fbpx

COVID Update for European and International Travel

Traveling again is going to require some extra thought, planning, and patience. This episode provides some thoughtful ideas about where and how to travel during the pandemic.

[00:40] Status of International Travel

  • Mexico, Croatia, Costa Rica, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Turks and Caicos, and other Caribbean destinations

[02:52] Countries Open in Europe

  •  Albania, Croatia, Malta, Iceland, Estonia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, UK

[08:16] Best Bets in Europe for the Summer/Early Fall

  • UK, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, other mainland European countries
  • Travel Insurance
  • EU member websites
  • State Department website

[12:24] Reduced Capacity

  • Flight schedule changes

[15:26] Possibility of Snap Lockdowns

Dream. Learn. Plan. Prepare. Go to Guidester/Virtual-Vacation

Season 1: Episode 7

#Travel #Vacation #Europe #traveleurope #covid #covid-19 #pandemic #airlinechange #UK #Statedepartment #Unitedkingdom #Iceland #Spain #France #NorthMacedonia #Montenegro #Albania #Croatia #travelinsurance

Transcript
Arnold:

What's the status of international travel? Can Americans travel to Europe, and how has the vaccine roll out progressing in Europe? When do you expect Europe to open back up and when should I make my travel plans to Europe? What will be required to travel when things open back up and what are the greatest risks for COVID travel? Travel to Europe is off limits for the time being, but we can still keep the flame of wanderlust alive through the Virtual Vacation with Guidester, the weekly podcast, where host Jack Baumann, founder of Guidester and travel enthusiast Arnold Stricker, dive into new destinations, exploring their unique history, culture and special vibe. You will also get insider tips about these destinations you won't get from other sources. Now let's join our host, the Guidester himself, Jack Baumann. Jack, people have been waiting a long time to get through the pandemic. It's been a big burden on some people, especially people who like to travel and get around. People are now traveling around the United States. What is the status of international travel?

Jack:

Yeah, that's a good question. It really is destination specific. International travel generally is still discouraged; it's still difficult but more destinations are opening up. The destinations that Americans are going to right now that are outside the U S are mostly in the Caribbean. Now that multiple vaccines have come out, governments across the world are ramping up the distribution and improving methods for testing and detecting so we can open one more safely. A lot of countries are shooting for the summer of this year, the fall, I think for sure, but it's really destination specific. So there's a handful of countries that are actually open to American travelers right now with certain restrictions. Usually just have to provide a negative COVID test. Some have additional health screenings and documents that you have to provide. Some are doing quarantines, but the major destinations right now that people are going to are Mexico, Croatia, Costa Rica, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Turks and Caicos and other Caribbean destinations. This podcast is focused on Europe, so we'll spend the remainder of the episode discussing COVID related travel to Europe.

Arnold:

Yeah. And we went down to St. Croix over the Christmas New Year's holiday at the U.S. Virgin Islands and we had to have a COVID test and proof of that going into the airport. No problems, they were all set; they had been preparing and doing all their mask wearing and cleaning.

Jack:

So it went smooth in St. Croix?

Arnold:

It went very smooth. They were actually more on top of it, I think, than a lot of the states here in the United States.

Jack:

Tourism is such a big deal for so much of the world, including the Caribbean. So they are incentivized to, to do it well and do it smooth.

Arnold:

They really have suffered a great deal because of the tourism. I agree with you.

Jack:

That's exactly right.

Arnold:

So can Americans actually travel because recently; Italy put the screws on, England's put the screws on being able to come in? The vaccines, not working over there, maybe some don't want to take the vaccine similar to the United States here. Can we actually travel to Europe? I know you mentioned Croatia we can go to, but what about if I wanted to go to Germany or France?

Jack:

So there are a few countries in Europe right now that are open which I'll list here in a second, but most of Europe is really just shuttered. Most of Europe is still going through their third wave I think it is. They're not allowing foreign nationals, most foreign nationals, and that includes the U S it's not just, we're not the sick kid on the block or anything like that. Europe is still very much shuttered depending on the country.

Arnold:

So what are the countries that are actually open?

Jack:

So the countries that are open to Americans in Europe right now are Albania, Croatia, Malta, Iceland, Estonia, Montenegro, Macedonia, which is actually North Macedonia now. Used to be former Yugoslavia Republic. Anyway, so Macedonia or North Macedonia, Ukraine, and Ireland; although Ireland is definitely not worth it cause there's just so many restrictions and I think you have to quarantine, when you get there. So all of these destinations require negative COVID tests and a few do require quarantine measures. So it's probably best to wait, but like Iceland. I have a tour planned to Iceland in July and I think that's going to happen. Iceland's accepting visitors right now. Croatia is taking visitors; all with a negative COVID test and some contact tracing. You have to let the authorities know what hotel you're at but, there are a few countries in Europe that are open right now. Because Europe is so interconnected, I would probably wait until the rest of Europe opens up.

Arnold:

Now you have to have that negative test coming in. I have heard of countries, you have to have a negative test going out. Actually the States require it.

Jack:

That's exactly right; I think it's 72 hours and you have to have a negative test to reenter the U S even all U.S. Citizens. That really is the burden. Now in the Caribbean, it's easier because these resorts are providing the COVID test for you free of charge. But if I'm in Croatia it might not be as easy. So again, just for that sake, Iceland, probably, I think they do have some easy rapid tests. Cause, Iceland is just much more advanced than Croatia, but I, I do think it's possible, but it's just more of a burden than it was before.

Arnold:

Then there is one of those famous Caribbean resorts that actually ran out of COVID tests and they had to put people up in a hotel and they had a quarantine. So it was a real problem.

Jack:

For the hotel, not the person,

Arnold:

But they had to stay in their hotel room and they had a minimal kind of food budget. They couldn't go out of the room. It was a nightmare.

Jack:

I've actually heard of a couple of resorts; basically just saying you can't leave the property. A couple people that I've talked to have tested positive and the resort paid for their whole stay for that seven or 10 day quarantine. And they just stayed. I think there were certain rules, you got to come out at certain times, but they paid for their whole stay. So it just depends on the resort and what their policies are but it is going to create a bottleneck.

Arnold:

How has the vaccine rollout going in Europe? The information we get in the States here is that it's haphazard. Some of them are not working,

Jack:

Europe's in different stages of the vaccine rollout. Several countries have even temporarily halted the use of AstraZeneca vaccine due to health concerns, but I think that's back on now. New purchase orders and pushes by the government are seeing ramp ups in all member States. The UK is doing the best job. Their vaccine rollout is exceeding expectations and they're actually going to plan to ease all restrictions. They started the phased roll back of restrictions in April and they're planning to have all restrictions removed the entire United Kingdom by end of June.

Arnold:

It means if I go over there and I can travel over there, I can still get into the tower of London and all the other wonderful things that you've talked about in previous shows?

Jack:

Exactly. Time will tell what actually will reopen as far as the museums and the restaurants and the pubs. But yes, the plan is by the end of June, everything in the UK, from shops to pubs, to attractions, to the parks and everything will be open. There will be no more restrictions at the end of June.

Arnold:

How about France or Italy or Germany? Have you gotten any word on that from some of your contacts?

Jack:

Italy is not doing well. The EU has gotten a bad start to the vaccine rollout. There's various reasons for that; their purchase orders, the way they distributed it. There's definitely some hiccups and the UK is not subject to that cause the UK left in December. So I think that benefited them a little bit. They had more control over the buying of the vaccines and distribution. That's benefited the UK. Italy's far behind on those rollout, but it has plans to vaccinate 60% of its population by the end of July, and 80% of its entire population by the end of September. France has been particularly slow as well; due to government regulations and purchase orders. Also France I did not know this until I did some more research, they have a lot of anti-vaxxers. France is I think the most anti-vaxxer Western European country in Europe.

Arnold:

Really?

Jack:

Yeah. I confirmed that with my friend who lives in Paris as well he's French. He said the same thing; there's a big swath of the population that are generally very opposed to vaccines So France is battling that cultural problem but also their government is getting in the way. They do have plans to inoculate 30 million of his citizens by the end of summer. That's about 45% of its population by the end of summer, so behind Italy. Spain right now, about 10 and a half percent of its population have one shot, which is almost identical to all of Europe. Again, different countries are in different stages, but Spain has been an indicator of all of Europe combined, which right now is about 10 and a half percent have received one shot. I think four and a half or 5% have received both.

Arnold:

So maybe Brexit was good for the Brits, for the vaccine?

Jack:

Yes. I that's a whole other podcast that I would love to delve into, but it does seem like Brexit, at least in this case was a good thing. They just have less hoops to jump through; they don't have to go through the EU steps that all the other member States have to go through.

Arnold:

Jack you had mentioned earlier in our discussion here when I should travel to Europe. In your opinion, is that going to be a broad brush statement for all of Europe or should I be careful as it relates to going to Italy or to France because of the anti-vaxxers that you mentioned?

Jack:

I do think that the EU is trying to do a collective effort to open up all of Europe. It really is heavily dependent on destination. Now, if, when we're talking EU, we can remove the UK from that. So let me just start with the UK before we remove it. As I said, the UK is by far the furthest, along in their vaccine rollout, I think in the world maybe Israel is ahead of them, but in the whole European continent, definitely the UK. So if you're wanting to go to Europe or anywhere in Europe, the UK is your best bet right now, just because of how far they are along with the vaccine rollout. Greece has plans to open by the end of summer, Spain again, France is not doing so great, Germany, in Italy too. I actually have a trip planned in Italy to Rome in September. Honestly, I would give that a 50, 50 chance maybe a 60, 40 that it'll happen. It really just depends on two things. The vaccine can continue to roll out and people taking it, but then also how the local businesses will respond to reopening. So I would say if you're burning just to get to Europe this year, I would make plans anywhere in Europe. Now again, the UK, I think summer is a good bet. I do think Greece, end of summer is a good bet. Iceland, for sure. But when you're talking Italy, Spain, France, Germany, other mainland European countries, I would make plans for late September, early October. There's a very good chance doing it in the summer is possible. But I think you're playing with fire; because then you'll have to change plans and changing plans is not a big deal, but you want to avoid that. If you're just burning to get to Europe this year late September is a very good bet. Then just make sure when you book that it's a fully refundable trip, which airlines are giving credits and some are even giving cash back. The hotels are doing like a five day prior cancellation 10 day. So you can make these reservations without being out of pocket, if it doesn't go. Again, so what I would do, I'm making my plans for September and probably by June early July is when I'll make my decision. And the planes I've made are fully refundable. I think that's the best way; and to make it certain that you're doing the right thing and get travel insurance.

Arnold:

I was going to mention travel insurance on a trip like that is very critical.

Jack:

I would say. Yes, it's critical mostly for what could happen while you're there. It's not as critical for cancellations due to COVID because the hotels and the airlines should already have cancellation policies in place.

Arnold:

Now, one of the biggest things which we previously discussed a little bit is having a negative test. Are there other specific kinds of requirements that are going to be imposed upon travelers as they enter a country?

Jack:

The EU is still negotiating this on how they're going to proceed. There's a lot of talk about the vaccine passport, having some sort of centralized passport database that verifies you've been vaccinated and allowed to come in. Right now, as it stands you've got to have a 72 hour negative COVID test to enter even the countries that we mentioned that are open Iceland, Croatia, et cetera. So that'll definitely be part of it. Whether or not it's going to be a COVID passport, EU is still negotiating that. These guidelines are really fluid and I expect they'll be updated multiple times before the summer. So the key is check the state department's website and then also check the EU member sites, italy.gov and other country specific websites will be able to help you. But quite honestly, too, this is a great reason to use Guidester, but also to have a travel agent. If you know a travel agent, this is a great reason to use an agent because they're going to have the most up-to-date information on where you want to go.

Arnold:

And all the more reason to listen to the Virtual Vacation with Guidester podcasts.

Jack:

That's exactly right. We're going to give you all the good tips and the tricks and and if you do go to Guidester.com, you can sign up for our members only newsletter. As part of that, we include a COVID update packet. I'm going to be sending out at least once a month, if not more, probably twice a month updates on country specifics requirements for Europe. So if you want to know more about Europe, destination tips, tricks, inspiration, but also the COVID updates. That's a great way to do it.

Arnold:

That's really great information because if I made my travel plans to go to England and I've checked everything out on the national website, and I've gone to some of the minor websites of the sites that I like to see, the most frustrating thing for me is if I get over there and things are closed. So what restrictions do you see with some places opening up like restaurants big tourist attractions, hotels or transportation kinds of things. I want to go through the Chunnel and go to France, even though they're anti-vaxxers over there. What am I going to do?

Jack:

You definitely hit the nail on the head that the real concern is reduced capacity potential closures for attractions, restaurants, and other points of interest. I would say most sites are going to have at the very least that reduced capacity, which means planning ahead will be crucial. Some museums and attractions may be closed altogether. I actually read a report a couple of months ago that one in six museums around the world will never reopen and that could be high.

Arnold:

Wow.

Jack:

Yeah, and that could be as high as one in three.

Arnold:

Now the folks couldn't see, my eyebrows just went through the ceiling.

Jack:

Yep, one in six. These world tourism boards have done these polls and one in six have indicated they will never reopen; one in three said they might not reopen. So at the very least one in six museums around the world, not just Europe; but one in six will probably never reopen and one in three might not reopen or might not reopen to the same capacity that they had before. It's not only reopening it's following the guidelines and then can they stay profitable at a 50% or 25% capacity? What does that do for your revenue stream if you're really relying on those ticket admissions. So that's going to be your biggest thing. As you said, doing your research and again, using Guidester. This is what we do, we do our research, we give you a personalized guide that tells you what's open, what's closed and how to get around. Guidester is more invaluable now than it's probably ever been. Other things that you want to consider are canceled and ever-changing flight schedules. To me, that's going to be the most dangerous thing. The closures will be an annoyance and there's opportunity there because new things will open. It kind of pivots you into something else. It could be good. Some of my best moments are unexpected, unplanned attractions and things. But I think it's going to be the flight schedules. Flight schedules have always been fluid, but now it's just really bad.

Arnold:

They want to make sure those planes are packed.

Jack:

That's exactly right. They want to make sure they're packed, but then also new guidelines that come down. The airline industry is doing the best they can but I do think they have a lot of challenges ahead to make sure that the flight schedules that they had before will continue. And as you said, they're not going to fly these long haul flights at 25%, 50% capacity. So don't be surprised if you get the flight that you hope you wanted changed at the last minute.

Arnold:

We had our flight to the Caribbean changed three times.

Jack:

Exactly.

Arnold:

If want to get a discount on your Guidester personal travel guide, use the coupon code Guidester Podcast. Don't forget if you want to get 10% off your Guidester personal travel guide, use the coupon code Guidester Podcast.

Jack:

One other thing to consider here is the changing guidelines and the snap lockdowns that could potentially happen.

Arnold:

Talk about snap lock downs. What do you mean by that?

Jack:

So the EU has agreed to travel restrictions in Europe which state that if the epidemiological situation gets out of control travel restrictions could be rapidly introduced So if the virus gets out of control in a certain area anywhere in Europe, in a given country; if it worsens quickly and if a country is found to have a high incidence of a worrisome variants, you hear about a lot of these variants, that comments like the UK variants, the Brazil variants. So if there is a variant that's spiking in a different country, travel restrictions could be quite rapidly introduced. That could be a day. That could be two days. One thing to consider is have an exit plan. If you're in France and they say, okay, you've got three days to leave the country or make plans. My guess is the snap lockdowns will be a week or two weeks and they might not happen at all, but they have agreed collectively that it's in their power to do snap lockdowns The snap lockdowns could be as short as 24 hours.

Arnold:

What is the best way to get information on the snap lock downs?

Jack:

The state apartment has a a website where you can sign up where they're going to give you updates on your trip. You go to the state department website, and now with COVID, it might be a little different. How it worked in the past is you entered your travel details and any updates for those destinations, you get an email saying this is the update. It's called the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, STEP from the state department. You can just Google that and that's the best way to stay ahead of things. If you want to be proactive, just go to the country's website that you're going to. But if there's a snap lockdown, your hotel obviously will notify you. So if you're staying in Rome and there's this snap lockdown, and you'll certainly be notified and then you'll have to make your plans accordingly.

Arnold:

I thought you made a great point. It's good to have an exit plan. Maybe you can't get back and you left the kids with grandma and grandpa. Do they want to keep them for another two or three weeks or four weeks?

Jack:

I think considering all angles, my guess is a snap lockdown will not be that long. A snap lockdown could be three days, it could be seven days, could be as long as two weeks. It's going to be an isolated situation and they just want to keep it from spreading, outside that region could be a city, could be a region. Just have an exit plan. How am I going to get out if I do have to stay here? What things do I need to take care of back home? We hope that doesn't happen and I do think Europe is on a positive trajectory for opening back up, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

Arnold:

And that's great news to hear because we hear a lot of things going on with the pandemic it's nice to know that Europe is on a positive trajectory. It's going to give us an opportunity to hopefully get back over there sooner than later.

Jack:

Exactly. I do think Europe's on a good trajectory and I think the United States is doing very well. So well to the point that we're going to be on the UKs green list of accepted travelers for the UK to come here. So I think the U.S. and the EU member countries are on a good path. I do think by the summer/fall, travel is going to be more possible for us.

Arnold:

We need to keep our listeners updated with this Jack.

Jack:

We will. Keep coming to Virtual Vacation with Guidester Podcast, share with your friends and let's get back to traveling!

Arnold:

Sounds great! We appreciate you listening to this episode of Virtual Vacation with Guidester. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider letting us know. The best way to do this is by rating us on Apple podcasts; reviews are always welcome and encouraged. Virtual Vacation with Guidester is produced by Motif Media Group. For Jack Baumann and Virtual Vacation with Guidester, I'm Arnold Stricker.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our members-only newsletter bringing you the best of Europe, travel news, Covid updates, and insider tips to help plan your trip!