As life slowly returns to normal on the continent, people have started making holiday plans and bilateral talks are underway to ascertain under what conditions European states will be ready to open their doors to tourists. Many Czechs have become resigned to holidaying at home this year, but for those unwilling to forego foreign holidays several options are taking shape.
“Caution” has been the operative word in the government’s fight against the coronavirus. The country was among the first to close its borders and make face masks obligatory in public places. And the government has been equally cautious in relaxing many of the strict regulations in place. But with borders slowly reopening in Europe, the government has indicated that Czechs too will soon be able to travel for other than family or work reasons.
At present only a number of border crossings are open for freight transport, cross-border workers and people travelling for “substantiated” reasons.
As of May 26, many more border crossings will open and checks will only be conducted randomly, eliminating the long queues that have been forming. However, the obligation to submit a negative test for COVID-19 when entering the Czech Republic from any country will continue to apply for the time being.
According to Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, the Czech government would like to reopen borders with all neighbour states by mid-June at the latest. The dates should be available by the end of March or beginning of June, the minister said.
It is becoming clear that Czechs unwilling to miss out on a sea-side holiday will be able to travel to Croatia or Greece. While it appears that Croatia will not require Czech tourists to produce a COVID negative test to enter the country, negotiations are still underway with Greece, which may insist on this condition. Italy, one of the worst-hit countries by the coronavirus pandemic, which is opening its borders on June 3, may well be considered a high-risk destination by the Czech authorities, so a holiday there would require Czechs to fork-out money for a test upon their return.
Czech mountain lovers tend to head for the Austrian Alps or the Slovak Tatra Mountains. While at present Czechs can only transit Austria and cannot holiday in Slovakia unless they have family there, borders with those two countries are likely to open soon, and due to the good epidemiological situation in all three states it is likely that no tests will be required.
The government is more hesitant in the case of Germany and Poland, which are perceived as presenting a higher risk in terms of importing fresh cases of coronavirus.
The government will make available a list of countries considered “high-risk”, which would necessitate people producing a COVID negative test upon their return. However, tourists will need to ascertain whether the country they are holidaying in will not require a test.
Tourists transiting Austria do not have to produce a COVID negative test, on condition they do not stop at any of the country’s petrol stations to fill up (valid until May31), Slovenia is preparing a list of countries whose nationals will be allowed to transit. Slovakia is not allowing transiting for the present time, while Germany is, on condition that tourists produce travel bookings as proof they are heading for a given tourist destination. People also need holiday bookings in order to enter Croatia.
The Czech Foreign Ministry, which is still advising people not to travel abroad unless they have to, has warned that the conditions in force across Europe vary and are changing rapidly, so anyone setting out should check-out the ministry’s web site for the latest information.