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Can you go to Europe this summer? Do you need a vaccine passport? Your international travel questions, answered

"Italy might be open, but if half the restaurants are still shut down ... then what's the point?"

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As summer approaches and vaccination rates climb, Americans are eager to plan a vacation. Many are looking beyond the U.S., too. According to a recent Morning Consult poll, almost one-fourth, 23%, of Americans said they'd feel comfortable flying internationally right now.

But with the vaccine rollout varying so much from country to country, it's hard to know which destinations are letting Americans in — and which will be safe to visit.

Here are travel experts' answers to six of your most pressing international travel questions, including where to go and what to consider when it comes to choosing a destination.

Can I travel to Europe this year?

As of now, the European Union as a whole is not allowing entry to American travelers. However, the European Commission is currently advising countries to "ease the current restrictions on nonessential travel into the EU" and "take into account the progress of vaccination campaigns and developments in the epidemiological situation worldwide," according to a statement.

"Things are looking very, very good for European travel, potentially as early as this summer," says Michael Bennett, co-founder of the Seattle-based travel company Explorer X.

Some EU countries have already opened up entry to Americans: Greece, for example, said it will let in American travelers who provide a negative Covid-19 test or proof of vaccination. Bennett anticipates that more countries will continue to open up to those who are willing to provide that sort of documentation.

Still, Bennett would encourage people to push their European trips to the fall or later: "Italy might be open, but if half the restaurants are still shut down and a lot of the experiences people want to have aren't open, then what's the point?"

What about South America or Southeast Asia?

Because cases are spiking in India and a few other Southeast Asian countries, Bennett says he is advising travelers to hold off on trips to that region of the world until next year.

"We were really hopeful, but developments over the past week don't sound terrific," he says. "While I'd love to say, 'Yeah, sure, we can get there in the fall,' if I was a betting man, I think you'd probably be better looking at 2022."

Things are looking very, very good for European travel, potentially as early as this summer.
Michael Bennett
co-founder, Explorer X

South America is a "mixed bag," he says. "Chile is doing pretty well in terms of doing vaccinations," since about 40% of the country has received at least one dose as of mid-April.

"But Brazil is a no," he says. "Obviously, we're monitoring everything very closely on a daily basis."

Can I go on a cruise?

Many cruise lines are planning to resume voyages this summer. Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises will both welcome passengers starting in July.

Those cruise lines, as well as Norwegian Cruise Line, will be requiring passengers to have been vaccinated before getting on board. "[With] cruising, wherever you go in the world, you're probably going to need to prove you have been vaccinated," says Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommers.com.

What countries are affordable and safe to visit in 2021?

A country that is "more affordable and less traveled-to could be great for minimizing interaction with others," Bennett says. "Slovenia is one of those countries. It's got terrific infrastructure, and costs are moderate compared to most European countries."

A little more than 17% of Slovenia's population is vaccinated, according to Reuters.

[With] cruising, wherever you go in the world, you're probably going to need to prove you have been vaccinated.
Pauline Frommer
editorial director, Frommers.com

Portugal is another affordable option, with about 20% of its population currently vaccinated, according to Reuters.

"The dollar goes a lot further in Portugal than in Italy and France," Bennett says. "I wouldn't call them inexpensive, but [they're] less expensive than other parts of Europe."

Are there countries I should avoid?

Even if a country is accepting American visitors, make sure to look at its rate of infection. Along with the danger of contracting Covid-19, Frommer notes that you don't want to visit a country whose hospital system is overwhelmed, should you get in a car accident or need other medical attention.

"You're not going to [want to] go to Brazil right now," for example, she says. "And other places have been seeing spikes. Countries in the Indian subcontinent are seeing spikes."

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You also want to make sure your visit doesn't put local workers at risk, Bennett says. For example, if you'll require a tour guide and the destination you want to visit has a low vaccination rate, your tour guide might not be able to get vaccinated and your vacation could jeopardize their health.

Rather than just focus on your needs, he says, ask yourself: "Is it responsible for me to go there right now? What's the impact I might have, good or bad, at the destination?"

Do I need a vaccine passport?

As of now, no, Frommer says. The EU might create some sort of vaccine passport, but for the time being, travelers won't be required to use it.

Frommer expects that instead of banning entry for residents of certain nations, countries will be looking into whether the individual themselves has been vaccinated or received a negative Covid test. "It's gone from a system that's based on nationality to one that's really looking at the individual," she says. "It's a big shift."

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