Updated June 2022
Here at Rick Steves' Europe, many of us — including Rick — have returned to Europe. 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.
Check your passport!
For the time being, the wait for a new or renewal passport is about 8-11 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 his recent travels in Europe, Rick appreciated the smart, pragmatic approach that he observed Europeans taking to protect themselves and others and he was struck by how "safe" and "normal" it felt to be 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. Barring occasional setbacks, we believe that traveling in Europe is realistic and responsible, as long as you are vaccinated and boosted, 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?
All of Europe has re-opened to American travelers and restrictions are now being lifted in many places, however it's essential to check the latest entry 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 most countries, some have policies that restrict what you can do. If you're going to Europe, we strongly recommend being fully vaccinated. (Note that in some countries, a booster is also required to be considered fully vaccinated — sometimes called "super-vaccinated.")
Will I need to have a "vaccine passport" or a "Green Pass"?
For Americans, we have found that if proof of vaccination is required a CDC-issued vaccination card is accepted for entry in virtually all situations. You may also be asked to show your photo ID. You may hear about the "Green Pass" or the (boosted) "Super Green Pass" — a QR code that Europeans use to show their vaccination status. It's not required (nor often possible) for a visiting American to get one of these. Many countries are doing away with vaccination checks once you've entered the country; in other places, you'll still be asked to show your card when going inside (especially for indoor dining).
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 departure, so it's critical to check back during that final week to get the very latest on COVID-related requirements. And while on the road, be prepared for the possibility 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 and what kind?
Some countries have begun relaxing mask requirements, while others still require everyone to wear a mask while indoors or on public transportation. It's smart to bring some masks to cover any eventuality. But don't bring cloth masks; most countries require a medical-grade 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. Disposable surgical masks are also accepted but if you're taking a Rick Steves tour you'll need the N95, KN95, or KF94 masks.
What will I need to do before returning to the US?
As of Sunday, June 12, 2022, there's nothing you need to do as a negative COVID test is no longer required for international passengers flying into the US. The CDC will be revisit this policy after 90 days and may reinstate the negative test requirement. Please be aware if you test positive for COVID while traveling in Europe, some destinations require quarantining (typically 5-10 days), so it's always a good idea to have a plan B.
How can I get a COVID-19 test while traveling in Europe?
If you're feeling under the weather while traveling, your best resource is your hotel — ask them if there's a testing center or pharmacy nearby. Testing in Europe is typically easy, fast, and affordable (figure €10-15). You can also buy self-administered antigen tests in much of Europe or bring test kits from home — but keep in mind that these are not valid for official purposes.
What happens if I test positive while traveling in Europe?
This varies by country, but you may be required to 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.
What’s it like to travel in Europe these days?
Rick, and several other RSE staffers, began traveling independently in Europe in the fall of 2021, and even more have already hit the road in 2022. It has been wonderful to be back! And overall, we've been impressed by how Europeans have embraced commonsense public-health guidelines, allowing them to safely get back to normal. As 2022 progresses, we expect more and more of those restrictions (masking, proof of vaccination, testing) to be rolled back, so it's critical to check for the very latest rules and requirements shortly before your trip. Of course, surges and other setbacks may temporarily increase restrictions. 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 weren't able to do for two years, starting in early 2020. In spring of 2022, or researchers began returning to Europe to update our books in person for the post-COVID reality. Within a year we hope to have most of our guidebooks fully updated and on bookshelves; the first new books will begin to arrive as early as August 2022. In the meantime, we are finding fewer closures and other changes than we feared. Most of our favorite hotels and restaurants have survived and are happily welcoming our readers again. And we believe much of our advice about experiencing Europe (including tips on how to plan your time, and our self-guided museum tours and neighborhood walks) are timeless and remain fundamentally sound. We have no reservations recommending using our pre-COVID editions for trips in 2022, assuming our readers know to expect a few changes. (But be sure to check the Book updates on our website.)
How can I get — or share — information about traveling in Europe during the pandemic?
Rick is traveling around Europe throughout 2022, offering fresh updates as he goes; for the latest, keep an eye on this website, or follow him on Facebook. Rick's co-author Cameron Hewitt will also be reporting from his 2022 travels on Facebook, and has written a trip report about traveling in spring of 2022.
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 or join the Rick Steves' Europe Group on Facebook for frequent Europe travel updates; there's always a lively conversation in the Comments.
We're currently experiencing high call volumes and unable to answer most incoming calls. If you need to speak with someone by phone, please leave a detailed message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can. Please note that it may take a few days to get back to you.
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?
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' Europe 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.
Where can I find information about entry requirements for Europe?
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's website in your arrival country. For more country-by-country information see also:
Will I need a COVID-19 vaccination to join a tour? And what about boosters?
Yes, to participate in a Rick Steves tour we require all tour members to be fully vaccinated (received all recommended doses in their primary series) and up to date with booster doses (when eligible). Get more details about staying up to date on COVID vaccines from the CDC.
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 offer any exceptions to our requirement that all tour members be able to show a COVID-19 vaccination certificate. As so many of Europe's various sights, restaurants, and other venues impose entry restrictions on unvaccinated people, we can't provide the experiences we promise travelers unless they're vaccinated.
If I have documentation showing I've already had COVID-19, do I need to be vaccinated?
This would be considered a medical exemption to our vaccination requirement, and we're not able to offer medical exceptions for any reason at this time. Please see above.
Do I need to bring my original vaccination card with me on tour?
Yes, you may be asked to present your original vaccination card so we recommend carrying it with you when you travel. In addition, you should either scan or photograph both sides of your card and keep the digital copy on an easily accessible device, such as your phone.
Will I need a negative COVID-19 test prior to joining a tour?
Yes, for our tours starting May 20, 2022, and later, we're requiring pre-tour testing with a rapid self-test. Each tour member will need to show proof of a negative self-test taken within 24 hours of the first day of the tour, whether or not a test is required for entry into your arrival country.
What if I've recently had COVID and test positive with my pre-tour test?
If you've had COVID between 14 - 90 days prior to the start of your tour, you may obtain a letter of recovery signed by your doctor that documents your illness and recovery. Bring this letter with you on tour and if your pre-tour test is positive show it to your guide.
Will I need to wear a mask on tour and what kind?
On RSE tours, we require tour members to wear a medical grade (K95, KN95 or KF94) mask while traveling on the bus and when social distancing is not possible. Please pack along medical grade masks and note that you may also need to wear masks outdoors at times.
What happens if I test positive for COVID before, during, or after my tour?
We expect tour members to monitor their health and only travel with us if they're feeling well. If you have a confirmed case of COVID, we'll follow the guidance of the CDC (yielding to local guidelines if those are more strict). You'll need to leave the tour to quarantine for a specified amount of time, usually 5-10 days, and/or until you have a negative test result. It is not possible to rejoin the tour once you have completed your quarantine period.
What if I test positive and I'm on consecutive tours?
You may join a subsequent tour as long as the next tour's start date is at least 10 days after the original symptoms began or the initial positive test result and you can show a negative test result on the first day of the subsequent tour. Tour members may not join or rejoin a tour in progress.
What happens if a member of a tour group tests positive while on tour?
If any member of a group is diagnosed with COVID during a tour, they'll need to leave the tour and follow the protocols of the local health authorities, which likely means isolating at the tour hotel. Those in close contact with the affected tour member will need to be tested, and if positive, follow the same requirements. We'll help source medical assistance, food delivery, and lodging, however the costs associated with testing and quarantining are the responsibility of the tour member.
What if I test positive and am required to quarantine?
We provide complimentary 24/7 emergency assistance to tour members through the Travel Guard Assistance service which includes sourcing medical assistance to help tour members if they become ill and need to leave their tour. Travel Guard Assistance can also help reschedule flights. In addition, we have emergency coordinators on staff who closely work with Travel Guard Assistance to ensure our tour members have the support they need to safely return home. While the cost of finding and coordinating the services is included with your tour, the expenses associated with performing the services are the responsibility of the tour member. Fortunately, these expenses are often covered by travel insurance. We also offer COVID Wellness Refunds on a pro rata basis for the number of days a tour member may miss due to self-isolation, testing and medical visits, and positive test results requiring a person to leave the tour.
What will I need to do before returning to the US?
As of Sunday, June 12, 2022, there's nothing you need to do as a negative COVID test is no longer required for international passengers flying into the US. The CDC will be reassesing this policy after 90 days and may reinstate the negative test requirement. Please be aware if you test positive for COVID while traveling in Europe, some destinations require quarantining.
What's the best way to stay healthy while traveling?
For advice on staying healthy while on tour, see Rick's article: Tips for Healthy, Happy Travels.