The Basics of Traveling to Europe During COVID

If you follow me on any social media, or if you’ve seen me around, you know I spent 8 days in Italy this November! My trip was absolutely amazing, but there were some extra loops to jump through to get to and from Italy due to COVID.

However, despite popular belief, it is absolutely NOT difficult or unsafe to travel to Europe from the US right now. In fact, this is definitely the time to go. Tourists are certainly not back in full force, airline prices are relatively cheap, and so aren’t hotels, busses, trains, etc.

In this post, I’ll be breaking down the logistics I personally dealt with when traveling from Boston to Rome and back this November. (Everything shared is my personal opinion and experience, and in no way is intended to represent specific country COVID guidelines).

I’d also like to mention that my mom & I are fully vaccinated, which is an important detail. If you are not fully vaccinated, I personally do not recommend traveling to Europe for the reasons I will detail below.

The Route:

The route we took to Europe was Boston –> Zurich –> Rome and on the way back it was Rome –> Montreal –> Boston. This means that during our travels we had to deal with 4 different COVID travel protocols which were somewhat confusing and overwhelming.

BOS –> ZHR: On the way there, we were required to show our vaccine cards while checking into our flight in Boston. Aside from that, only our passports were checked while boarding. Like all planes, masks needed to be kept on the entire flight. Once we arrived in Zurich and went through customs, our vaccine cards were requested with our passports. However, unlike the wording on Switzerland’s government website, we were never asked to present our negative COVID test results taken within 72 hours. My mom and I simply got a rapid NATT test 2 days before flying to Europe.

ZHR –> Rome: When we boarded the plane to Rome, I was required to swap out my cloth LuluLemon mask with a surgical mask, as it is Italian law that a surgical mask is worn on all public transport. When we touched down in Rome, we did not go through any form of customs or have any health screening, since our flight landed from a Schengen country.

Rome –> Montreal: Per Canada’s guidelines, we needed to get a molecular test within 72 hours before entering the country, We accidentally got an antigen test, oops. But in the end, it didn’t matter because our test results were never checked in Canada.

When boarding the plane in Rome for Montreal, Air Canada’s flight crew checked our COVID test results twice, but only looked hard enough to find “negative”. In the end, it was clear that was their main concern, not the type of test.

When we landed in Montreal, we went through US customs (which may be why it was so lax). They requested our vaccine cards once and our passports, yet never asked for our COVID test results.

Montreal to Boston: Landing in Boston, we were free to simply exit the plane and go home since we were already checked by US customs in Canada.

COVID Logistics While in Italy:

The most comparable place in the US in terms of COVID standards is New York City. Essentially, it’s the same premise when it comes to showing proof of vaccination

In Italy, just like New York, you generally are asked to show your COVID vaccine card if you’re American (and Green Pass if you’re from the EU) for a variety of activities including:

  • Eating a sit down meal at a restaurant
  • Going into a historic site e.g., the Colosseum
  • Staying at a hotel
  • Potentially if you’re riding public transportation (although mine was never checked in this situation)

In regards to masking, it’s similar to many places in the US- you do not need to wear it when you’re walking outdoors or if you’re sitting outside. However, inside or in historical sites that are outside like the Roman Forum, masks must be worn at all times. You will not be allowed to be inside a store without it.

In terms of COVID Testing getting a test in Italy is SO easy. There are literally testing sites on every street because most pharmacies offer them. They are 15 euro each for a rapid antigen test with results in 5 minutes. The pharmacist gives you a printed and signed document stating you’re negative and you’re all set!

Overall thoughts on international travel during COVID:

Overall, although getting a covid test, carrying your vaccine card, etc is kind of a pain, it’s generally easy to travel to and within Europe if you’re a fully vaccinated American. Like I mentioned above, there were many points where my documents were never checked or barely checked.

Additionally, with the enhanced COVID protocol in Italy in terms of masking and requiring proof of vaccination, I never once was in a setting where I was worried about getting COVID. I’d go so far as to say I felt safer over there than I do here.

If you’ve learned anything from this post, I hope it’s this: Do not wait! Travel to Europe while it’s still not back to the hustle & bustle of pre-COVID!

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