Can Americans go to Europe after quarantine in the UK or Ireland?

Aug 4, 2020

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As countries and U.S. states are reopening to tourism amidst the coronavirus pandemic, there’s one pill that feels especially hard to swallow: most of Europe doesn’t want American visitors.

As we reported back in June, the European Union is excluding Americans from its reopening plans because the U.S. has been unable to control the spread of coronavirus.

Related: How special visas bypass international restrictions on essential travel

There’s an interesting potential loophole, though: Americans are allowed to go to Ireland or to the United Kingdom as long as they quarantine for 14-days when they first arrive. This begs the question: Can Americans go on to other countries in Europe once they’ve completed that two-week quarantine?

The short answer is, it’s complicated.

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Can Americans travel from U.K. or Ireland after two weeks?

So, can you safely travel once you complete a two-week quarantine in Ireland or the United Kingdom? It depends on where you want to go, and how customs or border agents are enforcing the rules.

Related: A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

TPG’s U.K. team reached out to consulates in London and got two very different responses from Italy and Spain.

A representative from the Italian consulate said that U.S. passport holders “are permitted to travel to Italy from the U.K. without the need to quarantine, provided they have spent at least 14 days in the U.K. prior to departure to Italy.”

But there’s an important catch. The response continues, “This office is not able to give an absolute guarantee, as the borders authorities have full authority to evaluate each case.”

Translation: Technically, it’s OK, but a border agent could prevent you from entering.

Spain, on the other hand, was more direct.

A statement from the Spanish consulate reads, “An American passport holder will be allowed entry in Spain only if they are legal residents in the U.K. (or a European Union or Schengen country). American tourists in the U.K. are not allowed entry.”

The Greek consulate told TPG, “Only EU citizens, permanent residents of UK/EU and their families (husbands and children) can currently travel to Greece from the UK.”

None of these statements are reassuring when you’re trying to plan a trip.

What TPG readers are saying about travel post-quarantine

I posed the question about traveling post-quarantine in the TPG Lounge on Facebook, and our readers weighed in.

Brack Tommie said,

“I just did this. I completed the quarantine in London. Moved around the UK, EU, Turkey, back to the UK then returned to the US all in about six weeks. I didn’t have to requarantine in the UK because I only visited air bridge countries.

I also completed a COVID test every 10 days, wore a mask 95% of the time as required by law in places like Spain and Turkey… and am now back in a 14-day self quarantine in the US.

Another TPG Louge member, Kathleen O’Donnell, said, “I’m halfway through quarantine in the U.K. Looks like after I can go to most of Europe, but will likely head to Italy, Portugal, or Croatia. Hoping Greece changes the rules for this mid-month too!”

Related: Can Americans go to Ireland?

Lounge member Alan Torres Murillo suggests that readers check official information from each country they plan to visit.

For example, Norway’s government writes, “Citizens residing outside EU/EEA or Schengen countries cannot come to Norway for holiday and leisure travel now.” That includes the U.K. and citizens from other countries.

Other readers have suggested that some countries are allowing a “sweetheart exemption,” where you could be granted entry if you’re dating a citizen. Be aware, though, you may need to provide proof and answer questions about your itinerary at the border.

Related: Check out the latest updates on airlines’ coronavirus-related waivers, cancellations and route suspensions.

One reader, Līga Spoģe, tipped us off to an especially complex situation in Latvia. Here, the government publishes a list of guidelines for travelers entering from countries across the EU. Guidance for each country includes the country’s current covid infection rate, and warnings like, “Visiting is discouraged,” or “Consider trip’s necessity.” For travelers entering from the U.K., which has a 12.6 infection rate, the guidance is “Follow standard precautions.” This is the lowest level of warning and doesn’t require quarantine on arrival. This guidance changes every week.

“If you plan to travel around, please be very mindful of the constantly changing requirements,” Spoģe said.

Other readers have hit major snags while trying to cross borders into Europe from the U.K. Kendyl Spearing said, “I live in London and they gave me a really hard time and almost wouldn’t let me on the plane from U.K. to Portugal. I had to show proof that I was a U.K. resident, and that although my passport was American I had not been in America for over 6 months and have a work visa that makes me legally able travel through Europe.”

Reader Karen Alexis told TPG, “I have heard of people trying, but I’m based in the Netherlands and they’ve been very firm turning Americans away from the border unless they have an approved work visa in hand.”

Other things to consider when traveling post-quarantine

International travel is extraordinarily complicated at the moment. COVID-19 has most of us pausing travel, but there are ways to do it, if you’re willing to plan. Things to keep in mind:

  • The rules for each country are constantly changing. One minute, it might be OK to travel to a country. The next, you could be facing a country-wide lockdown. Look no further than The Bahamas for the proof of how risky it can be. 
  • Know the rules of each country you are visiting before you go. Get the required testing and get your paperwork in order. And check back frequently before your trip.
  • Be sure to book cancellable reservations, just in case.
  • Understand that you’re taking a significant risk. Even if you feel as though you can quarantine in the U.K. or Ireland before moving on to the EU, you’re not guaranteed entry. As we say in the points and miles world, “Your mileage may vary.”

Related: Here’s where Americans can go

Related: What to know about hotel cancellation policies

Related: What to do if your plane tickets aren’t included in coronavirus waivers

What happens if you break quarantine? 

Both the UK and Ireland are dealing with visitors who are violating the countries’ 14-day self-quarantine rule.

The New York Times described this problem in Ireland, and the BBC reported on lax quarantine enforcement back in July. Bloomberg reported that there have been three fines issued so far for breaking the rules. Those were for failing to provide contact information, not for actually violating the 2-week quarantine.

Don’t miss TPG’s Ireland hub — it’s got everything you need to know about traveling to the Emerald Isle.

Our own TPG readers have also reported that Americans are going to Ireland or the U.K., skipping quarantine, and visiting other parts of Europe. Not only is that illegal, but it’s also unethical and can endanger the lives of people in the countries you’re visiting. In short, don’t do that.

Additional reporting by Emily McNutt.

Featured photo of Stockholm in August of 2019 by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.

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