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Tips for a Smooth Travel Experience in Europe

Sarah has traveled to Europe multiple times in the past 4 years and has been to Rome, Paris, London, Lisbon, and Madrid.

beautiful part of Lisbon, Portugal

beautiful part of Lisbon, Portugal

Traveling internationally has become pretty difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic. There are ever-changing rules, mask mandates, restrictions etc. I just came back from an almost two-week trip in Europe earlier this month and I definitely wish that I knew some of these tips prior to visiting Europe. I hope these tips will help you have a smooth trip to Europe.


#1: Make Sure You Are Fully Vaccinated

To enter Europe, you need to be fully vaccinated. That includes 2 doses of Moderna or Pfizer or 1 dose of Johnson and Johnson. You also need to have your booster shot if your last vaccine dose is more than 9 months old. Without these, you won't be allowed to enter Europe so you won't even be able to board the plane to Europe.

I had taken 1 dose of Johnson and Johnson in April 2021 and my booster shot in November 2021 so at the airport, the airline AirEuropa just checked my vaccine card for the dates and let me board easily. However, my husband who is an EU citizen only had his 2 doses of Moderna taken in April 2021. Since he didn't have his booster shot yet, this caused a little trouble when checking in for the flight to Madrid at Miami. The airline employees had to get a manager to approve his vaccination status.

You also need to be fully vaccinated to go pretty much anywhere in Europe. We noticed that they checked our vaccination at restaurants, airports, and theme parks. My husband had the same problem when showing his vaccination at Disneyland Paris. The security guards didn't want to let him into the Disneyland Paris property because he hadn't taken his booster shot yet.

#2: Be Prepared To Take A lot of Covid Tests

Even though you are required to be fully vaccinated to enter Europe, Europe doesn't see the vaccine cards from the U.S. as valid. You still need to carry your original card with you at all times but the only thing, they do is look at the dates of your last vaccine dose. In Europe, every EU citizen that has taken the vaccine in Europe is given a digital certificate that they show to go to restaurants, bars, theme parks etc. This digital certificate has their vaccine status and a small barcode. However, unless you are an EU citizen, you can't have this digital certificate and even when you are an EU citizen, you still can't have this digital certificate if you didn't take your vaccine in Europe. My husband is an example of this. He is an EU citizen living in the U.S. so he took his vaccines in the U.S. He has yet to figure out how to access the digital certificate to transfer his U.S. vaccines there.

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Since we didn't have this digital certificate, this made our trip to Europe pretty difficult. In addition to showing our vaccine card, we had to get negative Covid tests pretty frequently. Most negative Covid tests are only valid for 48 hours so we had to get a few to be able to continue eating at restaurants and visiting attractions. Towards the end of the trip, we got fed up with having to get Covid tests so we decided to just wait until we needed one again to come back to the U.S. Due to our decision of not having a valid Covid test in our possession, this really limited us on where to eat while in Portugal. We mostly just ate at food courts in malls and even in the food courts, sometimes they asked to see our proof of vaccination and Covid tests. This was difficult since we didn't have our negative test anymore. I found out that if you don't have it, sometimes they won't even let you pay for the food.

Also, finding free Covid testing sites can be pretty challenging too. We did our Covid tests in a small town in Portugal called Caldas de Rainhas. We didn't wait very long to get our tests but since I'm not a resident of Portugal with a Portuguese license number, I had to pay 25 euros which are about $30 for my Covid test. It doesn't sound like a lot but if you're needing Covid tests about every 2-3 days to go places in Europe on a 2-3 week trip, it can add up pretty fast. Also, not every country costs the same for Covid tests. In places like France, the Covid tests can cost a lot more. My husband told me that there are free Covid testing sites in Europe but you would have to wait for 8 hours or more to be tested. Therefore, we decided to just get it done as fast as possible and just pay for my Covid tests.


#3: Bring Surgical Masks and KN95 Masks With You

On this trip to Europe, we learned that depending on which country you're visiting, you'll need a certain type of mask. For example: to board the flight to France, you need a surgical mask but to go to Italy, you need a KN95. We didn't know this prior to boarding our flight to France so I didn't have a surgical mask in my possession. We were only going to France for 2 days so I didn't stock any for that part of my trip. I ended up leaving all my surgical masks in my suitcase at my husband's parents' house in Portugal because I didn't think that I'd need them. This was a big mistake though. When I was ready to board my flight to Paris on EasyJet, the airline employees wouldn't allow me to board unless I had a surgical mask on. The airline employees made me buy surgical masks from the shop close to the boarding gate and this pack of 5 surgical masks cost me 15 euros which are about $20! These were the most expensive masks that I ever bought!

In the U.S. most of us like the pretty Disney cloth masks that they sell online or at Disney but those aren't allowed to fly to some countries in Europe. Therefore, it's really important to pack some surgical masks and some KN95 masks because you never know when you'll need them when flying in Europe. Even when we landed in France, I noticed that almost everyone was wearing a surgical mask and I didn't see anyone using cloth masks like in the U.S.

© 2022 Sarah Wong

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