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What It Is Like To Travel In Europe Now

What It Is Like To Travel In Europe Now


The Traveling Professor recently returned from a 47-day tour to Europe.  We did 4 separate tours with different groups on each tour.  As usual, we traveled with small groups from 9 to 17 travelers.  Some of our travelers were "solo" travelers and some were accompanied travelers.  Our tours ranged from 5 to 12 days.  All of our tours, with the exception of the Norway by Scenic Rail and Ferry tour required us to do at least some traveling in a van. 

Our travelers came from the United States and Canada.   About 60% of the travelers on our tours had traveled with us previously.  

Here are the tours we ran:

This is what we found on our tour:

COVID Restrictions on Departure to Europe:   There are absolutely positively no restrictions in Europe to the destinations we traveled to for fully vaccinated travelers.  All of our travelers were able to board flights to Europe and only some of them needed to show their CDC vaccination card.  No proof of a recent pre-departure negative COVID test was required of any of our travelers.  Depending upon the airline some travelers did need to wear a mask during the flight, some did not need to wear a mask on the flight over to Europe.

COVID Restrictions in Europe:  While touring, proof of vaccination was not asked for under any circumstance.  Mask-wearing was optional. Our observation was that about 10%-15% of all people in Europe wore masks.  It is not required of travelers to take daily COVID tests. 

Going Cashless:  Forget about the need to convert currency.  Europe, especially Norway, is moving rapidly towards a cashless society.  We even charged small things, like bottles of water, to our credit card.  Some places refuse to even take cash.  In 47 days on the road, I don't think we spent more than the equivalent of $100 cash in euros, pounds or kroners on the whole trip.  Everything else was on the credit card. 

Crowds in Europe:   Even though we were in Europe during peak travel times, we found crowds to be about two-thirds of what they normally are.  I cannot recall any instance where we needed to queue up for entrance into any of the attractions we went to.  It was a pleasure to visit without the crowds that would normally be seen this time of year.  In a recent news article, it was said that there are presently about 15%-20% less North Americans in Europe now than in comparable pre-COVID years.

Touring:  Many of the more crowded venues (Louvre in Paris, Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, Guinness Storehouse in Ireland, Book of Kells in Ireland, Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland) are now moving towards timed entry.  In other words, travelers must reserve a time to visit in advance.  This has both positive and negative implications.  On the positive side, crowd control is better.  On the negative side, the spontaneity of just popping into some of the more crowded attractions is gone.  Less crowded attractions can be visited anytime. 

Little Annoying Things:  In Ireland and Scotland, the service industry is short-handed with employees.  This is more of a problem in the UK.   So, what did this mean?  Waits for taxis were sometimes longer than normal in Dublin.  Our room in Edinburgh was cleaned every third day instead of daily, restaurants (especially in Edinburgh) required reservations, restaurants would not take large groups, some employees (especially in restaurants and hotels) did not have a lot of experience on their jobs after being out of work for so long. In Dublin and Edinburgh, some public restrooms were closed.  Some transportation was cut back, modified, or delayed.   For instance, we were scheduled for a direct train from Edinburgh to Inverness on our "Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands by Scenic Rail" tour but it was cancelled.  We were automatically re-routed but arrived in Inverness 1:20 later than scheduled.   None of the activities on our trip were cancelled.   In France and Norway, we saw little changes from how things were pre-COVID.  

COVID Testing to Return Back to North America:  We had a few travel guests who returned from Europe to Canada.  Absolutely no pre-departure COVID testing was required and they flew home just as they would in pre-COVID days.  Americans are still required to provide a negative COVID test to return to the United States.  However, it is widely anticipated that this rule will be suspended or eliminated in the next 30-60 days.  We did have 2 travelers test positive for COVID (one on the France trip and one on the Ireland trip).  They did need to quarantine until they tested negative.  However, it should be noted that we recommend all travelers who go to Europe purchase a travel insurance policty with a "COVID Endorsement" providing protection from being quarantined due to a positive COVID test. 

General Comments:  With the exception of COVID testing to return to the United States (which will most likely be eliminated in the coming months), most travelers would probably be completely unaware that Europe was effectively closed down for over two years due to COVID.  The major differences were the lack of big crowds and some appointments needed to enter more crowded venues.   All little problems were easily handled and tours went off without a hitch.  It is a great time to visit Europe now.  And although this has nothing to do with COVID and travel, we experienced some of the best weather we have ever seen on our 47 days in Europe.



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