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Covid test prior to Tour = 5-10 tests on Belgium/Holland tour

I sat down last night and did the logistics on my tour in March. I am flying out on the 22nd, so I will be testing before I leave.(test #1). Belgium requires a test on Day 1 that you arrive (test #2). I will be in Belgium for a week before my tour starts the 30th. I will have to test 48 hours before my tour, so I will have to test on the 28th (test #3). Belgium also requires a test on Day 7, so I will have to test on the 30th (test #4). My final test will be for traveling back to the US. (Test #5). I might be able to combine test number 3 and 4 both on day 7 if I can get results quickly enough. Does anyone know how much tests in Europe cost? Or will I need to bring 4 test kits each for my husband and myself?

Right now the Netherlands require a 10 day quarantine if you fly in from the USA. So if things don’t change soon, I think Rick will have to cancel this tour. If you travel from Belgium into Holland, you need to be in Belgium for 10 days to bypass the quarantine. (If I read that correctly)

By the way, Rick recommends “Sherpa” to help you figure out what you need to do to travel to Europe. I found it to be very beneficial. It helped me understand some of the legal jargon to know what is required.

Posted by
9928 posts

Yikes. Thanks for lining that out for me. I’m doing a Road Scholar Art History tour of Belgium and Holland in April so this affects me. I liked Rick’s tour so much ( did it in 2019) I wanted a deeper dive into art history.

I’ve got until Feb 11 to make my final payment.

I’ll check out that Sherpa site as well.

Lots to think about!!

Posted by
4612 posts

Pam, maybe you could share what you find using Sherpa during our travel meeting this Saturday.

Posted by
9928 posts

So…that means I’ve got homework? 😬😆😆

Posted by
213 posts

Does anyone know how much tests in Europe cost? Or will I need to
bring 4 test kits each for my husband and myself?

I do not know how much testing costs in the countries you will be in, sorry. But: I would check to make sure that the proctored over-the-internet tests are valid for the requirements of the countries you are visiting.

Also note: They might be valid for the international travel portion (for countries that require a test before getting on a plane), but they might not work to meet local testing requirements. This is how it would be, were you visiting the part of Germany I live in, because here, tests need to be able to be uploaded to our specific digital app/ have a QR code in a specific format, which I assume these don´t (since they aren´t made for the European market). This might be true in some other places as well, but I have no idea.

Sorry to make things more complicated, but just something to think about.

Posted by
5536 posts

I am very hopeful that by March you will see the quarantine requirements dropped. Every country scrambled to deal with the new variant and some have already begun easing of requirements.

I used Sherpa to check out requirements and it was quite easy to use. Thanks for the suggestion.

Posted by
740 posts

Thanks for the information on Sherpa. It's handy to have a one stop resource (besides the official ones, of course.)

Posted by
6022 posts

You have left out that, at the moment, you would need to test daily while in the Netherlands in order to eat at a restaurant, go to a bar, or visit a museum (You have to have a QR Code, for which test is the only option). (Edit 2: At least this was the policy when they were not in a complete lockdown) You also need to submit information to the Belgian health system in order to get a QR code there. Your CDC card does not work in either country.

An edit: Testing in both countries for a non-resident runs about 50 euro. There is some provision for cheaper or free tests in the Netherlands, but for me, scheduling was an issue. In neither country are tests freely available at pharmacies, like in France and Italy (that I am familiar with)

Of course, all is subject to change.

Posted by
691 posts

Sorry I can't help you on your question, but just wanted to thank you for sharing the Sherpa site. It is very useful and have it bookmarked for my upcoming travel.

Sandy

Posted by
9928 posts

"but for me, scheduling was an issue. In neither country are tests freely available at pharmacies, like in France and Italy (that I am familiar with)"

Thank you Paul. I did not know that. They are so easy to get in France that my experience there kind of lulled me into a false sense of security!

Posted by
5152 posts

Thanks, Janet, and TravelingMom, for the Sherpa tip.

Posted by
1164 posts

Thanks so much for the info and Sherpa link.
I've bookmarked it.

Posted by
451 posts

For a number of reasons we are postponing our planned Belgium/Holland April 2022 tour until the spring of 2023. The Rijksmuseum is planning it's first Vermeer retrospective exhibition during the spring of 2023 (February 10 - June 4). "With loans from all over the world, this promises to be the largest Vermeer exhibition ever." That's enough compensation for this art historian!

Posted by
1782 posts

Hi Janet, thank you for the info. I was not aware of the Sherpa site, very helpful.

Posted by
382 posts

Paul, thanks for the "heads-up" on needing a Covid test to enter restaurants. I looked back on the Sherpa info and it says that:

"Travelers are required to present a COVID-19 access pass to enter restaurants, bars etc. Travelers may download the CoronaCheck app [for Dutch citizens only] and use it as a Covid pass. or use the EU digital Covid Certificate (DCC) for this purpose. [this is for EU citizens only]. Travelers who don't have an EU DCC will need a negative Covid-19 test result from the test taken no more than 24 hours before the start of the event."

So, that means that tour members would need to test every 24 hours!!!

I looked up a test site in Delft, which is Day 6 of the tour and a test site in Amsterdam. They had Rapid Antigen Tests available in Delft for 40 euros and in Amsterdam for 35 euros. We were planning on staying an additional 3 days in Amsterdam. So for my husband and myself - we would have to spend $80-90 a day for testing. So, needless to say if things don't change before our final payment date, then we will cancel. I would think that Rick Steves would probably cancel the tour.

Now I'm wondering that if it does get cancelled, are there other trips that I could fit in the same time slot of my airline tickets. I checked Sherpa and I can travel through the airports and not have to take additional tests. Or I could change my airline reservations for a different airport.

What are the easiest countries to enter and visit?

Posted by
6022 posts

Others experiences may have differed in the Netherlands than mine, I was only there for a day in late November, before heading to Belgium, so spending time to figure things out was not worth it.

But I went to a private test center located in the city center, Testcenter.nl. There are a number of private test centers offering essentially the same thing. Like I said, cost was about 50 euro. You can also, I believe, go to Government testing sites, but they are mainly for residents, not sure of the process. The government also has this website to make appointments: https://coronacheck.nl/en/faq/2-1-ik-wil-mij-laten-testen-waar-kan-ik-terecht/ I also did see one of the tourist information centers on Damrak that was offering tests for tourists, for free, again, had no time to investigate further.

But yeah, it was enough of a hassle, and then they moved to shutting everything down at 5 PM. We had planned on several days in Amsterdam at one point in the trip, but dropped that in favor of more time in Belgium. In fact my flight was out of Schiphol, but I stayed the night before in Antwerp.

Posted by
254 posts

I see several issues here:
1) If RS will cancel your tour should all these testing requirements still be in place by the deadline for final payment. Have you called their office?
Changes either way seem to be sudden ( i.e. apparently travel is now allowed into France from England? But getting to China from the US is not straightforward) and I would think they need to decide well before, with all the moving pieces to operate a group tour.
2) Many folks are now buying trip insurance; granted not as much of a hassle as finding tests but still, an additional expense. Have you also budgeted for the ramifications of a positive result on one of these many tests? Quarantine, lodging and etc? I don't see that in your algorithm.
This is just the reality of travel in a deadly global pandemic! If you opt to take your chances anyway it seems like, as you are now wondering, that simplifying your itinerary will solve at least some of your concerns.
Lastly,
3) An attitude adjustment. (Sorry, but- long week in a huge public school with climbing case counts! That's what I am worrying about!) Remember these tests are meant to keep their countries' citizens protected when YOU go into a cafe or museum or stand next to someone on their way to work, crossing the street. That it's a hassle to you as a visitor is not their problem, it's not an ideal visiting time.
Your solution of another, single destination may be the best option for your peace of mind. Good luck!

Posted by
382 posts

Right after I posted my last entry I checked my email and there was a letter from Rick Steves. It was titled “Holland and Belgium Tour Update”. It states:

“We are writing to you regarding your upcoming Heart of Belgium & Holland tour. You may be aware that the Netherlands recently enacted a 10 day quarantine period for fully-vaccinated travelers entering their country. The quarantine requirement applies to U. S. Citizens and we are monitoring the situation closely.

Unfortunately, we cannot predict when the quarantine requirement will be lifted, and we need to make the decision whether or not to run a tour about 2 months before each tour begins. If you are not comfortable with this timeline, please let us know whether you would like to transfer to another tour date or receive a credit of your tour deposit. If we do end up having to cancel your departure then we’ll refund your tour payments wishing 14 days of the cancellation.

We sincerely hope that we will be able to run all the spring tours, and we also want you to fully understand the current situation and your options.”

So, from the sound of that letter it sounds like… get ready. I was going to call and ask if I could move my deposit to next year, but their office is closed today, Sat and Sun. Their first tour to B&H is March 28, so they will probably make their decision in the next 7-10 days.

I think I’ll be shopping for tours tonight.

Posted by
9928 posts

Janet, thanks for that update. THIS is why I have confidence in Rick Steves.

I spoke with Road Scholar office earlier in the week and their staff is so poorly informed. I said I was concerned about the tour running as there was then a quarantine in place and the person had no idea just said everything is set to run. I think they just make up answers because she did not have enough time to look anything up and had no idea herself about any quarantine rules. Yeesh.

Posted by
2207 posts

From someone who is living with the NL "restrictions" every day...
YES - the quarantine for travelers coming directly to the NL from the US is still in place. 10 days, or 5 days if you PCR test out - as I did recently
YES - the country is still in lockdown. Effective Jan. 15 (today) rules have been relaxed slightly as now Retail Stores can open up until 5 PM. Unfortunately, Cafes & restaurants are still closed: Allowing to-go or pickup only
YES - if you do not have an EU Digital COVID Certificate (the QR code program) you would need to secure an antigen test each day to enter specific locations (like a museum, restaurant, etc.... if they were open!)
YES - free testing is available for museum access & restaurants through the site Paul posted: https://coronacheck.nl/en/faq/2-1-ik-wil-mij-laten-testen-waar-kan-ik-terecht/ . I just went to it and looked up a test near my apartment for TODAY, before 12 noon and MULTIPLE options were available every 5 minutes. (the search for facilities is based on the zip code you enter). Granted, that's not a "true measure" of the system... because there's nothing open... so there's no demand! But the system is still in place and working.
YES - if you need a test to TRAVEL - like catching your flight home to the USA - you would need to get a different test that WOULD require you to pay for that form of "certification." Prices in my neighborhood start at about 29-39 Euro per person at locations that I can walk to. We use https://testservice.nl/. They have multiple locations nationwide and test results are emailed to you within 20 minutes. Appointments can be made online. A last-minute test can be done at Schiphol Airport (AMS) for about 58 Euros - see https://reservations.testandfly.eu/en-US.
YES - all of this is subject to change and undoubtedly will before March. The next gov't announcement is Jan. 25 where it is hoped that restaurants and cafes will be allowed to open. Yet, the talk is that the EU Digital COVID Certificate requirements will remain in some format. We hear no discussion on when the quarantine for US travelers might be lifted (Not a big issue for the Dutch locals - yet! Most folks simply want all businesses to be open to them; visitor access and tourism is far down the list of priorities given we're again under lockdown).