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Which countries have had less restrictions?

We are fully vaccinated, getting boosters soon, and will do whatever is needed to travel into Europe safely. But, do you recall which countries were less restricted last summer, or were they all similar?

We keep tossing around different travel options, so it would be nice to know if we could chose a country with more open policies.

I'm aware of the surge going on now, and of course there is no crystal ball.

Posted by
1422 posts

Watch RS's most recent Monday Night Travel video. He talks about his and Cameron's experiences this fall in several countries.

Posted by
5544 posts

Central/eastern Europe opened up sooner this year than much of western Europe, despite being behind in terms of vaccination rates. I don’t think you can necessarily assume that this will follow next year.

Posted by
13541 posts

In October last year I was in Albania and Kosovo. Nothing in Albania, masks in Kosovo.

In July this year I was in Ukraine (Odesa and Kyiv), Turkey (Istanbul), Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and Greece; entered all with a CDC card.

Greece had some limitations on inside dining, the others no.

In September and November (just returned) I was in Budapest; on 1 November the government reinstated masks on the metro and in the airport, otherwise no restrictions and everything open.

I did hear that to enter the Christmas markets would require a vaccine card and I am assuming a mask.

Hungary's entry restrictions from the US was a PCR test 72 hours prior. COVID is ramping up in Hungary, but the PM has promised restraint in restrictions.

Posted by
21057 posts

Norway lagged on reopening (I think Americans may still be barred), and I believe at least one of the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) also remained closed while some others were reopening.

Posted by
3199 posts

Sweden's restrictions has not ben strict compared to other countries, and at the moment there are very few restrictions. And since earlier this month it is op to fully vaccinated Americans.

Posted by
2598 posts

Spain has been relatively lax when it comes to legal restrictions, that's because the Central and Regional governments expect citizens and visitors to do the right thing, be vaccinated, wear a mask, and respect social distance. Largely that's worked. No widespread use of a "vaccine passport" in Spain too, as 80%+ are already vaccinated. High vaccination and low case numbers. Spain is actually now reimbursing residents who were fined for violating covid lockdown rules lol!

Posted by
140 posts

Poland has no restrictions other than masks in enclosed spaces and public transport (not really policed and there is no requirement for the masks to be of any particular type). No restrictions are being planned despite a rise in infections. Business as usual everywhere. Every mention of restrictions, vaccine passports or any sanitary segregation, is met with massive public backlash so it's unlikely that the government will dare to do anything other than arranging more hospital beds for covid patients.

Posted by
1286 posts

Just returned yesterday from 9 days in Lisbon. Portugal is about 90% vaccinated and they're beginning their 3rd doses. Masks are required indoors except when eating, on public transportation, taxis, etc. It seemed about one third of people walking outside wore masks. They were setting up kiosks for Christmas markets. We saw rapid testing and pcr testing labs in some of the larger squares.

It seems things were pretty normal but for the fact that nearly everyone follows the masking requirements.

Posted by
6870 posts

Loose or no restrictions in places where there are low vaccination rates, lots of infections, deaths, etc is the opposite of “safe”. I would take a totally different approach and look at those countries which have actually reacted properly and decisively (even if it meant unpopular restrictions) when there was a problem or where things are relatively under control (Portugal or Spain vs Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, even Britain, etc). Bloomberg actually ranks countries worldwide using their Covid resilience criteria. Personally l would not go to Europe this winter, too unpredictable in some places and yet totally unsurprising where things are headed in some countries.

Posted by
8767 posts

I agree with Agnes. Portugal would be a good choice.

Posted by
27714 posts

England has practically no restrictions. Loads of infections everywhere and overloaded hospitals but we have fairly decent vaccine takeup - 88% first dose eligible over 12s, 80% second, 25% booster as of yesterday. 44,200 new infections detected yesterday.

Posted by
1839 posts

Our hope is for next August so it would be nice to chose a country that, if numbers are down, will keep tourism open.

Posted by
1386 posts

I traveled through Lithuania, Estonia, Albania, Kosovo, and Greece this summer (July - August) and they were quite open and devoid of most tourists (exception was Corfu, Gr). Quite a few places were fairly lax where even masks were not required or worn (Estonia, Albania, Kosovo).

I would not say that Sweden was fully open. They were requiring a PCR test even for transiting passengers.

I would not say that Britain was open given the hoops and/or quarantine one needed to go through to travel there

I just returned yesterday from 11 days in Mexico and the country is wide open but they do have extensive masking and hand sanitizing.

Overall, in the current timeframes we are living in, it comes down to an individuals' risk tolerance since almost every country is going to have folks that go against the rules, there will be different levels of vaccinations, and different hoops to jump through as a visitor. I for one, knowing what my risk tolerance is, will focus my attention on countries where the hoops I have to go through are minimized.

Posted by
4249 posts

If I was in your position, which actually I am, I would go to places with reasonable restrictions that the general public follows and the authorities enforce. Restrictions by country depend on where a country might be in terms of COVID levels, or for some countries, they seem to always be rather lax (central/eastern Europe). Ideally stick to one country, preferably one with high vaccination rates. I would go somewhere that you can adapt your behavior to your perception of COVID risk levels while you travel. We went to Poland in September. It wasn't particularly warm, and the locals were extremely lax in regards to COVID. In response, we ate all our meals outside, walked except in Krakow where they were enforcing masking on buses, and purchased 1st class tickets on trains to increase our distancing. Countries seeming pretty good to me right now are Portugal, Spain, perhaps France and Italy, but things change. All too frequently.

Posted by
1839 posts

Thanks! Good advice.

We stay in very small B&B's and will have a rental car. We generally prefer countryside/mountains. One idea was Germany/Austria/Switzerland/France and back into Germany. We've done this trip before and loved it! Most of it in the alps or countryside, very small villages, so we wouldn't be mixing very closely with people. Hubby went to Germanys/Austria/Switzerland in Sept with no issues, but it does seem like Austria locks down quickly, and maybe Germany as well. Maybe it would be better to stick with one country which would likely be France. We are all about safety, but it would be nice if a trip was a "go". Of course, who knows when the time comes!

Posted by
13541 posts

In all instances if I were planning a trip in the Spring (and I am).

  1. I would look for countries with good track records on not closing down and countries with simplified or not additional paperwork or QR code issues.

  2. If I wanted to visit multiple countries I would only consider countries where I could cross borders on a CDC card and maybe an online PLF form. Nothing more complicated; and countries that fall in to item one above.

With those parameters there are maybe 8 countries in Europe that meet the standards.

Posted by
13541 posts

And 3. Places that fit into your risk tolerance, as best as you can determine.

Posted by
1216 posts

My take:

Be flexible and have a plan B. Can you afford to stay extra in a lockdown or if the country changes the rules? Can you afford to stay longer if you get a positive Covid test before going home?

There is still a pandemic and just like in America, things are changing. Acting like there is a country were things are normal isn't reality and as in the US some of those places that don't have restrictions can have higher rates of infection.

My advice would be go where you actually want to travel to, follow all local advice and wear N95 masks and bring your CDC card everywhere. Just like after 9/11, this is a whole new travel world.

Posted by
755 posts

Hi all,
I've removed a number of comments in this thread. This is a reminder that we have extra rules in effect as it relates to discussions around the pandemic. You can find those linked from the Community Guidelines.

Let's not go back to last year when every reasonable travel discussion was side-tracked by debating some aspect of the pandemic. In discussions that have something to do with the pandemic -- as this thread does -- ensure that your reply directly answers the OP's question. Thank you!

Posted by
4249 posts

I think at a certain point, people need to provide citations.

If you are looking for a country that has fewer restrictions, A.W. is absolutely right. Poland has fewer restrictions. Further, much of the public does not follow the restrictions in place, anyway.

One thing a U.S. traveler should be concerned about for Poland, is that many of the testing centers are closed on weekends. A traveler looking to fulfill the new requirement for a COVID test within 24 hours of a travel may have difficulty in Poland. We were in Warsaw over a weekend at the end of our trip. I was told they were available at the airport. However, the price I was quoted for an antigen test was quite high, and we felt it risky to wait until the airport to do our testing.