When Will Europe Reopen to American Tourists?

The European Union travel ban is still in place for the United States, as the USA was left off the list of countries whose tourists may visit with or without travel restrictions. As such, Americans still can’t vacation in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, etc. In this post, we’ll answer the question of when will Europe reopen to American tourists, based on the criteria established by the EU Commission.

Back when all of this began some 6 months ago, European Union leaders agreed that travel lockdowns and other coordinated restrictive measures were necessary to save lives. This was pretty consistent with the rest of the world, and what amounted to more or less an across the board travel ban on most foreigners entering Europe remained in place through summer.

On July 1, the European Union began welcoming back travelers from a list of countries approved by its leaders. This list has subsequently been updated with countries both added and removed. Based on the criteria and conditions set out in the recommendation, member states should gradually lift the travel restrictions for residents of Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, and China (subject to confirmation of reciprocity).

This list of approved countries will continue to be reviewed by the European Commission and, as the case may be, updated every two weeks. Additionally, residents of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican should be considered European Union residents for the purpose of the recommendation to lift travel restrictions.

While this list was first established over the summer, on September 4, 2020 the European Commission adopted a new proposal to ensure that travel restrictions implemented by Member States are coordinated and clearly communicated at the EU level.

The European Commission has proposed that EU Member States apply a well-coordinated, predictable, and transparent approach to travel restrictions in the European Union. This includes a color-coded mapping system that provides for travel restrictions based on common criteria.

While the express purpose of these common criteria is to provide predictability for European Union residents to understand limitations on the restriction of free movement within the EU, they will also be used as the basis for travel restrictions on arrivals to the European Union.

Accordingly, they are useful but still inconclusive metrics for determining what’s necessary for the United States to be added to the aforementioned list of countries whose residents are allowed to resume travel to Europe.

The European Commission has proposed that each Member State takes into account the following criteria when putting in place or lifting any restrictive measures for residents other countries:

  • The total number of new cases per 100,000 people in a 14-day period
  • The percentage of positive tests carried out on a rolling basis in 7-day period
  • The number of tests carried out per 100,000 people on a rolling basis in a 7-day period

On those bases, there should first be a weekly testing rate of more than 250 per 100,000 people. If so, EU Member States should not restrict free movement of people where: the total number of new cases is less than 50 per 100,000 people during a 14-day period or the positivity rate is less than 3%.

Let’s start with the good news: the United States numbers are improving across the board. The bad news is that significant progress still remains to be made before the European Union is likely to allow Americans to reenter.

Below is a look at positivity per John Hopkins, which will likely be the outcome determinative variable:

Per the CDC, daily positivity rate since March is 8.5%, but 5.1% in the latest week for which there are results (ending September 5, 2020). The US positivity rate peaked early on, before bottoming out in June and rising again in July and August. Since then, there has been a slow and steady decline.

However, even at the lowest point, the United States still has had a positivity rate above 4%. While the Sun Belt and West Coast have seen their summer surges subside, new data suggests that the Midwest is now on the precipice of a surge in cases, which could stall further improvements to this positivity rate.

Ultimately, there is no definitive answer to the question: when will Europe reopen to American tourists?

Offering a predicted date is beyond the scope of this post (and we frankly have neither the expertise or a crystal ball). A lot remains to be seen with regard to subsequent waves or spikes, flu season, and more. That applies to both the United States and the European Union. If countries there see a spike, a tightening of travel restrictions could occur. If the EU further improves, greater loosening might happen.

Additionally, while Americans are not yet allowed to reenter the European Union, there are a variety of destinations to which we can travel, both with and without restrictions. Notably, US travelers may visit the United Kingdom or Ireland, but only after a mandatory, 14-day quarantine. Croatia opened up its borders to all international travelers who provide evidence of a negative test result procured within 48 hours of arriving at the Croatian border.

Turkey is one of a handful of countries that has lifted its travel restrictions entirely, instead requiring international travelers to complete a medical screening upon arrival. (This is something more countries are considering, especially as the economic ramifications of travel restrictions worsen and the availability and reliability of rapid-testing increases.)

Our expectation at this point is that Americans probably will not be able to resume travel to Europe until Spring 2021 at the earliest. By that point, we’re hopeful that either cases and positivity rates will have sufficiently declined or an effective and safe vaccine will have been sufficiently distributed to ease up travel restrictions. While we’d love to be optimistic about travel resuming normalcy later this year, that’s seeming increasingly unlikely with each passing week. Of course, time will tell–we’d love to be wrong!

If you’re planning a visit to Europe, we recommend a comprehensive guide, such as Rick Steves’ Best of Europe. Additionally, check out our Ultimate Guide to Paris, France or Ultimate French Riviera Vacation Guide if you’re heading to those destinations.  

Your Thoughts

Would you consider visiting Europe later this year, or is international travel out of the question for you until there’s a vaccine? Are you reassured at all by the declining case numbers and positivity? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!

2 replies
  1. Elena
    Elena says:

    It’s not just travel – I haven’t seen my partner since these inhumane travel bans came into effect. One of my friends missed the birth of his son and the first year of his son’s life, because he and his partner are not allowed in to each other’s countries. People are being forcibly barred from their families, partners, the people they love most in the world – and those in power act like it’s all a game to them, or they’re so obsessed with numbers and ‘cases’ that they don’t think or care about the pain they’re inflicting on us. I would rather be dead than continue to wake up each morning missing the people I love so much that it literally hurts and feeling no hope in sight of being allowed to reunite.

    • Victor Yacono
      Victor Yacono says:

      Dear Elena, as much as I want to go back to Italy and Poland where there are most of my friends and family, we need to wait and stay strong. Better times will come, and we should be good to go. All the best wishes for you, and count on me if you want to talk about it, we are on the same boat


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