What It’s Like to Travel in Europe During COVID

“Cameron! You must tell Americans what it’s truly like to travel here right now.”

This was the plea from Isabella, who runs a stunning countryside hotel in most beautiful corner of Tuscany. Isabella is frustrated because she designed her business for American guests. And even though she’s been able to pivot to a mostly European clientele, she’s eager for her American friends to return. Unfortunately, the mixed messages about traveling in Europe have given many of her guests pause. And now quite a few, who booked weeks or months ago, are getting cold feet and cancelling.

Some of those people have good reason to postpone; perhaps they’re immunocompromised, or they know themselves enough to recognize that they lack the flexibility to travel during uncertain times. But others are overreacting to attention-grabbing, misleading news reports of “travel bans,” worst-case nightmare scenarios, and headachy red tape.

Fear looms large in the American imagination, so it’s not surprising that many American travelers are skittish. I understand. The week before I left, in late August, the news was full of vague yet alarming rumors that the European Union was about to “ban” non-essential American travelers. Spoiler alert: That did not happen. And, speaking only for myself, I can report that I’ve been struck by how normal it feels to be traveling in Europe again.

OK, not “normal” — but new normal. Social-distancing, temperature-checks, masking-indoors, showing-your-vaccine-card-to-enter-a-restaurant kind of normal. Being fully vaccinated and taking all of the reasonable precautions, I feel safe, or at least as “safe” as anyone can these days. I feel at least as safe as I do at home, which is safe enough to not have nightmares anymore. In the abstract, traveling in Europe sounds frightening and stressful; in practice, it’s just fine. Not just fine. Wonderful.

Previously, I posted about how I rationalized traveling to Europe during a pandemic; and about the many steps I took to plan and prepare for travel during these strange times. This post is a bit more freewheeling: It’s simply a report on what it’s like to be an American traveling in Europe during (we hope) the late stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Landing in Europe once again, all those mundane little European quirks came rushing back: the bizarre plumbing — complicated shower knobs and enigmatic washer/dryers that should come with an instruction manual; the secondhand smoke at outdoor cafés; the frustration of paying for a meal with your credit card, then trying to scare up a few coins for the tip; the little basket of warm, hard-boiled eggs at the breakfast buffet, instead of scrambled or fried. Some of these are good things. Others not so much. But at least they are all Europe. And in a weird way, I missed all of them, even the parts I don’t particularly like.

Especially while traveling, every cough and sneeze I hear in public sounds amplified. Late summer is turning to fall, and reliably balmy weather is transitioning to warm days and chilly nights. As cold-and-flu season approaches, everyone’s got a tickle in their throat. And I am more aware than ever of how Europeans aren’t as careful about covering coughs and sneezes as we Americans are. I’ve always noticed this — there’s a kind of European pragmatism that figures you’re going to get sick at some point, so why fight it? But it’s jarring in the age of COVID.

As my wife and I enjoyed an outdoor lunch on our first day in Europe, the adorable towheaded twins from Germany at the next table took turns coughing violently into the air, as Mom and Dad looked on proudly. We nudged our table a few inches farther away and dubbed the duo “KOVID Karl and KOVID Kristoff.” A couple of weeks later, walking to my train in Prague’s station, I saw a guy pull down his mask just in time to expel a juicy sneeze into the air.

There are far fewer American travelers in Europe right now, and — for various reasons — there are virtually no travelers at all from China, India, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and many other places. And yet, being here has been a severe hit to my American traveler’s narcissism, because I’m seeing how easily we’ve been replaced. European tourists, who might normally prefer to travel to North America or Asia, instead are vacationing closer to home. On the trails of the Julian Alps, the trattoria terraces of Tuscany, the beaches of the Cinque Terre, and the cobbles of Prague, I find myself surrounded by Germans, Swiss, Dutch, French, and so on.

Some places are downright crowded. I had trouble finding parking during a midday visit to the Tuscan hill town of Montepulciano, and I had to reserve dinner ahead each night I was in the Cinque Terre. In fact, the crowds have been one of the biggest surprises of my trip. While nowhere near as busy as the peak year of 2019, Europe is far from empty. If you’re thinking, “Now is a great time to go to Europe to avoid the crowds”… you’re already too late. It’s less crowded, sure, but it’s not uncrowded.

That said, it is enjoyable being in places that feel more local than they have in many years. One chilly, early-autumn Sunday afternoon in Prague, strolling along the Charles Bridge, I realized with a start that the majority of my fellow promenaders were speaking Czech. On past visits, I’ve walked the entire length of that bridge, utterly clogged with humanity, without hearing a single syllable of the local language.

From there I headed up to Prague Castle, which is typically overstuffed with obnoxious tour groups, and found I had the place largely to myself. It was eerie…almost lonesome.

This shift in the demographics of travelers has also brought about a big change in traffic patterns. Those intra-European tourists are not flying or taking trains or buses; most are driving — just as road trips became the go-to American vacation in 2020. This has led to some serious traffic jams on major freeways and in parking lots (like what I found in Montepulciano). Instead of one big bus carrying 50 people, you have 20 or 25 individual cars. One friend in Slovenia — which is right on the way between Austria and Czechia in the north, and Croatia and Italy in the south — termed 2021 the “Summer of Carmageddon.”

Through the pandemic, I’ve been mightily worried about my favorite small businesses in Europe. Now here, I’m seeing that most have survived, sometimes in a slightly different form. A few restaurants have retooled; as in the US, there’s more and better outdoor seating than before. Some savvy businesses took advantage of the closure to finally do some long-overdue renovation work. Hotels and restaurants that were once filled with Americans (like Isabella’s place) are now a microcosm of the EU. In some cases, this has required the business owner to make some changes to become more Euro-friendly. I’m wondering whether they might decide that they prefer to diversify, with both European and American clientele, and never go back to exactly how they did things before.

I am meeting a smattering of Americans over here, and I have to say, they’ve mostly been great travelers. These are clearly people who love travel so much, that, like me, they weren’t willing to wait six more months to get back. I’m not bumping into many novices on the road. It must be a miserable time to be a European pickpocket: All of the easy marks are scared at home.

Meanwhile, everyone’s already thinking ahead to 2022: Assuming all goes well, Europeans will presumably go back to overseas vacations, clearing the way for Americans to return. But what if the Europeans decide to stay closer to home, too? Will we be stacking two huge demographics of travelers on top of each other? And one big question I’ve heard again and again is this: When will the Chinese tour groups return? (Many Europeans see these groups as having been a breaking point in terms of excessive crowds, and wouldn’t mind if they held off a bit longer — let’s say 2023, or why not 2024? — to allow capacity to ramp up again.)

In general, I can’t shake the sense that traveling right now is a test run for 2022. Europe is ironing out the wrinkles in anticipation of what many expect will be a huge rebound year. While there are no guarantees, it certainly feels like traveling in Europe next year — in some form — will be a go. In fact, several of my European friends (especially ones in not-long-ago-overwhelmed places like the Cinque Terre and Prague) expressed concern that next year could bring bigger crowds than ever.

Of course, what I’m experiencing is a moment in time; things are constantly changing. For example, just two days after I landed in Italy, the country implemented a testing requirement for arriving visitors. In most places, these changes are speed bumps, not insurmountable hurdles. “Test in, show your vaccine card, test out. Simple!” Isabella explained, with an elegant simplicity. And, ultimately, it really is simple. I don’t know about you, but spending an hour getting a COVID test strikes me as a remarkably minor hassle for the privilege of basking in Tuscan splendor or hiking the Cinque Terre for a few days.

And what about COVID?

When it comes to pandemic measures, I see how Europeans are handling things in ways that are subtly different from the American approach, but those “little” differences add up to a huge impact.

First and foremost is simply a matter of worldview. My impression, at least among my friends and acquaintances, is that we Americans are either completely terrified of COVID, or willfully oblivious to it (even venturing so far as to call it a “hoax”). The Europeans I’m interacting with have found a middle path: pragmatism. They are soberly aware of the risks and, consequently, willing to put up with commonsense, public-health regulations…and then getting on with life. They are realistic but not frightened; cautious but not cowed. Frankly, being among Europeans through this crisis is refreshing, and inspiring.

In general, on the ground here in Europe, I feel far more comfortable than I do back home. Vaccination rates are high (and increasing); cases are low (if rising); hospitals are not overwhelmed, as they are in many parts of the USA. Overall, masking compliance is extremely high. On the few occasions when I dined indoors in Italy, I felt a wave of relief upon being asked to show my vaccination card to enter. While not a guarantee of safety, it brings peace of mind knowing that every single person in the room with me is also vaccinated.

Of course, Europe is far from monolithic. And, while each country has its own vaccination rates, caseloads, and quirky regulations, it’s been interesting to see how things vary from place to place. My sample size is small — just four countries — but broad enough to notice nuances. While the general rules are the same, they are implemented differently: In Slovenia, I noticed people sanitizing their hands like crazy when entering shops, while in Italy it’s all about the masks.

And Germany is extremely specific that people must wear FFP2 masks (the European equivalent of an N95 or KN95). Here’s a typical sign, from a restaurant in Berlin:

It says: “Inside with test; outside without. From this point, only with an FFP2 mask or a surgical mask, over mouth and nose.”

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic (where reported cases are low… suspiciously low?) feels a bit like the USA before the Delta surge: masking “requirements” are loose, and I found I was often the only person in line at the coffee shop who bothered to put on a mask. On my train from Prague to Berlin, the guy across the aisle (who was Czech) pulled his mask under his chin soon after boarding, and punctuated the four-hour trip with coughs.

As we sat together inside a crowded Prague café, in which nobody was masked, a Czech friend told me that technically, you do need to have proof of vaccination, a negative test, or proof of recovery from COVID in the last six months to dine inside. However, through some strange bureaucratic loophole, people who work at restaurants are not allowed to check your vaccination status; this is left to government officials who, in theory, can show up at any time for a surprise inspection. She heavily insinuated that these inspections are vanishingly rare. (To be honest, I’m a bit worried about a winter surge in Prague compared to places like Italy or Germany, where restrictions are being taken with grave seriousness.)

And yet, the Czechs are applying their sharp, sarcastic sense of humor even to this crisis. Here are a few new cakes I noticed at a dessert shop:

A few things are universal, though: Old social distancing stickers on the floor are completely ignored by everyone. And every European seems to have picked up the same style: When not in use, a mask is worn around the elbow or bicep. (I just stick mine in my back pocket, but maybe the European way is more sanitary — for airing out the mask — in addition to being quite fashionable.)

Another European trend that impresses me: the widespread availability of testing, both more substantial PCR lab tests and rapid antigen tests. Popup testing centers are set up everywhere. I have some Czech friends with kids too young to get vaccinated. If the kids want to go to the movies or the swimming pool, they simply stop off for a rapid antigen test on the way there. I was told that in Czechia, each citizen is entitled to two free PCR tests and two free antigen tests per month; Germany has similar subsidies. Imagine being able to run out for a fast, free test on the way to Grandma’s house. Many experts believe this is an important tool that the USA simply isn’t using.

In general, Europe is focused on what, in some countries, are called the “Three G’s”: vaccination, recovery, or testing. (In German, it’s geimpft, genesen, getestet.) In other words, if you’re not vaccinated; if you haven’t recovered from COVID within the last six months; or if you haven’t recently tested negative…then you’re not welcome to fully participate in society. As Isabella might say, “Simple!”

Being in Europe, it’s even more apparent to me than ever how the American response to COVID has fallen apart on virtually every dimension. Many in our society resist masking, and refuse to take vaccines that have been proven safe and effective. We have no uniform way to verify someone’s vaccination status, and even if we did, there are few broad-based policies to ensure that only vaccinated people can share an indoor space (this is mostly left to private business owners). And testing — which could at least provide some safeguard to compensate for those other lapses — is hard to access, time-consuming, and expensive.

Being here, I can’t shake the sense that Europe is figuring this out better than we are. And the numbers bear that out: So far, 680,000 Americans have died of COVID, in a country of 330 million people; that’s one in every 485 Americans. Meanwhile, the European Union, with 445 million people, has lost 765,000 people, a ratio of one per 580. We and Europe are fighting the same battle, with the same weapons. But the implementation is different, and so is the result.

I’ve been asked (mainly by fellow Americans staying at home) whether Europeans really want me here. Based on my highly personal and anecdotal experience, I can say I’ve been universally welcomed with open arms. In the end, most European countries do want (vaccinated, considerate) American travelers. They rely on us for their income. And they simply miss us.

Throughout this trip, I’ve been seeing lots of dear friends around Europe whose way of life revolves around travel. They’ve been patient long enough, and they are thrilled beyond measure to see American travelers again.

In Italy’s Cinque Terre, I had dinner at a restaurant with a famously entertaining waiter — a huge personality who cracks jokes constantly, wears funny hats that he changes between courses, and makes friends with each night’s diners. He thanked me graciously for coming back to Italy, and he spoke from the heart about how much he’s missed us Americans. “This is my stage,” he explained, sweeping his hand across the cozy terrace of tables overlooking the Ligurian Sea. But he hasn’t just missed his audience; he’s missed those precious connections he gets to make, night after night, with people from all over the globe…those moments where our huge, scary, cruel world feels just a bit smaller, softer, and friendlier.

Traveling right now is not for everybody: the skittish, the vulnerable, and the inflexible may do well to wait a bit longer. But for hardy independent travelers who are willing to assume the risk that comes with doing anything these days, Europe is as richly rewarding as ever.

That said, many of my European friends predict that they’re not quite out of the woods. The looming possibility that Americans could (temporarily) be asked to stay home again for a while — or even that certain countries may have a winter lockdown — is on everyone’s mind. Several have told me that  I chose the perfect time to visit (September): While weather is still good enough for outdoor dining, but crowds are less than July and August, when Europeans on holiday flooded popular places. They expect that when people move inside for the winter, just as last year, cases will rise. And they’ve watched with concern the huge spike in the US and elsewhere resulting from the Delta variant — which, so far, appears not to have fully reached many parts of Europe. The big question is whether their high vaccination rates, masking compliance, and testing availability will be enough to forestall a big winter surge. I imagine the answer will be mixed, on a country-by-country basis. Stay tuned.

Even if things do get worse again, I’m hopeful that they will rebound by spring. Europe is getting the hiccups out of the system for “traveling and enjoying life during COVID.” And even if you are choosing to wait until 2022 (or 2023), eventually you’ll reap the benefits of what’s going on here now.

In the end, nobody (including me) wants to go out on a limb and say, “It’s safe to go to Europe — go ahead!” That is still an individual decision, which comes with risk. But in my case, I’m glad I made the choice I did. And, once again, I just have to say it: It feels very, very good to be back in Europe.

 

UPDATE, October 5: I’ve now been home from Europe for over a week. And I am happier than ever that I made the decision to go. In the end, it was less “unpredictable” than I expected: I assumed that I’d need to make several adjustments to my plans along the way, as conditions evolved. As it turns out, my itinerary came off exactly as I’d planned it, to the minute. Who knew?

I did have to take a COVID test before re-entering the United States, as required by US law. So, two days before my flight, I stopped by one of the many popup testing centers in my Berlin neighborhood — less than a 10-minute walk from my rental apartment. There was no wait, and I was in and out in a matter of minutes. (The only hitch came when I filled out the online form on my phone and paid the €40 testing fee with a credit card. “Oh no! You didn’t need to do that,” the clerk told me. “The government recently changed the policy. Now the test is free, even for foreigners. I’ll refund your money.”) Ten minutes later, I got an email with my official test result — negative — which I showed when I checked in for my flight. Test in, test out, simple!

Again, there are ample good reasons not to travel to Europe right now. But fear is not one of them. Nothing in life comes without risk. As we move into the late/post-COVID era, I suspect we’ll all need to get a little more comfortable with accurately assessing risk, and then making an informed decision about what we do and don’t do. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but in my particular case, this trip was absolutely worth the risk.

86 Replies to “What It’s Like to Travel in Europe During COVID”

  1. Thank you SO much for this report! I am waiting until Spring 2022, but it’s reassuring to get an inside view right now. Looking forward to you next post! Enjoy your travels.

  2. Cameron, Thank you for all your great information and insights. We are scheduled to arrive in France on Sept 29. My husband has received his EU Passe Sanitarie but mine has not arrived yet (fingers crossed it comes in time) Do you have the EU Passe Sanitaire or are you using your CDC card? If using CDC card have you had any issues having it be accepted? Thank you.

    1. Our CDC card have been readily accepted in Croatia, Greece, Austria, Germany, and Slovakia. We have been traveling these places since mid-June, and feel quite safe dor all the reasons Cameron articulates.

      Well written article, thank you! This year has turned out to be a wonderful time to be in Europe. We weren’t sure when we started. And of course, we remain careful even though vaccinated.

    2. I did not go to France (just Slovenia, Italy, Czechia, Germany) and have gotten by, with zero problems, using only my CDC vaccination card. However, if you have a European alternative (like the passe sanitaire) available to you, you might as well get it. (But if it doesn’t show up, you’ll likely still be fine with the CDC card.)

    3. LeeAnn,

      My husband and I just spent two weeks in France. I never got my pass but my husband did (4 weeks after he applied) and we applied on the same day. Luckily if you keep your CDC card handy we found all museums and restaurants from Paris to Provence will accept that as proof of vaccination. We never ran into issues with the CDC card.

    4. We returned from France/Germany on September 29th. In France the Pass Sanitarie was required in many official venues like museums and chateaux’s.

      We applied to France twice prior to departure and finally got email notice of availability 3 days before we were leaving Europe. Not particularly helpful. Fortunately on our 1st full day in France a very nice museum employee who refused our admittance steered us to a pharmacy 2 blocks away. 20 minutes later for 2 euro we had our passes to our great relief. They were requested in France at many venues including restaurants. They were readily accepted as proof of vaccination in Germany.

      I’m note sure if every pharmacy would be as efficient and cooperative.

    5. LeeAnn, we were in Italy for 2 weeks, returning on Sept 23 to the states. We tested before we went, filled out the EU locator form online and took our CDC vaccination cards with us. We showed those on trains, at museums and for indoor restaurant dining. It worked beautifully and other than our passport we did not need any other documentation. We then tested again to come home. It was a lovely time! It required a few more steps and keeping up with travel requirements that kept changing. But it was worth it!

    6. We had the same thing occur. My husband got his and mine was “in process”. I went to the pharmacy near our hotel in Paris, where they are issuing Passé Sanitarie again (there was brief time where they would not issue them). A few days later my electronic application was approved. I have had no trouble showing the pass on my phone and gaining entry nor did I have any problems with just using the CDC card. We have been in Europe since mid-August with no problems.

  3. Thank you Cameron for this report! My family traveled to France and Italy in late July/early August. We had the same experience you are reporting, and it was a dream trip! We found both countries to be very welcoming, even relieved, to have Americans in their midst. We worried before leaving that we may be the unwanted-cousins-at-Thanksgiving, but those fears were put away at our first museum in Arromanches-les-Bains, Normandy, when the gentleman checking our vaccine passports (in our case CDC cards), sighed and said, “American friends. Welcome back.” We also found great comfort in the robust safety measures that both France and Italy were taking. We had some anxieties before we left, but finally just made the decision to go, as prepared as possible, expecting *something* to go sideways. That was a freeing decision. And in the end, nothing went sideways. It was a delight. Enjoy the rest of your travels, and keep us posted!

  4. I always love reading your posts! An aussie here waiting for our borders to open for international travel. I could just imagine the surge of crowds once we are allowed to fly. I miss travelling so much. But we need to be careful as we are older travellers and quite immuno compromised. Thank you for sharing your insights.

    1. Hi Daisy. I should note, my European friends specifically mentioned that they are missing Aussies and Kiwis right now. Your absence is noted. You will be very warmly welcomed back, when you are able.

  5. This is fantastic info – thank you. My wife and I are traveling to Italy in less than 2 weeks, and this helped to affirm what I was already expecting. We’re Canadians, and we’re expecting life in Europe to be similar to our new normal (including the vaccine passport that we just introduced this week in our province). Thanks again for the excellent post.

  6. Cameron——such a thoughtful, honest, and well-written blog. My husband and I (healthy, seasoned travelers in the 65 yo and up demographic), traveled to France in August ‘21…vaccinated, determined, resilient, and cautious, (I am a nurse), but not without some trepidation. I follow Emily Oster, an economist/professor who studies ‘life’ through the lens of risk vs benefit. We, too, felt safer in France than in the USA: higher vaccination rates and better, more consistent compliance to safety protocols. Our guides were very emotional, often teary, as they thanked us for returning. Many had not worked in 18 mos-2 yrs. It was an outstanding trip and fed our soul, as travel does yours.

  7. Thank you for this. We have just booked a trip to the UK for November, and immediately, my brain went to, “Are we nuts?” We may be, but thinking about having something to look forward to also gave me an immediate lift. Now if we could just click our heels and get there and not have to deal with Heathrow …

    1. Thank you, for a glimpse into what we can expect in 2022. We are planning a June trip to France and Italy, and while we were thinking it would be safer to drive, it is reasonable to assume everyone else will to. Carmageddon. We will take that advise, and take the train.

  8. I am heading to Italy in 2 weeks and I am very grateful for your post. It is reassuring and it makes the anticipation that much more enjoyable. I hope to enjoy Italy, Croatia, and hopefully Spain in the next 5 months. I am flexible and cautious! Time for another adventure.

  9. Well written and accurate from what we experienced in Greece last week. On a couple of occasions non-English speaking locals called out “welcome to Greece” as we passed by their coffee shops. We are happy to be back!

  10. This is a very good post and thank you for giving such detail. My husband and I headed to Egypt in a couple of weeks and I hope and pray all will go the same as you have for Europe. They are requiring a QR code for your vaccination and that has been a debate as to if uploading our vaccination cards to vaxpass is good enough or if we have to have N actual QR code that links back to our place of receiving the vaccination or our state. Anything you or anyone else has heard, please let me know. I am so looking forward to traveling abroad again.

  11. I just returned from a group tour via rail through Switzerland ending up in Northern Italy. Changes occurred while we were there and cloth masks were banned, along with Italy requiring a Covid test to enter. Our Tour manager arranged for rapid antigen tests. She also brought us to a pharmacy to hand over our passports and vax cards to get the EU QR code to keep with us and is the EU equivalent. We also had to test within 72 hrs to return to US. I was happy to have constant guidance and would have been anxious as an independent traveler.
    All that being said I felt very safe as masking was routine, crowds were thin. Everyone was happy to see us. The weather was perfect. A trip that was rescheduled twice was finally enjoyed with a college friend of 50 yrs ago. The plane was empty and that made me feel very safe.

  12. Was in Scotland and Ireland last week – vac card required, proof of neg test within 72 hrs of arrival AND an online Personal Locator Form for both countries, outlining where you will be and how to contact you (presumably for poss exposures). Second day test required in UK. Masks expected in shops, indoors.Track and Trace QR codes at all eateries we visited. Almost all eateries are short staffed so make a reservation ahead of time to insure a table. Despite these details, natives were welcoming and the travel, fabulous.

  13. I enjoyed reading your description. It is exactly what we saw in Italy in August – including the parking issues in Montrepulciano, crowds in Cinque Terre, and confusing washing machines! People welcomed us and were glad to have Americans back. On a tour of a winery the guide said, “Welcome back, we missed you!” Wearing a mask is a must and it was refreshing to be among people who did not argue about this requirement. Our CDC card worked for restaurants and all museums, etc.

  14. Cameron, good morning from beautiful downtown Renton Washington. This was a super hopeful and helpful post. One practical question for you…my sister and I are traveling to Italy next year God willing heading to Naples and Amalfi Coast. Do we need N95 masks to travel and be in public? We have our simple cloth masks and want to make sure we’re prepared. Thank you so much

    1. Judy, most of Europe requires more than a cloth mask–what they call “FFP2” masks, which is equivalent to a KN95 or an N95, or surgical mask. I’d bring some of those just to be safe. But you likely won’t have to wear them out on the street–only when going inside (at least, that’s the policy now).

      1. In places like Germany are KN95 accepted, or must one use FFP2?
        If FFP2 are required, how can one purchase them (ideally, before flying to Europe)?

        1. Lee, a KN95 is exactly the same as an FFP2–they just have a different classification system. As long as it “looks like” a KN95 or an N95, it will be no problem; they just want to make sure it’s not merely a cloth mask.

  15. Here’s hoping that the holiday season still sees Americans allowed in. Already booked in Rothenburg the first week of December.

  16. On the plane back home after three weeks in France, Italy, and the Netherlands. I’d like to give a shout out to the Netherlands in particular. Vaccination rates are very high there and masks are only required on public transportation. Life felt very non-COVID normal there.

    While our paperwork wasn’t processed in time to receive a Pass Sanitaire, our CDC cards were accepted everywhere.

    It was a great time to be in Europe!

  17. I just returned from a week in Paris, to experience Christo’s wrap of the Arc de Triomphe. One needs to get a covid test every three days or so, at $50 a pop if you’re not French. Without that test, you can’t dine inside, or go in to any monuments. Outside the Arc’s traffic circle there’s a white tent that does 15 minute tests. Every place I went they were very diligent about scanning your bar code (not needed for sidewalk dining). The coffee shop outside Shakespeare & Company required the test to just place an order. Everyone was good about wearing a mask. Most cabs have sneeze guard barriers. I felt quite safe there. I plan to go to Iceland again this year.

    Iceland stopover was equally thoughtful… no one checked my test card outside of the airport, but it was easy to distance and everyone wore masks.

  18. Thank you Cameron, for such a thorough and informative post. My husband and I live in Czechia and returned to the US (MD & OH) in late August for almost a month. I can honestly say that while it was wonderful visiting family and friends we hadn’t seen in 2 years, I am so relieved to be back in Europe. Yes, the Czechs are not as consistent as they were about wearing masks, and no one does social distancing now, but the number of COVID cases is much lower here. And the reason for that may be that in late 2020 several studies showed that 51% of the Czech population had COVID antibodies. This was before vaccines were available. So I am happy to be back home!

  19. Thank you, Cameron, for your information and insights. We have been in Italy for two weeks now and our CDC card has been easily accepted for events and restaurants. Several Italians have mentioned we are their first American guests in nearly two years.
    At first we showed our original CDC cards. Many people noted that we had received two doses. Then lately we have shown our cell phone data where we had placed scanned copies in our documents file (though we keep the originals safely with us at all times.). So far we have had no problems.
    As mentioned by you and others it is a pleasure to be in a society where masking indoors and on transportation is required and accepted.
    We look forward to two more weeks where our daily stresses are back to the good old “which ferry to take” or “will rain tomorrow?” Oh, and the sometimes mysterious plumbing…

  20. Just got back from a week in Paris. Had to have proof of vaccination and wear a mask indoors. Outdoors was optional wearing a mask. We were in the Montparnasse area of Paris which I highly recommend. Every store front is a restaurant and the people of Paris love to eat an socialize. There are 3 metro stations in the area so you can get anywhere in Paris. If at all possible don’t fly into GDA. Terrible airport. It took us 2.5 hours to get through. We were 10 minutes late getting to the gate. Fortunately Air France held the plane for all us Americans. Their security is absolutely atrocious. It seemed like every American’s bag was pulled aside and inspected which meant everything was taken out and anything with a zipper was opened and then the explosive swap. I believe their main object was to piss us off which they did. Stay away from CDA at all costs. Otherwise we had a get trip. Buy the museum pass and the book of 10 metro tickets.

  21. Excellent reporting as usual. Not sure that taking swipes at American travelers is a positive step, but hey your article. At this time I am most likely going to wait for Rick’s tours to start again rather than going it alone. Up until 2020 I had visited Europe 9 years straight. Half with a “Tour Group” or as Rick says “Bus Tours” and half on my own. Advantages to both. I do have an additional comment. Instead of listing “680,000 Americans have died of COVID, in a country of 330 million people; that’s one in every 485 Americans”, I prefer simple math. 680,000 divided by 330 million = a risk of death of 0.002%. Seems more realistic than your somewhat political statistic.

  22. Has anyone had the issue of not getting the results of your covid pcr test in time? We are flying to Milan and we have to have our test no more than 72 hours before arrival; however, I haven’t found a medical provider that will “guarantee” I will get the results within 48 hours so I can upload them on my airline app in order to check in and get boarding passes. I’m wondering if I can check in and get boarding passes before my results are in. Thanks!

    1. Try pharmacies. Search on Google and Facebook for labs. Try urgent care facilities! In Fairfax County VA we have Personal Labs with drive through free testing locations set up. I got a test at 10 am with results by 10 pm. Good luck!

  23. Well said Cameron, and reflects our experience over three weeks in Italy and Austria in September (we have been home 4 days). I will say our arriving flight (Milan) was met by the three police who checked everyone’s Green Pass/CDC card before we even got to Passport Control. I kept our CDC cards in my money belt at all times, they were as important this year as passports. The Passenger Locator Form also must be completed and submitted online prior to entering Italy, not just when arriving from the States, but also to board our train from Austria back into Italy. And, as in pre-Schengen times, police entered the train and checked passengers once we re-entered Italy. We felt better about Covid risk in Italy than Austria, and universally had the “we have missed Americans” message everywhere we went. Noted an interesting cultural difference: whereas Italians all do wear their masks in their arms, the Austrians never did, always pulled them from a pocket or their bags. (no cloth ones anywhere, all N95 or equivalents). We tested via the Abbot “at home” test in our hotel room the night before we returned, easy to do. I was anxious before we left, and did have “we should leave here” moments in Austria because of crowds and not-great mask wearing, but so glad we had the chance to go. Grateful for all the comments and updates from you Cameron, and other travelers before we left, you helped prepare us well. Thank you.

  24. In late September I spent 10 days in Italy finding it an almost perfect time due to lack of crowds. Naturally, we had to show our vaccination card often but did not find that intrusive. Although I live in a rural area, getting a Covid test within 72 hours of departure was not an issue. Trafalgar made arrangements for a doctor to administer the test before leaving from Venice. Sistine Chapel was almost empty giving extra time to stand in awe of the room unlike the last time I visited.

  25. Sounds hopeful, thanks for your article. We have booked a Mediterranean cruise fir March 2022. Starts by Rome, reading all the COVID testing necessary, is it hard to schedule test in Italy? I know from USA to Europe but how is the return trip testing?

    1. Karen, getting tested in Italy (or anywhere in Europe) is far simpler than most parts of the US. Hotels, etc. can usually help point you in the right direction. Any town or city of reasonable size will have several testing options, and for re-entering the US, they accept the rapid antigen test, so there’s far less waiting than if they required a PCR lab test.

  26. Thanks for this article. One of my big concerns for our trip to Europe in 2022 is the logistics of testing and proving vaccination. Looking at the current regulations (as I read them), we may need to take PCR tests up to 6 times during our trip. But it sounds like getting the tests are relatively easy. With regard to using the CDC card for proof of vaccination, it sounds like they want the original card and not a copy. I’m a bit worried about the card getting damaged during travel. We carry laminated copies with us always plus electronic copies on our phones. How hard is it to get the Pass Sanitaire in advance?

    1. Douglas, I did not go to France but I am hearing it’s currently hard to get a pass sanitaire–the system is not quite humming along yet. However, people I know who have been to France (including Rick!) report that the CDC card works everywhere. I brought my original CDC card, but kept it safe in my money belt and never even took it out. Instead, I carried with me a laminated copy, which was accepted absolutely everywhere. I was glad to have the original, just in case, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where they demand to see the original. Regarding testing–you must be crossing a lot of borders! I’d double-check to see if any of those allow rapid antigen tests, which are much faster and hassle-free compared to PCR tests. Also, by 2022, I imagine some of the restrictions and requirements will ease, so it could be that by then you won’t actually need to test quite so much. But who knows? Keep an eye on changing conditions and be ready for whatever; even if you have to test a bunch, it’s generally not a big hassle to find testing centers in Europe.

      1. Oops. I missed the part about the testing. I’m hoping that the testing requirements change by next summer. We’re flying into Italy, driving into Slovenia, then Croatia, back to Slovenia, and then back to Italy. That could be quite a bit of testing (ha, ha). Sounds like getting tests is fairly easy, though.

        1. Hi Douglas – your itinerary sounds pretty close to what we are doing right now on this portion of our trip. We flew into Trieste, rented a car, drove through Slovenia (be sure to buy a vignette at the border if you’re on the highway), and then into Croatia. We will do the opposite on our way out. We were stopped at the Croatian border and asked for passports and green cards. We had our CDC cards which were fine. Our friend who we are traveling with had gone online and filled out a form on Croatia’s website stating where we were staying and general info. The border guard was checking her computer a lot when checking our documents, so we assumed she could pull up our info online. No tests needed. We will fly home from Venice in a few days and will get a free Covid test there by the train station. They also offer tests for €45 at the airport if all else fails. We saw several pop-up tent type Covid testing stations at different places in Sicily. One next to a church in Taormina, another at the entrance to Agrigento Greek ruins. I haven’t seen one yet in Croatia (Istria). There’s a website that shows where Covid test sights are in Italy. Faiuntestevai.it which is how we found the test sight we plan to use.
          BTW, our CDC cards are getting a bit raggedy, so Cameron‘s idea of laminating a copy is brilliant. My friend also has a clear case on her phone that she tucked hers in, and has shown it without removing several times so there’s that, too. Best of luck on your upcoming trip!

      2. If you have not heard from the French govt 1 or 2 days before departure on your pass sanitaire just message them that you are departing..we received our confirmation the day of departure. We are in France now and are asked in every cafe for the pass.

      3. Cameron, we are in the 4th week of a 5-week trip to France. It is impossible to get a French pass sanitaire on line before you leave, but super easy once you get here. Your hotel can tell you which pharmacy to go to. Show your passport and CDC card, fill out a brief form, and voila! It’s also easy to put your paper pass on your phone (I am a techno-idiot). It has made entry into almost everything quick and easy. It’s also free and no expiration. We’ll use it again on our spring and fall ‘22 RS trips. It goes all over the EU; just click on “border crossing” and it switched to EU mode.

  27. Your report tracks very well with what we just experienced in Spain, although I’m happy to say compliance in Spain is more like Germany than the Czech Republic. :-) To be perfectly honest I’d rather travel in Europe than in parts of the US right now. It was much easier to manage our risk in Spain than it is at home. To anyone worried about traveling to Europe, all I can say is I’d go again in a heartbeat. Especially if the country to be visited has a policy that visitors must be vaccinated and show a negative test. BTW the return trip testing at the Madrid airport was great, we pre-booked the tests for the day before we flew home, went to the lab in Terminal 4, and had the results before we got to our (airport) hotel for the night.

  28. I just returned last week from 11 days in Ireland and I can say that our trip went as planned to the letter. I was taken aback by the number of times we were thanked for being there and told how nice it was to “hear the American accent again.” We stayed mostly in family owned and operated inns and they were particularly grateful for our business. We had so many sites virtually to ourselves, except the Cliffs of Moher – that place was very busy! But we also had extraordinary weather.

    One piece of advice I would give is that, if you are transferring planes in another country on your way to your European destination, that you need to comply with the entry requirements for both destinations. We transferred planes in Iceland and had to have locator forms filed for both Iceland and Ireland.

    Mask usage was not the best in Ireland; there were quite a few chin diapers being worn, noses hanging out, and complaining about having to wear them. Perhaps it is due to Ireland’s vaccination rate of over 90% of adults having had at least one dose? Masks probably feel unnecessary to some. Also, we did experience an anti-mask/covid-conspiracy march on our first day in Dublin. That was a little disconcerting. But also good to see that it’s not “just America” with those types of people.

  29. My wife and I traveled to Italy September 4-19. Though we were concerned by traveling during Covid, we were given comfort that the rate of infection in Italy at the time (and now, it appears) was a fraction of the rate in the U.S. Both vaccination and testing negative were required to board a plane from the U.S to Italy so we were among an unusually safe group of people on the plane. Once in Italy, we found the experience to be presentation of CDC cards (take your real cards, not copies and put them in a plastic slip) and masks indoors and in just a few outside tourist highlights like the Colosseum, sometimes with temperature checks too, and otherwise no masks if you don’t want to outside (some people still did). Passports were sometime requested with CDC cards to verify names and faces match the name on the CDC card, sometimes not. We just had them in hand and ready anytime we were in a line to enter somewhere. Italians were very happy to see Americans and seemed very comfortable – those who are in the tourist industry know that Americans that are there have all been vaccinated and recently tested, so they know you are among the safest people to encounter.

    As to crowds, it is very interesting to read a reason why the hill towns in Tuscany were still pretty busy (though no more than what we read about general experiences there). But we heard repeatedly in Venice from guides that Venice had nowhere near the number of tourists it usually does and one offered that it had not been like we experienced it in 30 years. There are no cruise ships there right now, by the way, though our guides expect that may change. We experienced St. Mark Square on sunny days with a few dozen people there early in the day, a few hundred at mid-day, and maybe a hundred and a half at night. In Florence, we had the Statue of David all but to ourselves with a few dozen people in the room and then just two (really) other than ourselves and a few guards right before closing. I’m the Vatican, which we visited twice, we were on long halls with less than a dozen people including ourselves and were in the Sistine Chapel with 75-80 other people. I wandered down to the Trevi Fountain at 10:15 one Sunday morning to find a dozen or so people there too (though it was quite busy at other times when we returned).

    There is the issue of getting stuck in a hotel room in Italy for a while (10 days at least, as I understand), should you test positive before returning home. And that was the most weighty part of our decision to go or not. We finally decided on eMed tests we could do ourselves and extra BINAXX now tests (essentially the same thing without the video proctoring) so we would stay in some semblance of control of our own situation (though we always intended to be responsible).

    If you can accept the small risk as a vaccinated person of testing positive before returning home, and if you are willing to wear masks across the Atlantic and Europe and while in museums, there really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see much of Italy (and I am sure many other places in Europe) without crowds. If that is you, go go go and go now or as soon as you can. Find a small silver lining in what may otherwise have been (as it has been for us) a long ands disheartening pandemic.

    I wish you all health, a speedy return to normal, and great travels.

  30. Had a great trip to Portugal in September. Had no trouble using my CDC card. There were pop-up Covid testing stations in Lisbon. Everyone wore masks inside.

  31. Cameron, glad to hear you and others have had wonderful experiences in Europe this fall. My husband and I are considering traveling to Paris in early December, but we are wondering if you or others on this thread obtained special insurance due to Covid risk prior to traveling. Thank you.

    1. We didn’t get special insurance for our 2 weeks in France in August. Just the usual medical since Medicare doesn’t work abroad. In all fairness, when we went there wasn’t so much talk about breakthrough cases as there are now. Plus, we have a few bucks and can afford 10 days in Quarantine if needed. I would worry more about having to watch French TV in a hotel room for 10 days. Our French is just so-so. Paris, of course, was beautiful.

      1. Thank you Tom French(!) for your reply. I appreciate your thoughts on this and also am glad you enjoyed your time in Paris.

  32. We’re leaving for Italy in less than 2 weeks. After reading your blog, I feel much better about my decision to not cancel our trip, even though our tour company cancelled our tour. I’ve been to Italy enough that I can just rent a car and go on my own, as I’ve done so many times. Thanks.so much

  33. Cameron, thanks for the great information. We are scheduled to go to Bulgaria in May, however, I see that the border is currently closed to US Citizens. This is, in part due to the fact that less than 20% of Bulgaria citizens have yet to be vaccinated. Sounds like many people in Bulgaria do not trust the Government and refuse to be vaccinated. Things will hopefully change by the spring but all we can do is wait to see what will happen.

  34. While I am thrilled to have your comments Cameron about specific details on travel in Europe, I am saddened you have so many negative comments about America . Appear’s to be a theme on this site by RS employees – Europeans do it so much better.
    We reside in Bend OR, as you know over 100,000 people reside here and up the numbers to tourists by the ten’s of thousands. Let me be PERFECTLY CLEAR who is spreading the fear, it’s our Government, Governor and City Council.
    Business owner want to be open, people DO NOT WANT TO WORK, why should they when the government’s check allows they to stay home and get stoned all day. Our beautiful community is being run down by homeless who have been told they can pitch a tent where ever they like which has lead to human caused forest fires and destruction of private and public land. BLAME THE PEOPLE WHO CAUSED THIS – THOSE IN OFFICE.
    It’s the people elected to office not the hard working, tax paying Americans.

  35. We tried four different times to go to England. Finally, in August our “Plan E” allowed us to use our flights to London by adding on connecting flights to/from Heathrow to Paris. We drove to Brittany and did a lovely 9 night/9 city tour (followed by 4 nights in Paris). Paperwork for Covid was just a few speed bumps but well worth it. We found out that Parisians go to Brittany in August and that Americans are rare there. (We were told twice by shopkeepers that we were the first Americans they’d ever met!). With the help of a little Wikipedia homework, we found Brittany to be full of wonderful history, gorgeous scenery, and friendly Bretons. We used Rick’s France guidebook to plan our 3-week tour of France in 2018 and wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t gone. As for Covid…we drove ourselves, stayed away from the Metro in Paris, avoided the more crowded museums, and mostly ate outside. We had our two “jabs” and felt like we’d missed Europe long enough. It was time to return. And to make up for 2020, we’re going back twice in 2022.

  36. This is the first “blog” I’ve read on Rick Steves. No idea what possessed me to but I’m so glad I did. I’m leaving for Italy tomorrow!! A trip postponed, many times, is finally happening. All the things I was wondering, you addressed! I can’t wait!!
    Thank you!!!

  37. We are in week 6 of a 2 month road trip around southern Europe: Croatia through Italy, Provence, and around the Iberian peninsula. Cameron’s post is a perfect summary of all we’ve experienced as well! Notably:
    – The lack of Americans IS astonishing, and we too have heard again & again how much we’re missed. Heartfelt!
    – We still see cruiseships in the major ports, and felt their presence in Barcelona. La Rambles was elbow to elbow. But! Tickets to all major sites are readily available, even the same day. On a weekend.
    – We were prepared for many stumbles & roadblocks, but haven’t experienced a one. Just the opposite, in fact. Every cafe, restaurant, attraction & shop is open and welcoming. Any ‘stumbles’ are happy, personal interactions where we’ve altered our plans to follow a local’s recommendation. And in one case, a personal tour through his restoration project.
    – We have not found traffic to be a problem, but we don’t spend much time in cities. They don’t seem any worse than American cities, although Euro drivers dart & squeeze their tiny cars in & around town w minimal, if any, street markings.
    – We feel VERY fortunate to have be traveling this particular time in Europe! The weather is fine, the crowds are minimal, and we’re far removed from the negative American narrative on Covid. Europeans are much more practical and accepting. Simple, really!

  38. I’m sitting in Croatia reading this article. We were previously in Sicily for 10 days. Arriving into Palermo, we had a surprise Covid test requirement upon arrival because we had spent 30 minutes in the Madrid airport in transit. I’m not gonna lie – it was a stressful, chaotic hour and a half (wttw- if you don’t get your email regarding your result like your spouse did – don’t sit and worry, go to the window and ask – they have it on their computer!). Other than that, we just pull out our vaccine card when asked for a ‘green card’ and all is good.
    Probably the least discussed negative aspect of the trip has been all the flight changes we and our traveling partners experienced on the way over. I’m guessing that due to low passenger numbers (we had full rows to ourselves), the airlines are scrambling and our itinerary changed 4 times in the 2 days before we left including leaving 24 hours earlier than expected and Alitalia canceling flights as they go bankrupt. Our flight home is now requiring an overnight in London. Flexibility seems to be the name of the game.

    1. Ps – the Ryan Air flight from Catania to Trieste was super easy. Italy to Italy, so zero Covid requirements other than our vaccine card. Sicily required a mask to enter pretty much everywhere. Slovenia and Croatia (Istria) seem much less strict. We saw lots of tour busses of European travelers in Sicily. We are seeing small cruise ships (of bikers – looks really fun!) in Rovinj. Ample parking for our rental car everywhere. No reservations needed at recommended restaurants so far.

  39. Just returned from a month in Europe…20 days in Italy and 10 in Paris. Everyone was welcoming and thrilled to see us. We obtained our digital passes from France via the internet and they worked great! We felt very safe there. The lack of large tour groups was wonderful. One property manager said we were the first Americans to rent an apartment in 2 years and she brought us local goodies as a gift. We showed our CDC cards in Italy, but a couple museums did ask for the digital “green pass” so we were glad we had it. Planning next year’s trip! And we always go in September- beautiful weather and less crowds! Also spent 3 nights in Rue Cler area in a Rick Steves-recommended hotel and they were so proud of us for having our digital passes! Siena tour guide was amazing- Federica Olla- and so welcoming! Been tough on everyone, and we happily contributed to the economy while there!

    1. And St. Marks was so uncrowded…. Hope the cruise ships are not allowed back there! Also, my husband and I totally agree with the comment above about Charles de Gaulle airport. We will never… Hopefully… Go back there. It was chaos including having to print the tags for our own luggage, with no direction or information. We went through security of some type several times, and then both my husband and I were denied boarding and had another security search at the gate. Fortunately, it was a short delay. However, air France kept the plane at the gate for a couple late passengers, radar then went out for over an hour, and when we got to Atlanta, Delta was a disaster and said that Air France had not properly rebooked us after we missed our connection due to the delay, so we did not get home till midnight. And this is flying business class! So we will avoid both Charles de Gaulle airports and the Atlanta airport. Air France and Delta systems are not meshed properly. Having said this… The Air France air attendants were so welcoming and so wonderful. It was only when we got home and we were in Atlanta, that we experienced incompetence and a failure to assist when we were dealing with Delta, and we had to wait until the third flight after that to get on, because Delta over- books every flight so there are no seats available until 9 PM after two other flights had gone out to Fort Myers. One of the main issues is that we had to get our baggage in Atlanta and then recheck it, even though they were supposedly connecting flights… This did not happen with other airlines like British Airways, so I’m assuming this is a Air France/Delta issue, or an Atlanta airport issue, so consequently it takes a lot longer for you to get to your connecting flight and you need more time in Atlanta than even a couple hours… but it did not help that we sat there in Paris for an hour and 45 minutes on the plane. This was our only hiccup and it was on the way home and had really nothing to do with being in Europe, other than avoiding Charles de Gaulle airport if it all possible. We flew on Air France to Italy on the way there and we flew from Florence to Paris, with no issues. Also, we had no problem getting a rapid test at a pharmacy in Paris from a very gracious and kind pharmacist and had the results in 15 minutes and it cost about 35 bucks. Rapid tests were available at the pharmacy below our apartment in Siena, if we needed it, but we did not need one to fly from Italy to France. Absolutely wonderful trip in every other way, including amazing people in France and Italy

  40. Cameron – what a great article! My husband and I were in Paris for a week in September, we are now in Bordeaux for a month, and will take a Provence river cruise before returning to Paris in November. We found your article to be ‘spot on’ with what we have experienced in France. The French are handling the virus in a matter of fact way which makes life go on without thinking about it every minute. We are so happy we came.

  41. I went to Europe and in early August and didn’t feel that much safer than in U.S. states that take the Coronavirus seriously. For instance, in France they instituted a strict health pass proving vaccination for people visiting sites, and masks were required. However, people were packed into cafes right next to each other, especially when it was raining, like somehow you can’t pick up the virus while unmasked and eating. No reduced capacity. My understanding is that this has changed since I left. Belgium was no health plan at the time, but always indoor masks. For the most part I felt safe in France and Belgium.

    But in the Netherlands hardly anyone was wearing a mask indoors. Usually it was ONLY on public transportation, yet they were militant about hand santization. Not that this is a bad thing, but most studies have shown that surface transmission is likely very low. In fact when I went to sites and hotels, I would repeatedly have staff tell me I don’t have to wear a mask indoors, without a qualifyer about vaccination, and would repeatedly get comments like “if it makes you feel better go ahead and wear it”. This even occured at the science museum . . . yikes. I did not feel expecially safe.

    Was amazed by the differences between nearby countries.

  42. This was extremely helpful to me, as I am a teacher and plan to take 28 8th graders to Paris for a scholastic exchange in 2022. I know that our hosts are on top of things, but I worry about the judgement of French and American teenagers thrilled about being together for the first time and sharing their pride for Paris with their new friends.

  43. I spent two weeks in France during August and ten days in other parts of France in late September and early October. In August there were more questions about the requirements related to Covid. By late September the rules were more clear but not always uniformly applied. You need to be fully vaccinated to enter France but we were not checked. We did have to certify we were vaccinated and not sick. While we thought we needed the QR code on the French pass sanitaire we found out that we could travel on trains with CDC cards. All museums in Paris required a pass sanitaire, and we did not try to use CDC cards. Most restaurants required them but some didn’t ask for it, apparently because we were tourists because they checked all French customers. I had a pass sanitaire from my August trip that i got at a pharmacy. My nephew tried to get his at a few Paris pharmacies but they wouldn’t do it so he got a Covid test that was good for 72 hours. A pharmacy in Avignon was willing to covert my nephew’s CDC card into a pass sanitaire which made it easier to get into museums and restaurants. There are many places to get 15 minute Covid tests to return to the US. They cost Euros 25. Almost all French adults are vaccinated and wear masks so it seemed safe to be in France.

  44. I arrived in Vienna Austria on the 5th of September for 9 days, with hardly any inconveniences while I was there, showing my vaccine card, at cafes, metro, buses, pubs and museums. Everyone was respectful, wearing masks, no questions asked.
    I then flew to Nice France, no test to get in, only my vaccine card. I got my EU vaccination pass, and have been thoroughly enjoying traveling around France, from the south to Paris to see the Arc de Triomphe Wrapped, and back south. Again, masks in stores, cafes, public transportation and museums, no problems, with my vaccine pass making things easy. The French have been very welcoming, with 85% adults vaccinated. Most of the visitors are European.
    A whole 45 days between Vienna and France which has refreshed my soul,

  45. I would appreciate anyone willing to confirm this is what they were required to do when going to and returning from Italy:
    Going to Italy: test 3 days prior to departure, complete the EU Digital Passenger Locator Form, bring my white vaccination card.
    Returning to US: Test 3 days prior to departure, no other forms required?

  46. Does one need testing for flying WITHIN Europe? My December-January trip will include several flights (round trip from Berlin to Göteborg, Vienna to Florence, Florence to Frankfurt).

  47. We just arrived back in the USA from Rome having visited Germany, the French Riviera and Rome. And yes, I’m happy to report Europe is geared up for sightseeing, with limited museum reservations and tours a day, to vaccination and temperature checks, mask protocols, inexpensive Covid tests. The coliseum and the Vatican which is usually packed was so enjoyable. And yes, we did take our own precautionary approach by continually sanitizing our hands, mask up in close proximity to others and eat in restaurants outside areas. Border crossing were much easier than anticipated. – can’t wait to return.

  48. We will be first time travelers to Europe, specifically Hungary. No response here about that particular destination. Our son, attending University in Pecs, has told us that no one wears masks or socially distances. Our flight leaves mid December and talk of surges gives us pause. We are reconsidering. Especially if we can get flight credit.

  49. Cameron, I love every single story you write. Thank you for this detailed report. I agree with so much of this – the pragmatism in Europe is apparent (see: masking toddlers in the USA). However, I do worry about this continued health theater for fully vaccinated individuals. The off-ramp for masking and much of this “safety-ism” was the vaccine – now it seems as if it is an endless new normal. That makes me terribly sad.

  50. 2+ weeks spent in Italy in late September/early October. In fact, ate dinner and enjoyed the service at the same Cinque Terre restaurant as you and made a great connection with that kind, energetic and entertaining waiter (noting you did not name the restaurant, I will honor that precedent although would love to be able to offer it and him as highly-recommended experiences). My takeaways: On the good side – Italy is not nearly as crowded as I have experienced in the past, making especially Rome more enjoyable, accessible, and efficient. The Italians were so kind and very pleased to have Americans resume their visits for obvious reasons. The quality of dining experiences was top-notch, the demand to break out the CDC vaccination card at virtually every indoor venue was handled well and not an impediment to any experience. Rapid testing performed at the Rome Airport International Terminal 3 right before our flight departure was convenient and well-run, but be certain to register online for that service ahead of time, otherwise, your experience will be slower and the risk of missing your flight increases.

    The not-so-good side: Italy is understandably still reeling from its early experience with Covid. As a result, their enforced masking regimen is nonsensical and often oppressive; certainly not based on science or even common sense. For instance, in wide-open courtyards adjacent to beautiful churches you are strenuously and aggressively ordered to keep your mask on. They know that folks will be craving some fresh air after 90-masked minutes indoors, so they post enforcers outdoors to demand that your mask remains on. Utterly ridiculous, but “when in Rome…”(or Florence, Siena, Pompei, Tivoli, etc.). Additionally, many of the palaces, museums, and sites that include smaller (but very interesting and historically significant) spaces are simply closed to everyone, regardless of vaccination or masking. This is understandable but disappointing and something to be aware of when deciding whether to go now or delay in hopes of further relaxation of protocols. Travel safely!

  51. Cameron, we have a big trip to Europe planned for spring 2022, so I really appreciate your travel update. We have our CDC vaccination cards, but the names don’t match our passports exactly. For example, it has Ron instead of Ronald. Is that going to be a problem? I don’t know if you can have your card reissued. Any advice?

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