Sarah has traveled to Europe multiple times in the past 4 years and has been to Rome, Paris, London, Lisbon, and Madrid.
Traveling to Europe was already hard enough before the pandemic because to enter Europe, you had to go through immigration passport control. In passport control, the officers often ask quite a few questions before they put a stamp on your passport and allow you to enter the country. However, with the pandemic, entering Europe has gotten even more difficult. In this post, I will tell you about my experience visiting Europe during the Covid pandemic.
Rules Constantly Change
In November 2021, my husband and I were supposed to travel to Europe for 2 weeks but just 3 days before our travel, the rules changed. We weren't aware that we needed a negative Covid test to enter Portugal and the airline TapAir Portugal also didn't mention this very important piece of information. Even when we did the online check-in 24 hours before our flight, TapAir Portugal didn't mention anything about needing a negative Covid test. Therefore, we only found out when we were about to board the plane that we needed a negative Covid test. Since we didn't have our negative Covid test, the airline employees didn't allow us to board unless we went to get it before. We ended up running through Miami airport to the testing center which was outside of security and on top of that, we had to pay $80 each for our tests. That is very expensive! Then, we ran back to security and ran to our boarding gate. The plane was still there and we both tested negative but the airline still didn't let us board. The airline employees told us it was too late to board and there was nothing else they could do for us. Unfortunately, on that trip, we never made it to Europe because last-minute flights were extremely expensive. Instead, we spent hours on hold with TapAir Portugal to try to get a refund for our airline tickets since the airline never told us we needed a negative Covid test. In the end, TapAir Portugal gave us back about $90 each for our airline tickets but that isn't even enough to buy another ticket. Our airline tickets cost us about $450 each round trip.
From this trip, we learned that you should always check each country's rules and regulations because they change constantly and without warning. For example, Portugal changed their rules in November to needing a negative Covid test to enter but France didn't need a negative Covid test. Therefore, not every country has the same rules so it can be very confusing!
We tried our trip to Europe again earlier this month. This time we checked all the countries we were visiting for their most up-to-date rules about Covid. We were flying to Spain, Portugal, and France so we checked all three countries' websites. During our trip, we thought we were prepared but when flying from France back to Portugal we got another surprise. The day before when we were leaving Portugal, Portugal's website said that the negative Covid test was valid for 72 hours. That's three days so we thought we didn't need to take a Covid test while in France since we were only staying in France for 36 hours. We had already gotten a Covid test while in Portugal so we thought we didn't need to take another Covid test in France.
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We were definitely wrong. The rules changed in Portugal while we were in France, now instead of 72 hours, the negative Covid test was only valid for 48 hours. We also only ended up learning this when we were getting ready to board our flight back to Portugal. We really thought that we weren't going to be able to fly back to Portugal that night. Thankfully, the airline employees on this airline were more friendly and still let us fly even though our Covid test was done 60 hours ago by this time.
When leaving Europe almost mid-February, we learned that the rules will change again in Europe very soon so when we go there in September this year, we really don't know what to expect.
Each Country Has Its Own Online Forms To Fill Out
We also learned during this trip that country hopping isn't as easy as it was before. It's not as simple as just getting on a plane and going there anymore. Each country has a special online form that must be filled out prior to boarding. If you forget to fill out this form, the airline employees won't let you check in if you need to do the check-in at the airline desk or put bags underneath the plane. You can find this online form if you google search things like travel to Portugal online form or travel to Spain online form etc. It can be pretty difficult to fill out these forms prior to checking in though because they ask for a lot of information about you including airline name, seat number etc.
After filling out these forms, you are sent an email with a barcode. When entering that specific country you filled out the form for, they usually will scan the barcode before they allow you to enter. Usually, you can't board the plane unless you have this form filled out and the barcode.
On this trip, we country hopped from Spain to Portugal to France, back to Portugal then Spain before finally returning to the United States. Therefore, we had to fill out 5 of these forms, one for each time we were entering the country again. Since rules and regulations keep changing, I'm not sure if this will still be required in the near future but my advice is to keep checking if you are traveling to Europe and to fill them out anyways if you're not sure.
© 2022 Sarah Wong