We have paused long enough. Now you are thinking it is time to play, right?
Well, hold your horses, folks. The light has not turned green just yet for some places in our world. As a travel agent at Monroe Travel Service, I certainly understand the pressure to gun it and go -especially after last week’s big news that the European Union is welcoming fully vaccinated tourists from outside their 27 nation block.
I truly am excited there is an eagerness to “go,” but, from our scouting reports, it is extremely important to not let enthusiasm cloud our judgement. Yes, countries are finally opening up, but we must be realistic in our expectations. Travelers looking for an early summer escape need to be aware the yellow caution light is still blinking in many places in Europe.
For instance, we all cheered when, on May 10th, the Irish government announced the easing of covid restrictions by saying, “Our recovery is almost to the point where the ordinary and extraordinary moments in our lives can be enjoyed again if we continue to mind each other, if we continue to make the right choices, the end of this is within our grasp.” Now, as a travel agent, I was delighted by the idea of being able to recommend this little country to our travelers once again, but, then, I learned the Irish were cheering not for the return of the tourists, but because on June 8th, the government was now allowing them to travel more than 12 miles from their home.
Do you see what I mean? The world has not been on the same page as us in regards to covid. For over a year and a half, the Irish have been confined to a “stay at home” policy, but, starting June 8th, they can “stay local” –or travel within a 12 mile radius of their homes. How fortunate we were to never have such strict covid restrictions, and I can only imagine how “free” the Irish must feel right now.
The good news is if Ireland’s covid 19 cases remain low, all travel restrictions will be lifted on June 29. This date is important because it is when hotels, B&B’s , restaurants, pubs, churches, and museums can open again. Retail shops are able to open on June 2, but shopping centers must wait until June 15. The government hopes that by July 20, everything will be fine and the country will have adopted a Covid-19 certificate, enabling their citizens to travel within the European Union as well as accept U.S. vaccinated travelers into their country as well (FYI: vaccinated U.S. citizens can currently travel to Northern Ireland). If you are hoping to go to Ireland this summer, we need to plan your trip to be after July 20th.
On the other hand, when Spain, one of the worst European nations hit by the virus, celebrated the lifting of their emergency covid order on May 10, travelers around the world joined in since Spain is the 2nd most visited European nation in the world. On June 7, their welcome mat is out for those travelers in the European Union and the U.S. who have been vaccinated.
Yet, it is important to remember pre-flight covid testing and airport authorization approval rules are in effect, and mask wearing is required. Curfews exist, and , because there is no government state of emergency mandate in effect any longer, each region and island is responsible for setting their own rules. This could be frustrating for travelers moving around the country as each region may limit traveler’s freedoms differently. You need to know before you go–or else call a travel agent and let us help you through these challenging travel times.
In early May, France eased up on their very strict covid restrictions, and just like in Ireland and Spain, their citizens were finally able to to travel further than a few miles from home– without carrying a government form justifying their travel. Secondary school students have returned to classes, and, since May 19, bars, museums, cinemas and non-essential shops have re-opened but with limited numbers and strict distancing guidelines. The 9 p.m. curfew has not changed and is expected to stay in effect until the end of June.
Much to the chagrin to some of its citizens, the German government has created a unique lockdown law, enabling them to impose strict measures in a city or an area with a rate of 100 new infections per 100,000 citizens for three consecutive days. This very controversial new rule could prove problematic to some unlucky travelers caught in such a situation. The only good news I can offer to those wanting to go now is that this law expires on June 30.
Italy looks good for June travel! The majority of the country is in what the government calls the “yellow zone” (regions are designated as red, orange, yellow, and white zones depending on the pandemic), but, if you are vaccinated and travel on a specific flight, you can enjoy this amazing destination now. A curfew does remain in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m, but traveling within the yellow zone means bars and restaurants can only be enjoyed outdoors. Museums and cultural institutions are open with capacity limits so advance reservations are required in most places. Masks are required indoors and outside.
Here’s a quick look at what’s going on in a few other countries:
*Denmark has lifted many restrictions and shops and eating places have reopened. To enter a bar, restaurant, museum, hair salon or attend a football match, you must show proof of vaccination.
*Greece has been open to vaccinated travelers and to those who can provide a negative cornavirus test since May 15. Beaches, bars and restaurants may have restricted numbers, but they are open and the curfews have been pushed back so tourists can enjoy more of what this country has to offer.
*Poland, like the Czech Republic, no longer requires face masks to be worn outdoors, if social distancing of 5 feet is maintained, but masks are compulsory in indoor public spaces and museums. Businesses — including restaurants — are opening this week but with limits on numbers.
*Belgium allows outdoor service at cafes and restaurants, and, if they can keep the number of patients in intensive care under 500, indoor dining and drinking can be open as soon as June 9.
*Portugal has opened its land border with Spain and ended their state of emergency, so students are back in school, museums, salons and restaurants have reopened.
*The Netherland’s have had to postpone their May 18th easing of restriction date, but currently outdoor restaurants with limited numbers and advance reservations can be open.
When the Irish government announced their “day of freedom” (from covid restrictions) on May 10th, I became very aware of how differently the countries I sell as a travel agent have handled the pandemic from us. While covid restrictions may have been eased in some places, it is important to understand, anticipate, and respect their situations.
Traveling today requires us to be vaccinated and to agree to possible covid testing, perhaps several times along the way. Masking up is a requirement also. Tickets and advance reservations to enjoy the most popular sites is probably a given; audio guides will probably not be available to rent. Finding outdoor dining, bars, and pub venues could be problematic. Curfews should be expected.
So here is my travel agent 101 advice to travelers in the “go” mode right now : first of all, don’t put travel off (we’ve wasted enough time already), but, because the rules and the restrictions are changing quickly and on a regular basis, just play it safe. Let me help you choose a river cruise or maybe an escorted tour program with the expertise to show you the Europe you have dreamed about seeing. Having someone to navigate the twists and turns along the way and being there in case you need help is an investment worth considering.
Summer is here, and our wonderful world is slowly opening up again. Think about where you want to be and please give me a call at Monroe Travel Service. Let’s make plans for when it’s your time to “go” and play in our world.
Dianne Newcomer is a travel agent at Monroe Travel Service. For your next vacation, please call 318 323 3465 or email [email protected] Our service is free, but our advice is priceless. We would love to send you away!