On Monday, the European Union removed the United States from its “safe list” of countries whose residents can travel to its 27 member states without requirements such as quarantine and testing. This generated confusion, with some people writing on social media that Americans have been banned from visiting Europe. That’s not actually what the recommendation means. Americans have not been explicitly prohibited from going anywhere in Europe. But vaccination status may soon affect travel, even more than it did before. Here’s a look at what the new developments mean for vaccinated and unvaccinated people:
What just happened? How will this change my trip to Europe?
Since June, the United States has been on the European Union’s “safe list” for travel, which cleared the way for American travelers to visit many E.U. member countries without quarantining. In addition to taking the U.S. off the safe list on Monday, the European Council of the European Union, the bloc’s governing body, released a recommendation urging member countries to issue travel restrictions for visitors from the United States who are unvaccinated against the coronavirus. The European Union is encouraging authorities across Europe to reinstate the sort of mandatory quarantine and testing requirements that seemed to be on their way out, though only for unvaccinated travelers.
Ultimately it’s up to a given country to decide if it wants to issue new requirements, however.
How does this affect vaccinated travelers?
If you are fully vaccinated with an E.U.-approved vaccine, which include those manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, the requirements you face entering a E.U. country should not change. Many member states have already been urging travelers to bring proof of vaccination and waiving quarantine requirements for those who can show proof of vaccination.
Countries could decide to add new restrictions, but it’s unclear if any will. Still, you’d be wise to have your Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine record card handy no matter where you are headed.
What about unvaccinated travelers?
As of Monday afternoon it was not yet clear how the new recommendation would change travel for unvaccinated Americans beyond signaling that some European officials would like them to stay away.
Tom Milanovic, a marketing manager for the Spanish tourism authority, said that many worried people had called him Monday, wondering if they had to cancel upcoming trips. But so far the European Union’s recommendation has not changed Spain’s requirements even for unvaccinated travelers, he said.
“Any U.S. citizen regardless of their status is still good to go,” he said, adding that the country issues new guidelines each week. The current guidelines, which hold until Sep. 5, continue to categorize the United States as “low risk,” meaning Americans don’t have to show a negative antigen test before flying to Spain.
The Italian National Tourist Board said that it would issue an official position on how the European Union’s recommendation affects travel later this week. Currently all visitors from the United States need to be fully vaccinated or take a coronavirus test 48 hours ahead of arrival in Italy. (If they have tested positively in the past they need a certificate confirming recovery.) Some airlines, such as Delta Air Lines, may also require vaccinated travelers from the United States to take a coronavirus test before flying.
Tourism authorities from several other countries said that they were not at liberty to discuss the new requirements, but as far as they were aware the E.U.’s recommendation did not change anything immediately.
Does this mean all European countries are now requiring unvaccinated travelers to quarantine?
No, but it underscores how quickly rules and regulations continue to change. Unvaccinated travelers should be prepared to keep hitting refresh on the entry requirements for their chosen location until the moment they set out to the airport. It’s also worth remembering that long before this recommendation, some countries were already requiring unvaccinated travelers to quarantine.
What if I am vaccinated, but my children aren’t?
If children are too young to get vaccinated, then the new recommendation does not affect them, a European Union official said.
What if I’m unvaccinated, but the travel is essential?
The new recommendation makes an exception for essential travel.
Does this mean that as of this week, I can safely assume that all the Americans on my flight have been vaccinated?
No, this does not change anything yet. There is no guarantee that the person sitting next to you on your flight has been vaccinated.
I now feel compelled to cancel my trip, can I get my money back?
You can certainly try.
Kate Kilcoyne, a travel adviser for All-Travel, a Los Angeles-based travel agency, said that it’s too soon to know how airlines and cruises will respond to this new development, but her clients have generally had more success receiving credits rather than cash refunds when canceling their travel plans.
Tammy O’Hara, a travel agent for Million Miles Travel Agency, a boutique company based in New York, echoed this point. Most hotels, she has found, are more wiling to offer full refunds than airlines, she added.
Standard travel insurance may not be all that helpful, said Svetlana Stein, the president of L&B Travel, LLC, an agency in Los Angeles.
“Covid-19 is now considered a foreseen situation and is often not accepted as a covered reason for cancellation,” she said. Ms. Stein urged travelers to buy insurance that offers a “cancel for any reason” feature for this reason.