THE STATE OF INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL: AUGUST 2021

During the last 2 weeks of July and the first week of August, we have travelled to 7 European countries. At the time of our trip, we all needed a recent negative COVID test and/or a CDC vaccination card to enter Europe and to skip quarantine requirement. NOTE: all 10 of us are fully vaccinated.
Best advice to anyone who wants to travel now: Get vaccinated. At the moment, CDC vaccination card serves as a mini passport and it opens all kinds of doors when in Europe. We have used the CDC card only twice during our three weeks of travel: once to enter Germany and once to exit Italy.
Lesson learnt: COVID tests are acceptable for travel in Europe. Yet, tests alone are not always practical because of inconsistent enforcement and/or different testing policies in each country. For example, the US and now the UK, too, accept tests taken up to 3 days before departure. Switzerland accepts test taken up to 48 hours before departure. Germany accepts tests taken up to 48 hours before landing in their country. Italy and Austria accepts tests taken up to 72 hours before arrival. France accepts tests but also insists on the vaccination pass. Ireland accept negative test taken up to 72 hours before departure from the US. And my favorite: Poland and Liechtenstein allows entry regardless of tests or vaccination. Travel between European countries have few if any requirements, depending on departure and arrival destinations. NOTE: all of the above countries accept the CDC vaccination card to by-pass testing requirement.
Major discovery: Travel is normal outside the airports. There are no lines, no requirement, no controls when crossing the boarder by train or by car (including rental). Currently, only the airports require and enforce all of the COVID related rules and regulations.  That means that the airports are the real bottleneck in travel and a major logistical detriment to travel in Europe. It is only at the airports that documents are always inspected by the check-in people (yet, never by the immigration officials! Some airports insist on temperature checks at the entry to the terminal and again at the boarding gate. Social distancing is encouraged even as it is not practical or practiced. Some airports have minimal shopping opportunities within the terminal. Yet, food service inside the terminal and duty free shopping is back and going strong again.
Moving around: Use of train and car during border crossing is painless and quick (no controls and no stops). If you are comfortable with driving in Europe, rent a car and travel with ease across the continent.
Tourists: There are very few English speaking people Europe at this time. We have met some Americans in Italy and France and few in Germany. Often, we were the only English speakers at sightseeing site, museum, or restaurant. And for the first time in many, many years, locals are happy to welcome English speaking visitors!
Crowds: Almost non-existent. One exception seems to be Florence where crowds have returned.
Country by country review:
  • Germany:
    • Masks on public transport
    • 3rd most crowded
    • Everything is opened
    • Expectation to register (online or via paper form) your visit
  • France:
    • Masks on public transport
    • 2nd most crowded
    • Everything is opened
  • Liechtenstein:
    • No limitations of any kind
    • No crowds
    • Everything is opened
    • No restrictions
  • Switzerland:
    • Masks on public transport
    • No crowds
    • Everything is opened
    • Minimal restrictions (almost identical to Liechtenstein)
  • Italy:
    • Masks on public transport
    • Everything is opened
    • Most crowded
  • Austria:
    • Masks on public transport
    • No crowds
    • Everything is opened
Travel Advice: With many American airport and flights overcrowded and with many major domestic destinations crowded near capacity, travel to Europe right now is both safer and more relaxed than ever. IF you dislike crowds and crowded places, this is a perfect time to be in Europe!