The EU Is Opening to Vaccinated Tourists—Here's What You Need to Know for a Trip to Europe

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guvendemir/iStock via Getty Images / guvendemir/iStock via Getty Images

Vacation options just expanded for people planning trips this summer. On Wednesday, May 19, the European Union announced its 27 member countries will reopen to many foreign tourists following a review by the president of the European Commission in April. The update is good news for vaccinated Americans looking to leave the country after months of COVID-19 restrictions. But the EU isn't reverting to its pre-2020 travel protocols right away. Before booking your European getaway, here's what you need to know.

Who Can Travel to Europe?

On Friday, May 21, the EU will release its new list of COVID-safe countries cleared for travel regardless of tourists' vaccination status. The current criteria look at positivity rate, the number of tests being administered, and the direction of trends in new cases. Even after those criteria are loosened, the U.S. likely won't make the new list, but fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. will be allowed to visit. The EU is expected to totally open to tourists from the UK as well.

Travelers must have received one of the vaccines approved by the EU or the World Health Organization, which includes the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson shots (as well as AstraZeneca's, which is not approved in the U.S.). Foreign travelers may have to present a vaccination card or other official documentation. "Member states should be able to accept certificates from non-EU countries based on national law, taking into account the ability to verify the authenticity, validity and integrity of the certificate and whether it contains all relevant data," the European Commission said in its statement.

In many EU countries, vaccinated visitors will be able to travel freely without taking a COVID test or quarantining. That may not be the case everywhere, however, as member states are still able to impose these restrictions if they choose to.

When Can I Travel to Europe?

The relaxed travel rules could go into effect soon after they're finalized this week, though an official date hasn't been given. That means if you're fully vaccinated or will be this summer, you can start planning a European vacation for the coming months. Because the pandemic is ongoing and restrictions can change suddenly, you may want to take some extra precautions. Consider travel insurance with a "Cancel for Any Reason" clause, which lets you back out of your trip if you feel like it and receive a full refund. And even if you're vaccinated, it's still important to practice proper hygiene on flights. Here are tips for traveling as safely as possible in the age of COVID-19.