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What It Is Like to Travel to Europe from the US During Covid-19

Written by Charlie

Here is a first-hand look at what it is like to travel to Europe from the US during the coronavirus situation. Unfortunately, Americans may not be able to do so for a while.

Currently, Americans are not allowed to enter most countries in Europe and may not be able to after it reopens the borders on July 1. If you have a European passport, a European country resident permit, or certain other relationships with EU citizens, you can enter the EU.

What Is It Like to Travel to Europe from the US During Covid-19

Last week, I traveled from the US back to Europe (check out this post to see what it is like going FROM Europe to the US). I wasn’t sure what to expect from this journey and what Europe would require upon reentering Europe. Here is what my experience was like during the current Covid-19 travel concerns.

Checking in for My Flight to Europe

I was checking in at a small regional airport so was a little curious to see if they would hesitate to check me in with my US passport, given that the European borders were still closed to such travelers. However, I have a resident permit so I would be allowed to travel – just was unsure if they would be willing to accept that.

It turned out that it was not a big deal (though they did ask me if this was a resident permit 🙂) but I also had to have my documents checked again in Chicago with SWISS before being able to board.

Since I was starting with United, they questioned me with their health questionnaire before giving me my boarding passes (you would normally just see these on your computer but since I was flying to Europe, I could not receive my boarding passes ahead of time).

Boarding the Flight to Europe

My SWISS business class seat to Europe

I was flying with SWISS from Chicago to Zurich. The flight was absolutely packed! One of the flight attendants told me that they only run this flight twice a week for now and Switzerland is using it to bring many citizens from around the US back to Switzerland.

No Temperature Checks and No Forms

Here, as in my origination airport, there were no temperature checks and nothing out of the ordinary since before the coronavirus pandemic. The only difference (other than face masks on everyone) was the checking of documents as US passport holders were not allowed to enter Europe except for certain situations.

Even with that, I still saw several Americans traveling on US passports, one of which had been traveling quite a bit and just gotten back from Korea.

Face Mask Enforcement…

The gate agent made the announcement several times that those not wearing face mask would not be allowed to board the plane. I was wearing a face mask but I was a little surprised at this. Even though US airlines have said they are mandatory, my e-mail from SWISS only said that they are “recommended” and not mandatory.

On the plane, I asked about it and was told that this was just a Chicago O’Hare thing – face mask use was not enforced onboard SWISS flights.

Arriving in Switzerland

The empty Zurich airport

We had to fill out a health declaration form before arrival in Switzerland. Switzerland is not a part of the European Union but is in the Schengen Zone so it would be everyone’s entry into Europe. The health form was a simple questionnaire about symptoms related to the coronavirus and where we had come from and where we were going.

The entry point into Europe through the border controls was almost empty since we were the only plane that had arrived around that time. I was one of the first off the plane so was the first to go through passport control.

There were no health questions asked, just a quick scan of my resident permit and I was on my way. There is currently no quarantine requirement for people entering Switzerland so I would imagine that the health declaration form I had filled on the plane was all the information that the Swiss government was using.

The Airport in Switzerland

I will have another post of this but the Zurich airport was similar to Frankfurt – empty. None of the lounges from Swiss were open (they were using a third party lounge) and most of the shops were closed. A Burger King was open but that was largely the only thing open.

Continuing to My Final European Destination

Each country in Europe has their own rules for incoming travelers. As I was traveling to Greece, specifically Thessaloniki, there were health protocols they had in place that went beyond a health declaration form (which I also had to fill out).

You can read more about that here but it included a mandatory Covid-19 test on arrival and a 24 hour self quarantine.

Bottom Line

I realize that this post does not show anything out of the extreme for traveling from the US to Europe but I get a lot of questions so wanted to share my experience.

As you can see, if you are allowed to enter Europe, there will only be restrictions placed on you by your final country of destination. This will vary based on the country you are entering from full quarantine to just some health questions.

I imagine most countries will loosen up even more for those that are allowed to enter post-July 1. But, if you find yourself traveling to Europe from the US, now you know some of the things to expect.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Hey thanks for all these informative posts! One answer I can not find and even the consulate can’t give me a straight answer. I am a US Citizen and need to get to Prague for health reasons. My itinerary is JFK to FRA then a separate flight of FRA to PRG. Will passport control allow me to leave the international area to transit to Prague? I can show the doctors note from Prague and also a negative COVID-19 test. Thanks!

    • Hey, Mike – thanks! I understand about the consulate not giving a straight answer, I couldn’t get one out of them with my case that was rather cut-and-dried (it was just a copy-paste from them).
      So the FRA-PRG is a separate itinerary? I would think that passport control would let you continue on if everything is in order according to what Germany requires. It could help if you have a German consulate near you and could get something from them about the need to go (unless you were referring to the German consulate?).
      The bigger problem may be boarding your flight in JFK. Airlines are not allowing people to board if they are not allowed to enter Europe (they get huge fines if they allow it and the person is turned away). If your ticket with them terminates in Germany, a letter from a doctor in Prague may not help.
      I am sorry I cannot be more help. If you are in NYC, you may want to head to JFK and ask the airline agents if you will be ok. At least you will know if that step will be ok. When is the trip?