Why the EU Travel Ban (Mostly) Doesn't Matter if You're Vaccinated

Dreaming of cobblestones and castles? Don't panic just yet

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The European Union’s late-summer decision to reinstate the travel ban on Americans spurred shocking headlines in the travel world, leaving many Americans to feel they had missed the boat on what turned out to be a very short window of opportunity. But if you read the fine print, you’ll find that the jury is still out on what overall effect this decision will actually have on vaccinated Americans dreaming of cobblestones and castles.

The new rule to bar Americans' entry into the European Union is in line with the current E.U. protocol that marks any country with more than 75 cases per 100,000 people as very high-risk. In June, the U.S. fell below these criteria, which allowed many Americans to enjoy summer trips to Europe, but surpassed the threshold in August due to a spike in new cases. Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and the Republic of North Macedonia were also reclassified as high-risk at the same time.

While the new ruling only applies to unvaccinated travelers, some countries have still chosen to use the recommendation to bar vaccinated travelers from the U.S. Meanwhile, others have declared they won’t be changing their entry requirements at all, so even though some countries may be unfeasible for the time being, other destinations are promising to keep their doors open.

Three countries so far have announced that they would place even harsher restrictions on both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans. Before the rule, the Netherlands allowed Americans to enter by showing proof of vaccination or a negative test, but as of Sept. 4, 2021, only vaccinated Americans will be allowed to enter, and even they must comply with a mandatory 10-day quarantine.

Bulgaria and Sweden have taken the recommendation further and banned all non-essential travel from high-risk countries like the U.S. Although this news may be disappointing for those planning trips to Amsterdam, Sofia, or Stockholm, travelers will find their options are still quite open—especially if they’re vaccinated.

Countries like Spain, which hadn’t required a negative test or proof of vaccination from Americans, will now ask travelers for proof of vaccination per the E.U.'s ruling. Neighboring Portugal has confirmed it will stay open to Americans and will continue processing tourists with their current entry restrictions, which requires travelers to show either a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours, a negative antigen test taken within 48 hours, or a vaccination certificate.

Meanwhile, Croatia has also chosen to ignore the E.U.’s decision and will continue to accept a negative test or proof of vaccination, as long as it isn’t older than 270 days. Both countries depend largely on tourism, and Croatia has bucked the E.U.'s recommendation before—in the summer of 2020, it was one of the only countries welcoming American travelers.

In many places, like France, Iceland, and Italy, the new ruling changes nothing. These countries had already been requiring proof of vaccination for Americans to enter. In this case, the new ruling does nothing unless governments take it upon themselves to enforce new quarantine rules or shut borders completely to high-risk countries. We will likely see more countries in the next few weeks declare whether or not they will keep their current requirements or start to close borders again, especially now that the summer travel season is coming to a close.

If you’ve already booked a trip to a country that has not announced whether or not it will be changing entry requirements for vaccinated travelers, as well as the unvaccinated, you will need to stay on top of changing requirements, but don't panic just yet. If you don’t have anything booked but are still hoping to visit Europe in the upcoming months, Portugal and Croatia are two stunningly beautiful destinations that are promising American travelers a sure thing—or at least as close as we can get for now.

Article Sources
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  1. Council of the European Union. "COVID-19: travel into the EU."

  2. Spain Travel Health. "Health requirements to enter Spain and prevention measures against COVID-19."

  3. Your Europe. "Croatia - Covid travel rules, EU Digital Covid Certificate, restrictions and measures in place." Aug. 31, 2021