For coronavirus (COVID-19) travel information, see our FAQ.

COVID-19 Travel FAQ

Updated January 10, 2022

Europe has opened to vaccinated travelers from the United States and beyond. Here at Rick Steves' Europe, many of us — including Rick — have already returned to Europe. And yet, as the pandemic continues to evolve, travel conditions and requirements are changing fast. It's essential to understand entry requirements and reconfirm specifics as you plan and travel.

General Information

Check your passport!

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?

Rick has already traveled to Europe twice in the fall of 2021, when cases were relatively low. He appreciated the smart, pragmatic approach that he observed Europeans taking to protect themselves and others (such as vaccine requirements to enter restaurants or museums, and high masking compliance). And he was struck by how "safe" and "normal" it felt to be back in Europe. All of this makes us optimistic that the general trajectory for traveling in Europe is positive. However, things continue to be in flux, and surges are important to take seriously and keep an eye on as they develop. And if a country decides they don't want international visitors for a while, that's entirely reasonable. But barring those setbacks, we believe that traveling in Europe is realistic and responsible, as long as you are vaccinated, you fully understand local entry requirements and COVID protocols, and you accept both uncertainty and the possibility of needing to change plans.

Can I travel in Europe now?

Most European countries re-opened to American travelers in summer 2021. But each country has its own policies (which might include recent negative COVID tests and/or "passenger locator forms.") Be sure to check the latest requirements and restrictions for each country you're visiting. The best resource for this is the US Embassy website in that country (for example, in Germany, check https://de.usembassy.gov). You can also find country-by-country information at Sherpa or for European Union members at Re-open EU.

Do I need to be vaccinated to travel to Europe?

While it's possible for unvaccinated travelers to enter some countries, most have policies that severely restrict what you can do; if you're going to Europe, we strongly recommend being vaccinated.

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 vary by country, but they 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 though unvaccinated visitors will face other restrictions once they arrive.
  • Provide proof of a negative, approved COVID test during a recent time span (typically 1-3 days).
  • Fill out an online "passenger locator form." It's best to fill this out before you head to the airport: they may ask to see it at check in and/or upon arrival.
Will I need to have a "vaccine passport" or a "Green Card"?

The European Union has a unified system for verifying vaccination, called a "Green Card." This is a QR code that can be shown either on paper or on a smartphone screen. In many places, the Green Card is required to enter restaurants, museums, or other indoor activities. For Americans, we have found that a CDC-issued vaccination card is accepted in virtually all situations. You may also be asked to show your photo ID. Note that some countries are working toward making it easier for visitors to get an official Green Card, so check the latest for your destination(s) as your trip approaches.

Are things still changing?

Yes! One of the most important pieces of advice for someone planning a trip to Europe is to check often for updates in the country (or countries) you are visiting. The status quo when you book your trip — or even several weeks out — is likely to be different from the reality as you're packing up to depart, so it's critical to check back during that final week to get the very latest on any new requirements (testing, paperwork, and so on). And while on the road, be prepared for the possibility — even the likelihood — that restrictions could ratchet up, flights could be cancelled, and you'll need to change plans on a dime.

Will I need to wear a mask in Europe?

Many places in Europe require everyone to wear a mask while indoors or on public transportation. Further, some countries (such as Germany) specify that it must be a medical-grade mask rather than a cloth mask. The European term for this type of mask — which you might see on signs — is "FFP2." This is comparable to the N95, KN95, or KF94 masks that are readily available in the US. (You do not need to actually have "FFP2" marked on your mask, as long as it's of a similar grade.) Surgical masks are also typically accepted. If heading to Europe, don't count on using cloth masks — instead, bring along (or buy there) better-quality masks.

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 one day of your flight. You'll also need to sign an "attestation" that you have tested negative.

How can I get a COVID-19 test before returning to the US or while traveling in Europe?

Your best resource is your hotel — ask them if there's a testing center nearby. (You could also check with your airline.) In a pinch, many airports have testing centers on-site (but confirm ahead, and allow plenty of extra time). You could also bring a test kit from home that's approved for international travel (must include a telehealth appointment, where a proctor will monitor the self-administered test over a video call). Important: An unmonitored at-home test result is not accepted for entering the US.

If you're feeling under the weather while traveling, you can buy self-administered antigen tests cheaply at stores in much of Europe, but keep in mind that these are not valid for official purposes.

What happens if I test positive before returning to the US?

This varies by country, but many require that you remain in the country under quarantine, typically at your own expense, for a specified time.

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. One thing to consider is whether the policy covers additional expenses in the event that you need to quarantine (and change your travel plans) due to a positive COVID test. 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.

Independent Travelers

What’s it like to travel in Europe these days?

Rick, and several other RSE staffers, traveled independently in Europe in the fall of 2021. At that point, we were all struck by how safe and even "normal" it felt to be back. Europeans have embraced commonsense public-health guidelines. This varies by country, but in many places we found that masking when indoors or riding public transportation is virtually automatic. And many places require a proof of vaccination to dine indoors or visit a museum. Overall, it was clear to us that Europe is figuring out how to re-open responsibly, and they were very excited to have Americans return.

Of course, surges and other setbacks may temporarily increase restrictions, and if a big outbreak is raging, we may think twice about being on the road. But the overall trajectory feels positive, and we are optimistic for 2022 travels.

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.

How can I get — or share — information about traveling in Europe during the pandemic?

Rick and Cameron Hewitt did a Monday Night Travel presentation on pandemic travel, and Cameron has written a more complete report on his blog. Our Travel Forum remains a great 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.

Will you be running tours in 2022?

Yes, as long as it's safe to do so. We've lined up a full slate of Europe tours for 2022, and they're available to book now. Start browsing.

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 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?

Please see our Tour Conditions. COVID-19 Waiver, and Health and Safety Pledge for the full details.

Will I need a COVID-19 vaccination to join a tour?

Yes, we require proof of COVID-19 vaccination including booster dose to participate in any Rick Steves tour. Europeans expect everyone (especially visitors) to be fully vaccinated in order to participate in society — including many of the experiences that we promise on our tours.

Do children need to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to go on a tour?

Yes, as COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for children 5 and older, we require that all children traveling on a Rick Steves tour to be fully vaccinated and boosted (if eligible).

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 joining a tour?

Yes, due to the Omicron variant we're currently requiring a negative COVID-19 viral test (PCR or antigen) taken within 48 hours of the first day of your tour. Because COVID is constantly changing, we'll notify our tour members by email about specific testing requirements two months prior to a tour's departure. Your airline and/or the countries you're visiting may also require proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry.

Where can I find information about entry requirements for my tour?

The entry requirements for Europe vary by country and may change at any time. In the days leading up to your departure, we advise checking with the US Embassy website in your arrival country or for country-by-country information see the following websites:

Sherpa 
Re-open EU

How can I get a COVID-19 test before returning to the US or while traveling in Europe?

Your best resource is your hotel — ask them if there's a testing center nearby. (You could also check with your airline.) In a pinch, many airports have testing centers on-site (but confirm ahead, and allow plenty of extra time). You could also bring a test kit from home that's approved for international travel (must include a telehealth appointment, where a proctor will monitor the self-administered test over a video call). Important: An unmonitored at-home test result is not accepted for entering the US.

What happens if I test positive before returning to the US?

This varies by country, but many require that you remain in the country under quarantine, typically at your own expense, for a specified time.

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. It's likely you'll need to stay in the country where you test positive, under quarantine for a specified amount of time. Rick Steves' Europe and Travel Guard Assistance will provide you support with managing your quarantine requirements, but you’re responsible for the associated costs ;

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.

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 one day of your flight. You'll also need to sign an "attestation" that you have tested negative.