I had no interest in leaving home this summer. With onerous Covid requirements, fear of catching Covid, and assuming Europeans wouldn’t be thrilled to see us, it hardly seemed worth it. But now with the 14-hour journey from the UK to France behind us, and happily settled in the Chamonix mountain valley, I’m delighted we made the trip. It turns out the requirements weren’t all that onerous and I was wrong about people being unwelcoming.
Here is some information that might be useful to others thinking of coming to Europe this summer.
1. The Requirements Aren’t a Huge Deal
The first things to know are that requirements vary by country and depend on where you’re travelling from, but the rules are getting easier. European countries are welcoming vaccinated US travellers, and further restrictions are limited.
Travelling from an amber country involves a bit more paperwork. We travelled to France a week ago from the UK (an amber country, unlike a green US country). At the time, we were required to be fully vaccinated and able to prove it with an official certificate from our health authority, done at least two weeks before travel. (If you’re not fully vaccinated and coming from the UK, you need to have a compelling reason to visit and then self-isolate for seven days and, at the end of the quarantine, take a Covid test).
Our unvaccinated child was considered vaccinated by French authorities because we were. This is the same in Spain.
We also had to present a negative diagnostic test taken within 72 hours of travel. (We could have shown an antigen test taken with 48 hours of travel if we’d had Covid). For this PCR test, we used DAM Health in the UK because the price included my daughter and it was easy to get an appointment, even on a Sunday. They said it would take 24 hours to get the results. We got them the same day.
There was no quarantine. Indeed, after crossing the Channel, we simply drove straight onto the French highway without any checks.
There are further requirements for travelling between European countries. Here’s some helpful travel advice compiled by the European Commission.
2. The Locals Are Welcoming
At least in France, we found locals were thrilled to see us. Covid has been brutal on communities that depend on tourism. The people we’ve met at restaurants, hotels and shops have been friendly and solicitous. On our first evening stroll in France through the charming medieval old town of Troyes, restauranteurs waved us inside. The owner and staff at Chez Daniels in Troyes were extremely sweet. They wanted to know where we were from, and how long we planned to stay, and could others be coming. And did we want more champagne? (Troyes is in the Champagne region of France).
Europeans, just like everyone, want things to return to normal. On a white water rafting trip, me and my daughter were the only non-French participants, and only non French speakers. This wasn’t a problem. Everyone was jumping in to help us and to translate. The party-like atmosphere on the bus ride back from the river, with people singing (through their masks) to French pop, including two families, a bachelor party of young men, and us (bobbing our heads) — was a testament to people’s desire to get back to enjoying life.
3. You Should Follow the Rules
Covid isn’t behind us, and locals and visitors alike are expected to wear masks in shops and in restaurants unless seated. We also wore our masks at a crowded outdoor market in Chamonix and while watching an outdoor climbing competition. Not everyone wore masks but I felt a special obligation, being foreigners, to show respect and be cautious.
The bottom line: Tourists are welcome in Europe but this pandemic isn’t over. It’s best to safe and respectful so we’re not stuck with this virus again next summer.
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