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Is Europe open for travel?

European Tourism and COVID-19

Should you plan a trip to (or within) Europe in the foreseeable future? We're inclined to say "Maybe," after the coronavirus pandemic has waned, but don't plan your trip without reading our updates and advice.

Linea 1 vaporetto on Venice's Grand Canal

ABOVE: A vaporetto travels up the normally busy Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. (See our article about the coronavirus in Venice and Italy.)

Ever since COVID-19 spread from China to Northern Italy in February, 2020, tourism in Europe has taken a massive hit. Although travel to and within Europe has begun to resume, many prospective visitors remain worried--with good reason--about Europe's ability to cope with a pandemic (especially now that yet another wave of infections and deaths has arrived).

Should you plan a visit to Europe any time soon? Here's our advice:

1. Check official sources before committing to a trip.

  • The European Union's Re-open EU Web site has up-to-date information about travel restrictions in 24 languages. Also see the EU's page about the "Green Pass" or EU Digital COVID Certificate. For travel to the United Kingdom, see the British government's information on Entering the UK.

  • If you've already reserved flights, hotel rooms, holiday rentals, a cruise, etc., then check with the vendors to learn where you stand. (Airline schedules and cruise calendars are changing by the day.)

  • Keep an eye on the news media for up-to-date stories about reinfection surges, lockdowns, etc.

2. It's not too early to think about a visit in spring or summer of 2022.

The coronavirus pandemic won't last forever. Once enough people have been vaccinated, the spread of COVID-19 could ease, and you'll be in a better position to make plans.

We'd expect to see a cascade of travel bargains in the months ahead as airlines, hotels, rental firms like Airbnb, tour companies, cruise lines, and destinations try to make up for a disastrous 2020 and 2021.

Still, we do suggest precautions:

  • If you're over 60 (and especially if you have underlying health conditions), use common sense in deciding whether, when, and how to travel. We suggest postponing travel until you've been vaccinated against COVID-19 and have built up full immunity. The risk of coronavirus infection won't go away overnight, especially with new variants (such as Omicron) making "herd immunity" more difficult to achieve.

  • Be aware of cancellation policies or change fees when you book your airline, train, cruise, or sightseeing tickets. Airline fares and other transportation tickets vary in their cancellation and change policies. If you can't afford a fully-refundable ticket, budget some money for ticket changes just in case. (Good news: Many airlines have suspended change fees and "no refund" policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

  • When you book accommodation, make sure that your reservation can be cancelled without penalty. Avoid prepaid, discounted room rates that have a "no cancel" policy. (Most reservations through our hotel partner,, are fully cancellable. When they aren't, the rules are clearly spelled out.)

  • Be especially carefully when renting holiday apartments, cottages, or villas. Cancellation policies for vacation rentals tend to be stricter than for hotels, although some of the big rental platforms are loosening their rules during the coronovirus outbreak.

  • Finally, don't count on travel insurance to protect you during the coronavirus pandemic. Most insurers and medevac providers are treating the outbreak as a "known event," and your claim will be turned down unless you've bought a high-priced "cancel for any reason" plan.

Bottom line:

If vaccination efforts are successful and the coronavirus pandemic eases,  2022 could be a tempting time for European travel, thanks to discounts and smaller crowds as visitors slowly trickle back to popular tourism sites.

However, the situation could change, so build as much flexibility as possible into your travel plans.

Also, if you're in a high-risk group, don't take chances with your health--or your life.