Where Do You Think You're Going? Navigating the New Post-COVID Travel Restrictions for EU and USA
Updated: Sep 16
To say that the world has changed in the past six months would be an understatement; the Coronavirus pandemic has both uprooted and grounded us. Many have lost their jobs, trips, visas, and routes home. The economy has slowed to a crawl across the globe, passports have gathered dust and the travel industry is asking 'what comes next?’. And while at first there were optimistic rumblings that the spread of COVID-19 would come to a halt during the hot summer months, the exponential spread of the virus in places like The United States and Brazil has proven that theory false.
But for half the globe it is the summer, and people are eagerly looking for a distraction from the current state of the world - seeking a sense of normalcy and a change of scenery. And travel lovers are determinedly looking for adventure and a return to a way of life they love. Which all means that despite the fact that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, people are looking to travel and go on vacation. And while the remainder of 2020 is shaping up to be the year for local travel and road trips, international borders are opening up and countries are starting to welcome visitors from overseas...albeit with some caveats.
After being closed off to visitors for four months, the European Union has opened up its borders, with each country having slightly different restrictions. The website Reopen EU has been created to help the public understand the new rules and regulations of travel across its member countries and updates will be made every two weeks. According to the site:
As from 1 July, EU Member States should start lifting the restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU for residents of the following third countries:
China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity.
Residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican/Holy See are to be considered as EU residents for the purpose of travel
If your country is not on the list, know that exceptions are being made for EU residents and those with family residing in the region. But be sure to refer to the site regarding travel to individual countries. For example, if you’re traveling to Slovakia, all foreigners (including EU citizens) who have visited a country not listed as a “safe country” within the last 14 days will be required to quarantine upon arrival.
What about the UK?
You'll notice that the UK isn't included in the Reopen EU site, and that's because due to Brexit, the UK is transitioning out of the EU and therefore no longer privy to the same agreements. But that doesn't mean that people from the UK can't travel! It just means that you'll have to consult with each nation's individual travel advisories to determine what restrictions may be in place. The UK government advise against all but essential foreign travel but provide country by country up to date information on its Foreign Travel Advice site.
The United States
Among the countries barred from visiting the EU is the United States. The exclusion of the United States came as a surprise to no one except Americans themselves, who have long held a passport that offered unfettered entry to most places around the world. It seems that due to poor administration, those days of passport privilege have come to an end. As of June 30, the United States had nearly 2.7 million reported cases of COVID-19, with states like Texas and Florida seeing surges of between 4,000 and 5,000 new cases per day.
Currently the borders between the US & Mexico and the US & Canada are closed until at least July 23. California is the only state with a current ‘stay at home’ order, which means that all borders between the states remain open and citizens are able to travel freely by plane, train or automobile.
But the US has its own restrictions in place. According to the CDC website, the US is currently banning travel from the following countries, with the only exceptions being made for American citizens and legal residents:
EU (Schengen Zone)
Republic of Ireland
And even those legal residents returning to the US are expected to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, though given the lax enforcement on wearing masks and gathering in large groups, it’s hard to say if US government officials will really be cracking down on compliance.
One place where US passport holders can try their luck is in the Caribbean. While each country has its own process in place - for example, a mandatory COVID test upon arrival to Antigua and Jamaica - most tropical destinations are eager to start recouping tourism dollars. Rwanda, the Maldives, Turkey and Serbia are among the other countries still accepting travelers from the USA.
Now keep in mind that every country around the world is going to have their own restrictions in place, so do your research should you decide to book a flight. That being said, we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, which according to the rising number of cases in places like the US, Brazil and Russia, is not going to end soon. There is risk involved in travel, and great privilege. Should you choose to travel during this time, take whatever necessary precautions to protect not only yourself but your fellow travelers as well as the people who live in the place that you intend to visit. And remember, flying to another country isn’t the only way to experience the world, there are countless discoveries to be made where you are and new worlds to discover within the borders of the country you live in.