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COVID-19 RULES

Planning a road trip across Europe this summer? Here are some things to think about

Coronavirus restrictions are making travel more complicated within Europe. Land borders across the continent are generally open to travellers, but different restrictions and rules apply depending on the countries you travel through.  

Planning a road trip across Europe this summer? Here are some things to think about
A Spanish police officer at the border between France and Spain in March 2021. Photo: Raymond Roig/AFP

Each country continues to be responsible for the definition of its own entry requirements and rules, which are not standardised at the EU level. But there’s a general advisory against non-essential travel to countries outside the EU in effect until September 1st, 2021.

Information can be found on the Re-open EU website and Your Europe which pool information from all EU countries, but they are not always up-to-date.

It’s a good idea to check the individual websites for the countries you’ll be travelling to and through before you leave; you can also check the embassy or foreign ministry websites of your country of residence to look into rules specifically for travel from your country. 

The Local runs news sites in nine European countries. You can read them here to keep up-to-date on the pandemic situation:

Where can I travel now? 

This depends on where you’re starting from. If you’re coming from outside the EU, a European entry ban is in effect for some people, barring them from travelling to the European Union or the Schengen area unless the trip falls under one of the exemption categories (which differ per country) or if your country is on the list of safe countries outside the EU/Schengen area (again, countries may have separate rules).

EU countries, as well as close partners such as Norway, are generally on the green lists for travel among other EU countries, but you still have to meet criteria such as being vaccinated or providing a negative Covid-19 test, and the exact rules may vary between countries.

What travel documents should be in my glove compartment?

If you’re an EU national, you still don’t need to show your national ID card or passport when you’re travelling from one border-free Schengen EU country to another – but you should definitely remember to bring it. 

On top of that, you’ll probably want to get yourself an EU Digital Covid Certificate (EUDCC), which allows restriction-free travel across EU and EEA countries following proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test. You can find out more about the EU Digital Covid Certificate here. Rules vary between countries, with one dose of vaccine enough to enter some countries, but others requiring two doses.

You generally get the certificate from your national health authority. It’s valid 14 days after receiving a complete regimen with any vaccine authorised by the EU and WHO, but as mentioned above, some countries will accept it after just one dose. It can also be used to prove that you’ve recovered from Covid-19 or have a recent negative test result.

On top of that, make sure your European health insurance card (EHIC) hasn’t expired, if you have one. It’s something that is often forgotten at the back of a drawer, but make sure it’s still valid because it covers healthcare costs in European countries outside your home, should you fall sick while travelling. Find out more here.

Bear in mind that the EHIC doesn’t cover everything and almost certainly won’t cover the cost of repatriation, should that be required, so you should consider buying travel insurance for the duration of your trip and keeping the key details like your policy number and the phone number to call if you need it in a safe place.

Phew! That’s a lot. What about the practical stuff? 

Not all EU countries have the same traffic rules, but some general rules apply in all EU countries.

It’s a good idea to keep a bunch of cash handy if you’re travelling through Italy or France because most of the E-roads in these countries require tolls on the road. Other countries, like Germany and Sweden, only require tolls over certain bridges, while smaller countries like Liechtenstein, Malta and Monaco offer toll-free driving. You can find out more about what tolls are required here

And of course, make sure you have a valid driving licence and sufficient car insurance that covers you in the EU. And remember that in Malta, Ireland and Cyprus, you drive on the left-hand side of the road.   

Bon voyage!

Member comments

  1. No mention of all the new speed cameras in France then but of course the British tourist will get away with it because unless physically stopped the means to fine them has been removed.

    1. Really well I know some people who received their speed fine notices with no problem so any Brit that thinks that they can’t get away with it think again.

  2. No mention of the biggest problem right now and i say this having just crossed Europe, TRAFFIC!

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COVID-19 RULES

Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

Germany has unveiled a draft of new Covid laws to run until April next year, with mask mandates set to remain in force, but lockdowns and school closures ruled out. Here's what we know so far.

Masks and no lockdowns: Germany's new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

The German government has prepared a graduated plan to try and limit the spread of Covid-19 this autumn. Under the new draft Infection Protection Act, states will be allowed to put in place certain rules to protect the population against Covid, from October. 

It was unveiled by the Health Ministry and Justice Ministry on Wednesday. 

Among the plans are for masks to remain compulsory in long-distance transport and in hospitals. They could also be made compulsory in other indoor areas, such as restaurants, but usually with exceptions for those who are recently vaccinated, recovered or tested. 

“If the number of cases rises sharply – masks (can also be enforced) outdoors where distances are not sufficient, and upper limits indoors,” said Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats, in a tweet where he showcased the plans. 

How long will the law be in place?

The current Infection Protection Act runs out on September 23rd. The new laws, which form the legal basis for Covid-19 measures in Germany, will apply from October 1st to April 7th 2023.

READ ALSO: Masks and tests: The Covid rules that tourists to Germany should know about

What are the draft plans?

As shown above in the diagram tweeted by the Health Minister in German, the rules have been divided into “”winter tyres” (Winterreifen)  and “snow chains” (Schneeketten), which is meant to represent possible different stages.

There are rules that will apply to the whole of Germany during the autumn/winter and early spring, certain measures that states can bring in, and the option for tougher restrictions if the situation worsens.

Nationwide protective measures from October 1st 2022 to April 7th 2023:

– Mandatory FFP2 masks on airplanes and on long-distance public transport.

– Mandatory masks and testing for access to hospitals and similar facilities, as well as for employees.

– Exceptions to the requirement to provide proof of testing are envisaged for recently vaccinated and recovered people, as well as for people who are being treated in the respective facilities or service providers.

– Exemptions from the mask requirement are provided for some people receiving treatment, for children under six, for people who can’t wear a mask for medical reasons, and for deaf and hard of hearing people.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach wears an FFP2 mask at a conference in June.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach wears an FFP2 mask at a conference in June. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Optional tougher measures for states:

Under the draft plan, states can take additional measures if the pandemic situation requires. These include:

– Mandatory masks on public and regional transport.

– Mandatory masks in indoor spaces such as restaurants and cultural facilities. However, the plans envisage exceptions for people who have tested negatively against Covid, or who have been vaccinated or recently recovered. This could mean that the so-called ‘3G rule’ returns.

– Compulsory testing and/or masks in certain communal facilities (such as shelters for asylum seekers and children’s homes). Compulsory masks in schools would only apply to pupils from the fifth school year onwards.

Extreme measures when situation is critical:

State parliaments can enact even stricter measures if there is a threat of the health system or critical infrastructure becoming overburdened. These include:

– Compulsory wearing of masks indoors – and even outdoors if the minimum distance of 1.5 metre cannot be maintained. An exemption for recently vaccinated, tested or recovered people wouldn’t apply. 

– Mandatory health and safety plans (such as disinfectants and ventilation) for businesses and events in the recreational, cultural and sports sectors.

– Ordering a minimum distance of 1.5 m in public spaces and at outdoor events.

– Upper limits for participants at events in indoor areas.

What else should I know?

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, of the Free Democrats, said it was important that Germany would not see further lockdowns, but that masks were a key part of the plan. 

“There should only be restrictions on freedom if they are necessary,” said Buschmann. “Our concept therefore rejects lockdowns and curfews.

“Instead, we rely on measures that are both effective and reasonable. Masks protect. And in certain situations, mandatory masks are also reasonable.

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP)

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) gives an interview to DPA on February 3rd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

“That is why masks will be compulsory in hospitals and nursing homes as well as in long-distance transport. If the pandemic situation so requires, the states can also order compulsory masks for other areas of public life indoors. In culture, leisure, sport and gastronomy, however, there must be exceptions for tested, newly vaccinated and newly recovered persons.”

Buschmann said Germany was also relying on “individual responsibility of civil society – as most other European states do”.

He added that the government was paying “special attention” to schools.

“Children have a right to school education, and a school day that is as carefree as possible,” he said. “Therefore, there must be no school closures. A blanket obligation to wear masks in schools would also not be appropriate.”

What happens next?

The Cabinet will take a look at the proposals before the final draft goes to the Bundestag to be voted on. 

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