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How to Travel to Europe from the US During COVID-19 Travel Restrictions (Updated)

It all started like this: I fell in love with a girl who lives in Austria. Where do I live? The US, of course. As a pilot, all was good until COVID-related travel restrictions made it seemingly impossible for us to see each other. It appeared all hope was lost, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. If you’re looking to travel to Europe during coronavirus travel restrictions, whether it’s for love or adventure or food, here are the official loopholes that will allow you into Europe. As summer approaches, more and more countries are opening – including France, Croatia, Italy, and Spain. This increases the number of “loopholes” to enter the EU/Schengen bubble and makes life a lot easier.
Croatia: the land of entry into Europe. Travel restrictions here aren't too stringent!
Dubrovnik, Croatia. Not a bad place to spend a bit of time.
There are extensive travel restrictions on the external European Schengen borders that prohibit almost all non-Europeans from entry. Once you are inside the EU/Schengen area, this entry ban no longer applies. This means you’ll be able to travel to most other EU countries. So, how do you get into Europe in the first place? There are really only a couple criteria that matter:
  • Where can I travel to from the states?
  • Where do I need to transit to enter Europe?
  • What are the quarantine and PCR-test requirements?
Related: A Pilot Answers: Is Flying During COVID-19 Safe?
Italy: this loophole welcomes you.
Image of the Amalfi Coast from JetSetter.com

Where in Europe Can I Travel From the States?

As of November 14, 2020, you are allowed to travel to:
  • Croatia
    • Requires a negative PCR test in the last 48 hours OR a mandatory 14-day quarantine
    • Requires proof of paid accommodation in Croatia
    • From Croatia, you can enter the Schengen territory via a loophole I talk about below
  • United Kingdom
    • 14-day quarantine required unless you’re traveling from these low-risk countries (including Australia and some Caribbean islands)
      • You do not need to stay in the UK for the entire 14 day quarantine, I talk more about this below this list
    • You can enter the Schengen area via the UK as described below
  • Albania
    • No PCR-test entry requirements or required quarantine
    • Albania is not part of the EU or part of Schengen, so you cannot continue into other European countries without restrictions
  • Serbia:
    • No PCR-test entry requirements or required quarantine
    • Serbia is not part of the EU or part of Schengen, so you cannot continue into other European countries without restrictions
You are allowed to transit through one EU airport to get to these destinations. For example, you could fly from Atlanta to Frankfurt to Split, or Detroit to Amsterdam to London. Here are more details on the process.

Loophole #1: Entering Italy from Croatia

Don’t worry, these are official loopholes. You can see for yourself on the Italian government COVID website. The easiest and most obvious way to penetrate the Schengen area also requires a bit of time. To be more precise, you’ll need 14 days. You’ll first fly to Croatia, with a negative RT-PCR test result no older than 48 hours, or be ready to quarantine until you get one in Croatia. Once you get one, you’re free to move around. Two weeks in Croatia is the perfect amount of time; there’s a LOT to do here.
Travel Restrictions in Italy: Yes, you can enter as an American
Per the Italian, infocovid website, you may enter (even as an American!) after two weeks in Croatia.
From Croatia, you can fly, drive, or take the train to Italy. Just have this form filled out and ready to present. You are allowed to transit Slovenia, as long as you’re there less than 12 hours. If you fly, you must take a direct flight. Once in Italy, there are no restrictions (that means no quarantine!) Since you’re now in the Schengen area, you can travel freely to other countries in Schengen. Most countries will require either a RT-PCR test, a quarantine period, or a combination of both.

Loophole #2: Entering Italy from the UK

This is the second easiest way to enter the Schengen area, and also requires 14 days. However, you can spend these two weeks in the UK, Croatia, and Ireland. You do have to self-isolate in the UK for two weeks, regardless of any RT-PCR test result, so I definitely prefer loophole #1. Travel Restrictions in Italy: Americans can enter from the UK after two weeks Per the Italian CovidInfo website, you may enter Italy after two weeks in any combo of: the UK, Ireland, and Croatia. The main difference with this loophole is that you are required to obtain an RT-PCR test with negative results within 72 hours of entry to Italy, even though you already quarantined (up to) two weeks in the UK. Since you’re now in the Schengen area, you can travel freely to other countries in Schengen. Most countries will require either a RT-PCR test, a quarantine period, or a combination of both.

Loophole #3: Reasons of Love

This loophole doesn’t require the 14 days the other two do. In fact, with this loophole, you could fly directly to Europe from the US. You must be able to prove, without a doubt, that you have “a proven and stable emotional relationship” with someone living in that country. This is all thanks to the “Love is Not Tourism” movement. You can find more details and the 10 countries that allow lovers to see each other here. You may have to quarantine or take an RT-PCR test – I’ll detail that in a list below.

Do I Need to Quarantine in Europe?

It depends. Unfortunately, each country has a (different) list of countries on their “red-list” requiring a quarantine period. However, a negative PCR-test (taken within 48-72 hours of arrival) waives that requirement for most countries.  The best way to educate yourself on this is via the Re-Open EU website, an incredible resource with tons of details on travel to every country in the EU. Make sure to read the sections related to coming from inside the EU+ area, and not from outside the EU.
The wonderful Re-open EU website
One important thing to note for any quarantine period is that you are NOT required to remain in that country for entire quarantine period. So, let’s say, for example, you made it to the UK… you passed through border patrol, arrived at your hotel for the night, what’s next? Do you need to quarantine in the UK for 14 days? Absolutely not. It is completely legal to continue on to Croatia the anytime in the next 14 days.

What is the Schengen Area?

Schengen: enlargement of Europe's border-free area | News | European  Parliament
For all you visual learners
The Schengen area comprises of 26 countries that have grouped together to abolish all internal borders. Traveling between countries works exactly the same as traveling between states in the US, except you end up in a different country! The 26 Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. You will need to go through passport control when entering the Schengen area, but there is no more passport control between countries once you are in the Schengen area. Some countries do have local requirements, just like some states do, and you may not be allowed into some of them. I’ll talk about those later on.
Monaco, image from ArchitecturalDigest.com

What Are the Local Restrictions You Mentioned Earlier?

After spending 2 amazing weeks in Croatia (or two boring weeks in the UK), you’ll be able to visit almost every EU country, but with certain restrictions. Below is the  list of EU+ countries the loopholes will allow you to visit, along with their current local restrictions. Once you’re in the Schengen area, you can travel freely with the restrictions I have listed below. Countries that do not require any quarantine period: Countries allowing entry but requiring a quarantine period upon arrival: Countries these loopholes do NOT work for and you cannot enter as a US resident:
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • Cyprus
  • Norway
  • Estonia
  • Lithuania
  • Austria – no non-essential entry until December 6th
Luxembourg! Visit this cool little country. Image from Forbes.com
All of this being said, it is possible to get into Europe even with the current restrictions. I highly, highly recommend, once in the EU, to travel between countries via land (car/train/bus). So go on, find your loved ones, enjoy some incredible food, see the sights! Set out on that backpacking trip across Europe you’ve always wanted to do.

The World Is On Discount Right Now

Or if you’d prefer to isolate yourself in a luxurious hotel or resort, almost everything in Europe is on discount right now! Air fare is as cheap as it gets… with fares as low as $400 roundtrip across the Atlantic.
Ridiculously Cheap Flights
You can take advantage of Thanksgiving sales to get these ridiculously cheap flight tickets for even cheaper.
CheapOAir is offering $25 off of flights, meaning you could potentially fly roundtrip to Europe for under $400 round trip.

Let’s Go!

All of this being said, I sincerely hope this helps! Many local economies depend heavily on tourism, and they really could use some American tourists. Please travel responsibly, and safely. Here’s how you travel as safely as possible. Let me know about your experiences traveling to/from Europe during the pandemic. I’m in Europe at the moment, which is why I’ve completed updated this post and added details on how to transit in Europe. Thanks for reading!

Keep Exploring the World


  1. Useful info. Thanks! Here in Italy I suspect travel into the country will become stricter as the number of cases continues to rise in recent weeks.

    1. I agree! Seems like the second wave is starting to hit many parts of Europe.

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    1. Thank you Jeric! I will be reaching out to you.

  3. […] Here’s how you can travel to Europe as an American. Maybe you can make it to a winter […]

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