Traveling from US to Europe during Coronavirus: The Latest Guidelines and Restrictions

Cate Misczuk

Utrecht, Netherlands

For frequent travelers, Coronavirus is wreaking some serious havoc. With CDC-driven travel advisories, confusion around travel insurance coverage during a pandemic and drama around airline change fees, this has been one crazy week. But, some of the biggest news yet came when President Trump announced a 30-day travel ban starting Friday, March 13th from select European countries into the United States.

Addressing the world from the Oval Office, Trump’s late-night remarks on Wednesday largely made it seem like all travel and trade from Europe would be halted. However, this isn’t the case and officials have since clarified some of the rules.

Still, travelers all over the globe are now scrambling to answer the big questions around American and European travel. How long is the ban? Who is affected? What should you do if you’re stuck overseas?

Here’s everything you need to know:

Why is there a European travel ban from the U.S.?

While we don’t know of any specific statistics or developments that may have caused President Trump to take such action, just hours before the ban, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it now considers COVID-19 — aka Coronavirus — a global pandemic.

Additionally, this week the US State Department raised the worldwide travel advisory to a Level 3 — which advises US citizens to reconsider travel abroad altogether. “Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing Covid-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions,” the statement read. 

How long will the European travel ban last?

The ban begins on Friday, March 13 and will last for 30 days, until April 11. However, it is unclear if there will be any extensions on the ban at this time.

Who needs to worry about this ban?

The ban only applies to foreign nationals.

It does not prohibit U.S. citizens and permanent residents and (for the most part) their immediate families from returning home after visiting European countries. In fact, the ban doesn’t even bar Americans from visiting the select European countries altogether.

However, all Americans returning from trips to Europe will need to be screened at an approved airport when they land and will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Coronavirus in Milan, Italy. istockphoto.com/Denis Sokol

What are the approved US airports?

The list of approved U.S. airports is just 11, narrowed down to Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Dulles, Los Angeles, Newark, Kennedy, San Francisco, Seattle and Honolulu. If your flight itinerary did not originally go through one of these airports, your flight may be diverted or canceled. Get in touch with your airline to find out more.

So what countries are part of the European travel ban?

Surprisingly, the European travel ban does not actually apply to all European countries, so it is important to take note. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the current European travel ban prohibits travel from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. 

United Kingdom and Ireland are exempt from the ban.

What if my flight is connecting through the United States?

If you are traveling from Europe and connecting through a U.S city in the next 30 days, your itinerary may be changed. If you have not already heard from your airline, get in touch with them to ask about an updated itinerary or any flight cancelations or changes. 

How are the airlines reacting to this news?

Currently, many airlines are offering ‘no change fees’ to travelers who have booked flights to both the United States and Europe. This allows travelers to change the date of their flight to a later one at no extra cost. If you have an upcoming trip planned to the United States or Europe, check your airline’s website for more details.

Coronavirus in Milan, Italy. istockphoto.com/Alecamera90

I’m American and I have a trip planned to Europe in the next 30 days. What should I do?

Right now, that is entirely up to you and how you feel about the advice of the WHO and State Department. As of now, many airlines are still holding onto certain flights and routes.

However, the situation is fluid and at some point, airlines may stop flying to certain destinations. So, it is important to keep all of this in mind. If you do choose to travel to Europe during the 30-day ban, you also need to consider that you will be asked to self quarantine for 14-days upon return.

If you have a trip planned to Europe but want to cancel, the first thing you should do is get in contact with your airline to ask about changing your flight to a later date or receiving a travel voucher. Then, start re-arranging everything else for your trip, like accommodation. 

I’m European and have a trip planned to the US in the next 30 days. What should I do?

If you are traveling from one of the countries mentioned above, unfortunately, you will not be able to take your trip. Not only will you not be allowed into the country, but many flights have been canceled altogether.

During these hard times, airlines are generally being accommodating to travelers. Your airline should be able to help you either switch your ticket dates or supply you with a voucher to use at a later date. However, we can’t speak for all airlines, and it is important you get in touch with your airline as soon as possible about your travel plans. 

Is this the only U.S. travel ban right now?

This new European travel ban is on top of an already existing ban that prohibits travelers coming through China and Iran.