Algarve, Portugal

The rules for travel destinations as Europe opens up

Tourism in Europe struggled last year as coronavirus lockdowns, curfews, and hotel and restaurant restrictions threatened the livelihood of many in the industry and frustrated those who wanted to travel. 

The summer of 2020 saw a sharp downturn in European cross-border travel; leaving the continent’s beaches, cities and monuments eerily deserted. 

This year is gearing up to be different; Covid-19 is still far from eradicated, but virus testing is widely available. The EU’s vaccination rollout has gathered pace and the bloc will launch an EU travel pass. This will facilitate cross-border travel starting July 1. 

Some key destinations like Italy are already reporting an uptick in bookings. Meanwhile Spain is welcoming vaccinated visitors from Monday. It hopes to reach up to 70 percent of pre-pandemic tourism levels this year.

Tourists from countries outside the bloc – which, since Brexit, includes the United Kingdom – still face obstacles at EU borders. European governments say they must avoid another wave of infections even as they cautiously reopen to tourists.

“We have to reconcile freedom of mobility with the need for security,” said French Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.

Here is a summary of the current rules in some of Europe’s tourism hotspots.


France, the world’s top tourist destination, has announced a colour-coded map laying out entry protocols for the summer travel season. Restrictions are lifted for EU residents and “green” countries like Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand and Singapore.

From July 1, France will also recognise the European travel pass.

In “orange” zones including Britain, North America, and most of Asia and Africa, even vaccinated travellers to France will have to produce a negative Covid-19 test taken within the last 72 hours (or 48 hours for a negative antigen test). But they will no longer need to quarantine or have a compelling reason (motifs imperieux) for their visit.

For non-vaccinated people coming from “orange” zones, however, only essential trips are allowed. And a seven-day self-quarantine is in place, in addition to the above requirements for a Covid-19 test.

Visitors from 16 countries will remain severely restricted including India, Turkey, South Africa and much of South America including Brazil.

Mask-wearing remains mandatory indoors and outdoors but curfew rules will be lifted on June 30.


Spain dropped the requirement for EU arrivals to produce a recent negative PCR test on Monday (June 7).

Anyone who has been vaccinated can now enter the country, irrespective of their point of origin. The recognized vaccines are those approved by Europe’s drug regulator – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. As well as two Chinese vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization, Sinopharm and Sinovac.

Authorities will accept as proof official certificates that the visitors got the vaccine at least 14 days before the trip or that they overcame a Covid-19 infection in the past six months. 

The certificates can be in Spanish, English, French or German – or their equivalent translations in Spanish, the government’s order said. 

Spain is still banning non-essential travelers from Brazil, India and South Africa. There the virus variants remain a major source of concern.

Masks remain mandatory, including outdoors, except on beaches as long as people keep a distance of at least 1.5 m. Walking on the beach will still require a mask.

Both the Madrid region and Catalonia (which includes Barcelona) have lifted their curfews, with bars and restaurants allowed to remain open until 1am in Madrid and until midnight in Catalonia.

Spain says it is ready for the EU travel pass but hasn’t linked up with the system yet.


Arrivals from the EU, Britain and Israel must produce a negative Covid-19 test less than 48 hours old and fill in a health form but don’t need to go into quarantine.

Travellers from Australia, South Korea, Rwanda, Thailand, Canada and the US need to show a negative test, go into quarantine for 10 days and then take another test.

Italy is off-limits to tourists from Brazil, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Masks are still mandatory, although from July people may take them off when outside.

A curfew between midnight and 5am remains in force; and no more than four people per table are allowed in bars and restaurants.


Portugal’s southern Algarve coast is a favourite destination for tourists from Britain, with bookings having picked up since the country reopened to European tourists last month.

All arrivals from EU countries, the Schengen area and the UK need a negative PCR test less than 72 hours old to enter Portugal. The same rules apply to arrivals from Australia, South Korea, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, Thailand and China.

Everyone else needs a compelling reason to enter Portugal.

Arrivals from South Africa, Brazil and India will have to self-isolate on arrival.

Social distancing and mask-wearing are mandatory, and special rules are in place for beaches and swimming pool areas, with a distance of 3 metres minimum required between parasols.

Portugal will sign up to the EU travel pass on July 1.


The Greek government is hoping to to reach about half of its pre-pandemic tourism revenues this summer which, if confirmed, would double last year’s figures.

Arrivals from EU countries and the Schengen area can enter Greece, as are residents of Canada, the US, Israel, China, Thailand, Russia and Saudi Arabia. But they need to fill in a form and produce proof of vaccination or a PCR test of less than 72 hours, or a certificate of post-infection immunity.

Masks remain mandatory both indoors and outdoors. 

Night clubs and indoor cultural venues remain shut while the maximum number of people allowed per table in restaurants is six.


Travel to Britain is difficult for most of the world by strict curbs on arrivals, costly quarantine requirements and expensive Covid-19 tests.

The tourism sector’s efforts are mostly on domestic holiday-makers. Arrivals from Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands can enter freely.

Travelers from a handful of “green” countries – including Australia, New Zealand and Iceland – have the best chance of holidaying in Britain. Although they need to produce a negative Covid-19 test and also pay for a further test on day two after arrival, if that second test proves negative then quarantine isn’t necessary.

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