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Portugal has been the subject of much discussion in recent days: a favorite travel destination for UK sunbathers, it was on the government’s ‘green list’ for travel and initially seemed eager to welcome us from today.
But all of that was thrown into chaos this week when it was suddenly announced that a ban on non-essential travel could be extended until May 30, casting doubt on the plans of hundreds of people.
Tourism begins to reopen across Europe as vaccination campaigns intensify and Covid infections spread across much of the continent
Portugal has now reversed that position, saying it will accept British tourist arrivals from today as originally planned.
All arrivals will have to take a PCR test no more than 72 hours in advance and bring negative results with them to be allowed into the country – those with tickets now in a hurry to get the tests sorted.
Visitors from any foreign country are allowed to enter the country provided they can show proof of vaccination or a previous Covid infection.
Tourists are then required to take a PCR test on arrival and wait for the results at their hotel, but border officials say it won’t last more than 24 hours and usually ends in five or six hours.
Iceland has been welcoming tourists since April, provided they have been vaccinated or previously infected with Covid and undergo a PCR test upon arrival.
There is a complicated list of exemptions for those who are not vaccinated, but most people are unlikely to qualify.
Iceland also has the advantage of being on the UK’s green list which goes into effect on Monday, meaning you won’t need to quarantine yourself after arriving home.
As of April, Greece’s borders have been open to foreign arrivals provided they can show a negative PCR test carried out within 72 hours of departure or have been fully vaccinated with an EU-approved Covid vaccine.
Arrivals must also complete a passenger tracing form, including details of where they have traveled and where they are staying, so that it can be used by testing and tracing authorities in the event of an outbreak.
Tourists are advised to travel provided they have passed a negative PCR test within 48 hours of departure, have evidence of a previous infection, or are fully vaccinated.
Croatia requires visitors to take a PCR test before arrival and prove they have accommodation in the country, but otherwise welcomes visitors
Arrivals will also need to provide proof that they have paid for accommodation in the country – which may include campsites – or own property there.
Travelers are also required to complete a form, which can be done on arrival or in advance online.
The Mediterranean island welcomes tourists provided they have been fully vaccinated, can present evidence of a previous infection or have passed a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure.
Travelers must also register for a flight pass no later than 24 hours before departure.
For those using a PCR test to enter the country, the test details will need to be entered into the online form, which means they will need to carefully plan when to test.
Although the country is almost completely locked down, Turkey allows tourists to enter without PCR testing or proof of vaccination.
Turkey is totally contained, apart from tourists who are exempt from all rules and are greeted without tests or vaccines – although the welcome from locals may not be warm.
Tourists are largely exempt from lockdown rules – which have confined Turks to their homes for weeks – while hotels and other businesses directly involved in tourism have been allowed to remain open.
However, many other businesses – such as shops and restaurants – remain closed. The streets of the city are also deserted, which could be a blessing or a curse, depending on your idea of a good vacation.
Most other European countries remain totally closed to tourists or have very restrictive entry policies that make tourist travel almost impossible.
However, some have started planning for a reopening and have given details of when people might be allowed to return.
These countries are …
Prime Minister Mario Draghi said last week that Italy plans to run its own ‘green pass program’ which would allow tourists from any country provided they are vaccinated, have already been infected or have tested negative.
Italy said it would allow visitors from outside the EU to arrive from ‘mid-May’ using some sort of green pass, although it did not give no other details or specific date.
Mr Draghi said the program would be in place by ‘mid-May’, raising hopes it could be ready in time for UK rules to relax on May 17.
But since its initial announcement, no further details have been released, leading to frustration and confusion among those hoping to travel.
Emmanuel Macron presented plans for a gradual reopening of France on April 29, including a return date for foreign tourists: June 9.
As part of these plans, all visitors should qualify for a Health Pass, essentially a green certificate with a negative Covid test or vaccination required to qualify.
For the moment, the program – which French citizens also use – is managed by TousAntiCovid, their equivalent of the NHS app. It’s unclear how this would be open to foreign arrivals.
Much like the UK roadmap, unlocking France requires fewer infections to progress, which means it could be canceled or delayed.
Cases are currently on the decline in the country, but at a very gradual rate.
Fernando Valdes, Spain’s tourism minister, outlined his plans for reopening the tourism economy last month and predicted the country would be ready to welcome foreign arrivals again in June.
Spain said it would be ready to welcome foreign tourists ‘from June’, but did not give a firm date or specify what the requirements would be.
As in other countries, entry would depend on some sort of green pass program requiring proof of vaccination, previous infection, or a negative test taken shortly before travel.
Valdes said a pilot program would run throughout May and Spain would be “ready to receive visitors in June”.
No further details were given.
A strange one on this list: The Netherlands allows tourists to enter the country but says they strongly discourage people from visiting.
If you do decide to go, the government’s advice is to stay in your hotel as much as possible and avoid busy places when you go out.
Many hotel facilities, including restaurants and swimming pools, are currently closed and a nighttime curfew is in effect from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
However, from May 19, restaurant and bar terraces will be allowed to open from noon to 6 p.m. and all non-essential businesses will be open.
Other European countries currently do not allow tourists to enter and have not announced their intention to allow it.
In Germany, it is currently illegal to travel for non-essential purposes and the country has not announced plans to resume tourist travel.
This includes Germany, which made it illegal for companies to transport people there for non-essential purposes.
Other countries that ban non-essential travel include Norway, Sweden, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland.
What does the EU say?
Currently, the EU has adopted a recommendation for the 27 member states to ban non-essential travel from third countries – although this is not binding and countries can ignore it if they wish.
Only six countries escape the EU ban due to low infection rates: Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.
The EU commission last week proposed an updated guidance that would allow fully vaccinated citizens from any foreign country to enter, provided they have received an EU-approved vaccine.
The threshold for being on the ‘low infection’ list would also be raised so that more countries could be added, allowing citizens to enter the EU whether or not they were trapped.
However, the guidance has yet to be approved and there is no clear indication of when this could happen. Even then, it would not be binding.