How will covid and Ukraine affect our August vacation in Europe?
May 19, 2022 6:31 AM   Subscribe

We're going to spend several weeks in Europe in August, though we're still figuring out the exact locations. We're wondering how Covid and the war in Ukraine might affect our travel plans.

While we are definitely going to be in Paris and London, we have also been looking at other places, like Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, and considering some places off the beaten path, like Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia.

I'm wondering what covid mitigation practices these places might have? Are people wearing masks? Is it easy to get rapid/PCR tests? How easy is it to stay mostly outdoors? (I know this question is ridiculous since I am asking about a huge swath of very different places.)

What is the medical infrastructure like if one of us gets sick? I've heard that it's very easy to get treatment in France even if you don't have insurance. How easy is it to get good medical treatment in southern/central Europe?

Also, how should we think about the war in Ukraine potentially affecting any visits further east, like Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, etc.? How much should supply chain issues affect one's ability to travel?
posted by johnasdf to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: See this recent question: Traveling to Europe in the time of COVID with on-the-ground info added by the OP.

In most of these places, you can get emergency medical treatment and it wont bankrupt you but you should have good travel insurance in any case.
posted by vacapinta at 6:46 AM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Apologies that this wasn’t directly your question, but be aware that much of France closes in August as people go on vacation. A practical impact could be having to go to a slightly further pharmacy if you needed something (but there will still always be one within a reasonable distance anyway).
posted by raccoon409 at 7:19 AM on May 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

Car rentals are SO SO SO expensive now, all over Europe is my understanding… and also some flights… so you are going to want to be flexible.
posted by pairofshades at 7:39 AM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

We recently returned from Istanbul.

We got PCR tests at our hotel the day before returning home.

I would not underestimate the mental burden that the war, and needing a negative test to return, would have on you while traveling.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 7:50 AM on May 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I am traveling to Paris at the end of May through the first week of June. I have found the following resources:

1. US Embassy in Paris has a Covid information page that is regularly updated, see here and also here.

2. If you travel anywhere outside the USA, you will need a negative Covid test result no more than, I think 48 hours prior to your flight. You can get one locally, but I have obtained a City Health sealed test kit to pack in my luggage, see here.

3. France has suspended their Vaccine Pass requirements as of mid-April. When required, it was obtainable at local pharmacies and needed to enter museums, cafes, etc. My United app is encouraging me to sign up for the eu passenger locater and I will likely do so. I have already uploaded my vaccine card showing that I have had the two vaccinations and one booster dose and I will bring my original CDC vaccination card and some copies and scans with me.

4. Masks are apparently required at some locations, but not others, so I am bringing a box of masks.

5. I have Travel Guard through AIG Travel. It appears to me to have adequate coverage. I am hoping that they will not be horrible to deal with in the event of a claim, but insurance companies can sometimes make life very difficult when they are called upon to pay for something.

6. I do not expect the war in Ukraine to have much effect on my trip, except that I assume prices will be higher than normal. In particular I expect baked goods to be more expensive as the war has affected wheat crops. No shortages have been reported for France and the weather in June should make natural gas hikes less of a factor.

As I am only going to Paris and its immediate surroundings, I have not looked into anywhere else. I hope this helps somewhat.
posted by statusquoante at 8:00 AM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just spent 10 days in Latvia and Estonia, ending last weekend, and it was wonderful. Everything seemed back to normal, very few people wearing masks (though a bit more masks on public transit, where supposedly it's still required), which made me nervous.

It was still a little cold so outdoor eating areas weren't fully set up, except in the Old Town areas of Tallinn and Riga. I don't think I got any strange looks when I wore a mask inside grocery stores and museums. I did end up eating indoors every day and went into some shops and markets without a mask and did not get COVID; probably luck of the draw there and hitting a slump in a cases after a surge a month or so ago. In the heat of summer, there will be outdoor dining everywhere.

For testing I brought some of my own test kits to use throughout the trip. For the return (US still requires a proper negative test to return) I needed to do some research and book an appointment online but both Estonia and Latvia had easy instructions for doing that online in English. Airports in Riga and Tallinn had test facilities and they were the same price as testing outside the airport. A rapid antigen test administered by a medical professional was enough to get me back to the US; I had results in 15 min and didn't have to wait long to get tested because I'd made an appointment.

Nowhere in either country cared about my vaccination status except for the boarding agents on the return flight. Unsure whether or not the US policy on testing for return will still be in place.

The war in Ukraine had zero effect on anything except there are Ukrainian flags everywhere and
some restaurants had a beer have a special named "NoWar" or similar and prices are probably a little higher. I had a conversation with a fishmonger in Latvia who said salmon prices are really rising.

I was even right on the border with Russia in northeastern Estonia (literally could throw a rock and hit Russia) and everything was just normal, though hotels were a little overbooked due to being filled with Ukrainian refugees and Russians leaving Russia. Same with long-distance buses or trains; lots of Ukrainians in transit. I had no trouble finding accommodations or bus tickets, though. The Baltics have been particularly worried about Russian aggression over the past couple of years and especially recently, but being there you wouldn't know that right now is any different than a year ago or 5 years ago when I last visited.

The most tense situation I ran into was Victory Day in Riga where police had cordoned off a major Russian monument and put in laws against showing support for Russia, but I spent a few hours at the monument that day (that's why I was there) and when I say "most tense" it was more like a crowd of people getting annoyed that a line at the grocery store checkout was taking too long. I wouldn't have hesitated to bring my young child there. The rest of the city was absolutely oblivious to it and everyone was going to museums and bars and parks like any other normal day.

Neither of those countries are where you mentioned, but they border Russia and have a bad history with Soviet occupation. Looking at friends' recent facebook posts from Croatia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, and Poland, everything seems pretty normal.
posted by msbrauer at 8:06 AM on May 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

you will need a negative Covid test result no more than, I think 48 hours prior to your flight

Per the CDC, the test needs to be no more than 1 day before your return flight.
posted by msbrauer at 8:07 AM on May 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

One note: I'm seeing in digital nomad channels that airbnb (etc) prices are very high and inventory very low right now, particularly in the border countries. So if you were planning on that, you may want to keep an eye on inventory and have backup plans because airbnb hosts in particular will absolutely cancel your 1-week reservation to book a 3-6-9-month one at a higher rent.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:39 AM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

In Poland there's a little less rental availability, but it's mostly affecting long-term rentals, and some out of the way hotels of the conference centre type have been converted to refugee centres. Not going to affect you unless you're planning to visit the direct neighbourhood of the Ukrainian border.

Italy shuts down in August too, while Croatia is likely to be overrun with tourists. Unless they all go to Turkey, because wow are the Turks desperate to replace their top two tourist demographics. Big promo push all over.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 9:08 AM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Speaking from the POV of someone in London: over here things are very much "normal", i.e. most people no longer wear masks, even indoors, and everywhere in central London is really, really busy. It feels busier than it was before the pandemic even, which I guess is partly due to tourists returning and everyone making the most of being able to go out and about. If this summer ends up being as hot as predicted, it's probably going to be even busier with the bank holidays and lots of festivals coming back for the first time.

Assume there will be crowds in most places you go, especially if you're visiting tourist hotspots. August in general is peak tourist season. AirBnB and hotels are likely to be expensive and short on space, so book asap. Public transport will be crowded and you may be the only one wearing a mask (though it's still a good idea if you want to do so).

It's fairly easy to get rapid tests, they're available fairly cheap in most supermarkets and pharmacies.

I would also assume you'll be paying more than you expect for food and drink in general. Everything is getting more expensive in the UK and restaurants are putting their menu prices up accordingly.
posted by fight or flight at 10:07 AM on May 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: France just ended mask requirements on public transport, and they haven’t been required in shops for a while now. Paris is back to being as busy as pre Covid, we’re having a heatwave at the moment so lots can be done outside. Case numbers were high in April but are declining, and we have high vaccination and first booster numbers, with second boosters for the elderly and immunocompromised ongoing. You can see a doctor without insurance for about 21€.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:16 PM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The key point is probably considering what happens if you test positive for your pre-departure test and have to delay your return journey. Can you afford the extra cost for accommodation etc. that would entail? What would that mean for your other commitments?

The other thing to consider is that even though everything is open everywhere atm that doesn’t mean it won’t change rapidly if they discover a nasty new variant. So be ready to change your plans ad hoc, have cancellable accommodation etc.

In general I get the impression that it’s very much wild west/anything goes out there regarding a lot of short-term rentals and even budget airline flights - short notice cancellations, significant price differentials for rebooking/alternatives (bearing in mind that a full refund doesn’t help you because the alternatives you can find yourself will be much more expensive as well), airlines tweaking schedules/cancelling connections with a slightly longer lead time and simply putting you on an earlier/later flight. I guess it feels a lot less predictable.

If that kind of thing happens you will likely incur additional cost upfront, even if you can recover some of the cost later. With that in mind, it is also worth remembering that it is easier to get help if you’re dealing with an airline or hotel directly as opposed to a third party booking site because they will just pass you from pillar to post. So consider how you book your travel in these strange times.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:24 PM on May 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Slovenia & Croatia report from the ground:

We're all carrying on like (pre-Covid) normal. No masks or testing required, but I see some people still wearing masks for their own protection. There have been more checks at the borders (especially while proof of vaccination or neg. test was required to enter both countries, but this is no longer required), so it might take longer to go through.

PCR and/or rapid tests can be done at healthcare providers (at least bigger ones). You can buy rapid tests yourself at any pharmacy, but the results are not officially recognized (eg. you can't use them for the flight back).

Medical infrastructure is good in bigger cities, not so good in rural areas, but you'll be only, what, a 2 hours' drive out from a metropolitan area at any point. Healthcare can be accessed either through ER or your local GP - in your case, the GP that is on call when you decide to turn up at the local health center/clinic. You'll get treated just like local citizens, but will have to pay, so some sort of traveler's health insurance would probably be smart.

It's summer, you can stay outdoors as much as you want, but I wouldn't recommend it with August temperatures.

Book your accommodation on time, as August is prime tourist time for both countries, especially Croatia. Friends from Croatia who have airbnbs are booked all through October, and have been booked since last year.

I live in Slovenia and travel to Croatia regularly, so feel free to PM me if you have more questions.
posted by gakiko at 5:22 AM on May 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

And re: War - no influence so far, except the modest influx of Ukrainian refugees that the local tourism industry is more than happy to employ. Both countries are pro-Ukraine, but still better not to discuss politics with the locals. Supply chain issues - food prices have gone up, so everything is more expensive than last year, but you won't know that; gas prices will probably make you faint if you're used to US prices; but no other issues I can think of.
posted by gakiko at 5:32 AM on May 20, 2022

Response by poster: Dear all, this is an amazing thread--thank you so much. We will probably be in Paris mainly in July, and are hoping to do the Italy part in late July if we can to avoid the tourists and Italian vacation.

Gakiko - thank you for the report from Slovena/Croatia. I really want to go to both those places, though I am not sure if I can convince the rest of my party, but I appreciate your on-the-ground report.

koahiatamadl - Yes, I'm a bit concerned about something random and covid-related knocking our trip off course. Fingers crossed that it won't!

msbrauer - I'm glad there weren't any signs of the war in Latvia/Estonia and liked your story about being close enough to toss a rock into the Russian side of the border.

vacapinta - Thank you for sharing the previous thread! Very helpful.

statusquoante - These Paris-specific tips are really helpful as we'll be spending a lot of time there.
posted by johnasdf at 10:38 AM on May 23, 2022

Feel free to memail me with any Paris questions!
posted by ellieBOA at 2:29 AM on May 24, 2022

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