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European travel in summer 2021: What you should know

The US is no longer a COVID-19 "safe" country, according to the EU. Here's how that'll affect your travel plans.

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

The European Union removed the US from its list of "safe countries"on Monday, recommending that member states reinstate nonessential travel restrictions for Americans. The move comes as the US grapples with a surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations caused by the delta variant

Member states of the EU can still decide to allow vaccinated Americans to visit, according to the European Council. An EU source told the Washington Post that it's "widely expected that fully vaccinated Americans would still maintain unfettered access" to countries in the EU.  

So you were planning a last-minute trip to Europe this summer. Does America's "unsafe" status change your plans? Here's what we know about European travel right now. 

Can I still travel if I'm vaccinated? 

The EU is made up of 27 countries, and each individual country sets its own requirements for travel. Given the newness of the EU's recommendation, it's a little up in the air, but it's expected countries will continue to allow Americans who can prove they're fully vaccinated. Being fully vaccinated means two weeks have passed since you received your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or since you got your single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

The EU's recommendation isn't legally binding, which likely means not a lot will change if you're fully vaccinated, and more details are on the way. The Austrian embassy, for example, issued a note Monday that "until implementation" of the Council's recommendation, entry restrictions will "remain lifted for travelers from the United States or other countries with with low epidemiological risk."

Not all European countries are part of the EU. Americans are also currently allowed to travel to the UK, for example, which formally split from the EU last year. Within the UK, the specific travel rules for Americans traveling to England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland will vary slightly. 

To view COVID-19 travel information for any country you're considering visiting, and to see what the rules are for traveling Americans, see this page from the Bureau of Consular Affairs

Can I go to Europe if I'm not vaccinated? 

The EU's recommendation is most likely to affect your travel plans if you're not vaccinated, as member states might choose to impose stricter testing or quarantine rules, or restrict nonessential travel all together. 

People who aren't vaccinated may currently travel to some countries in Europe, as long as they provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test and adhere to the country's quarantine and COVID-19 regulations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against international travel until you're fully vaccinated. 

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If you're fully vaccinated and decide to travel this summer, you must continue to follow COVID-19 testing regulations, mask rules and other health guidelines put in place by your destination. 

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What about cruises? 

If you want to cruise through Europe, you can take the Norwegian Cruise Line if you're fully vaccinated and submit to a COVID-19 test and health screening before you board. According to the company's website, the current regulations will be in place for cruises that sail through Dec. 31, 2021.

Other cruise lines are gearing up by setting COVID-19 vaccine requirements for passengers. Celebrity Cruises, Azamara, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silversea, Victory Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Oceania and other cruise lines will require that passengers be fully vaccinated before boarding this summer. 

Is it safe to travel right now?

The emergence of the delta variant has made everything less safe, but if you're fully vaccinated, you're less likely to contract and spread COVID-19. If you're traveling with children who can't get vaccinated yet, however, the CDC recommends you also follow recommendations for people who are not fully vaccinated. It's also important to consider who you'll come home to after you're done traveling, and if you live with a person at higher risk for severe COVID-19, it might affect your decision to travel or to make plans to quarantine once you get home. The delta variant has caused more breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people and, while mild in most cases, the coronavirus can be passed on to others.  

According to the CDC, all air passengers returning to the US from another country must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before returning, and then test once more three to five days after returning home. Before traveling, you should consider the current prevalence of COVID-19 in your chosen country.

How will I prove I'm vaccinated?

As of now, the only way for an American to prove vaccination to an airline or anyone asking is to display the card you received after getting your COVID-19 vaccine, which carries the CDC logo and all appropriate information. You also may've been emailed or texted your proof of vaccination, or have it on an app. 

The EU's Digital COVID Certificate was operational in all EU member states on July 1, but it's only for EU citizens and residents. The EU's certificate provides digital or paper proof via QR code that a person has either recovered from COVID-19, is vaccinated against it or has recently received a negative test. 

COVID-19 "passports" in the US are an evolving concept, and proof of vaccination is becoming the norm in many cities in the US for indoor dining and other activities. We'll keep you updated on the future of COVID-19 passports and how they apply to European travel. 

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.