strolls along the Seine, it was devoid of specific details about the when, where, why, and how. Now, on May 3, the European Commission announced its official proposal to allow non-essential travel for vaccinated individuals to all 27 European Union member states. It will be discussed on May 5 and, if approved, adopted by all member states soon after.

The proposal recommends all states allow non-essential travelers who are 14 days out from their last dose of any of the vaccines approved by the World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency. The three approved vaccines in the United States—Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson—have all been approved for use in Europe.

Some EU countries, including Greece, Estonia, Croatia, and Iceland, have already begun reopening to Americans of their own accord. France and Spain recently announced they would reopen to tourists this summer. But this news is the most promising indication of all of Europe opening to vaccinated travelers this summer.

Of course, anyone traveling for essential reasons, including healthcare professionals, cross-border workers, seasonal agricultural workers, students, and those traveling for urgent family reasons, should continue to be allowed to enter the EU. The proposal also includes a clause where the EU would reserve the right to place an “Emergency Brake” into effect to restrict or suspend travel anytime the situation worsens in a non-EU country, or a new variant emerges. If that occurs, essential travel will still be allowed.

Here are a few of the most pressing questions surrounding a return to European travel:

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How will travelers prove they're vaccinated?

    The European Commission recommends that travelers should be able to prove their vaccination status with a Digital Green Certificate, a proposed system they first introduced in March (and talks are underway between the U.S. and the EU to figure out how it would work) to allow travelers who are vaccinated, have negative COVID-19 PCR tests, or have recovered from the disease entry to the 27 countries that are part of the EU. But until those are operational, the commission proposes that member states should accept certificates from non-EU countries, “taking into account the ability to verify the authenticity, validity, and integrity of the certificate and whether it contains all relevant data.” It is unclear whether the current paper certificates issued in the U.S. would be considered valid, but the commission recommends that member states set up a portal where travelers can request validation for their certificate.

  • Will children need to be vaccinated to go to Europe?

    According to the proposal, children who are not old enough to be vaccinated yet should be able to travel with their vaccinated parents if they have a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Member states could require additional testing after arrival at their own discretion.

  • Will travelers still need negative PCR tests and will they have to quarantine?

    The proposal suggests that member states that have decided to eliminate the requirement for negative COVID-19 PCR tests and/or quarantine upon entry for vaccinated people in their own territory should also eliminate those for vaccinated travelers coming from outside the EU.

Article Sources
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  1. European Commission. "Proposal for a Council Recommendation." March 5, 2021.