The stage of the pandemic we've all been desperately waiting for has finally arrived - for the first time in 18 months, we are in a position to travel to other European countries with little to no restrictions or significant roadblocks in place.
Naturally enough, most of us are absolutely gagging to get on the first flight to one of our classic holibop destinations with Spain, Portugal, France and Italy top of most people's lists for a relatively convenient slice of sunshine.
There is something of a knack to holidaying on the continent in August 2021 however as each of the aforementioned countries has maintained their right to impose their own restrictions or nuances to the standardised travel rules in order to protect themselves against new variants or future waves of the virus.
With this in mind, it's crucial you're well versed in the intricacies of how to travel to and from each individual country in order to avoid any hiccups during your pursuit of a cocktail by the pool or a beach tan. Luckily enough, we've taken the time to put together this nifty little guide of how to zip around Europe to your heart's content and avoid any major mishaps.
First things first, and this should go without saying, but it really is all about having your EU Digital Covid certificate, or DCC, of which over 3 million have been issued by the government over the last month. Without one of these bad boys, you're going to run into some difficulty in the realm of painstaking quarantine and stupidly expensive PCR testing, both of which can really bring into question how badly you want the holiday to begin with.
If your DCC is missing or lost, or if perhaps you spot an error on it, get that sorted ASAP before you become trigger happy on SkyScanner. There's a handy self-service portal or you can give them a call on one of two helpline numbers: 1800-851 504 and 1800-807 008.
For the most seamless travel experience possible, ensure you have the following three documents on you upon arrival at the airport:
Pro-tip on the passenger locator forms - they're obscenely long. You can usually fill them out up to 72 hours before your flight takes off so we would strongly recommend doing this in advance from the comfort of your own home rather than in a panic on your phone as you edge closer to the top of the baggage check-in queue. You'll might need to upload a .pdf of your DCC to your passenger locator form in order to submit it so keep this handy too if you have one.
You'll need to fill one out to get back into Ireland too which you can find here.
Do I need to do a COVID-19 test before flying?
If you don't have your DCC then the answer is a hard yes. In the absence of a DCC, passengers must provide proof of a negative PCR or antigen test authorised by the European Commission from up to 48 hours before travel.
Thankfully France, Spain, Portugal and Italy are all currently accepting antigen tests however in order to get back into Ireland you'll need a PCR test which is typically much more expensive.
On the plus side, Covid tests - both PCR and antigen - are a lot cheaper in our European neighbours' than here at home, so you might be able to arrange a PCR test for yourself for as little as €40 as long as you book in advance.
Okay, the hardest part is over and now you've landed in France ready for a week of baguettes, berets and butchering the French language. Are there any watch outs?
Yes - if you're over the age of 17, you'll need to show your EU DCC in order to get into almost everything, from bars, restaurants, cafes, museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, and pretty much all major tourist attractions. You'll also need it to board long-distance coaches and trains if you're planning to travel around a bit after landing.
In terms of wearing a mask, most establishments do not require mask wearing provided you possess a DCC but it is still mandatory on all forms of public transport. Local authorities are also entitled to impose their own mask rules if they see it necessary.
Ciao bella, you've made it to Italia! Similarly to France, you need your DCC to enter pretty much anywhere you would want to go in Italy from tourist attractions to restaurants, bars, even the all-important gelaterias won't be able to let you in without one. Swimming pools, museums, galleries and concerts, be they indoor or outdoor, are also out of the question.
Italy is a little further ahead in their vaccination roll out meaning DCCs are required for everyone over the age of 12 so make sure your teenage holiday-mates are covered. As business can be fined over €1,000 for allowing people inside without a DCC, most of them are pretty strict on this rule.
Hola chicas, bring on the croquettas! Not so fast - things are a little more complicated in Spain at the moment. It's not one size fits all as different regions of Spain have different rules depending on the rate of infection in any given municipality. In some of the country's most popular holiday hotspots such as Marbella, Malaga and Seville, cases are in somewhere in the realm of around 1,000 cases a day which has led to night-time curfews and capacity restrictions in indoor venues.
Barcelona is under similar curfews and capacity restrictions, as is Madrid where bars must close at 1am and nightclubs at 3am - still a far cry from the levels of restrictions in place at home we're sure you'll agree.
The Canary and Balearic Islands each have varying levels of restrictions in place depending on which island you visit, and these restrictions fluctuate depending on the level of cases on any given week or month so make sure to look into your chosen island closer to the time to know what to expect.
And, of course, like with Italy and France, prepare to be asked to show your DCC in order to gain access to a wide array of indoor establishments and activities.
Portugal has long been a favourite for Irish holiday-makers as due to its reliably hot temperatures and its comparatively cheap food, drink and nightlife. This trend is sure to continue through Covid times as it is one of the easier countries to travel to in Europe at the moment.
Just like the others, you will need a DCC or a negative Covid test to do just about anything but perhaps most importantly you'll need it in order to simply check into your accommodation.
In comparison with Spain and other countries, most tourist venues are not under any capacity restrictions although you are limited to groups of six at a table indoors in restaurants or tables of 10 outdoors.
Won't somebody please think of the children?
Well, they have thought of them actually. Most EU states do not require a test from children under the age of 12. In France and Ireland it's under 11, and in Italy it's under 6.
As you can tell from reading this however, as countries progress their vaccine roll-outs, it will be become increasingly difficult to go or do anything without a DCC so the incentive to get you or your child vaccinated has never been greater.
To find your local vaccine centre or walk-in clinic please click here.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Nick Nice on Unsplash
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