Travelling in the EU during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
Travelling has been difficult over the past few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic but widespread vaccination and the rollout of the EU Digital COVID Certificate have helped make things easier.
While a majority of EU countries have lifted most travel and health requirements, new variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge. A resurgence of the virus might make it necessary for EU countries to (re-)introduce certain travel or health requirements.
The Re-open EU platform continues to provide the most recent information from Member States and Schengen-associated countries on travel restrictions and public health and safety measures. It is available both as a website and a mobile application.
The EU Digital COVID Certificate scheme has been extended until 30 June 2023. National health authorities are in charge of issuing the certificate, which can be required as proof of vaccination, testing or recovery from COVID-19, for travelling purposes.
Travelling to and from the EU
With thousands of years of history, a rich cultural heritage and breathtaking scenery, Europe is home to some of the world's most popular travel destinations. From mountain ranges to sandy beaches and from picturesque countryside to cosmopolitan cities with thousands of museums and art galleries, there is so much for the traveller to discover. And it's easier to explore than ever, thanks to the European Union (EU).
For example, you can travel without border checks to 26 European countries, and bring your dog or cat with you. You have easy access to healthcare should you need it and the euro makes it easier to shop around for bargains. You can use your mobile phone as you would at home, without any extra charges, and now your online subscriptions travel with you too.
As well as attracting millions of visitors from overseas, those who call Europe home love to explore the multitude of cities and countries on their doorstep.
Today, it is as easy for Europeans to travel around the EU as it is to travel within their home country. The removal of most passport checks and the use of the same currency — the euro — in 19 EU countries have made travelling much easier. The creation of a single market where people, goods, services and money can move freely has brought wider choice and lower prices.
The EU is made up of 27 countries. The United Kingdom (UK) left the EU on 31 January 2020. According to the 'Withdrawal Agreement' between the EU and the UK, EU law still applies in the UK until the end of a transition period, which lasts until 31 December 2020, unless it is extended. So, until 31 December 2020, it will be business as usual for travellers to and from the EU and the United Kingdom. For more information on the UK's withdrawal from the EU, visit: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/qanda_20_104
DOCUMENTS YOU WILL NEED
Passport or identity card
Children must have their own passport or ID card.
You will not need a visa for travelling within the EU.
Thanks to the Schengen rules, which are part of EU law, most EU countries have removed controls at their borders.
Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are also Schengen members although they are not in the EU. This means, for example, that you can go skiing in Switzerland without having to show your passport when crossing the border.
Internal border controls can exceptionally be introduced for a limited period if there is a serious threat to internal security.
When travelling to or returning from non-Schengen EU countries, you will need to present a valid passport or ID card.
Everyone crossing the EU’s external borders (for example, coming into the EU from outside the European Union or from a non-Schengen area country), including EU citizens, is now subject to systematic checks against databases.
You will need to carry your passport or ID card when travelling in the EU because it may be required for identification or security purposes. Be aware that the only valid ID is the one obtained from national authorities.
Before travelling outside the EU, check what documents are required by the non-EU country you are planning to visit.
Note: citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are treated as EU citizens for the purposes of travel and entry into EU countries, since these four countries are part of the Schengen area.
You will need a valid passport.
There are more than 60 countries and territories whose citizens do not need a visa to visit the EU for up to 90 days. The list of countries whose citizens require visas to travel to Ireland differs slightly from other EU countries.
You can apply for a visa at the consulate or embassy of the EU country you plan to visit (or the one that is your main destination). If you hold a Schengen visa you can travel to all the Schengen countries. If you have a valid long-stay visa or residence permit issued by one of the Schengen countries, you can stay for up to 90 days in other Schengen countries. You may need a national visa to visit the non-Schengen EU countries. For more information, visit:
A valid driving licence issued in an EU country is recognised throughout the EU as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Every new licence now issued is printed on a plastic card with a standard European format. In most countries, in addition to carrying a valid driving licence you will need to have your vehicle's registration certificate with you.
Non-EU drivers should check whether they need an international driving permit to drive in the EU countries they are visiting, in particular if they plan to visit Ireland, Cyprus, Malta and Spain.
Wherever you are travelling in the EU, your car insurance policy will automatically provide the minimum cover required by law (third-party liability). This also applies to Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. If you have comprehensive insurance at home, it often extends to travelling in other countries, but you should check which countries this applies to and the period of validity before setting out.
A European accident statement form, obtained from your insurer or online, is a standard document available in several languages that makes it easier to make a declaration on the spot if you have an accident in another country.
A green card is not obligatory when travelling in the EU but it serves as internationally recognised proof of minimum third-party liability insurance. If you do not take a green card with you, you should carry your certificate of insurance.
Tolls and vignettes
Many countries charge for the use of their roads with either tolls (distance based) or 'vignettes' (time based). The EU monitors these charging schemes to make sure that they are proportionate and do not discriminate against non-residents or occasional users.
In all EU countries, seat belts must be worn in all vehicles fitted with them. Children must have appropriate child restraints.
Using a mobile phone while driving greatly increases the risk of an accident and is forbidden in all EU countries as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, unless using a hands-free set.
The maximum permitted blood alcohol content level varies between 0 mg/ml and 0.8 mg/ml, depending on the country. Drivers who speed or drink-drive can be tracked down through improved cross-border exchange of information.
Remember to drive on the left side of the road in Cyprus, Ireland and Malta and that in some countries, such as Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Portugal, you normally have to give way to traffic coming from your right.
What are the speed limits in Spain? Do I need to wear a helmet when I cycle in Sweden? For all the important road safety rules, download the free Going Abroad App:
There are more than 150,000 charging points for electric vehicles across the European Union and the EU is helping to ensure that there will be many more in the future. Standardised plugs across the continent mean drivers of electric vehicles can charge their car anywhere in the EU just like they do in their home countries. Check out the alternative fuel station map:
Buses and coaches
The EU is continually improving safety standards for bus and coach passengers, for example recently introducing stricter rules on the use of fire-resistant materials in vehicles. If seatbelts are fitted in buses and coaches, it is mandatory to wear them throughout the EU.
Why not explore Europe by bicycle? EuroVelo, the European cycle route network, connects the entire continent and some of its main attractions with 16 long-distance cycle routes covering over 70,000 km. Enjoy getting around Europe’s towns and cities by using one of the hundreds of self-service bike rental schemes, some of which have been co-financed by the EU.
The creation of a single European market in air transport over 25 years ago has led to cheaper flights and a greater choice of carriers, routes and services for passengers.
Europe has one of the best aviation safety records in the world. To improve safety further, airlines originating from outside the EU have to hold an authorisation confirming their compliance with international safety standards. In addition, their aircraft may be inspected in Europe and they will be banned from operating inside European airspace if they are found to be unsafe or not sufficiently overseen by their authorities.
Common EU rules on security checks for passengers and cabin and hold luggage apply for all flights departing from EU airports. There are restrictions on liquids that can be taken into the cabin and a common list of items that are not allowed in either cabin or hold luggage.
Rail remains one of the safest and most popular forms of transport in Europe. The EU has more than 220,000 km of railways. There are around 8,000 km of high-speed lines on important routes like Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam-Cologne, Milan-Rome and Barcelona-Madrid, and more are under construction.
There are many key sea routes between EU countries offering regular, high-quality services as an alternative to, or in combination with, road, air or rail. The EU has been at the forefront of improving maritime safety and promoting high standards. New rules to improve the safety of ships carrying passengers in EU waters entered into force in 2018.
The euro (€) is currently used by around three quarters of EU citizens, or more than 340 million people in 19 EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain (see inset map).
Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican City use the euro as their national currency, in agreement with the EU. A number of countries and territories, such as Kosovo and Montenegro, use the euro as their de facto currency.
In European countries outside the euro area, many hotels, shops and restaurants, particularly in tourist areas, accept payment in euros as well as in the national currency, although they are not legally obliged to do so.
Cards and cash
Within the euro area countries, cross-border euro payments — including cash machine withdrawals and card payments — cost the same as they do at home. As of 15 December 2019, anyone living in an EU country outside the euro area now enjoys the same benefits, but may still be charged a currency conversion fee.
In addition, thanks to recently introduced rules, you can’t be charged extra for paying by credit or debit card and will be better protected when you make payments. From 19 April 2020, you can also easily check and compare conversion charges when paying abroad with your card or withdrawing cash.
Block any lost or stolen bank cards immediately by calling the issuer. Make a note of the number to ring before you travel.
If you enter or leave the EU with €10,000 or more in cash (or its equivalent in other currencies) you must declare it to the customs authorities.
There are sometimes very high transaction fees for cashing a cheque from another EU country. In many countries, cheques are no longer accepted as a means of payment.
Within the EU
There are no limits on what you can buy and take with you when you travel between EU countries, as long as it is for your own personal use and not for resale. Taxes (VAT and excise duties) are included in the price you pay and no further payment is due in any other EU country.
However, special rules apply in the case of goods subject to excise duty, such as alcohol and tobacco products. To determine whether tobacco and alcohol are for your own use, each country can set guide levels. If you carry a larger quantity of these goods, you may be questioned to check that you have no commercial intent. However, countries may not set their guide levels lower than the following.
Coming into the EU
If you enter the EU from a non-EU country, you can bring with you goods free of VAT and excise duties for personal use within the limits set out below. The same applies if you come from territories where EU rules on VAT and excise duty do not apply.
There is a higher or lower limit on the amount of tobacco you can bring into the EU depending on the country, so check the customs rules of the EU country you are visiting.
* Each amount represents 100% of the total allowance for tobacco products. You may combine any of these but you must not exceed the total limit. For example: 100 cigarettes (50% of allowance) + 50 cigarillos (50% of allowance) = 100% of total allowance.
**For spirits and fortified or sparkling wine, each of these amounts represents 100% of the total of the allowance, which you can split. For example, you can bring half a litre of spirits and 1 litre of fortified wine - both represent half of this allowance.
Travellers under the age of 17 cannot make use of these tobacco and alcohol allowances.
If you are travelling from one EU country to another via a non-EU country (e.g. Switzerland) you will need to check the customs rules of that country.
Other goods, including perfume
- Up to a value of €430 for air and sea travellers.
- Up to a value of €300 for other travellers.
Some EU countries apply a lower limit for travellers under 15, but it may not be lower than €150.
There are no general restrictions on carrying meat or dairy products when travelling within the EU. However, make sure that you don’t bring foodstuffs containing meat, milk or their products into the EU from non-EU countries as they could carry dangerous pathogens that cause sickness in EU livestock such as foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever. The only exceptions are for those travelling with small quantities for personal consumption from Andorra, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino or Switzerland.
Find out more:https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/carry/alcohol-tobacco-cash/index_en.htm
Don’t forget to take a bag with you when you go shopping. EU rules are helping to reduce the use of lightweight plastic bags that litter and damage the environment. Most countries charge for each bag you get when shopping.
HELP FOR CONSUMERS
As a consumer you are guaranteed fair treatment, products that meet acceptable standards and a right of redress if something goes wrong, wherever you are in the EU.
Know what you are eating
You can be assured of the highest food safety standards because of strict laws on the production, processing and selling of food. Food labelling rules mean clear, comprehensive and accurate information on food content.
Know what you are buying
You are protected from a wide range of unfair commercial practices, both online and in shops. Pre-ticked boxes on websites are banned so that you do not unintentionally pay for travel insurance when buying a plane ticket online, for example.
The full price, including VAT, as well as the unit price - the price per kilo or per litre - of all goods for sale must be clearly displayed. When booking a flight online, the total price of the ticket, including charges and taxes, must be visible from the start of the booking process.
Resolve any problems
The European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net) gives practical information on EU consumer rights as well as free advice and assistance with cross-border complaints or disputes. There is one centre in each EU country as well as in Iceland and Norway. There is also a useful ECC-Net travel app with lots of practical help and information.
Look out for the label
The EU Ecolabel can help you to identify environmentally friendly products, hotels, youth hostels or campsites.
This logo will help you find organic products.
The EU is the only area in the world where citizens are protected by a full set of passenger rights - whether they travel by plane, train, bus, coach or ship. Passengers in the EU have the right to accurate, timely and accessible information, assistance in case of transport disruption and, in certain circumstances, compensation in case of cancellation or long delays.
Download the app so you can check what your rights are and how to claim them: https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/passenger-rights/index_en.htm
In addition, EU rules protect you when you buy package holidays or trips that combine at least two different types of travel services (such as a flight and a hotel or car rental) through the same or linked online booking site.
Before you go: travellers must receive clear information about their travel package (including travel destination(s), the list of services included and an emergency number). They must also be informed of their rights - for instance, you have greater rights regarding cancellation or if the organiser goes bust.
When you are there: travellers who find themselves in difficulty are entitled to assistance such as information on health services and consular assistance.
Passengers with a disability or reduced mobility
Passengers with a disability or with reduced mobility are entitled to free assistance in airports, train stations, ports and designated coach terminals, as well as on board aircraft, trains, ships and coaches. It is advisable to notify the carrier or terminal operator of specific needs at the time of booking, when buying the ticket in advance, or at least 48 hours before travelling (36 hours when travelling by coach).
Find out more:https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/travel/transport-disability/reduced-mobility/index_en.htm
If you are travelling by car and have a disabled parking card in your home country, you can use the disabled parking facilities in other EU countries but check what local conditions apply. Look out for the wheelchair symbol.
If you feel that your rights have not been respected while travelling and you want to seek redress, you must first contact the carrier or terminal operator. If they fail to fulfil their obligations then you can contact the national enforcement body for your specific mode of transport.
Call the Europe Direct freephone number 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 for more information and details of the relevant enforcement body.
Access to healthcare
As a citizen of an EU country or of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, if you fall ill on a temporary visit to any of these places you are entitled to the same healthcare as the people insured there (free in some countries). So, don’t forget to take your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you on your travels. The card is available for free, normally from your national health insurer, and proves you are insured in one of the countries listed above. If you have to pay for healthcare, you will need to keep all your bills, prescriptions and receipts so that you can apply for reimbursement in the country you are visiting or when you get home. Find out how to apply for a card: https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=563&langId=en#navItem-1
The EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance, as it does not cover costs such as repatriation or mountain rescue in ski resorts. You may want to take out travel insurance to cover such risks.
A prescription from your doctor is valid in all EU countries, but you should check that the prescribed medicine is authorised for sale and is available in the country you are visiting. Make sure your prescription contains all the relevant information about you, the prescribing doctor and the prescribed product. ePrescriptions now make it possible for travellers to collect medicine prescribed electronically by their doctor from a pharmacy in some EU countries, while doctors will soon be able to access important patient information in their own language. Check to see if these services are available where you’re going: https://ec.europa.eu/health/ehealth/electronic_crossborder_healthservices_en
There are, in general, no immunisation requirements when travelling in the EU. However, there are requirements or recommendations for some of the EU’s overseas territories. Check with your doctor before you go.
In 2018, more than 95% of the EU’s bathing water sites met the minimum water-quality standards and more than 85% met the more stringent ‘excellent’ level. Check out the interactive map to find out what the quality of the water is where you are going: https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/water/europes-seas-and-coasts/assessments/state-of-bathing-water
Keeping in touch
EU residents can use their mobile phones while travelling in the EU just as they would at home, without paying any extra charges. This also applies in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (but not in Switzerland). However, if you have unlimited or very cheap data in your domestic package, you may get a large, but not unlimited, volume of roaming data in the EU without any extra charges. Beyond this volume, your operator may start applying a small roaming surcharge (less than €4.5/GB). If you plan to stay in another EU country for a few months, you may want to check your operator’s ’roam like at home’ fair use policy.
Free internet access is more widely available thanks to EU funded WiFi hotspots that have been set up in around 8,000 local communities across Europe. You can connect for free in libraries, squares, parks, museums and other public areas where you see the WiFi4EU symbol.
Send a postcard!
Postage stamps can only be used in the country in which you buy them.
Nearly all EU countries have two-pin plugs, apart from Cyprus, Ireland and Malta, which have three-pin plugs.
Things to do
For ideas and information on what to see and do, have a look at the European tourist destinations website (visiteurope.com) or go to the websites of the official national tourist organisations of each EU country.
The EU promotes many cultural projects and events across Europe every year. In particular, it supports the European Capitals of Culture, an initiative which aims to highlight Europe's rich cultural diversity, and organises exhibitions and events celebrating the local culture of the chosen cities.
The historic city of Rijeka, home to Croatia's principal seaport, and Galway, the gateway to Ireland's beautiful west coast, share the title in 2020. For more information: https://rijeka2020.eu/en
The Swedish city of Gothenburg and the Spanish city of Málaga are the European Capitals of Smart Tourism for 2020. For more information: https://smarttourismcapital.eu/cities-2020-winners/
Thanks to new EU rules, you can now enjoy your online subscriptions to films, sports events, e-books, video games and music services without any extra charges or restrictions when travelling in an EU country. This also applies in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Since 2018, the EU has been giving 18-year-old Europeans the chance to travel for free across Europe for up to one month and discover the continent's rich cultural heritage. So far, around 70,000 young Europeans have been awarded a travel pass.
Find out more: https://europa.eu/youth/discovereu
Young Europeans can take advantage of over 70,000 discounts on cultural events, accommodation, education, services and products in 36 countries across Europe with the European Youth Card. You can get discounts almost everywhere in the EU, from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Disneyland in Paris or Barcelona's Sagrada Familia to the sunny coasts of Cyprus, Malta or Greece.
Check out the discounts: https://www.eyca.org/discounts
Travelling with a dog, cat or ferret is easy with an EU pet passport, available from any vet. All dogs, cats and ferrets must have a passport and, for identification purposes, be fitted with an electronic microchip or have a clearly readable tattoo applied before July 2011. They must be vaccinated against rabies and the details entered into their pet passport. The vaccination must be carried out after the microchipping or tattooing.
Dogs must be given specific tapeworm treatment by a vet before travelling to Finland, Ireland and Malta. Details of the treatment must appear in the pet passport and the dog can then travel between 1 and 5 days after treatment.
In case of emergency
Single European emergency number: 112
To contact the emergency services in any EU country from any phone, fixed or mobile, dial 112, free of charge.
Report any theft to the local police. You will need to enclose the police report when making your insurance or compensation claim. If your passport or ID card has been stolen, report it to your country’s consulate or embassy as well as to the police.
And remember, if you are outside the EU and your country has no local consulate, you can request local consular help from another EU country, for example in case of crisis, serious illness or loss of passport.
Getting in touch with the EU
All over Europe there are hundreds of local EU information centres. You can find the address of the centre nearest you at: https://europa.eu/european-union/contact_en
ON THE PHONE OR BY EMAIL
Europe Direct is a service that answers your questions about the European Union. You can contact this service:
- by freephone: 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11 (certain operators may charge for these calls),
- at the following standard number:+32 22999696 or
- by email via: https://europa.eu/european-union/contact_en
Finding information about the EU
Information about the European Union in all the official languages of the EU is available on the Europa website at:
You can download or order free and priced EU publications at: https://publications.europa.eu/en/publications Multiple copies of free publications may be obtained by contacting Europe Direct or your local information centre
EU law and related documents
For access to legal information from the EU, including all EU law since 1952 in all the official language versions, go to EUR-Lex at:http://eur-lex.europa.eu
Open data from the EU
The EU Open Data Portal (http://data.europa.eu/euodp/en) provides access to datasets from the EU. Data can be downloaded and reused for free, for both commercial and non-commercial purposes.
Directorate-General for Communication
Editorial Service & Targeted Outreach
1049 Bruxelles/Brussel BELGIQUE/BELGIË
Manuscript completed in February 2020
The European Commission is not liable for any consequence stemming from the reuse of this publication.
Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2020
© European Union, 2020
The reuse policy of European Commission documents is implemented based on Commission Decision 2011/833/EU of 12 December 2011 on the reuse of Commission documents (OJ L 330, 14.12.2011, p. 39).
Except otherwise noted, the reuse of this document is authorised under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY 4.0) licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). This means that reuse is allowed provided appropriate credit is given and any changes are indicated.
For any use or reproduction of elements that are not owned by the European Union, permission may need to be sought directly from the respective rightholders.
Illustrations: © European Union, © iStock
The website ‘Your Europe’ gives more advice on your rights when you live, work and travel in the EU: ec.europa.eu/youreurope