Can Americans visit Europe this fall after EU decision? It’s complicated. What travelers need to know.

Travel to Europe has been complicated this summer due to a hodgepodge of COVID-19 travel

Travel to Europe has been complicated this summer due to a hodgepodge of COVID-19 travel restrictions and entry requirements. Some countries are only allowing vaccinated visitors, others are open to all with a negative COVID-19 test or and/or proof of recovery and still others are throwing quarantines into the mix.

The European Union’s decision Monday to remove the United States from its list of safe countries due to a spike in COVID cases, essentially recommending a ban of nonessential travel such as vacations, adds more confusion to the mix for travelers with plane tickets or plans in the works to visit Europe this fall.

The EU’s announcement is only a recommendation to the 27 countries in the bloc and Monday’s announcement said those countries are free to make exceptions for fully vaccinated people.

►EU takes US off safe country list: Recommends Europe travel restrictions tighten for Americans

Travel experts expect most countries to still welcome vaccinated visitors, perhaps adding another requirement for visitors such as a negative COVID test, but confusion is likely to remain until individual countries announce their plans.

Related video: Airlines talk mask mandates required for air travel until mid-Sept.

“The headlines are frightening,” said Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, a subscription service for airfare deals. “You see, ‘EU bans tourists.’ I’ve got a trip to the EU next week, what am I supposed to do?”

Similarly, Steve Perillo, CEO of Perillo Tours, a New Jersey-based operator of tours to Italy since 1945, said the widely publicized announcement might prompt some vacationers to put off booking new trips until individual countries reaffirm or adjust their entry requirements in the coming days and weeks.

“(Travelers) might say, alright, let me just wait another six months. It’s going to be too complicated,” he said.

A girl looks down at Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower as the iconic landmark reopened for the first time in over 8 months on July 16, 2021.

A girl looks down at Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower as the iconic landmark reopened for the first time in over 8 months on July 16, 2021.

Here’s what travelers need to know about the EU’s decision on COVID travel:

►Europe residents still banned from US: US keeps travel restrictions in place

Can US citizens still visit Europe?

Yes, at least until — and if — individual countries change their entry requirements. And then the changes might only be the addition of a COVID-19 test or other additional measures.

Travel would only technically be banned for vacations and other leisure trips if the country changes its policy and doesn’t allow any nonessential travel, even with a quarantine. 

The European Union’s governing body removed the United States from its list of safe countries based on COVID-19 case rates. The U.S. was added to the list in June, opening Europe travel this summer to vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers. Previously, travel was generally only open to vaccinated travelers under EU recommendations announced a month earlier, in May.

►Europe reopening this summer: What American travelers need to know

Keyes of Scott’s Cheap Flights said unvaccinated travelers are likely to face the most changes under any new travel restrictions.

“I would imagine most countries will continue to allow in vaccinated Americans,” he said, noting that many countries rushed to reopen to vaccinated visitors before the EU gave the green light. “If you’re unvaccinated you may not be able to travel to as many places in Europe next work or in two weeks as you are able to today.”

Travelers flocked to popular European destinations this summer including Greece, Italy, and France.

Even before the EU’s policy change, some European countries and travel companies had already increased restrictions due to the Delta variant.

Earlier this month, Germany reimposed restrictions on unvaccinated Americans. Those who are unvaccinated or unable to show proof of recovery will need to self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival. The quarantine period can end on the fifth day with proof of a negative coronavirus test. 

Previously, unvaccinated travelers had to show a negative coronavirus test to enter Germany. 

Given ever-shifting travel restrictions, Perillo Tours, which just restarted tours to Italy, changed its policy a few weeks ago to require all passengers to be vaccinated. Most already were, Perillo said, with just 3% of passengers having to cancel.

Can vaccinated Americans travel to Europe?

Travelers will have to keep tabs on the entry requirements in individual countries this week and into September. 

Check the websites of the country’s tourism board, U.S. embassies in the country, and airline and travel company websites for the latest restrictions if you don’t have a travel agent.

►Want to see the Eiffel Tower and other attractions in France: Bring vaccination proof

Can Americans still visit England, other UK countries?

The United Kingdom left the EU in early 2020 so it has its own policies. In early August, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales lifted quarantine restrictions for vaccinated Americans. Testing is still required to bypass a 10-day quarantine.

Will airlines refund my tickets if I don’t want to travel to Europe?

Probably not, unless your airline ticket is refundable or the airline cancels your flight. Travelers who voluntarily cancel trips are likely to receive credit for a future flight, depending on the terms of their ticket.

During the height of the pandemic last year, airlines issued a variety of travel waivers so keep an eye out for any that might make travel changes more flexible. The good news: Even without new pandemic waivers, most major airlines have permanently eliminated those pesky change fees on most tickets.

What is essential travel to Europe?

The EU’s list of essential travel allowed during the pandemic includes travel by health care professionals, students, certain workers and government officials, and others.

What are the 27 EU countries?

There are 27 countries in the European Union: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyrpus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

Contributing: Bailey Schulz, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Europe COVID travel restrictions: What American tourists need to know