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COVID-19 RULES

Planning a road trip across Europe this summer? Here are some things to think about

Coronavirus restrictions are making travel more complicated within Europe. Land borders across the continent are generally open to travellers, but different restrictions and rules apply depending on the countries you travel through.  

Planning a road trip across Europe this summer? Here are some things to think about
A Spanish police officer at the border between France and Spain in March 2021. Photo: Raymond Roig/AFP

Each country continues to be responsible for the definition of its own entry requirements and rules, which are not standardised at the EU level. But there’s a general advisory against non-essential travel to countries outside the EU in effect until September 1st, 2021.

Information can be found on the Re-open EU website and Your Europe which pool information from all EU countries, but they are not always up-to-date.

It’s a good idea to check the individual websites for the countries you’ll be travelling to and through before you leave; you can also check the embassy or foreign ministry websites of your country of residence to look into rules specifically for travel from your country. 

The Local runs news sites in nine European countries. You can read them here to keep up-to-date on the pandemic situation:

Where can I travel now? 

This depends on where you’re starting from. If you’re coming from outside the EU, a European entry ban is in effect for some people, barring them from travelling to the European Union or the Schengen area unless the trip falls under one of the exemption categories (which differ per country) or if your country is on the list of safe countries outside the EU/Schengen area (again, countries may have separate rules).

EU countries, as well as close partners such as Norway, are generally on the green lists for travel among other EU countries, but you still have to meet criteria such as being vaccinated or providing a negative Covid-19 test, and the exact rules may vary between countries.

What travel documents should be in my glove compartment?

If you’re an EU national, you still don’t need to show your national ID card or passport when you’re travelling from one border-free Schengen EU country to another – but you should definitely remember to bring it. 

On top of that, you’ll probably want to get yourself an EU Digital Covid Certificate (EUDCC), which allows restriction-free travel across EU and EEA countries following proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test. You can find out more about the EU Digital Covid Certificate here. Rules vary between countries, with one dose of vaccine enough to enter some countries, but others requiring two doses.

You generally get the certificate from your national health authority. It’s valid 14 days after receiving a complete regimen with any vaccine authorised by the EU and WHO, but as mentioned above, some countries will accept it after just one dose. It can also be used to prove that you’ve recovered from Covid-19 or have a recent negative test result.

On top of that, make sure your European health insurance card (EHIC) hasn’t expired, if you have one. It’s something that is often forgotten at the back of a drawer, but make sure it’s still valid because it covers healthcare costs in European countries outside your home, should you fall sick while travelling. Find out more here.

Bear in mind that the EHIC doesn’t cover everything and almost certainly won’t cover the cost of repatriation, should that be required, so you should consider buying travel insurance for the duration of your trip and keeping the key details like your policy number and the phone number to call if you need it in a safe place.

Phew! That’s a lot. What about the practical stuff? 

Not all EU countries have the same traffic rules, but some general rules apply in all EU countries.

It’s a good idea to keep a bunch of cash handy if you’re travelling through Italy or France because most of the E-roads in these countries require tolls on the road. Other countries, like Germany and Sweden, only require tolls over certain bridges, while smaller countries like Liechtenstein, Malta and Monaco offer toll-free driving. You can find out more about what tolls are required here

And of course, make sure you have a valid driving licence and sufficient car insurance that covers you in the EU. And remember that in Malta, Ireland and Cyprus, you drive on the left-hand side of the road.   

Bon voyage!

Member comments

  1. No mention of all the new speed cameras in France then but of course the British tourist will get away with it because unless physically stopped the means to fine them has been removed.

    1. Really well I know some people who received their speed fine notices with no problem so any Brit that thinks that they can’t get away with it think again.

  2. No mention of the biggest problem right now and i say this having just crossed Europe, TRAFFIC!

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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