US Travel Advisories: Americans asked to "avoid travel" to popular European destinations

Christmas in Tivoli Gardens, the entrance pavilion with Christmas decorations.
Denmark is among the European countries recording significant increases in COVID-19 infections © Getty Images

The US Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their travel advisories this week, moving more European destinations to the Level-4 alert, including Germany and Denmark, as infections rise at record rates across the continent.

Europe is being hit with a ferocious wave of the pandemic, forcing a number of nations to reimpose restrictions to help curb infection rates. Denmark and particularly Germany are among the latest countries to high case numbers in the past week, with the German government in talks to consider a national lockdown to deal with the crisis.

The advisories aim to inform US residents about risks associated with traveling overseas, so people can make better-informed decisions about travel and enjoy relatively safe trips. If you plan to travel soon, here's what you need to know about the latest travel guidelines.

Kids Skating at Nathan Phiilip Square
Canada is at level 3 ©Damion Rae Photography/500px

What is a travel advisory?

The ongoing risks associated with COVID-19, particularly as new variants emerge, present challenges and uncertainties for travel. To make the experience a little less confusing, the Department of State has aligned its security travel advisories with the CDC's science-based Travel Health Notices to warn travelers about dangers and COVID-19 threats overseas.

Level 4 travel advisory

Level 4 is the highest alert. Countries that register more than 500 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 28 days per 100,000 population are designated to the CDC's Level-4 list. Under CDC guidelines, people are asked to "avoid travel" to Level 4 destinations—but if they must travel, they should be fully vaccinated.

The Department of State takes this information into account, also looking at factors such as political instability, natural disasters and the threat of terrorism or violent crime. "[Level 4] is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks," the Department explains. In the context of COVID-19, Americans are urged to avoid travel to these places due to increased infection rates and COVID-19 variants.

What countries are at Level 4?

Germany

Case numbers have been rising in Germany among unvaccinated people and older citizens whose immunity have started to wane. Officials are restricting movement of unvaccinated people but according to Reuters, the government could reintroduce a national lockdown in the coming days. Some of the much-loved Christmas markets that pop up each winter have already been cancelled. Borders are open in Germany and Americans are permitted to travel there if they're vaccinated, as per Germany's entry rules.

Denmark

Denmark is now facing a third wave of the pandemic and has reintroduced its 'corona pass' that requires individuals to show proof of vaccination before entering many public spaces. Denmark has a relatively high vaccination rate and so far festive traditions such as the Tivoli Christmas market in Copenhagen are going ahead.

Other destinations at Level 4 include the Ireland, the UK, Cuba, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, Barbados, Belize, French Polynesia, Greece, Costa Rica and more.

 View of Whitehall crowed with Tourist and Commuters at Sunset
The UK remains a "high-risk" desintation ©Albert Pego/Shutterstock

Level 3 advisory

The CDC advises unvaccinated Americans to avoid nonessential travel to Level 3 destinations, where risks associated with COVID-19 remain high. Some popular destinations designated Level 3 include Italy, Cyprus, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Colombia, Egypt, Aruba, Sweden, Mexico, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Australia and—most recently—Israel, Thailand, Panama, Portugal, Spain, and Brazil.

Level 2 advisory

Level 2 places are considered "COVID-19 moderate" destinations by the CDC. When traveling to these places people are asked to "practice enhanced precautions". The CDC also urges unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 to avoid nonessential travel to Level 2 destinations. Some countries currently at Level 2 include New Zealand, Peru, South Korea, India, Zimbabwe, and Nepal.

Level 1 advisory

Level 1 destinations are considered "low-risk" countries. People traveling to these places are asked to "exercise normal precautions" by the Department of State. Given the scale of the pandemic, not many countries are considered low-risk. Some countries at Level 1 include Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Djibouti, Senegal and Rwanda, which recently relaxed entry rules for vaccinated arrivals.

A solo travellers flight has been cancelled. She is standing in front of the departures board. She is wearing a protective face mask
Travel advisories are intended to help people make better-informed decisions about travel ©Getty Images

Should I cancel my trip to a Level 4 country?

The answer is up to you. Travel advisories are guidelines, not rules. You are still permitted to travel to these places, but if you choose to go a country the government is advising you to avoid, you do so at your own risk. In some extreme cases—that is, countries where there is civil unrest, widespread violence and political instability—the Department warns that some consular services may not be available to you and advises travelers to "always have a contingency plan for emergency situations".

If I do travel, do I need to quarantine?

It depends on your destination. These travel advisories and travel health notices are set out by the US government and the CDC, not the governments of the individual countries. For example, Ireland is at Level 4 but the Irish government is permitting Americans to travel there.

Will my travel insurance cover me in a Level 4 country?

It depends on your plan and provider. We asked several travel insurance experts for information on the impact travel advisories have on your insurance; find out how your health insurance covers getting COVID-19 while traveling abroad, and how to choose travel insurance that covers COVID-19.

How often do these advisories change?

The Department of State confirms it reviews and updates travel advisories "as needed, based on security and safety information."

How to resist the urge to travel during the coronavirus pandemic

Anyone considering heading abroad should read the entire travel advisory for their destination at Travel.State.gov; in addition to the destination's border restrictions and entry requirements—and stay up-to-date on local public health guidelines.

This article was first published on August 6, 2020 and updated on November 23, 2021

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