US citizens travelling to Europe in time of COVID
May 7, 2022 10:27 AM   Subscribe

My spouse and I are travelling from the US to Europe for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We're 46/47, US citizens, fully vaccinated and boosted by the US definition with Pfizer (no 2nd boosters though). I have questions about COVID restrictions/regulations.

We will fly in to Paris (CDG), and later take the train across national borders into Germany and finally the Netherlands before flying home from Amsterdam (AMS).

In Germany we're going to be visiting older relatives but as far as I know they're either still at home or in a "retirement apartment" situation rather than a "nursing home" situation.

Do we need to get the EU Digital COVID Certificate? I have found instructions on how to do this at particular pharmacies in France, I just don't know if it's still important or not. If it's not, we'll skip paying the €70 or so for it.

What should we expect as far as masking, proving vacccination status, or testing? What are the best websites to monitor as these rules change? (not that rules have been changing very fast since I started monitoring the french situation in March) English information sources are best for us, though between the two of us we can read French and German and muddle through Dutch with the help of an app.

Our return is June 22. Is there anything we can do now (with 1 week before we travel) about the test we'll need to take before returning to the US (under current rules)?

Any anecdotes about travel in Europe right now are welcome, particularly in the three countries we'll be visiting.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I was in Germany about a month ago. They had just removed indoor mask and vaccine requirements, so things were very casual, though masking in public places (particularly indoor public places) was still fairly common though not universal (My sweetheart got strange looks for wearing her mask on transit in the Netherlands, though). I got the vaccination certificate (free, I think) at a pharmacy in Germany, but never needed to show it to anybody because of the rule change.

You'll probably need a negative test to fly back to the USA - an antibody test administered the day before your flight will suffice. For this reason it makes sense to be a cautious traveler and wear your mask in public indoor places, and to choose outdoor dining.
posted by entropone at 10:49 AM on May 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: We got back from eight weeks in Italy at the end of April. Three of those weeks were spent isolating in a hotel room in Rome because of a positive Covid test. We were vaxxed/boosted and still got sick. Mask rules for indoors were still in force when we were in Italy, but there was a lot of what, I call “ mask fatigue” - masks below noses, dangling from one ear when speaking, etc. Also, social distancing wasn’t enforced in the smaller (non-touristy) restaurants we went to - that is likely how we got infected.
We flew in and out of Germany, which required a negative test result (as does the US for re-entry). We only paid 30Eu total for our “certified” tests at a pharmacy (which allowed us to stop isolating). Because we tested negative, they sent us Super Green Passes.
The US state department usually has updated info by country.
I’d suggest being prepared to delay leaving by at least ten days, in case you test positive. We have friends in France who had to do just that.
posted by dbmcd at 12:01 PM on May 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: What should we expect as far as masking, proving vacccination status, or testing?

I assume you mean outside of the entry requirements, what is it like on the ground?

As someone who lives in the Netherlands and was in Germany on a short vacation, a couple weeks ago...there are no real masking, proving vaccination status or testing in either country.

The only exceptions were public transit in Germany and also restaurants in Germany where a mask is worn when not seated. But nobody checking any status. We actually took a train from NL to Germany and nobody wore masks but as soon as we crossed the German border an announcer asked everyone to put their mask on.

The Netherlands is currently behaving like its 2019.
posted by vacapinta at 12:04 PM on May 7, 2022

Response by poster: Yeah, I think we have a clear understanding of what we need to enter at CDG, and it's the stuff after that we're unsure about.

Potentially postponing return due to a positive or ambiguious test, well, that's survivable but yeah something to be aware of.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 12:27 PM on May 7, 2022

Best answer: I know that people here often despise Reddit, but their travel subreddit has a thread in it devoted to these kinds of Covid questions and I found it useful when preparing for my last two trips from the U.S. to Europe since it has both links to official sites and anecdotal experience. Regarding the test coming back to the US, my advice is to identify places that will administer the right test before you leave.

I stayed in Germany for an overnight layover -- masking was required but no one ever checked our vaccination status. I eventually went on to Athens and while masking was happening in most places, it didn't feel required and didn't seem to be enforced strongly. Vaccination status was never asked for in restaurants or museums. No social distancing.
posted by sm1tten at 1:47 PM on May 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was just in the Netherlands, and the only time I needed my proof of vaccination was when I handed the card over at the airline check in counter in the US to prove that I had been vaccinated before boarding the plane. The only people wearing masks were tourists in large tour groups, for the most part, and they were not required at any sites we visited or on any transit that we took.

I needed a covid test to re-enter the US and did this by getting a rapid antigen test at the departure airport in Europe. Marketed turnaround time for the test was 50 minutes, but I got the results in about 20 minutes and presented them on my phone at check in. It's also possible to purchase a proxied-via-video-conference self-test in the US and use that instead.
posted by A Blue Moon at 2:26 PM on May 7, 2022

Best answer: Can confirm, no one is wearing masks in the Netherlands, including on transit, and you'll get weird looks/immediate assumptions you're a tourist. (I did indoors/on transit anyway, because I have 0 interest in ending up with long Covid if I can avoid it, and also didn't wanna risk having to somehow pay for a 1-2 week delay in getting back into the US if I did get Covid.) If you're coming from somewhere like Boston or New York, it's like visiting the South or the Midwest.

Neither testing nor a vax card were required to get into the Netherlands. I did need my vax card when checking in to my flight back to the US, along with a certified negative Covid test. I made a reservation in advance to get a test the day before so that I wasn't worrying it at the last minute (turned out to be a good idea, Schiphol was a madhouse in the aftermath of a strike a week ago). There are a few Coronalab sites that are relatively accessible, and the US embassy lists a few other vendors. (But there is pre-security testing available in the airport, as well as remotely monitored tests.)
posted by ASF Tod und Schwerkraft at 10:46 PM on May 7, 2022

Best answer: If you’ve got the time before the trip (and even if you don’t), you really should get the boosters. They do make a significant difference in both the odds in catching Covid-19, and the severity:

During the omicron wave, the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was 87% effective at preventing emergency and urgent care visits and 95% effective at preventing hospitalizations in adults who received a third dose in the prior two months, according to a study released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
posted by rambling wanderlust at 3:17 AM on May 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We've both had 3 doses of mRNA vaccines (1 booster) and neither of us fit the definitions for getting a 2nd booster at this time in the US.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 4:32 AM on May 8, 2022

Best answer: One thing to be aware of is that the German regulations can depend on which state you are in. I think (but I amn't 100% sure) that all of them are pretty much the same at the moment - masks required on public transport (medical mask or FFP2/N95+ only), but optional everywhere else. Anecdotally, the amount of masking you will encounter depends a bit on where you are, and what you are doing. Here, for example, are the rules in Hessen.

It's not that likely that the regulations become more strict in the next month or so, in which case the EU Digital Certificate won't really be of use. (They just relaxed the quarantine rules a week or so ago for example.)

You can buy self-tests in supermarkets and drugstores (though these are more for your own peace of mind). The number of infections in Germany is going down at the moment, but the levels are still pretty high. (I managed to get a mildish case myself a couple of weeks ago, despite booster vaccination, and masking.)
posted by scorbet at 6:48 AM on May 9, 2022

Response by poster: It still seems to be the advice of the EU that the digital certificate is required to cross national borders within the EU from France to Germany specifically
Travellers over the age of 12 can enter Germany if their 'EU Digital COVID Certificate' (EUDCC) contains one of the following:
  • Proof of vaccination after receiving full vaccination[…]
Netherlands, on the other hand, imposes no requirement on those entering from Germany.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 3:32 AM on May 10, 2022

Best answer: I don't think it needs to be in the digital certificate form. Here's the information from the Auswärtiges Amt. They mention there that it can be digital or paper (but not a copy). It might be a bit easier if it's in the app, but it's not necessary. Train passengers are usually only randomly checked as well - they don't check everyone.
posted by scorbet at 4:35 AM on May 10, 2022

Response by poster: We've arrived in Paris so I can give some updates of my own .. after deplaning, we weren't actually asked for our dPLF or our vaccine cards (signs at passport control said to show vaccine cards but nobody was asked and nobody did). Here in France, where we're starting out, masking is optional in public transport starting tomorrow. Today, adherence to the rule was pretty spotty.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 7:12 AM on May 15, 2022

Response by poster: We crossed into Germany yesterday. Nothing noticible at the border in terms of COVID vaccine card checks, but many/most people put masks on since it's still mandatory on public transportation in Germany (train was operated by SNCF as a TGV). Today on further trains in Germany everyone was wearing a mask.

That's probably the last update you'll hear from me, sounds like Netherlands and Belgium are both more relaxed than Germany on this issue.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 11:22 AM on May 28, 2022

Best answer: I was just in Belgium. Most of the time (other than on the train back to Germany today) I was the only person wearing a mask at all. In fact, SNCB (the Belgian train company) even had ads up saying that it was great to see people smiling again…
posted by scorbet at 1:31 PM on May 28, 2022

Response by poster: And.... we're home. Other than scanning our US vaccine cards with the airline app at home prior to departure, at no time did we show our US vaccine passes to anyone or any mandatory/proctored COVID testing to return home as the CDC ended this requirement as well.

I stayed healthy while my spouse came down with a cold (negative COVID quick test result, but still coughing a week later)
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 3:55 AM on June 23, 2022

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