Europe is slowly opening up to vaccinated travelers from the United States and beyond, and here at Rick Steves' Europe, we're eager to get back to what we love. Travel conditions are changing fast, so now more than ever, it's smart to understand entry requirements and reconfirm specifics as you plan and travel.
Check your passport!
Please note that for the time being, the wait for a new or renewal passport is about 12–18 weeks. If you need your passport sooner, make an appointment to go in person to the nearest US Passport Agency. For details and the location of the nearest passport-acceptance facility, see the US Department of State's travel site or call 877-487-2778.
What does Rick think?
On the one hand, I'm eager to head back to my favorite continent. On the other hand, I'm wary of false starts that could end in disappointment. While I'm personally waiting a bit longer before returning to Europe, I understand that many travelers are ready to go. If you're vaccinated; if you fully understand entry requirements and COVID protocols in the country you're visiting; and if you pack your patience and accept that things will be less-than-fully open or fully predictable…then I see no reason not to head to Europe this summer.
Can I travel in Europe now?
The simple answer is "yes" but each country may impose regulations, such as quarantines, testing, and vaccination requirements. The entry requirements may be something of a patchwork, so be sure to check the latest requirements and restrictions by country at Re-open EU or Skyscanner.
Why should I need a vaccine to go to Europe?
Vaccine requirements are nothing new. It once was common for countries to require incoming travelers to show a "yellow card" documenting that they'd had certain immunizations. While this practice has faded in many places, Rick had to bring proof of vaccination to visit Ethiopia just two years ago.
Should I travel in Europe now?
You need to weigh the pros and cons. Entry requirements may vary from country to country, so travel to, from, and around Europe may be a little bumpy. On the other hand, many small restaurants and hotels in Europe are struggling, and the resumption of tourism can provide a financial lifeline to these businesses. If you go, it's critical to understand the entry requirements of the places you're visiting and follow all local COVID-19 guidelines (masking, distancing, and so on), which are designed to protect local residents.
How do I get the latest information on which countries I can visit?
For EU countries, you can check Re-open EU (select the country, then the map icon for entry requirements). For the UK and all other countries, check the handy interactive map at Skyscanner. For current travel advisories for US citizens, consult the CDC or the US State Department.
What will I need to do to get into Europe?
The onus is on you to know the latest requirements for each place you're visiting and follow them to a T. These may include some or all of the following:
- Provide proof of full vaccination completed at least 14 days prior to departure with an approved COVID-19 vaccine (including Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson); as an alternative, some countries allow proof that you've recovered from COVID-19 or a recent (generally within three days of departure) negative COVID-19 test result
- Fill out an online profile before visiting
- Download and use local contact tracing apps
Will I need to have a "vaccine passport"?
Europe is working toward a standardized digital vaccine certificate. Details are still evolving; until this is fully implemented, it's likely you can obtain entry by showing your US vaccination card on arrival.
What will I need to do upon returning to the US?
Currently the US requires arriving international passengers (including US citizens) to show a negative COVID-19 test result, taken within three days of your flight.
How can I get a COVID-19 test before returning to the US?
Check your departure airport (major international airports have testing centers on-site) or check with your airline, as most list testing locations on their websites. (It's likely that as more Americans are vaccinated, this requirement will be relaxed — for the latest updates, see the US State Department.)
What if I have to change or cancel my trip?
When booking, be sure that you fully understand your options in case you need to change or cancel. If anything is ambiguous, seek clarification by telephone or email. And remember: Even if there are no "change fees" for a flight, you are still responsible for any fare difference.
Should I get travel insurance?
For some travelers, insurance is a good deal; for others, it's not. Over the course of the pandemic, many travel insurance companies have expanded or adapted their coverage related to COVID-19. If purchasing insurance specifically for COVID-19 concerns, make sure to carefully review and understand your policy. It's important to know that Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) coverage is the only type of policy that covers fear of travel due to COVID-19. For more information, see Rick's travel insurance article.
Is Europe truly "open"?
That remains to be seen. Especially in the early days of reopening, travelers heading to Europe should remain flexible and expect surprise closures and interruptions. If you're easily frustrated by unpredictability, consider waiting until things are more reliable.
As across states in the US, European countries have their own masking requirements, social distancing guidelines, and restrictions on gathering in public — for example, strict limits on restaurant capacity, or outdoor dining only. You can research current rules by searching for the country's name and "COVID regulations." For more information, seek out reports from travelers who've recently traveled to the place you're interested in.
How has the pandemic affected Rick's guidebooks?
We are scrupulous about updating our guidebooks in person — something we haven't been able to do since early 2020. Even so, much of our advice on how to experience Europe is timeless. As Europe reopens, we'll do our best to post updates on our website. Once Europe is fully open to Americans, we'll work hard to update our guidebooks in person, and by mid-2022, we'll begin releasing the most lovingly updated post-COVID guidebooks on the market. Meanwhile, our current editions (which contain a mix of in-person and remote research) are as up-to-date as anything you'll find in print right now.
How can I connect with Rick Steves tour guides?
Many of our Europe-based tour guides can be hired on an individual basis for a guided city walk or a longer tour. This is an excellent investment — and it's a wonderful way to support our guides. Browse your options and get in touch on our Guides' Marketplace; as more countries open up, we'll be highlighting guides who'd be ideal to hire for a personal tour.
How can I get — or share — information about traveling in Europe post-COVID?
In addition to the sources cited above, our Travel Forum remains the perfect place to compare notes with fellow travelers — check the Tips & Trip Reports section for COVID-specific information. If you're planning a trip, we'd love you to share notes with fellow travelers. you can also follow us on Facebook or join the Rick Steves' Europe Group on Facebook for frequent Europe travel updates; there's always a lively conversation in the Comments.
COVID-19 and 2022 Tours
Check your passport!
Please note that for the time being, the wait for a new or renewal passport is about 12–18 weeks. If you need your passport sooner, make an appointment to go in person to the nearest US Passport Agency.
Can I book a 2021 tour?
We've decided not to attempt any tours for 2021, instead focusing all our energies on a big return in 2022.
Will you be running tours in 2022?
Yes! We've lined up a full slate of Europe tours for 2022, and they're available to book now. Start browsing — we expect them to fill up quickly.
How do I apply a credit to my tour?
You can submit your booking request online and we’ll automatically apply any credits we find attached to your account.
What is your cancellation policy?
For tours departing in 2022, deposits are 100% refundable for up to 120 days before the tour departure date or until December 31, 2021, whichever comes later, or unless otherwise noted in our Tour Conditions.
How will I receive a refund?
If possible, refunds will be issued against the original form of payment (credit card, ACH, check, or re-issued Rick Steves' credit). If we're not able to refund the original form of payment, we'll send a check. For full details see our Tour Conditions.
What are your terms and conditions?
How will tours be different post-COVID?
The COVID-19 situation continues to change, and change again. We're committed to strictly adhering to all COVID-19 health guidelines in any country we travel to and making all details clear to anyone who travels with us.
Will I need a COVID-19 vaccination to join a tour?
Yes, we require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to participate in any Rick Steves tour. Europeans expect everyone (especially visitors) to be vaccinated in order to fully participate in society — including many of the experiences that we promise on our tours. In many places, you simply can't eat inside a restaurant or enter a museum without a vaccination card.
Do children need to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to go on a tour?
Yes, 12-18 year olds are currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations and we anticipate vaccines will be available for 5-11 year olds by the end of 2021. We don't allow children under the age of 8 to join our tours.
If I have a medical/religious exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine, can I join a tour?
No, we can't provide any exceptions to our requirement that all tour members must be able to show a COVID-19 vaccination certificate. Due to Europe's restrictions on entry into various sights, restaurants, and other venues for unvaccinated people, we're not able to provide the experiences we promise to travelers if they're not vaccinated.
If I have documentation showing I've already had COVID-19, can I join a tour?
This would be considered a medical exemption and we're not able to provide medical exceptions for any reason at this time. Please see above.
Will I need a negative COVID-19 test prior to departing or returning from my tour?
Your airline and/or the countries you're visiting may require proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry. It's up to you to be aware of the specific rules and plan for your own testing.
What happens if I get sick on tour?
We expect tour members to monitor their health and only travel if they're feeling well. However, getting sick while on tour can happen to anyone — and it can affect not just your trip, but your fellow tour members' trip, too. If you start to feel sick during your tour, notify your guide right away, so they can direct you to a local clinic or pharmacy for diagnosis and treatment. If anyone has a confirmed case of COVID-19, we'll follow the requirements of the local health authorities.
What's the best way to stay healthy while traveling?
For advice on how to stay healthy while on tour, see Rick's article: Tips for Healthy, Happy Travels.