What It Is Like to Travel to Europe from the US During Covid-19


Here is a first-hand look at what it is like to travel to Europe from the US during the coronavirus situation. Unfortunately, Americans may not be able to do so for a while.

Currently, Americans are not allowed to enter most countries in Europe and may not be able to after it reopens the borders on July 1. If you have a European passport, a European country resident permit, or certain other relationships with EU citizens, you can enter the EU.

What Is It Like to Travel to Europe from the US During Covid-19

Last week, I traveled from the US back to Europe (check out this post to see what it is like going FROM Europe to the US). I wasn’t sure what to expect from this journey and what Europe would require upon reentering Europe. Here is what my experience was like during the current Covid-19 travel concerns.

Checking in for My Flight to Europe

I was checking in at a small regional airport so was a little curious to see if they would hesitate to check me in with my US passport, given that the European borders were still closed to such travelers. However, I have a resident permit so I would be allowed to travel – just was unsure if they would be willing to accept that.

It turned out that it was not a big deal (though they did ask me if this was a resident permit 🙂) but I also had to have my documents checked again in Chicago with SWISS before being able to board.

Since I was starting with United, they questioned me with their health questionnaire before giving me my boarding passes (you would normally just see these on your computer but since I was flying to Europe, I could not receive my boarding passes ahead of time).

Boarding the Flight to Europe

My SWISS business class seat to Europe

I was flying with SWISS from Chicago to Zurich. The flight was absolutely packed! One of the flight attendants told me that they only run this flight twice a week for now and Switzerland is using it to bring many citizens from around the US back to Switzerland.

No Temperature Checks and No Forms

Here, as in my origination airport, there were no temperature checks and nothing out of the ordinary since before the coronavirus pandemic. The only difference (other than face masks on everyone) was the checking of documents as US passport holders were not allowed to enter Europe except for certain situations.

Even with that, I still saw several Americans traveling on US passports, one of which had been traveling quite a bit and just gotten back from Korea.

Face Mask Enforcement…

The gate agent made the announcement several times that those not wearing face mask would not be allowed to board the plane. I was wearing a face mask but I was a little surprised at this. Even though US airlines have said they are mandatory, my e-mail from SWISS only said that they are “recommended” and not mandatory.

On the plane, I asked about it and was told that this was just a Chicago O’Hare thing – face mask use was not enforced onboard SWISS flights.

Arriving in Switzerland

The empty Zurich airport

We had to fill out a health declaration form before arrival in Switzerland. Switzerland is not a part of the European Union but is in the Schengen Zone so it would be everyone’s entry into Europe. The health form was a simple questionnaire about symptoms related to the coronavirus and where we had come from and where we were going.

The entry point into Europe through the border controls was almost empty since we were the only plane that had arrived around that time. I was one of the first off the plane so was the first to go through passport control.

There were no health questions asked, just a quick scan of my resident permit and I was on my way. There is currently no quarantine requirement for people entering Switzerland so I would imagine that the health declaration form I had filled on the plane was all the information that the Swiss government was using.

The Airport in Switzerland

I will have another post of this but the Zurich airport was similar to Frankfurt – empty. None of the lounges from Swiss were open (they were using a third party lounge) and most of the shops were closed. A Burger King was open but that was largely the only thing open.

Continuing to My Final European Destination

Each country in Europe has their own rules for incoming travelers. As I was traveling to Greece, specifically Thessaloniki, there were health protocols they had in place that went beyond a health declaration form (which I also had to fill out).

You can read more about that here but it included a mandatory Covid-19 test on arrival and a 24 hour self quarantine.

Bottom Line

I realize that this post does not show anything out of the extreme for traveling from the US to Europe but I get a lot of questions so wanted to share my experience.

As you can see, if you are allowed to enter Europe, there will only be restrictions placed on you by your final country of destination. This will vary based on the country you are entering from full quarantine to just some health questions.

I imagine most countries will loosen up even more for those that are allowed to enter post-July 1. But, if you find yourself traveling to Europe from the US, now you know some of the things to expect.

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