As the Europe travel ban on the U.S. and high-risk countries continues, Americans and others are still not welcome in the EU for tourism purposes.
But there are ways–both easy and risky, legit and less so–of winging your way to Europe if you’re hell-bent on it. Here they are:
1. Traveling From The UK Or Ireland
Flying in directly from the U.S. and other “red list” countries to most of the EU is out. But neither the UK nor Ireland are enforcing the EU travel ban. Nor are their authorities policing it.
Many Americans are not even staying over in the UK on their way to France, or elsewhere. Quarantine is not required when in transit. You still must fill out a Passenger Locator Form online before you arrive in England. Once in France, it’s easy to travel off in the Schengen zone.
Travel by plane on to the continent is far riskier–but not out of the question.
“I was surprised when an acquaintance boarded a plane in the UK and gained entrance to Spain with only a U.S. passport,” says one American in France. “I thought Spain wasn’t allowing U.S. citizens in as tourists.”
2. Traveling From The EU Schengen Zone
It is possible. According to the government tourism office, Spain is basing entry on the country you’re traveling from, not your country of origin.
“You can travel to Spain if you are travelling from the European Union, from a country in the Schengen area, or from another country which has a reciprocal agreement with Spain for accepting travellers,” it says.
All travelers must fill out a health control form 48 hours prior to travel. Then you receive a QR code to present to border officials. On arrival, everyone will undergo temperature scans and “a visual health assessment”.
Note, the UK quarantine on Spanish arrivals is not reciprocal. That said, I can’t personally vouch for the entry process being leak-proof.
French immigration officials too say they allow American passport holders to land in France from the Schengen zone.
“Once you’re in Schengen there’s no passport control internally unless a country has raised internal borders,” says Joey Pham who’s been traveling in Europe since August.
While airline staff may be strictly monitoring EU travel rights for Americans flying out of the States, those within Europe are not.
“Flight wise, airlines check your passport but it’s not their responsibility to act as border control,” Pham says. He’s taken several flights–to Italy, Hungary and elsewhere–and faced no questions about his U.S. citizenship. “They just make sure your papers are not expired.”
Many other EU members do not show the same openness. Some are even banning fellow high-risk Europeans. Greece is one country taking a hardline approach to enforcing the travel ban–and like Italy has largely avoided a second wave.
3. The 14 Day Rule: Landing In Europe Via Travel Corridors
Schengen member Malta has been open to U.S. citizens for months, despite the ban. If they first spend 14 days in a safe corridor country. Passenger Locator and Public Health Travel Declaration Forms must be filled out ahead of arrival.
Other countries including Italy too seem to be leaning towards the 14 day rule. Bans on third party nationals are definitely becoming more elastic, though not overtly.
Another example of this is Slovenia. According to the U.S. Embassy in Slovenia, travel by air or land border may be possible when coming from a green list country where no quarantine is required.
My inquiry to the Interior Ministry confirms this. “Though conditions for border crossings are changing daily,” it emphasizes. If you are travelling from an amber country, “You will be treated as though you were coming from a country with a high risk of infection.”
The government website shows travelers coming even from red list countries such as the U.S. can travel there with 10 day quarantine on arrival.
4. Flying Into EU From Other Low-Risk Countries
Even with air travel, some Europeans are basing the EU ban on your country of departure, not your passport. This means Americans could probably fly into France via Tunisia for example, which is on the EU’s safe list of countries.
More surprisingly, some have even flown in seamlessly to France from Turkey, which is still subject to the EU travel ban.
5. Traffic Light System May Give Green Light To Americans
There has been no update on the EU travel restrictions for weeks. Europe is up to its neck in trying to work out a whole muddle of internal travel restrictions, as Covid across the continent flares.
Under the planned traffic light system it wants testing and quarantine to prevail, rather than total bans. Hopefully some such system will eventually extend to the U.S. and others when infection rates come down.
Meantime individual countries are moving to giving higher-risk zones a green light to travel, with testing and other requirements.
This is the most bona fide and foolproof method to bank on. And it will save you from taking nerve-wracking risks.