This was to be the great winter tourist season return to Europe, with vibrant Christmas markets of sizzling sausages and mulled wine wafting through the air, skiers gliding over snowy slopes, and operas to greet audiences in large theaters.
But then came the deadly fourth wave of coronavirus cases, triggering a new round of curfews and restrictions in several European countries (and in Austria, vaccination of the majority of the country’s population). The austerity measures sparked violent protests across the continent, with tens of thousands of demonstrators claiming the demands violated their fundamental freedoms. Many Christmas markets have now been canceled, some winter resorts are closed, and concert halls have been shuttered. The rapidly changing landscape has made it difficult to plan a trip to Europe again. Here’s what we know about the latest restrictions.
Can I travel to Europe?
It depends on where you plan to go. Although the European Union has published general rules for entering the block, each of the 27 member states sets their own entry requirements.
Most European countries allow vaccinated Americans to visit, but some, such as Austria, have re-imposed nonessential travel restrictions. The Times maintains an updated list of countries that Americans can currently visit, detailing specific entry rules.
Through guidelines and warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of State, they recommend refraining from travel to certain European countries, including Austria, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Greece, Norway, Ireland, and the Czech Republic.
In which countries are the restrictions imposed again?
Austria has taken the toughest stance so far, becoming the first Western country on Monday to reintroduce total national isolation, allowing people to leave their homes only to go to work or buy essential items such as food and medicine.
According to the Austrian government, the stop will last at least 10 days and may be extended until December 13. During this period, tourist travel to Austria is prohibited and tourist attractions, including Christmas markets, museums and theaters, are closed. Tourists already in the country and unable to change their flights home will be allowed to stay in hotels, but must comply with isolation rules.
Germany warned on Friday that it could take strict measures if the number of coronavirus cases in that country continues to rise, indicating that a lockdown may be possible even for those who are vaccinated. Christmas markets have been canceled in Saxony and Bavaria, bars and clubs are closed, and restaurants are closed.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia, which have some of the highest infection rates in Europe, have banned unvaccinated people from visiting restaurants, hotels, bars and hairdressers, even if they test negative for coronavirus.
November 13 The Netherlands returned to a partial isolation, at least three weeks: restaurants and shops closed early and spectators banned from attending sports events. The Dutch government is studying ways to limit the access of unvaccinated people in enclosed spaces – a measure that sparked riots and protests across the country.
Ireland also re-imposed curfews this week, requiring bars and clubs to close at midnight.
I’ll need a booster?
Most European countries do not require revaccination to enter, but some countries have set an “expiration date” for the vaccine for travelers.
Croatia, Austria and Switzerland require second doses of vaccine or booster vaccines to be administered within a year of entering the country. In Austria, a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is valid for 270 days, or about nine months.
Starting from December 15, the French government will require that all people age 65 and older who want to attend the closed institutions, such as restaurants, museums and theaters, received booster six months and five weeks after the second dose.
Do I need a digital health pass?
Most European countries accept the official CDC vaccination card and other digital health certificates used in the United States, such as Clear’s Smart Health Card or Healthpass.
Some places, such as Switzerland and Belgium, require tourists to apply for a pass to visit indoor areas such as restaurants and museums. In Switzerland, all visitors must apply for a pass prior to arrival, and processing time can take up to seven days. Belgium requires tourists over 16 to apply for a Covid Safe Ticket to visit cultural venues, bars and restaurants.
In other countries, such as France, local digital passes are optional for foreign visitors and can be obtained from some local pharmacies.
How will the latest surge affect the ski season?
While Austria has closed ski resorts during the lockdown, the ski season in the rest of Europe continues.
Ski resorts in France and Italy reopened last week and all skiers over the age of 12 must show proof of vaccination, recovery from Covid-19 infection, or negative coronavirus test to access the ski lifts. (At the onset of the pandemic, many popular ski destinations such as Ischgl in Austria became hotspots for the virus as they gathered large groups in confined spaces such as ski lifts, chalets, and restaurants.)
Switzerland has also opened its slopes for the season and requires visitors to present coronavirus health certificates for resort bars and restaurants.
Can I travel through the airports of blocked countries?
There are currently no restrictions for travelers in transit through European airports to other countries. During isolation in Austria, passengers in transit through the country are not allowed to leave the airport.
Should you worry about protests?
Over the weekend, major protests erupted in Europe over renewed restrictions on Covid-19. Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in European cities such as Vienna, Amsterdam, Belgium and Rome and clashed with police.
The protests became particularly violent in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, with large groups throwing stones and fireworks at officers, forcing the police to fire back. In Brussels, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd.
Sporadic small-scale protests continued for a week. Before you go out, it is best to check the local news sites for the planned protests.