Updated 21 June 2021
It’s safe to say that there’s really no place in the world quite like Europe! With its seemingly endless array of out-of-this-world destinations, diverse cultures, and unique culinary delights, a journey to the old continent promises travellers a kaleidoscope of memorable experiences unlike any other.
Fortunately, with rapid vaccination drives being carried all over the world, European tourism is now set for a gradual reopening. Numerous countries will soon open up their borders to fully vaccinated international travellers including those hailing from the UAE.
So if you’re looking to recommence the age-old rite of passage of escaping the desert heat this summer, here are some countries open for those wishing to travel to Europe along with some travel tips you may find useful.
European countries open for UAE travellers
Vaccinated UAE travellers can travel to the following European countries without the need for quarantine or managed isolation:
Albania is not applying any travel restrictions for international arrivals. However, increased screening measures and the presence of medical personnel are in place when entering Albania. There is no requirement to quarantine when arriving in Albania, however, quarantine may apply in specific cases when ordered by health authorities.
UAE residents are welcome to enter Bulgaria provided they are able to provide a negative pre-departure RT-PCR test taken within the last 72 hours. Additionally, one of the following documents is required:
- a certificate of vaccination, with the last dose of vaccine administered at least 14 days before entry
- a document showing a positive test result (PCR or antigen test) for people who recovered from Covid-19 in the period between 15 and 180 days before entry.
Travellers unable to meet the necessary requirements will be quarantined for 10 days.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Bosnia & Herzegovina is open to all international travellers who are in possession of a medical certificate with a negative Coronavirus (COVID-19) PCR test result issued at most 48 hours before arrival. No quarantine measures are applied.
Cyprus is now accepting fully vaccinated travellers from more than 60 countries including the UAE. Additional requirements include a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken at most 72 hours before departure and an additional test upon arrival to which UAE travellers must remain in isolation until the test results have been known.
Estonia, one of the pioneering countries of the travel bubble, is now open for all tourists who have been vaccinated. The country recognizes all vaccines produced by the nine worldwide producers and not just the ones authorized by the European Medicines Agency (Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Moderna).
France has implemented its traffic light system categorizing countries to green, orange and red lists. Starting from 9 June, fully vaccinated travellers from countries on the green list will be able to gain entry into France without any restrictions and quarantine measures. Non-vaccinated travellers from the green list will have to present proof of a PCR or antigen test taken within the last 72 hours before their arrival to France.
At present, the UAE is included in France’s orange list; which means fully vaccinated Emirati travellers are only required to present a PCR test taken in the last 72 hours or an antigen test taken in the last 48 hours upon their arrival in France. No quarantine will be necessary. Note that unvaccinated travellers from orange list countries will be required to self-isolate for seven days.
From 25 June, the GNTB has confirmed that international tourism will resume allowing vaccinated travellers from countries outside the EU to travel to Germany for business and leisure purposes. This includes the UAE and the rest of the GCC countries.
Vaccinated travellers will be able to enter Germany under existing visa regulations and are required to register at www.einreiseanmeldung.de prior to departing. Registration also includes uploading proof of vaccination against COVID-19 with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The vaccines are Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. A period of at least 14 days must have elapsed since receiving the last vaccine dose.
However, entry from countries and territories deemed as virus variant areas will still not be possible. Travellers must also print out their proof of vaccination and carry it with them on their travels.
The UAE has set up a vaccine bubble with Greece which will accommodate safe and free travel for travellers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The arrangement signifies the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates issued by their respective health authorities and will allow travellers to enjoy trips without managed isolation.
Italy has granted a special allowance to the UAE in recognition of the country’s exceptional performance in dealing with the pandemic.
Italy is now allowing special flights from the UAE to enter its borders without necessitating quarantine. Please note that these special flights are available to passengers travelling for essential purposes only, which includes business travel, medical treatment, visits by Italian resident permit holders, or for study-related purposes.
Passengers must provide a negative test result issued within 48 hours of departure and take another test upon arrival. A second negative test will allow UAE travellers to avoid a 10-day quarantine.
The Mediterranean country is planning to open its beaches and medieval castles starting from June 1 to fully vaccinated travellers at least ten days prior to arrival. Eligible travellers will be able to skip quarantine and further testing requirements and will even be paid up to €200 ($240) to stay for more than two nights.
As is the case with Greece, UAE travellers will soon be able to enjoy free travel to Serbia as a safe vaccine bubble has been established between the UAE and Serbia. Arriving passengers will still be required to obtain a negative COVID test to enter Serbia issued at most 48 hours before arrival.
UAE travellers will be granted entry to Turkey as long as they meet the Turkish immigration rules. A negative PCR test will also be required for all international arrivals. Additionally, travellers who in the past 10 days have been in Brazil, India, or South Africa are subject to a 14-day quarantine.
Travel restrictions in other European countries
Excluding the aforementioned countries, the rest of Europe is still pretty much off-limits for UAE travellers. Here is the breakdown of the travel restrictions by region and country.
The United Kingdom
As per the UK’s traffic light system, non-UK residents from red list countries and territories are currently refused entry to the UK. There are currently over 40 countries and territories on the red list including the UAE.
However, the red list is dynamic in nature and there’s always a possibility that the UAE can be taken off the list in the future. UAE officials are currently in talks with the UK in restoring travel between the two countries.
With Greece being a notable exception, EU countries the likes of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and so on are currently open only to a handful of third-country travellers. UAE is not on this list.
But that may soon change as all 27 member countries of the EU have agreed on a plan to reopen their borders for vaccinated travellers as well as travellers from countries that are deemed successful in mitigating the COVID pandemic; the criterion being a new case rate of less than 75 per 100,000 in the past 14 days. The EU is currently formulating its list of countries meeting the criteria.
To summarize, the new rules will enable EU and non-EU travellers alike to embark on quarantine-free travels to and within the bloc. A COVID certificate would be required detailing travellers’ inoculation status, immunity status, and latest test result.
As for the timeline and which vaccines are accepted, the EU has confirmed that it will accept Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines. There’s also a possibility that the new travel policy will be implemented as early as next week.
From 28 June, fully vaccinated travellers from the UAE will be able to enter Switzerland without any quarantine and pre-testing measures. They must have received vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or one of the vaccines included in the WHO’s Emergency Use Listing. These include the Pfizer BioNTech, Sinopharm and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines.
Iceland and Norway
Iceland will not accept travellers departing on non-essential travels from high-risk areas and countries where the incidence of infection surpasses 700 per 100,000 population. The ban will remain in place until at least 31 May.
Norway’s borders are closed even to EU member countries until at least 24 May. Only residents and citizens are allowed entry during this period.
Some tips for your trip to Europe
Now that we’ve established which European countries you will be able to travel to, let’s go ahead and discuss some best practices and travel tips to ensure a hassle-free European excursion experience.
Learn all you can about your destination
One of the many requirements of international travel nowadays is that we cannot assume there’s a common policy or standard in place for all countries in a particular region. That is simply not the case.
Case in point, Estonia will recognize all vaccines produced by any of the nine global suppliers while Cyprus will only accept certain vaccines namely, Johnson & Johnson Vaccine, Vaxzevria Vaccine (AstraZeneca), Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine, Moderna Vaccine, and the Sputnik V.
This means that travellers from the UAE can only be granted entry to Estonia should they’ve been vaccinated with one of the recognized vaccines.
In short, the details matter and it’s imperative that travellers take details such as these into account and plan accordingly.
For now, opt for a single country to visit
While it is tempting to travel around Europe by train or some other modes of transportation, we do advise travellers to stick to a single country for now and avoid crossing borders. In light of the times, country-hopping would be ill-advised since freedom of movement and travel has not been fully restored as of yet.
To avoid potential problems and complications, we recommend putting off that great European tour until at least a year or two from now. Don’t worry, the continent will still be there awaiting your visit.
Be prepared to cancel
Unfortunately, when it comes to travelling amidst the pandemic the only certainty is uncertainty. No matter how carefully thought out your travel plans are, the possibility of countries abruptly closing their borders cannot be completely ruled out.
Border openings are largely contingent on the epidemiological conditions of individual countries. Should your destination country experience a surge in COVID cases, it will more than likely negatively affect your travel plans. Be sure to check the cancellation policy of your airlines and accommodations.