The recent news of countries ending their lockdown and lifting travel restrictions is undoubtedly bringing a smile to our face. Portugal has announced that it will be welcoming international tourism in June, Greece has set a June 15 date for opening its borders to overseas visitors, and even Spain and Italy — two of Europe’s hardest-hit countries — plan to kickstart their tourism season next month. Portugal has just become the first country in Europe to announce that US travelers will be welcome once the country opens to international tourism in June.
And after three months of restricted movement, US citizens are eager to get traveling, Hearing about the opening of some European countries is like seeing an oasis in the desert, but that oasis might, unfortunately, be a mirage. For countries that have announced the resumption of June or July tourism seasons, the announcements have been frustratingly vague.
Portugal will soon welcome international tourists without imposing a mandatory two-week quarantine, and it’s the only country so far to formally give the green light to US citizens. But for many countries, it’s still unclear if the “international” designation applies to US citizens or just visitors within the Schengen visa zone. Similarly, Spain’s prime minister said that starting in July, “Spain will reopen for foreign tourism in conditions of safety. Foreign tourists can also start planning their holidays in our country.” It’s certainly an encouraging message, but as long as the term “foreign” remains undefined, US citizens shouldn’t celebrate just yet.
In Greece, one of the countries that successfully contain the virus, international tourists will be welcomed back as soon as June 15. However, prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ announcement was among the most transparent, revealing that only visitors from countries with acceptably low rates of infection would be permitted to enter. It doesn’t take too much guesswork to realize that, given these terms, the US probably doesn’t qualify.
Iceland, another country that succeeded in containing and eliminating the virus within its borders, plans to welcome overseas tourists from June 15. The country is offering free COVID-19 testing for all incoming visitors, and you will only be required to quarantine if you test positive. But like other European countries, Iceland has not been specific about which countries are actually included (or excluded) in its 2020 tourism season.
Even the countries looking to fully open their borders wouldn’t be able to do so for another few weeks as flights into the European Union are still banned until June 15.
Since this is an unprecedented situation, governments can be forgiven for their lack of transparency right now. Every country in the world must strike a delicate balance between public health and economic survival, and the decisions are neither easy nor obvious. Right now, all US citizens can do is remain patient, and trust the gradual reopening process.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 26, 2020, and was updated on May 28, 2020, to reflect the official update from Portugal that travelers from the United States will be allowed entry.