Travel in Europe: borders opening in time for summer

With summer just around the corner, European leaders are quickly – yet carefully – working to ease coronavirus restrictions and safely resume both domestic and international travel. 

After months of lockdowns, the economy is crying out for tourism just as much as travellers are craving a summer getaway, but the steps to get there will have to be taken with caution. 

The action plan, proposed by the European Union, is to first open internal borders, resume hospitality, establish safety protocols for public spaces and virus tracing and revive transport connections. EU member states have been advised to start opening borders to countries with similar coronavirus management and risk profiles. 

The ideas of ‘travel bubbles’ and ‘tourist corridors’ are also in play. Last week Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania opened their borders to one another, creating a Baltic ‘travel bubble’. Meanwhile, a ‘tourist corridor,’ which is essentially a travel-safe zone linking countries who have the coronavirus under control, is being considered for the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Croatia – countries that have experienced relatively low case numbers. As for non-European tourists, it’s looking like they’ll have to wait until at least June 15 to begin their visits. 

“This is not going to be a normal summer, not for any of us,” said Margrethe Vestager, the vice-president of the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission.”But when we all work together and we all do our part in the ways the Commission is setting out today, then we don’t have to face a summer stuck at home or a completely lost summer for the European tourism industry.”

Travel updates across Europe: 

Italy
Italy announced it will reopen both domestic and international borders on June 3 in an attempt to boost their economy. Travellers within the Europe Schengen area will no longer be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Germany
Germany is preparing to open its borders with some neighbouring countries including Austria in the coming weeks and from June 15, the goal is to eliminate border controls in the Schengen area completely. However, currently, hotels are prohibited from accommodating tourists, and the majority of flights to and from Germany remain grounded.

Iceland
Iceland will open it’s borders to tourists around the world by June 15. Upon arrival at the airport, travellers will be given a free COVID-10 test and only those who are negative will be able to move around freely. Those who refuse the test must agree to a two-week quarantine or present official documentation of a recent negative test.

Greece
Greece will open to tourists from July 1. Just don’t expect to be sun-baking on a crowded beach or dancing in a sweaty night club. Every international traveller to Greece will have to enter through Athens and submit to a health screening, which includes a rapid COVID-19 test.

Spain
Spain is looking at reopening their border to foreigners by the end of June, phasing out the 14-day quarantine rule at the same time.

France
France has agreed to open borders with Germany and Switzerland on June 15. All other coronavirus measures are set to be in place until the end of July.

Switzerland
Border crossings to and from Germany, France and Austria are due to reopen from June 15. 

Belgium
Belgium aims to reopen its borders to international tourists by June 15. The country is also waiting until June 8 to begin re-opening cafes, restaurants and some tourist attractions.

Austria
On June 15, borders with neighbouring countries are set to open, including, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Travellers flying into the country will need to present a health certificate stating that they do not have coronavirus. Anyone without the certificate must self isolate for 14-days.

Sweden
As the country who choose not to enforce any strict lockdown measures, borders are currently open to tourists (except those from certain non-EU countries). However, Sweden will be extending its recommendation to avoid non-essential travel until July 15.

Portugal
The Portuguese government said hotels intend to start opening from 1 June however a date has not yet been set for the return of international tourists.

Turkey
The government is aiming to have domestic tourism return by the end of May and international tourism by mid-June.

Slovenia
Slovenia has begin reopening borders to neighbouring countries. However only citizens of the EU and Schengen zones, from countries with a decent handle on the virus, may travel without quarantining.

Hungary
Borders are planned to open with Austria on June 15, and regional travel in Hungary could resume by 1 June.

Croatia
While no date has been set, Croatia is hoping to welcome tourists from early June. Currently there is talks of establishing ‘travel corridors’ with Hungary, Austria, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

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