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So many inconsistencies! Travel in the Time of COVID

Just wrapping up a 9 week trip. Thought there might be som interest in the oddities we encountered.

  • We could fly into Germany with proof-of-vaccination…but Italy would have forced us (at the time in late August) to quarantine for 5 days.
  • Switzerland allowed us in as vaccinated persons so we stayed there for almost 5 weeks. After 14 days in another bloc country, Italy would allow us to visit without quarantine…but no one ever checked to see that we had actually spent the required time before entering.
  • Switzerland demanded we complete a pre-arrival questionnaire online that dispensed an approval code…but no one asked to see it. Ever. Ditto Italy.
  • The canton of Valais in Switzerland provided us with a QR code proving we were fully vaccinated, the so-called “Green Pass” for the EU…but the actual scanning of the pass was erratic in Switzerland though mostly compliant in Italy and France.
  • Swiss trains do not require the Green Pass…but taking a EuroCity train from Switzerland to Italy did require it. An official came through the train before the border to check that we had the credentials.
  • High-speed Swiss, German, and French trains sell food and drinks on board…but the Italian fast trains do not for COVID safety reasons. This was startlingly inconvenient on our 8:18 AM three-and-a-half-hour trip from Venice to Torino.
  • Parisians are very mask compliant on public transportation (and I love that they do not talk on trains or the Metro)…but in Italy and Switzerland there are a lot of exposed noses.
  • In Italy and France, one does not need proof of vaccination to check into a hotel, nor to eat breakfast in a common area…but one has to show a Green Pass to even have a coffee inside a café. Restaurants checked proof-of-vaccination assiduously. I was a wee bit worried about the breakfast room situation. In Switzerland, a Green Pass was required check-in to a hotel because of the dining/breakfast room situation.
  • The UK requires vaccination and a negative test result and masking is enforced on the EuroStar from Paris to London…but once in England there are no restrictions to go into a museum, restaurant, take a train, etc. And masking is a free-for-all . Kind of disquieting after all the time feeling relatively safe in Italy and France.

When I wanted coffee on the TGV from Torino to Paris, the bistro was not open even at 11:00 AM. However I had seen someone carrying coffee cups. I stuck my head in the door where a woman was preparing the service area and asked, politely, in Italian if it was possible to get coffee. “Certamente, Signora!” I think I bought under-the-counter coffee as the services were not opened until we crossed the French border.

Hotels in Switzerland, Italy, France, and Germany are still serving breakfast, on a buffet, requiring a mask to approach the food. They are also servicing rooms daily, unlike in the US where COVID-19 has become an excuse to cut services. It was wonderful to have our bed made on the rare occasions we stayed in hotels, and to have someone tidy up, not to mention laying out breakfast. We have only stayed in hotels 12 nights in 9+ weeks. YMMV as evidenced by recent posts from other travelers.

Why-oh-why can’t people talk on a phone without pulling down their mask? And what is the need for a lengthy conversation on a crowded cable car going up a mountain? That would annoy me even if there wasn’t a nasty disease circulating.

Negative BinaxNOW tests mean we are cleared for travel home. We’ll avoid other people and self-administer another test in a few days just to be certain, but we seem to have safely navigated in these strange times!

No one in any country is able to measure one meter, much less two, for distancing. We are wearing masks. Everywhere.

Posted by
9675 posts

Laurel, excellent thread!

"Hotels in Switzerland, Italy, France, and Germany are still serving breakfast, on a buffet, requiring a mask to approach the food. They are also servicing rooms daily, unlike in the US"

I found this to be true on my recent trip to France. I was in hotels for 34 nights and ate breakfast about half the time. My room, wherever it was (Paris or SW France) was made up daily. In one hotel the buffet was minimal with staff bringing coffee and a basket of croissants/bread to the table. Other places there were big traditional breakfast buffets (huge ones in Sarlat and Toulouse hotels) and everyone was compliant about wearing a mask at the food area.

And yes, this year and last I have done 3 trips to Yellowstone. No housekeeping service at in-park hotels or in gateway cities no matter how long you stayed.

Glad you are cleared to come home! I saw on the CDC site that they recommend Covid testing on days 3 to 5 on return so I did a self administered (non-proctered) Binax Now yesterday and have one more test kit for tomorrow. Negative on all so I'm sure you all will be as well. **editing to put in accurate information! I just looked at the CDC site and it says they recommend testing on days 3-5 NOT days 3 and 5 which is what I originally posted. Here is the link.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/international-travel-during-covid19.html#anchor_1634925927097

And totally agree regarding social distancing. Just. Not. Possible. in crowded cities, and busy venues.

Posted by
6617 posts

It sounds like a lot of the inconsistency that is being reported by many folks, is a matter of front-line workers in hotels, restaurants, gatekeepers, transport, etc., being just as reluctant to be the rule enforcers as people are here in the US. It sounds like there is as much contrariness and confrontation avoidance there as here.

Posted by
9675 posts

"It sounds like there is as much contrariness and confrontation avoidance there as here."

I would not really say that for France. Masking was generally seemed to be a non-issue in Paris and SW France - people comply and are able to get on with their lives. I'd said about 60% for scanning of the Pass Sanitaire in restaurants in Paris. I'm not sure why as several times we noted others being scanned when we were not . Not sure if it was because we were older, they knew we were tourists and had to have full vaccinations to get into France or what. If anything I'd say indifference but not particularly active resistance that I could detect. It was closer to 100% in the SW France area for scanning in restaurants. It was 100% for museums everywhere.

Of course, my frame of reference is Idaho where many of the residents have been actively contrary, confrontational and in Covid Denial since the start even though hospitals statewide are still in Crisis Standards of Care and have been since Sept 16 (before I left for France).

https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/crisis-standards-care

Posted by
7573 posts

Laurel, you have written such an interesting and informative piece. Love the insight, and this was a lot of fun to read. Really interesting to read since you went to so many different countries.

As for

It sounds like there is as much contrariness and confrontation avoidance there as here.

Yeah, I don't believe that's true at all. There is an exponentially higher degree of compliance with common-sense measures in, for example, France as compared to my home state. When you consider that back home you are practically shamed for wearing a mask, where here it is pretty much de rigueur in inside and transport settings, there's no real comparison.

Posted by
10052 posts

Kim, We felt so much safer in France and Italy — and Switzerland for the most part — than we do in the UK. And I expect we’ll continue to be appalled in the US when we get home. In Italy and France there seems to be a “for the good of the many” attitude. Masking is such a small thing to ask.

Posted by
11212 posts

Hotels are now required to check for health passes to get into the breakfast room in France.

Every restaurant I've gone into has checked. Not all hotel breakfast rooms.

Posted by
12875 posts

Bravo for the mask compliant Parisians. Thanks for this updated information.

Pre-Corona the ICE and IC German trains always offered food or at least snacks and drinks. The German regional trains did not.

Posted by
84 posts

I am planning my early spring trip to France, and was comforted to read that they have not gone down the non-compliance rabbit hole that many in the US have. I recently took a trip to San Diego, and several under-nose-maskers on the flight, but the worst was the United flight attendant on the return flight who greeted us boarding...with her mask clearly UNDER her nose. She later pulled it on to her nose, but not much.

Posted by
8386 posts

With the fully vaccinated rate in France at 86.6%, I don’t notice anymore if there’s a little mask slip here or there sitting across from me on the tram. You should feel very comfortable visiting in France.
Rather than inconsistencies, perhaps the word could be differences.

To me an inconsistency is a country requiring fully vaccinated (and boosted) citizens returning from a mask-compliant country with a fraction of the case load to take a test to return.

Posted by
10052 posts

Great points, Bets. My use of the word "inconsistencies " is relative to the differences between countries and even within them. We felt quite safe in France and Italy... not so much the UK.

Posted by
847 posts

I haven't been to Europe since the pandemic began but I just returned from a month long/14 state road trip in the US and from this thread (and others) it certainly seems like Europe is much more complainant with masking and other rules than the US is. National Parks were requiring masking indoors but everywhere else it was very hit or miss (mostly miss). Most hotels had signs saying you needed to wear a mask but half of time it was not enforced. Same thing with stores. No hotel had housekeeping services. Half the hotels had suspended breakfast and just had 'grab and go' (granola bar and bruised fruit) and the other half had their regular American hotel breakfasts and half the people were unmasked. I was worried about flying (and airports) and about what the rules/regs might be (having to quarantine, etc.) so made the decision to do a domestic road trip but next year I am so going back to Europe.

Posted by
5842 posts

A couple of comments...

I think it is important to note that many differences are due to how things are handled in different countries. While we in the US tend to think of the EU as a cohesive entity, those that live in EU member countries do not see it that way at all. Each is it's own sovereign state, and makes laws and regulations accordingly; so even though they might approve a common approach, each approach is different, also in the examples given, Switzerland is not EU, so they go their own way even more. I mean look at the mish-mash of State regulations we have in the US., since most measures fall to State Governments, then mixed in with requirements where the Federal Government does have jurisdiction (Air Travel, Govt. Buildings, Nat. Parks, etc.), not to mention where private proprietors can enforce (or not) their own requirements.

Another thing many get hung up on is "no one ever checked!" The requirements make it clear that you are responsible for meeting all requirements, they may or may not check. In many cases they delegated checking to the Airlines, in other cases they are not going to put up gates at the border to check every individual. People seem to key in on "If they do not check, then it is not really required"...just like speeding and Drunk Driving is OK if you don't get caught. I will add, if you did come down Ill, and they found you circumvented the requirements, you would be in serious trouble.

Some specific comments:

Switzerland demanded we complete a pre-arrival questionnaire online that dispensed an approval code…but no one asked to see it. Ever. Ditto Italy
That is correct, you submitted it electronically, it is on record, airlines may ask for it, but no real need to check it, and the information is outdated a day or two after arrival.

Swiss trains do not require the Green Pass…but taking a EuroCity train from Switzerland to Italy did require it. An official came through the train before the border to check that we had the credentials.

What is the inconsistency? Italy requires a green pass for all trains that have seat reservations, this is an International Train, Italy enforces its requirements.

Posted by
369 posts

Hi Laurel, Thanks for posting about your experiences. I hope other travelers will continue to do the same, as some of us hope to plan for trips in 2022.

Posted by
165 posts

First 2 1/2 weeks of this month we were in France, Germany and ended in Prague. Surgical masks worn throughout properly on trains, cabs, inside businesses, churches, museums etc…90 plus% of the time. Some places had someone standing inside to address you to put mask on and correctly if you didn’t. I don’t see it changing there soon. They just seemed compliant and accepting. I tell people how great it felt in Europe! It’s hard to come home where I find 1 in 15 wear masks indoors. People here are just so over it.

Posted by
12875 posts

"They just seemed so compliant and accepting." Bravo ! Fantastic. It makes you wonder why there is a difference here with the non-maskers.

I don't need a mandate to tell me to put and keep a mask on. I have it on here regardless. of my 2 shots and any mandate.