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European Union Reopening to Canadians: What You Need to Know

Unfortunately, as of October 21, 2020, Canada is no longer on the list of approved countries whose residents may enter European Union member nations for the purpose of tourism.

As many of you will have heard, the European Union has published a list of countries that will be allowed to travel within its collective borders for leisure purposes as of July 1, 2020, and Canada has officially been named on that list alongside 14 other countries. 

Since it would be a monumental effort to compile individual guides for each member country’s reopening efforts, I’ll be putting together all the information for European Union countries in this post for easy reference. This will also encompasses Greece, whose reopening plans we’ve covered in a previous installment as well. 

To begin, it’s important to note that the EU’s published list of “safe” countries represents a guideline for its member countries, rather than any kind of legally binding ruling, so it remains up to each member country to determine which foreign countries’ residents will be allowed to enter, whether self-quarantine is required, etc. We’ll cover all these details in this post.

Disclaimer: Information may change on a day-by-day basis. While we make every effort to keep these guide up-to-date, the decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. It would be best to contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry requirements before travelling.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled, Slovenia

In This Post

Are Canadians Allowed to Travel?

Canadians may travel internationally, including to the US; while the Canada–US border is shut, flights remain operational. However, there are several factors to consider that may strongly discourage you from doing so.

The Government of Canada continues to advise that Canadians avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada. This means that consular assistance may be limited and that you may face difficulty returning home in the event of sudden flight cancellations or local movement restrictions. 

As a result of the government advisory, travel insurance policies will not cover medical treatment abroad related to COVID-19. If you contract COVID-19 while abroad and incur medical expenses that are not covered by the local government, it will be at your own expense.

Furthermore, until at least August 31, 2020, all Canadian residents will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon returning to the country from abroad, and will need to make the necessary arrangements for doing so (ensuring a suitable place of quarantine, arranging for food deliveries, requesting additional time off work, etc.) 

The decision to travel in spite of all these considerations remains your prerogative.

Source: Government of Canada

Barceloneta Beach, Barcelona

Barceloneta Beach, Barcelona

Are EU Countries Opening Borders to Canadian Travellers?

On June 30, the Council of the EU announced in a press release that it recommends that member countries start lifting the travel restrictions at the external borders for residents of the following countries:

  • Algeria

  • Australia

  • Canada

  • Georgia

  • Japan

  • Montenegro

  • Morocco

  • New Zealand

  • Rwanda

  • Serbia

  • South Korea

  • Thailand

  • Tunisia

  • Uruguay

  • China, subject to confirmation of reciprocity

(Much has been made about the absence from this list of the United States, who, having made their bed with a relaxed approach to COVID-19 containment, will need to lie in it for a while longer.)

The recommendation applies to EU member nations, as well as four nations that are not EU members but are associated with the Schengen Area: Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.

The criteria for inclusion on this list is largely based on the individual third-party country’s success in containing their local COVID-19 transmission, including factors such as:

  • Case count per capita over the past 14 days as compared to the EU average

  • Stable or decreasing trend over the past 14 days as compared to the previous 14 days

  • Overall response to COVID-19 taking into account available information

  • Reciprocity of reopening borders, considered on a case-by-case basis (it’s worth noting that Canada has not reciprocated in opening its borders to EU residents at this time) 

Source: Council of the EU Press Release

So, Which EU Countries Can Canadians Freely Enter?

Most importantly, the recommendation is not a legally binding instrument, and the authorities of each member state remain responsible for implementing its contents. Therefore, it is not the case that Canadians may simply enter any EU or Schengen Area country with no restrictions; the rules will continue to vary by country. 

The following countries have explicitly confirmed that Canadians may enter (information is taken from the European Union’s Reopen EU website, unless otherwise noted):

  • Croatia (as per Reopen EU, one must send intention to cross the state border to uzg.covid@mup.hr for processing)

  • Cyprus

  • Denmark

  • Estonia (as indicated by the Estonia Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as long as Canada’s number of infections per 100,000 people over the past 14-day period remains below 16)

  • France

  • Germany

  • Greece

  • Latvia (as indicated by the Latvia Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

  • Netherlands 

  • Portugal

  • Romania

  • Slovenia
  • Spain

  • Sweden

  • Switzerland

Meanwhile, the following countries either are not currently allowing Canadians to enter, or continue to impose a 14-day mandatory quarantine: 

  • Austria

  • Belgium

  • Bulgaria

  • Finland

  • Hungary

  • Iceland (as per the Icelandic Tourist Board, Iceland is “set” to allow Canadians to enter, subject to pre-registration and a PCR test upon arrival, although no exact date has been specified)

  • Ireland

  • Italy (requires 14-day quarantine)

  • Lithuania (requires reciprocity, which Canada has not granted) 

  • Norway

  • Poland

  • Slovakia (borders are open to a subset of the EU-recommended nations, but not Canada) 

  • Switzerland (until July 20) 

  • United Kingdom (requires 14-day quarantine)

We’ll continue to update this list on a regular basis as each member nation’s policy is updated over time. I’d also recommend the Reopen EU interactive map as a useful resource in keeping track of each member nation’s policies.

Source: European Union, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of member nations 

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Do You Have to Test for COVID-19 to Enter EU Countries?

Since Canada is on the EU’s list of approved countries to enter freely without restrictions, very few nations are requiring testing to be done either in advance or upon arrival. 

Among the countries that have either opened their borders to Canadian travellers or have announced their intention to do so, only Iceland is asking that travellers either undergo a PCR test (nasal or throat swab) upon arrival, subject to payment, as an alternative to a 14-day quarantine.

Some countries, like Greece, will be conducting random testing upon arrival, with a quarantine requirement if the test is positive. Most countries will only be looking out for clear symptoms. 

Source: European Union

Do You Have to Quarantine Upon Arrival in EU Countries?

As mentioned above, some countries, like Italy and Slovenia, have technically opened their borders to Canadian travellers but do require a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival. Until these restrictions are lifted, it may be infeasible to travel to these countries. 

Among EU countries that have fully opened to Canadian travellers, there is no quarantine requirement.

Source: European Union

Tallinn, Estonia

Will EU Countries Be Covering COVID-19 Medical Costs?

As we covered in the Greece reopening guide, Greece will be covering the medical treatment and quarantine costs of any traveller who is diagnosed with COVID-19 within their borders, but they are the exception rather than the rule. 

Along with Greece, fellow Mediterranean tourist hotspot Cyprus have also pledged to cover testing, quarantine, and medical treatment costs for any travellers who test positive during their stay, including the incremental cost of lodging, food, drink, and medication, a dedicated hospital for 100 beds, and a dedicated quarantine facility with 500 rooms as well.  

For the most part, however, other European nations have not announced any similar measures, which means that unexpected medical costs will be borne by the traveller themselves. 

With the Government of Canada’s advisory against non-essential travel in place, most Canadian medical travel insurance providers (including those associated with credit card benefits) will not cover COVID-19-related medical expenses, and some providers may not cover any medical expenses at all.

For peace of mind when travelling to Europe, I’d recommend looking towards global travel insurance plans that explicitly include COVID-19 coverage, such as the Safe Travels International Cost Saver plan by Trawick International.

Screen Shot 2020-07-09 at 3.10.40 PM.png

Source: Greece Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trawick International

What Can You Expect if You Travel to Europe?

Normal life – including bars, restaurants, shops, etc. – has resumed across much of Europe with reasonable social distancing measures in place, although the regulations on masks and personal protective equipment varies across the continent. 

Be sure to check the rules of the country you’re visiting to know whether masks are mandatory on public transport or in indoor spaces – although it’s of course always a good idea to wear one to protect yourself and others. 

Europe’s famous tourist attractions were largely deserted during the spring, but they’re almost all open to visitors again, with a few important social distancing measures in place. 

For example, the Louvre in Paris will reopen on July 6 with pre-booked appointments and 70% of its galleries available; meanwhile, the Eiffel Tower has kept its lifts closed for the time being, requiring visitors to use the stairs, but will be fully opening on July 15 with a mandatory face-mask requirement. 

For the most part, I’d imagine that European countries known for their outdoor attractions or scenic views, such as Greece, Portugal, or Croatia, will be more suitable for tourists to visit this summer and fall, as compared to the bigger cities across the continent. 

Screen Shot 2020-07-09 at 3.24.33 PM.png

Which Airlines Are Operating Flights to Europe?

As one of the most significant air corridors for Canada’s airlines, the routes to Europe were among the first to be reestablished in Air Canada and WestJet’s summer schedules.

Air Canada’s direct services to Europe this summer include flights between Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal and Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Rome, and Athens. WestJet’s direct flights to Europe include flights between Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Halifax and London and Paris, which will be resuming in early August. 

Meanwhile, most international airlines either never suspended their Canadian direct routes or have reinstated them. TAP Air Portugal’s Toronto–Lisbon or Montreal–Lisbon flights and Swiss’s Montreal–Zurich flight are all up and running, and are both good options for a direct flight into your European destination without unnecessary connections along the way, especially if you can snag a flight in business class with your Aeroplan miles

(If you’re looking for the full business class experience, Swiss will likely be the best option, as they are continue to serve full meals and drinks in business class while offering customers the option of pre-packaged meals as well. Meanwhile, Air Canada, TAP Air Portugal, and many other airlines continue to serve boxed meals for the time being.)

Screen Shot 2020-07-09 at 2.56.07 PM.png

Flights between the US and Europe are still operating as well, meaning that you could connect via the US if you wished. However, given that the US is not on the list of EU-approved countries for visitors, this may lead to additional complications in terms of border control during your European trip.

In general, I’d advise taking as direct a route as possible on all your trips at this time, and I’d imagine most travellers will agree with this approach. 

Conclusion

The EU has provisionally opened its borders to Canadian travellers as of July 1, but it remains subject to each member state to implement this recommendation. At this time, about half of European countries have followed through and will be allowing Canadians to enter their borders, and as long as both Canada and Europe continue to manage their COVID-19 transmissions responsibly, I’d imagine this proportion will increase as the summer goes on. 

The world is slowly opening up to Canadians who are itching to travel this summer, although the need to purchase additional COVID-19-specific travel insurance and the 14-day quarantine requirement upon returning home – now kept in place until at least August 31 – will both remain major barriers. 

As before, please let me know in the comments below if there are any specific countries or regions you’d like this series to focus on next.