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Top questions this week on vaccination/travel requirements to the US and Europe

Oct. 22, 2021
5 min read
Torre De Belem In Lisbon
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After last week's long-awaited news of the U.S. reopening to international travelers on Nov. 8, we're back this week answering five more reader questions centered around travel to Europe and what COVID-19 requirements look like for Americans and European travelers.

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Here are this week's top five questions:

1. Do country testing and vaccination requirements apply to transit passengers?

If you are connecting through a country to get to your final destination, you are subject to the specific COVID-19-related protocols of each country you enter. Such rules often apply for transiting passengers, even those just passing through the airport.

Rules for transiting passengers depend on the country through which you are transiting. Portugal, for example, requires unvaccinated passengers entering the country, including transiting, to show results of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours or antigen test taken within 48 hours. Spain, on the other hand, exempts transiting passengers who will be in a Spanish airport for 24 hours or less from pre-departure testing and travel requirements.

Be sure to check the websites of the local government or tourist board of your destination for the most updated information regarding transiting passengers and note that the same rules apply for travelers country hopping. You'll want to consult each country before entry and note the specific windows within which any tests must be taken. If you are staying in one country for 48 — 72 hours, you may be able to use one test for multiple purposes. Read more about country reopening guidelines in our country-by-country guide.

Tourists ride on tour busses in Eduardo VII Park on Oct. 16 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images.)

2. Can Americans access the EU Digital COVID Certificates?

Only people vaccinated in Europe can transfer their vaccination certificate into a digital format suitable for the European Digital COVID certificate, formerly referred to as "green passports." For countries that require a valid digital certificate as vaccination proof, see if your CDC card will be accepted or can be transferred into a specific country’s vaccination portal, such as France’s “pass sanitare” or Italy’s “green pass.” Alternatively, check if the state where you received your vaccination offers digital vaccination proof (i.e. California or New York).

EU Digital COVID certificate displayed in Normandy, France. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images.)

3. If I am vaccinated, do I still need to show a negative test to come to the US?

As I mentioned in last week's Q+A, the U.S. will finally reopen its borders on Nov. 8 after a 20-month closure to international travelers. Although unvaccinated Americans returning to the U.S. will be subjected to stricter testing requirements, vaccinated travelers – including vaccinated Americans coming back home – will still need to show results of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of their flight departing to the U.S. This is a requirement for anyone entering this U.S., regardless of whether you are vaccinated.

A COVID-19 testing site in Long Beach, Calif. on Sept. 24, 2021. (Photo by Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images.)

4. Do at-home COVID-19 tests expire?

Because the U.S. will accept an antigen or PCR test for entry, you might want to consider purchasing an at-home COVID-19 test, such as eMed’s BinaxNow, which lets you take a test in the comfort of your own home via remote supervision over Zoom. Just make sure the kits are still good by the time you are actually planning on using them for travel.

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“This may not be common knowledge, but take-home COVID-19 tests do have an expiration date,” TPG senior reporter Victoria Walker writes. “For instance, Abbott says its tests have an expiration date on every product box and shouldn’t be used after that date.”

Do check with the testing companies, however, as some tests have been approved for longer use than the date on the box. TPG's Clint Henderson has several at-home Abbott BinaxNow tests with an expiration of Oct. 15, 2021 on the boxes, but when he called, the company said all expiration dates had been extended for an extra three months.

(Photo by Justin Paget/Getty Images.)

5. Are at-home tests good for entry into the EU?

At this time, there is no established policy in the EU like there is in the U.S. regarding whether at-home COVID-19 tests will be accepted for entry across Europe. We recommend consulting the specific entry requirements for each country. Many only accept a PCR test that cannot be administered at home.

(Photo by Justin Paget/Getty Images)

Got a question for next week? Email me at or

Featured photo shows tourists visiting the Torre de Belem (Belem Tower) in Lisbon, Portugal on Oct.19, 2021. (Photo by Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Featured image by NurPhoto via Getty Images
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