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COVID-19 GREEN PASS

EU Covid certificate: What are the different entry rules in place around Europe?

The EU is about to roll out its much-hyped EU Covid certificate aimed at facilitating frictionless travel. But different rules on vaccines and testing and the documents needed for travel mean crossing borders might not be as smooth as initially hoped.

EU Covid certificate: What are the different entry rules in place around Europe?
(Photo by Olivier MORIN / AFP)

The EU’s Covid certificates are designed to allow for a return to freedom of travel. While it should help travellers avoid quarantine and the need to take PCR tests before and after entry, it doesn’t necessarily mean travellers can return to the days of free movement and frictionless travel.

That’s in large part because the EU has issued recommendations but basically allowed each country to set its own rules on vaccination requirements – in other words whether they accept one dose or two doses and how long after inoculation they become valid. EU countries can also decide to accept travellers vaccinated with jabs that have not had EU approval.

The EU Covid certificates are also designed to store details for test results and proof that people have recovered from the virus, but it appears the scheme in many countries is not yet set up to integrate that information.

The EU has recommended countries accept both PCR tests and the rapid antigen tests for the purpose of the certificate but to make matters slightly more complicated it is up to each member state to decide it what kind of tests it accepts for entry.

Up to now EU and Schengen countries have imposed slightly different rules for tests that can be used for entry.

Here’s a quick run through on entry rules for travel within the EU for certain countries to help you plan your trip, starting with what the EU recommends member states should adhere to.

READ ALSO: How does the EU Covid certificate work and how do I get one?

The EU says…

Vaccines:

Fully vaccinated persons with the EU Digital COVID Certificate should be exempted from travel-related testing or quarantine 14 days after having received the last dose of an EU approved vaccine (AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson&Johnson). This should also cover recovered persons having received a single dose of a 2-dose vaccine and those who have received a single dose vaccine approved by the EU (Johnson & Johnson). Member States could also lift such additional restrictions after the first dose of a 2-dose series, while taking into account the impact of variants of concern.

Recovered persons with the EU Digital COVID Certificate should be exempted from travel-related testing or quarantine during the first 180 days after a positive PCR test. Positive tests should become valid for use to prove recovery at least 11 days after the test was carried out..

Testing – The EU says it is “left to each member state to decide whether it accepts rapid antigen tests, or only PCR tests.

The member states agreed on a standard validity period for tests: 72 hours for PCR tests and, where accepted by a Member State, 48 hours for rapid antigen tests.

The EU also states that children under the age of 12 years should be exempt from travel-related tests.

Any other important info: The emergency break – The EU says countries can immediately pull out of the scheme – in other words enforce testing and quarantine on travellers from within the EU, if Covid infections or cases variants in a country rise steeply.

For more information CLICK HERE.

So what are the rules on vaccines and testing that each individual country is imposing?

France

Vaccines – only EMA- approved vaccines are accepted; Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (known as Janssen). To count as fully vaccinated, travellers must be two weeks after their second dose, four weeks after a single dose of Johnson & Johnson or two weeks after if you only had one dose for another reason (such as previously having had Covid). French vaccine certificates need to be updated to ensure their QR codes are EU compliant – here’s how

Testing – For all arrivals from green list countries (which includes the whole EU and Schengen zone) France accepts PCR or antigen tests taken within 72 hours. Home tests are not accepted (which includes test results from the compulsory UK travel testing package).

Any other important info – you also need to fill out a simple declaration, swearing that you do not have Covid symptoms and have not been in contact with Covid patients – find that HERE.

Germany

Vaccines – Only EMA-approved vaccines (as detailed above) are accepted for the moment. To count as fully vaccinated in Germany, you have to wait two weeks after your last dose. Germany has been rolling out its digital Covid health pass and vaccine certificate in the last few weeks.The Health Ministry confirmed to The Local that it can be used for travel within the EU Here’s more information how you can get a hold of it.

Testing – Anyone travelling to Germany by plane needs to show a negative Covid test, proof of being fully vaccinated, or proof of recovery from Covid before boarding the flight. Both PCR and antigen tests are accepted. You can find more information on testing rules here. Germany has already relaxed its quarantine rules, particularly for vaccinated people

Any other important info: From July 1st Germany is lifting its general warning against tourist travel. However, there are still some restrictions including a ban on entry from ‘virus variant areas’. In the EU that is currently only Portugal.  The travel warning will remain in place for ‘virus variant’ and ‘high incidence’ countries. And you have to fill in an online form if coming from these areas. For areas that are classed as ‘basic risk areas’, Germany will advise against travel there. For countries in the EU that are non-risk areas, Germany will ask for special caution when travelling. 

Spain

Vaccines – Spain accepts proof of immunisation from vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency or the World Health Organization.  These are currently Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (EMA) as well as Sinopharm and Sinovac (WHO). The full vaccination treatment (two doses except J&J) must have been completed 14 days before travel to Spain. Vaccination documentation “issued by the competent authorities” of your country can be used to access the Digital Covid Certificate for travel within the EU and to accompany the health control form that all travellers need to fill in to get a QR code with all your relevant health data, to be shown on paper or digital format at the airport or port.   

Testing – For arrivals from EU/EEA countries listed as high risk by Spain (and from July 2nd also arrivals from the UK), a negative PCR test or antigen test is required from travellers who haven’t been fully vaccinated. EU travellers from green-listed areas don’t have to show proof of testing or vaccination when entering the country. In Spain’s case, PCR or antigen tests have to be carried out within 48 hours prior to travel. The diagnostic test document should include the date of sampling, identification and contact details of the centre performing the analysis, technique used and negative result. Children under 12 don’t require a test.

Any other important info – All international travellers to Spain have to complete a health control form before travel to Spain on either the website or the app. EU travellers to Spain can also prove their Covid status through proof that they have recovered from Covid in the past six months. Documents can be in either English, Spanish, French or German and in paper or electronic format. 

Italy

Vaccines – Italy requires travellers to show that they are fully inoculated with both doses of an EMA-approved vaccine; Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca; or after the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine (also known as Janssen). Children under the age of two are exempt from the health pass requirement.

Testing – For all arrivals from EU and Schengen zone countries, Italy accepts the results of PCR or antigen swab tests taken within the 48 hours before arrival. The results of home tests are not accepted (including tests from the UK’s compulsory travel testing package). After June 30th, people who test negative in Italy must show their result using the digital ‘green pass’ issued automaitcally by the health ministry, instead of the paper certificates issued by testing centres used until now.

Any other important infoBefore your trip to Italy, you should also fill out a European Digital Passenger Locator Form (dPLF), giving details of where you’re departing from and where you’ll be staying. The form is available online here

Switzerland

Switzerland entry requirements differ significantly on the basis of where you are arriving from as well as your mode of arrival. Switzerland’s vaccination passport will work in tandem with that of the EU, but will not be ready for release on July 1st. It is expected in the first few weeks of July. 

Vaccines

People arriving from the Schengen area via land can enter freely without any restrictions and do not need to fill out the form. 

People arriving from inside the Schengen region by plane or from virus variant of concern countries (whether inside or outside Schengen) must be fully vaccinated for more than two weeks with a vaccine approved by Switzerland or the EMA.

This includes Moderna, Pfizer-Biontech, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson, even though the latter two are not administered in Switzerland, 

Those who have recovered from the virus in the previous six months can also enter with proof of recovery. Switzerland does not accept antibody tests as evidence of recovery. 

VOC areas currently include Brazil, Canada, India, South Africa, Nepal, and the UK.

Testing

If you have been vaccinated or recovered from the virus, you do not need to test on arrival in Switzerland. 

If you have not been vaccinated or recovered from the virus, you will need to present a negative PCR test (not older than 72 hours) or a negative rapid antigen test (not older than 48 hours) before boarding your flight to Switzerland if you are coming from the Schengen zone. You will not need to quarantine. 

If you are coming from a virus variant of concern area and have not been vaccinated/recovered, you will need to show a negative PCR test (not older than 72 hours) or a negative rapid antigen test (not older than 48 hours). You will also need to quarantine.

Any other important info:

Everyone entering Switzerland by air will need to fill out the following form. You will also need to fill out the following form. 

Sweden

For Sweden the rules are more relaxed for Swedish nationals and residents of the country, who are not subject to any requirements to be vaccinated or prove a negative test.

Vaccines:

For foreign visitors to Sweden travellers with the EU Covid certificate are allowed into the country “14 days after a first shot of the Covid-19 vaccine.” This only applies to travellers over the age of 18. Only EMA approved vaccines apply.

Testing:

Inbound journeys are allowed no later than 72 hours after a negative test result. This applies only to travellers over the age of 18.

A certificate showing a return to health from SARS-CoV-2 infection allows an inbound journey at the earliest 11 days after a positive test.

No negative Covid test is required when travelling to Sweden directly from another Nordic country, meaning Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway. 

More info here.

Norway

Vaccines– Only fully vaccinated travellers who have EMA approved vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson) and those who can document that they have had Covid-19 in the past six months via the EU health pass will be allowed to enter. To be classed as fully vaccinated in Norway, at least two weeks will have passed since your last jab. 

Testing- Travellers using the EU’s vaccine pass will be exempt from testing before they arrive in Norway and also testing at the border. 

Any other important info: Those using the EU’s vaccine passport will also skip the ten-day entry quarantine period and the entry registration requirement.

Denmark

Vaccines – Only EMA- approved vaccines are accepted: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.  To count as fully vaccinated, two weeks must have passed after travellers’ second dose, or first dose in the case of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Testing – All arrivals from green list countries (which includes everywhere in the EU and Schengen zone except Portugal, Latvia, Ireland, and parts of Spain), must present a negative test upon entry, and not before boarding the plane.

A negative PCR test has to be no more than 72 hours old, and a rapid test 48 hours old at the time of entry. Home tests are not accepted. If travelling by air, Denmark’s airports offer free rapid tests to arriving passengers before they get to border control. 

Those who have been vaccinated or recovered from a previous infection need not show a negative test, so long as they can document this. 

Passengers can document their status either with the EU Covid certificate, or with paper documents. 

Any other important info:

Denmark considers travellers to be immune if they have recovered from a Covid-19 infection. The immunity status begins 14 days after a positive PCR test (if the person has recovered), and the immunity status is then valid for eight months. 

The EU Covid certificate can also be used within Denmark to enter restaurants, bars, museums, concerts and other places where the country’s domestic coronapas is required. 

Austria

All people aged ten and over must comply with the following requirements. 

Vaccines

Austria from July 1st has updated a list of safe countries. This includes all Schengen countries and a handful of non-Schengen countries including the United States but not including the United Kingdom. 

You can enter from a safe country 22 days after your first shot (but not more than three months if you have only had one shot). The immunity is deemed to last for nine months from your second shot. 

This is relatively unusual in that most countries require both shots.

You must have been vaccinated with an EMA approved vaccine or one approved from the WHO.

The WHO approval requirement is also relatively rare in Europe, as it means vaccines from more manufacturers are accepted. This includes: 

Comirnaty (BioNtech/Pfizer), Vaxzevria/AstraZeneca, and Covishield from Serum Institute of India COVID-19, Vaccine Janssen from Johnson & Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Moderna, Sinopharm SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (Vero Cell), Inactivated (InCoV) and Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine, SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (Vero Cell), Inactivated. 

You can also enter if you have recovered from the virus in the past 180 days. This can be evidenced with a medical certificate less than six months old or with an antibody certificate less than three months old. 

Testing

You can also show evidence of a negative test to arrive, although this does get a little complicated due to the variety of tests on offer. 

There are two broad categories of test and they apply for different time periods. 

The antigen tests, which you can get done at pharmacies, doctors and testing centres (aka test streets) across the country, are valid for 48 hours. 

PCR tests – which take longer but are considered the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to testing – apply for 72 hours. 

If you do not have a test, you can do one within 24 hours in Austria. 

Any other important info:

You will also need to fill out the pre-travel clearance form. More info is available here. 

Other countries in the EU

For information on the rules for travelling with the EU Covid certificate for other countries in the EU and Schengen area you can visit Reopen EU

Member comments

  1. Testing – Anyone travelling to Germany by plane needs to show a negative Covid test, proof of being fully vaccinated, or proof of recovery from Covid before boarding the flight.

    According to other sources the above statement taken from this article is a bit misleading. The way it reads implies that travelers will need BOTH a negative test AND proof of being vaccinated or proof of recovery. A negative test OR proof of vaccination/recovery is what is currently required.

  2. I tried the link to the EU form for my short trip to Italy, but it’s not coming up. I live in Germany. Isn’t my vaccination certificate enough?

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TRAIN TRAVEL

Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying – even with kids

Hoping to do his bit for the planet, perhaps save some money and avoid spending any time in airports, The Local's Ben McPartland decided to travel 2,000km with his family across Europe by train - not plane. Here's how he got on on and would he recommend it?

Yes, train travel across Europe is far better than flying - even with kids

Summer 2022 has seen the return of people travelling across Europe en masse whether for holidays or to see family, or both.

But it’s also seen chaos in airports, airline strikes and more questions than ever about whether we should be flying at all as Europe bakes under consecutive heatwaves caused by the climate crisis.

But are there really viable alternatives to travelling 2,000 km across Europe in a short space of time – with young kids?

The predicament

We needed to get from Paris to Portugal, or to be more precise the western edge of the Algarve in southern Portugal, for a week-long family holiday.

We didn’t have that much time to spend travelling there and back so the dilemma was how could we get there, fairly quickly?

“We” in this case being a family of four including two children aged 5 and 7, one fairly easygoing mum and a dad (me) who increasingly comes out in a rash when he goes near an airport.

Normally we’d have flown – as we did when we went to the same region of Portugal in October – but the stories of airport chaos, delays, cancellations, strikes and never-ending queues around Europe at the start of the summer made the prospect of taking the plane far less appealing.

Then throw in the climate crisis and the growing feeling that we, as a family, need to make an effort for the cause.

So the thought of flying, during what forecasters say was one of the hottest Julys on record in Europe and as rivers dried up and wildfires burn, just didn’t feel like an acceptable option – to me anyway – when there are alternatives.

There was the option of driving from France to Portugal, as many French and Portuguese nationals living in France do every summer. But driving nearly 2,000 km there and back for just a week’s holiday with two kids strapped in the back for hours on end would have been asking for trouble – either a breakdown or lots of meltdowns.

So that left taking the train. But would it be viable?  Would something go wrong as my colleague Richard Orange had warned on his own rail trip across Europe with kids this summer?

READ ALSO: What I learned taking the train through Europe with two kids

Planning the route

With the help of some really knowledgeable European rail experts like Jon Worth and information from the excellent The Man in Seat Sixty-One website we looked at the various rail routes through France and Spain to southern Portugal.

One problem was the line from southern Spain to the Algarve no longer runs which meant the best we could do was get to Seville and then hire a car.

At one point the best option looked like a night train (fairly cheap with a whole cabin reserved for the family) down to the Pyrenees (Latour-de-Carol) and then a local train to Barcelona before onwards travel to Portugal.

But in the end we settled on the direct train from Paris to Barcelona, spend the night in the Catalan city before taking the train the next day to Seville and picking up the car.

READ ALSO 6 European cities less than 7 hours from Paris by train

It would be mean Paris to Portugal in two days – or to be precise 7 hours to Barcelona, one night in a hotel, before a five-and-half-hour train journey to Seville and a three-hour car journey. It was the quickest way without flying, as far as we could see.

We were about to book the tickets when friend who was travelling by rail through Europe mentioned the Interrail option.

I did Interrailing as an 18-year- old and it was a great way to spend a month travelling around Europe (and Morocco) but had never thought it could be an option for a quickish trip to Portugal and back.

But Interrail has changed a bit since 1996 and indeed since 1972 when it was first launched for under 21s.

Now it offers passes that can be used for 4, 5 or 7 days a month – perfect for travel to a few destinations in a short space of time.

And, this was the clincher – Interrail passes for under 11s are free if they are with an adult.

Well almost free, because in certain countries like France and Spain you still need to pay for seat reservations for anyone travelling.

But the cost of the passes for two adults, plus seat reservations were cheaper than just booking direct trains and much cheaper than flying (more on costs below).

The high-speed train from Barcelona to Seville. Photo: The Local

The Upsides

Let’s start with not having to wake up at 4am and arrive at the train station three hours before the train leaves just to check in a bag and then spend the next three hours queuing in various lines – bags, passport, security, boarding etc..

We arrived at Gare de Lyon around 30 minutes before the train left and boarded without queuing and the train departed on time.

Compare this with having to get a taxi or the RER train to Charles de Gaulle airport and then still find yourself in Paris three hours later as you queue to board. (I know this is not always the case but this summer the advice was to arrive three hours before your flight to check in bags.)

Plus there was no luggage limits on the train and no having to empty your bags at security because you left an old roll-on deodorant at the bottom of your bag.

Although rail stations in Spain do have airport style x-ray machines to check all luggage, they were very rapid and didn’t result in any long queues.

Add to this comfortable seats with leg room, a bar you can walk to and spend hours watching the beautiful French and Spanish landscape whizz by.

You arrive in the centre of town – in our case Barcelona – so there’s no need to get public transport or taxis to and from out of town airports. 

Spending a night in Barcelona was a great way to break the journey – albeit a bit expensive (see below).

And it all ran pretty much on time. Over five train journeys in four days we had 15 minutes of delay. Spain’s high-speed trains were fantastic.

To sum it up: when flying your holiday only really begins when you arrive at your final destination because these days the day spent travelling is one big headache, but with the train the holiday begins as soon as you leave the station.

It’s just far, far more relaxing.

heading back to Barcelona Sants station after a night in the Catalan capital. Photo: The Local.

The Downsides

But what about the kids, you say?

Yep this can be an issue. Travelling for 7 hours on a train is not easy with two young kids but if you come prepared and can think of 75 different ways to occupy them from drawing and playing cards to I-spy and “count my freckles slowly” then it’s possible the journey will be tantrum free. (Playing hide and seek on a train with 12 carriages isn’t advisable.)

And kids adapt, so the following day’s five and half hour journey from Barcelona to Seville was a breeze because they settled into the pace of life and by that point had worked out the code to get into my mobile phone.

One complaint was how long the TGV train took to get along the southern French coast. Does it really need to stop at Nimes, Montpellier, Beziers, Agde, Sete and Perpignan? Can’t local trains serve these stations and the TGV just head straight to Spain?

Another little gripe was the train food. Whilst buffet cars on SNCF and Renfe trains are great for a coffee or a beer they don’t really offer a selection of healthy meals, so you need to come prepared. We weren’t and spent a lot of money on crap food and drink during the trips.

But if you know this in advance you can bring whatever you like onto the train, with no nonsense about 100ml limits on liquid.

Cost comparison

Working out cost comparisons are hard and anyone looking to do a similar trip will need a calculator at hand. 

It’s hard to do a direct comparison between flying and taking the train because so much depends on what the prices are when you book, the route you want to take and how quickly you want to travel and whether to go first class or standard.

But for us at the time of booking (roughly two months in advance) flights from Paris to Faro were about €1,500 for four people, train tickets booked directly with SNCF and Renfe (not interrail) for four people were around €1,200 (this probably could have been much cheaper further in advance), whilst the Interrail option – 4 day passes plus seat reservations was around €810.

So on the face of it travelling by train, especially using Interrail passes, was cheaper – but then add on the cost of two nights in hotels in central Barcelona and there was no real financial benefit of going by train.

But then it was never all about money – what price on not having to spend three hours at Charles de Gaulle airport?

How easy is it to Interrail?

Interrail proved a great option for us, even though it was only a relatively short trip. It’s more suited to those looking to do multiple journeys through various countries, perhaps at a slower pace. But the kids being free was crucial for us, so other families should definitely explore the option.

The one downside to Interrailing through France and Spain is the requirement to book seat reservations for the high-speed trains.

Whilst this sounds fairly straightforward we couldn’t do it through the Interrail app or website so had to be done with Renfe directly. For most countries you can reserve seats through the Interrail app (more on this below).

With SNCF it required a lengthy phone call because we reserved the seats to make sure there were some available before getting the Interrail passes.

For Paris to Barcelona the reservations cost €34 for standard class seats or €48 for first class.

With Renfe it was more complicated although much cheaper (Around €10 to €12 a seat). We were told on the phone that to reserve seats with Interrail you have to do it either at a Spanish train station or by phone but only if you can pick up and pay for the reservations at a Spanish train station within a certain amount of time.

Neither of these were possible when booking from Paris back in May/June. But the helpful website Man at Seat 61 recommended going via the man behind the AndyBTravels website, who charges a small fee. A few emails were exchanged and our reservations for Barcelona to Seville arrived in the post a few days later. 

Renfe and SNCF could make it easier for Interrail passengers.

The Interrail mobile pass on the the Rail Planner app was very easy to use. It was just a case of adding the days when we were travelling and then adding the specific journeys.

This brought up a QR code for each trip but the ticket controllers were always more concerned about the seat reservations we had on paper.

But all went to plan.

 

Conclusion

Those days spent sitting drinking coffee, orange and beer (in separate cups) starring out of train windows at fields, hills, mountains, villages, beach and train platforms were part of the holiday.

I’d say that if you have a day or two to spare then travelling across Europe by train instead of plane is well worth it – yes, even with two young kids.

They might even thank you for it one day if we all help avert a climate disaster. 

Advice

It’s hard to give advice because each person has different requirements that need to be taken into account – whether number of passengers, time needed for travelling, destinations, cost etc.

But plan ahead and do the research to see what’s possible.

One bit of advice if you need to travel quickly is try keep connections to a minimum or give yourself plenty of time to make them.

My colleague Richard Orange had problems on his trip from Sweden to the UK via Denmark, Germany and Belgium because of delays and missed connections.

Useful links and extra info

You can explore Interrail pass options and prices by visiting the Interrail site here. The site offers plenty of info to help you plan your trip and reserve seats on trains if necessary.

The fantastic Man in Seat 61 guide to train travel across Europe is a must-read for anyone planning a trip. It has pages and pages of useful up to date info and can be viewed here.

It also has loads of information on how to use an Interrail pass and calculations to see whether it’s the best option – if you need help with the maths. The page can be viewed here.

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