December 3, 2023

The summer holiday season is in full swing across Europe. But the latest wave of COVID is also here.

Holidaymakers arriving in or travelling around Europe are being warned of the increasing likelihood of contracting the virus, particularly when visiting busy tourist hotspots.

But with restrictions removed in most countries, it’s difficult to know what you are meant to do if you catch COVID in your home country, let alone abroad.

So here’s everything you need to know if you catch COVID while on holiday, including where you can buy COVID tests and how long you need to self-isolate for.

Entry rules and remaining travel restrictions for every country in Europe are available here.

France: COVID testing, masks and self-isolation rules

There are still COVID restrictions in place for arriving in France. Travellers who are unvaccinated must show a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure or an antigen test taken within 48 hours, while vaccinated passengers now only need to complete an EU Passenger Locator Form (PLF).

Fully vaccinated refers to visitors who have had two jabs and a booster or two jabs with the second within the past nine months.

Children aged 11 and under are exempt from France’s COVID travel restrictions.

The French health ministry recently scrapped the obligation to wear face masks. But following the recent COVID surge, it is now recommended to wear a mask on public transport and in crowded places.

The COVID health pass, or pass sanitaire, is no longer required apart from in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

If you test positive for coronavirus in France, self-isolation rules differ depending on your vaccination status and if you have had COVID before.

If you’re fully vaccinated or if you’ve had COVID-19 in the last four months, you need to self-isolate for seven days from the first day of symptoms, or seven days from the date of the positive test result. If you get a negative PCR or antigen test result (supervised, not self-administered) on day five and you have not displayed any symptoms in the previous 48 hours, you can end your quarantine.

These isolation rules also apply to children under the age of 12, regardless of their vaccination status.

If you are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated or have not contracted COVID in the past four months, you must self-isolate for 10 days. This can be reduced to seven by receiving a negative PCR or antigen test result. You must also show no symptoms for 48 hours.

In France, COVID tests are available in most pharmacies and in testing centres.

Germany: Masks, COVID testing and self-isolation rules

There are currently no entry restrictions for those wishing to visit Germany, except for visitors travelling from China. Travellers do not need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

Although there are few coronavirus regulations in place in Germany, authorities have warned that rising cases may mean mask wearing will become mandatory in more situations again in the coming months.

FFP2 face masks are currently obligatory on public transport, in hospitals and in medical centres.

If you develop COVID symptoms while travelling in Germany you should contact a doctor or call the hotline on 116 117.

If you get a positive result from a self-test, you should follow up with a certified rapid antigen test or PCR test. If you test positive, you must self-isolate for at least five days. After this, you may leave quarantine as soon as you test negative for the virus.

At-home tests can be purchased from supermarkets and pharmacies and certified tests are available at testing centres.

Greece: Self-isolation rules, mask wearing and where to buy tests

Greece recently scrapped all COVID restrictions for entering the country.

Masks are not required out and about or in restaurants anymore, but are still mandatory in healthcare settings and on urban public transport.

Travellers used to have to self-isolate for 5 days if they catch COVID-19 in Greece, but this is no longer the case since the government announced that there are no rooms left in quarantine hotels

Under the new protocol, travellers in Greece will be able to choose if they want to remain in self-isolation for the remaining time they are in the country.

Greek pharmacies give out free COVID tests – but you are only entitled to one free kit per week (four per month).

Italy: Self-isolation rules, where to buy tests and where you have to wear a mask

Some areas of Italy, including Venice and the surrounding Veneto region and Rome and the surrounding Lazio region, are still classed as high risk by the country’s health ministry.

Even so, there are no restrictions on entering the country. Visitors from all countries are allowed to enter Italy without having to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

However, travellers in Italy should remember that FFP2 face masks are still mandatory on public transport, such as planes, trains and buses. They are also obligatory in hospitals and care homes.

Italy has some of the strictest quarantine rules in Europe.

If you have symptoms or think you may have contracted COVID, the Italian health ministry advises visitors to self-isolate where you are staying and contact a doctor, Italy’s nationwide COVID hotline (1500), or a regional helpline.

They will assist travellers in arranging an emergency test. Visitors should not go to a pharmacy or medical centre.

Those without symptoms can take tests in Italy’s airports, pharmacies, labs and testing centres.

If you test positive, you must self-isolate for a minimum of seven days if fully vaccinated and boosted, or if you recovered from COVID in the last 120 days.

If not, the isolation period is extended to 10 days. In both cases, you must have no symptoms (apart from loss of taste or smell) for three days before being able to leave self-isolation.

You are also required to test negative for COVID with a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test on the final day of isolation to be released. If you continue to test positive, you can leave quarantine after 21 days.

Portugal: Testing, self-isolation and mask rules

Travellers arriving in Portugal from abroad are no longer required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter the country

Visitors should remember that face masks are still mandatory on public transport, including in taxis, and in hospitals and pharmacies. Children aged 9 and under are exempt.

On the archipelago of Madeira, masks are obligatory for everyone 6 years or older on public transport, though are no longer required in airports or ferry terminals. They are also strongly recommended in enclosed areas or where social distancing is not possible.

If you test positive while in Portugal you must self-isolate. On mainland Portugal, isolation is obligatory for at least seven days at the traveller’s own expense.

In Madeira, Porto Santo or the Azores, you must self-isolate at your own expense for at least 5 days.

You can buy COVID tests in supermarkets in Portugal.

If you require medical advice while in isolation, you can contact the healthcare helplines or 112 in an emergency.

Spain: Self-isolation, testing and rules on masks

There are no restrictions on entering Spain from EU countries. Travellers are not required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

Visitors arriving in Spain from outside the EU or Schengen zone must present proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test result.

Spain’s coronavirus regulations are relatively relaxed though it is still compulsory to wear a mask on public transport. 

If you develop symptms or test positive for Covid, you are recommended to avoid crowded spaces and large events for 10 days, reduce social interaction and wear a face mask.

There is no requirement to self-isolate but you should inform those that you come into contact with that you have Covid.

Those with severe COVID symptoms or who are categorised as high risk (those aged 60 or older, pregnant or immunosuppressed) must self-isolate for seven days.

In Spain, rapid lateral flow tests – known as ‘pruebas de antígenos’ – are available in pharmacies for free.

UK: Testing, self-isolation and mask rules

Travellers arriving in the UK are not required to take a coronavirus test or show proof of vaccination.

The UK has scrapped nearly all COVID restrictions. Visitors who have symptoms or contract COVID are not required to self-isolate. However, health authorities recommend you avoid contact with other people for five days. Those aged 18 and under should stay at home for three days.

COVID tests are no longer free in the UK apart from for care home residents or NHS staff. However, they can be purchased from pharmacies.


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