(Post last edited on December 08, 2020)
With so much news out there about Covid-19 (the new Coronavirus) throughout 2020, it has often been hard to get a balanced view of the situation. Most, even all, countries have put various restrictions in place - and in all cases, these have changed repeatedly and continue to do so, according to the ongoing situation. This page serves as a summary of the current conditions regarding the countries we travel and the rules affecting travel from the countries that most of our guests originate from, and also as a repository of links to up-to-date official information provided by those countries or by international organisations.
This post is a long one, as it needs to be, so here's how it's organised:
Peter Sommer Travels tours and cruises in 2021
Currently, we are working on the basis that our recently-announced tours and gulet cruises in 2021 will go ahead as planned (see our online brochure for 2021). We are, however, mindful of the fact that all manner of travel restrictions are still in place and that the situation is not entirely predictable.
Where outright travel bans do not apply, the decision whether to travel or not will obviously be up to the traveller. Since there has been quite a lot of misinformation and alarming (some might say sensationalist) news coverage, we want to share information from reliable sources with you in this post.
At Peter Sommer Travels, we have been keeping up-to-date with official information regarding all the countries we visit, and the countries most of our guests come from, on a near-daily basis. As members of AITO, we are also briefed with the latest official information as soon as it is released. We continue to monitor the situation closely and will update this post frequently - but the information officially provided by individual countries is likely to be more up-to-date and more detailed than what we can offer on this page.
Events in 2020
As is to be expected of a global pandemic, the situation has affected all the countries we travel, as well as all the origin countries of our guests. Massive and unprecedented measures have been and are still being taken in a collective effort to slow, limit and eventually control and halt its spread, an effort that is still underway. Each country aims to prevent the spread of infection affecting its own population, but also to enable the resumption of normal activity, including tourism, as soon as possible.
Initial 'wave' (February to June)
After the initially undetectable spread of the New Coronavirus from China across the planet became visible, all our destination countries and the common origin countries of our guests began to introduce measures, in the form of travel restrictions, closures of gastronomy, sites, museums, businesses, lockdowns (first limited and then countrywide), etc, usually starting in March. By late April / early May 2020, these measures were showing visible signs of success in most countries concerned. These advances differed considerably, as some countries were further along the curve of infection and some further back. Among our destination countries, Croatia and Greece were notably successful in limiting the 'first wave' of the virus spreading within their territory.
Summer travel season (July to September)
As infections were occurring at far lower frequencies, a gradual easing of restrictions followed in most countries relevant here, leading to a short and very limited summer tourism season in Italy, Croatia, Greece and Turkey, but far less so in Britain and Ireland (where tourism was mostly domestic).
'Second wave' (September onwards, ongoing)
Across Europe and North America (and various other places), infection levels began to rise sharply in the (northern hemisphere) autumn, leading to renewed and modified measures and restrictions, still ongoing in all our destination countries. You can find more detail for each country, as well as a link list, further down in this post.
We are monitoring the situation and will update here as and when appropriate (the section on local restrictions below will provide more detail on the opening of tourism in each of the countries we travel). Of course, you should expect the information available on the various official websites provided by each country (not necessarily in English) to be the most up-to-date.
The availability of an effective vaccine, or a range of several, will be one of the most important factors contributing to a full resumption of international travel and of normal activity in all the countries we are concerned with. At least three successful vaccines appear to have been developed by late November 2020 and the procedures for certification have begun - perhaps the most heartening news so far this year. The rolling-out of vaccination is being actively planned in all countries we are concerned with. Proof of vaccination is likely to be a requirement for airline travel in 2021. Obviously, we at Peter Sommer Travels can't wait for this process to happen, but as the process is slow, we must be patient. We are looking forward to a time when our guests and staff can be reliably protected from the New Coronavirus, both in terms of getting infected themselves and of being a potential source of infection for others. Update: the UK has been the first western country to certify a vaccine, on December 2, 2020!
Global travel restrictions
Currently, most governments clearly advise against any non-essential travel outside their borders until further notice, namely Canada (advising to "avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice" on March 13), Ireland (advising against "all non-essential travel overseas", thus not applying to Northern Ireland, on March 16, eased in July and replaced in November by the more specific EU 'traffic light' approach), New Zealand (advising to "not travel overseas at this time" on March 19), Australia (not advising, but imposing a "ban on overseas travel" on March 26, still in place), eventually followed by the United States (advising "to avoid all international travel" on March 31, lifted in August and replaced with a worldwide caution, as well as individual per-country travel advisories, in which all our destinations are currently at "Level 3: reconsider travel"). Obviously, any such advice/ban is "until further notice".
The United Kingdom is currently in an unusual position in this regard. Its government did advise "against all but essential international travel" on March 17, followed by differentiated easing in July and renewal in November in form of a full restriction against travel abroad, which ended in early December. At present, the UK government offers vague advice in general, but also offers a specific per-country assessment here, and that's what we should take as official UK advice. As regards the UK, please note that its constituent nations, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may apply different rules regarding both incoming and outgoing travel.
Since March 13, 2020, the United States has been imposing a travel ban on incoming visitors from the EU's Schengen Area, covering 22 EU members and 4 additional countries, as well as the United Kingdom and Ireland. The ban, initially scheduled to last 30 days, has been extended and is subject to modifications. It exempts US citizens/residents travelling to the United States, who are, however, like most arriving travellers, limited to 13 entry airports in 12 states (see list), where they undergo screening procedures.
Likewise, on March 17 the European Union introduced an entry ban, now extended until further notice, for visitors from outside the EU's Schengen Zone (for non-essential travel), with exceptions for Ireland (which is in the EU but not part of the Schengen Agreement), the United Kingdom and the non-EU members of the Schengen Area, as well as for citizens of the individual member states and residents returning to their homes. Of course, individual member states of the EU or the Schengen Area have (and always had) the sovereign right to impose additional restrictions at any time and most of them are currently using that right in various ways, mostly by requiring arrivals to quarantine or provide a negative test result. On July 1, the EU travel ban was lifted for visitors from a number of countries, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Going forward, the restrictions will be determined by a country's number of new COVID-19 cases over the last 14 days and per 100,000 inhabitants being close to or below the EU average, with a stable or downward trend. The list of countries thus exempt is here. We hope to see the United States there before too long.
In the same context, since May 13 the EU is engaged in facilitating and coordinating the opening of borders/flights etc. between members states where the Coronavirus situation is easing to a comparable extent. As a result, the Reopen EU website has become a first-rate source of information for all our destination countries except Turkey and the United Kingdom. It offers information on travel restrictions, but also on the ongoing course of infection in each EU member state. As the situation is changing constantly, travel between EU countries may require negative Covid-19 tests or quarantine.
Local restrictions and measures
(NB: Throughout most of 2020, we updated this section frequently to provide detailed and up-to-date information on the various measures in place in each country we travel, with a particular focus on the various entry bans that lasted from spring to early summer. Since we are now beyond the common travel season, but also since a plethora of changeable regional measures is now being applied in a more differentiated way than in spring, we can currently only summarise the current situation in each country. Depending on developments, we will resume a more detailed approach before the 2021 travel season.)
Outright travel bans or border closures usually apply only for non-essential travel and normally don't apply to nationals or residents of the respective country, whereas quarantine/isolation rules generally do (but please check the details for each country if you need to travel). Additionally, all our destination countries apply various local or nationwide restrictions or lock-downs (all of these are potentially subject to modifications, and additional restrictions may apply in individual regions). Mask mandates apply in all our destination countries, and social (physical) distancing is advised or required in all of them.
After a stringent lockdown in spring, Croatia has remained open so far. Stricter rules apply from November 28 to December 21, including the closure of most public entertainment, but not gastronomy, museums, etc. Masks are mandatory in most places. Croatia is open to visitors from the EU and the Schengen zone as well as the UK, while visitors from elsewhere need to provide on entry a negative SARS-Cov-2 test result not older than 48 hours, otherwise, quarantine (14 days) is required. The EU entry ban for non-essential travel from outside the EU (see above) still applies, now with exceptions for a number of countries.
After a stringent lockdown from March to May, Greece was relatively unrestricted for the summer. As infections rose in October, a new nationwide lockdown has been put in place since November 7, lasting until January 7 or longer. Movement is restricted, all non-essential shops are closed, as are sites and museums, gastronomy is delivery-only, and there are restrictions on travel between the country's regions. Eventually, this nationwide measure is expected to be replaced with a more regional approach. Masks are mandatory outside the home. Incoming visitors are required to show a negative SARS-Cov-2 test result not older than 72 hours, otherwise, quarantine (14 days) is required. The EU entry ban for non-essential travel from outside the EU (see above) still applies, now with exceptions for a number of countries, including the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Ireland has been one of the strictest countries regarding Covid-19 restrictions, with an initial lockdown that lasted from March into July (some aspects of it were never lifted at all), followed by a renewed version in October. On December 1, the nationwide alert status was reduced to Level 3 (of five). Masks are mandatory in most indoor places and travel between countries remains forbidden until just before Christmas. As regards incoming travellers, the Irish authorities advise anyone coming into Ireland, apart from Northern Ireland, to restrict movement and avoid contacts for 14 days from arrival.
If you followed the news in 2020, you will know that Italy was one of the first countries in Europe to apply lockdowns, first regionally and then across the country, with very strict restrictions that were partially lifted during the summer. Many restrictions were reintroduced in November and remain in place. Masks are mandatory nearly everywhere and many activities are suspended. Further measures apply to certain regions only. The EU entry ban for non-essential travel from outside the EU (see above) still applies, now with exceptions for a number of countries, including the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Although Turkey did not apply a full nationwide lockdown, various measures such as closures of shops and restaurants as well as curfews specified by area or age group have been in place, some in the whole country, some in parts of it. New measures are still being applied, most recently in Istanbul. Turkey lifted its restrictions on entry in the early summer, but intending visitors may have to undergo health screening, including temperature checks, before boarding their flights and/or on arrival in Turkey.
After the initial nationwide lockdown in spring, the UK has applied a regionalised approach. This means that restrictions in place vary between the UK's constituent nations (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), but also between regions within England, where a nationwide lockdown ended in early December. The situation remains dynamic and difficult to summarise. Although visitors to England generally have to self-quarantine, a system of 'travel corridors' exempts certain countries or parts thereof, currently including Australia, New Zealand and some Greek islands (see list). Information on rules for entering Scotland is available here, for Wales here and for Northern Ireland here. Information on the status of individual parts of England regarding its three-tier alert system can be found here (select by postcode). At present, most of England is in Tier 2 or 3.
We will continue to monitor the situation in each country, so as to update this page and to inform the circumstances for our scheduled and chartered tours.
Sensible precautions for travellers
This section of this post was first written when Covid-19 was new to all of us, and it has been updated multiple times since, as we are still learning about the disease. It does not aim to supersede what advice or instructions your local authorities provide: find and follow them. We all have to make an effort to prevent or limit further waves of infection.
It is important to be careful, irrespective of whether you are at home or travelling. The simplest and best way to protect yourself from the virus is to ensure that you thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water several times every day, especially whenever you have been in physical contact with potential carriers of the virus (objects or people), and to use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel in situations when you cannot wash your hands with soap and water. It is also recommended that you keep your hands away from your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes. These are common-sense precautions that people should follow generally, and especially during the annual flu season. Better safe than sorry is an adage that certainly is pertinent now.
Likewise, you should keep in mind that the virus can be transmitted by those who have experienced no symptoms yet (even by those who will never experience any). This is important. In your dealings with others, you should behave as carefully and considerately as possible, and you should assume that you could be spreading Covid-19 if not careful. Thus, you should avoid touching others, and keep a safe distance even when conversing. Most countries advise keeping a distance of either 1.5 metres (5ft) or two metres (6.5ft) from those you are not in constant contact with.
Masks are now mandated in virtually all (public) areas relevant for us. They should always be worn so as to cover your mouth and nose. Medical-grade masks are vital to those who work in providing health care, but for those who are not in that kind of job, masks - even of lower grades - are available. It is worth stressing that the rationale for wearing a mask is not just the (limited) protection it offers the wearer, but the fact that each of us might unwittingly carry the virus and none of us want to be inadvertent spreaders of it, especially to those more vulnerable. A mask will provide others limited protection from your own sneezes and coughs or the droplets you emit when speaking - and an increasing number of studies suggests that it can also protect the wearer to an extent if worn properly.
In most countries, it is now obligatory to wear such masks (usually not of medical grade), either outright or in specified contexts or locations, so you should follow advice or requirements by your local authorities, and once you can travel, by the authorities where you are, and by any airlines or other transport providers you use. If you wear a mask, it is important to do so properly (it has to fully cover mouth and nose at all times) and to sanitise your hands before and after every time you put it on or remove it. Reusable masks should only be worn once before replacement. They should then be washed and ironed (or at least be left hanging unused for several days) before reuse.
Generally, Covid-19 consistently appears to cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes and chronic lung disease. If you fit into one of these categories, you may want to seek medical advice before you travel.
Regarding travel insurance,we advise you to check with potential insurance providers and to read the available policies carefully, particularly in regard as to whether cover is affected by Covid-19 restrictions.
As this is a dynamic situation, we prefer to give you direct links to websites where you can read more about the situation to help you inform yourselves from reliable primary sources that will be updated regularly. We do not recommend social media channels as reliable sources. If your country's authorities provide an official and regularly updated advisory to protect your health and that of those around you, please follow it.
If you are in any way concerned about joining one of our trips, please contact us so we can discuss your options. We always aim to be as understanding and fair as possible.
A personal note from Peter Sommer Travels
Whether you have travelled with us before, or whether you have found our page recently, we want you to be safe and healthy. Also, we would like to see you on one of our future trips and share the unique Peter Sommer Travels experience with you. If that is tempting to you, why not browse this blog and our website to see what we might have in store for you in the future?
Meanwhile, we advise you to do what is needed wherever you are. Do follow the guidance you are given by proper and informed sources in your country and area, avoid content that is not properly sourced (and especially avoid alarmist or denialist posts you may see on social media), do what you can to protect yourself, your loved ones and your neighbours, and stay calm. When in doubt, wear a mask. Most importantly, stay well and safe. If you are suffering from physical symptoms potentially connected to Covid-19, especially difficulties with breathing (but please check the regularly updated lists of symptoms provided by most governments and by many regional authorities, as well as by accredited medical institutions), contact the medical services in your area immediately.
We at Peter Sommer Travels, including the tour experts you may have met if you have travelled with us before, and also the office staff that look after your needs throughout, wish you the best. We can't wait to see you, to talk to you and to share the wonders of our itineraries with you after all this.