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EU recommends tighter restrictions on American tourists as US removed from Covid safe travel list

The EU removed the US and five other countries from its travel safe list on Monday, meaning visitors, particularly those not vaccinated against Covid-19, could face tighter restrictions on travel to Europe. Individual member states can decide how to act.

EU recommends tighter restrictions on American tourists as US removed from Covid safe travel list
Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

The European Council announced on Monday that five countries and one territory have been removed from its recommended safe list of countries.

The countries and territories that were removed as of August 30th were Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia and the United States of America.

The latest move by the EU is however non-binding and individual member states are free to set their own border restrictions and quarantine rules when it comes to Covid, as they have done since the start of the pandemic.

Why has the US been removed?

The move follows a steep rise in Covid rates in both the US and Israel sparked by the spread of the more contagious Delta variant.

The EU Council bases its decision on “the epidemiological situation and overall response to COVID-19, as well as the reliability of the available information and data sources.”

It also takes into account reciprocity, in other words how countries treat travellers from EU countries.

In recent weeks there has been heightened pressure to remove the US from the list, not only due to rising Covid rates but also because the US still bars non-essential travel from European countries.

What does this mean in reality?

As stated above the EU’s list safe list for non-essential travel is non-binding meaning EU member states as well as Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland are free to set their own rules for travel.

European countries may follow the EU’s lead and tighten restrictions such as quarantine measures or they could simply ignore the recommendation. Most EU countries reopened their border to travel from the US earlier in the summer in a bid to boost their tourism industry, but that was at a time when Covid rates in the US had plummeted.

Readers are recommended to keep a close eye on The Local’s individual country websites where any changes in travel rules will be reported on as soon as they are announced.

What does this mean for American travellers?

For vaccinated Americans nothing much should change, but it depends on where you’re travelling to as countries are allowed to set their own rules. 

The EU recommends that anyone vaccinated should be allowed to travel to Europe as long as they are vaccinated with an EU or WHO approved vaccine and had the last recommended dose at least 14 days before travel, as well as so-called “essential travellers” (see below) and all travellers from countries on the safe list, which includes the likes of Australia, New Zealand and China.

So the big change for travellers from the US to Europe – if countries follow up on the new recommendation – would be those who are not vaccinated and are travelling for “non-essential” reasons. But not all countries have separate rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers.

The EU states that essential travel basically covers EU citizens and their families, EU residents and their families as well as “travellers with an essential function or need”.

It’s also worth pointing out that the US currently advises its citizens against travel to most European countries.

Which countries and territories remain on the list?

  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bosnia and Hercegovina
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • New Zealand
  • Qatar
  • Republic of Moldova
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Ukraine
  • China (plus Hong Kong and Macao)

The list is reviewed every two weeks.

Member comments

  1. Important to know if you are traveling to Italy as a non vaccinated US citizen; you will not be able to dine inside. You will need a Green Pass showing you are fully vaccinated to be able to do so. You will also not be permitted to enter a museum or any other public building. And as of September 1st you will not be allowed to travel on interregional trains or buses. They all require the same Green Pass. So if you do happen to be able to get here, there isn’t much you will be able to do.

    1. Heh, so they can “look but don’t touch” or eat in this case?? Good, cause their (anti-vaxx idiots) money isn’t worth another outbreak and preventable deaths; Nine times out of ten they’ll just make a scene at the restaurant anyway, complaining about how the food tastes like garbage (all they’re used to is sugary and salty junk), and then demand to see the manager to try and get out of paying for it. They make good fodder for YT videos but that’s about it, and even then it’s not worth it. Good on Italy and other countries that do the same.

  2. We two Americans are supposed to fly in four days on SAS from San Francisco to Copenhagen, non-stop, for a three week vacation in Denmark. We are fully Pfizer vaccinated more than fourteen days ago. We cannot get anyone, including SAS and the Danish consulate, to tell us if Denmark will let us into its wonderful country. Are we correct to presume Denmark will?

    1. David, according to the US Embassy & Consulate in the Kingdom of Denmark website “Effective June 5, the Danish government announced that fully vaccinated travelers from OECD countries – which includes the United States – may travel to Denmark, including for tourism. Travelers from the United States can enter Denmark if you have been vaccinated with a European Medicines Agency (EMA)-approved vaccine and it has been 14 days or longer since your last vaccine shot. Fully vaccinated travelers from the United States are also exempt from testing and quarantine requirements upon arrival in Denmark. You must present documentation that you are fully vaccinated which includes: your name, your date of birth, what disease you were vaccinated against, the vaccine name, your vaccination status, and the date of vaccination (both first and second dose if your vaccine had more than one dose). ”

      That was last updated August 30 2021, so it’s very recent and if you want to read the whole thing, here’s the website: https://dk.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/security-and-travel-information/covid-19-information/

      Good luck, and I hope you can still make your trip. Goodness knows we all need one right about now.

  3. Why has the US been removed?? “Because half of the country are a bunch of anti-science/vaxx idiots, who believe that taking vitamins, injecting bleach, or the latest fad: taking anti-parasitic medication meant for livestock, will “cure” them of coronavirus.” “They’re also more scared of wearing a mask, than a virus that has killed well over 500,000 people here, and on track to reach a million by the end of the year.” There, I fixed that for you.

    In all seriousness though, OF COURSE the US was going to be either banned or put on a risk list, cause the writing was on the wall; it never left in the first place, so literally no one should be surprised at this point, and the money isn’t worth another outbreak.

    Also, I’m dead serious about people resorting to using livestock medication to try and “cure” coronavirus; it’s called Ivermectin, and it’s typically used to get rid of parasites like roundworms in livestock like cattle, and obviously it’s doing more harm than good, but the misinformation has spread so much here, that some prisons are using it as a “treatment”. Here’s some links to the articles in case you don’t believe me; I wouldn’t blame you since it sounds so insane, and prepare your sanity cause it’s about to be tested with stupid that’s amped up to 11: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cdc-anti-parasite-drug-ivermectin-treat-prevent-covid-19/ (the story about Ivermectin)

    and the story on inmates in Arkansas given Ivermection as “coronavirus treatment”: https://www.npr.org/2021/09/02/1033586429/anti-parasite-drug-covid-19-ivermectin-washington-county-arkansas

  4. Well, this surprised absolutely NO ONE and if anything I’m surprised we (US) ever even left the risk list in the first place; if the news that people and some jails here are trying to use anti-parasitic medication to “treat” coronavirus, isn’t enough cause for concern then I don’t know what is. The medication in question is called Ivermectin, and is used to treat parasites like roundworms in livestock, and of course it’s not going well for people that use it…

    Here’s the story from NPR about how some jails are trying to use this for treating coronavirus: https://www.npr.org/2021/09/02/1033586429/anti-parasite-drug-covid-19-ivermectin-washington-county-arkansas

    and a story from CBS on how the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) are in an uphill battle warning people NOT to use this stuff. Prepare your sanity for a lot of stupid in these stories: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cdc-anti-parasite-drug-ivermectin-treat-prevent-covid-19/

  5. Another important issue that I haven’t seen addressed anywhere is the fact that Covid survivors here in Italy don’t meet the vaccination requirement of some countries, like Canada. That’s because Italy is one of those countries (Switzerland’s another) that’s decided to only give one vaccine shot to Covid survivors, and Canada requires two shots from everybody, whether you’re a Covid survivor or not. Since we survivors here in Italy are not allowed a second shot (I’ve asked my doctor for one and he said he couldn’t), we’re pretty much stuck..!

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DRIVING

What’s it like driving from Scandinavia to the UK with a young family?

With the cost of airline tickets increasingly discouraging, is driving from Scandinavia to the UK becoming a more attractive option? The Local Denmark editor Michael Barrett gave it a try.

What’s it like driving from Scandinavia to the UK with a young family?

This summer has seen the return of large-scale international travel after a couple of Covid-hit years that have not been a picnic for anyone.

While the end of restrictions came as a relief, severe delays and disruptions at airports have added a new uncertainty around travel in 2022.

Scandinavia has not been an exception to this, with strikes at Scandinavian airline SAS and delays at Copenhagen and other airports among the problems faced by the sector.

Additionally, the increasing price of airline tickets in a time when inflation is hitting living costs across the board has become another factor discouraging air travel.

Finally, there’s the impact of air travel on climate to be considered. So is there an alternative?

The plan

Unlike colleagues who have made long distance journeys from France and Sweden respectively by rail, our plan was to make the trip from our home in Denmark to the UK by car.

There are a few reasons we picked this less climate-friendly option. I’ll readily admit they were driven (no pun intended) by our own needs, and not those of the planet. I hope we can offset this by using the train more than the car for longer journeys within Denmark, where costs are competitive.

Once we decided not to take our usual Ryanair flight, we only really considered driving. This is primarily because we have a toddler (age two), and felt that on such a long journey, the ability to control the timing and length of our stops would be crucial.

Secondly, the route would have taken longer and been more difficult logistically by rail, and would also have cost more. For example, we arrived at Harwich International Port late on a weekday evening, from where onward travel was to rural Suffolk. The thought of doing this on multiple local rail (possibly bus) services with a tired two-year-old makes me shudder a bit.

The route

From our home in central Denmark, we set out on a Monday morning and drove south on the E45 motorway, crossing the German border and continuing past Hamburg. We then got on to the A1 Autobahn and made for Bremen, where we stopped overnight.

Travelling non-stop, this journey takes just under four hours. It took us around five and a half. We stopped twice and were caught in traffic at Hamburg, where there is lot of construction going on around the city’s ring road.

Leaving early (just after 6am) the following day, we drove southwest and crossed the border into the Netherlands after a brief stop, but then managed to complete the journey to the port town Hook of Holland without a further break.

Our ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich was due to leave at 2:15pm and check-in time was an hour before that. This was the only deadline we had on our journey that would have been problematic to miss, so we gave ourselves plenty of time for the drive from Bremen. We arrived in Hook of Holland at around 11:30am.

Next was a six-hour ferry crossing to the East Anglian coast. We booked a cabin – they are inexpensive on daytime crossings – which gave us a chance to relax after the drive and our daughter a comfortable spot for her afternoon nap.

After a queue at customs in Harwich which took around 45 minutes, we were driving through the Essex countryside just before 9pm local time. The final drive to our destination took an hour and a half.

What went right

It’s not the most relevant information for anyone considering a similar trip, but I have to mention our car. A 2003 VW Polo we bought two years ago that has never had any mechanical issues, I was nevertheless braced for possible problems given its age (and ensured I had roadside assistance for outside of Denmark, more detail on this below).

However, there was not so much as a hint of an issue of any kind at any point during the 900 kilometres it covered on the journey, nor on the way home. Respect.

Our plan to split the trip into two days paid off. I think you could do it in one day (there are also overnight ferries) if you shared the driving and needed less flexibility. I should also recognise here that we live relatively close to Germany and our destination was close to the east coast of the UK. If you were travelling, for example, from Copenhagen to Cardiff, you’d have significantly more driving to do.

For us, knowing we could take long breaks if we needed them took a lot of stress out of the journey and allowed us to adapt to our toddler’s needs – changing nappies, finding a service station playground or stopping for an ice cream.

Stopping overnight also gave us the chance to see some new places (we switched things up on the way back and stayed in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands, instead of Bremen) and gave us a feeling of being on our own little bonus holiday.

What went wrong

In all, things went as well as we possibly could have hoped for and our conclusion after we got back home was that we’d like to travel this way again.

We were stopped by traffic police in Groningen city centre because I failed to understand signs showing we were entering a public transport-only zone. The officers who stopped us then offered to escort us to our accommodation a few streets away.

The ferry, operated by Stena Lines, had far less to do on board than we’d imagined there would be on a six-hour voyage. Two tiny off-duty shops, a cinema showing a superhero film and a minuscule play area (which our daughter nevertheless enjoyed) were about the extent of it. We hadn’t downloaded any films ourselves or brought much entertainment with us from the car, so we got a bit bored during the crossing. This is hardly a serious gripe and an easy one to rectify on the return trip.

The practical stuff 

Roadside assistance is obviously crucial for a journey like this, and it’s also important to double check your insurance is valid once you leave the country in which your car is registered and insured – Denmark, in our case.

Foreign authorities can check your insurance is valid. You can document this with the International Motor Insurance or “Green” card, which serves as proof you have motor insurance when you drive outside of the EU (you don’t need it within the EU).

This means that (in theory) you can be asked to present it in the UK. We weren’t asked for it.

The Green Card can be printed via your insurance company’s website. You’ll need your MitID or NemID secure login to access the platform and print off your document. Here is an example of the relevant page on the website of insurance company Tryg. If you can’t find the right section on your insurance company’s website, contact them by phone.

A number of Danish companies specialise in roadside assistance, including Falck and SOS Dansk Autohjælp. You can also include roadside assistance as part of your motor insurance package. We have the latter option, but in either case, I’d recommend calling your provider to make sure you are covered for breakdown in the EU and non-EU countries like the UK (if that’s where you’re going). Obviously, you should add such cover to your existing deal if you don’t have it, or change to a different deal.

The company which operates the ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich is Stena Line. Both directions have daytime and overnight departures.

There is a range of prices, and I couldn’t cover all the options here if I tried. However, I’d recommend a cabin on the daytime departures, because it’s inexpensive and gives you a bit of personal space and privacy, which is useful with children.

After calculating what our approximate fuel costs would be, the price of the hotel stays and ferry tickets, we found that the trip cost around 1,500 kroner more than we would have paid to fly from Billund Airport to London Stansted with checked-in baggage with Ryanair on the same dates. In return, we could take as much luggage as we want with us (and back), we got to see Bremen and Groningen and had our own car with us in the UK. This was more than worth the additional expense.

I also spent 50 kroner on a “DK” sticker for the tailgate of the car (because the car is so old it predates the EU number plates that include the country code) and 70 kroner for some headlight stickers which prevent full beam headlamps from dazzling oncoming drivers when you are driving on the left in the UK.

As I busily fixed them onto my car as we waited to disembark the ferry, however, a lorry driver parked next to us said these were, in fact, entirely unnecessary.

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