NAfter the Foreign Office lifted the travel warnings for some European travel destinations, suitcases are being packed in many places in Germany. Because for the first time in months there are now accessible areas that you can travel to and from without the obligation to quarantine: parts of Spain and Portugal as well as some regions in Croatia. There, the incidence values have fallen below 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, which automatically means that the travel warning is no longer applicable.
At the same time, the federal government and various politicians appeal to German citizens to continue to generally refrain from tourist trips. “The absence of a travel warning is not an invitation to travel,” said the spokeswoman for the Federal Foreign Office, Maria Adebahr, but added: Everyone has to make the decision for themselves.
Obviously, many people have weighed up in favor of freedom of travel, because some tour operator offers and flights are already booked out. The first federal states – including Lower Saxony – are already thinking about testing returnees at airports in view of the impending wave of travel.
Those wishing to travel should consider a few points: Even without a quarantine obligation, different corona regulations still apply on site, from the mandatory negative Covid-19 test result upon entry to strict hygiene rules to the mask requirement. A foreign travel health insurance, which covers a possible corona treatment and repatriation, should be taken out by every vacationer. Because despite the low incidence figures at the travel destination, the risk of infection has not been banned.
And even if Germans can again enter the countries mentioned without major hurdles, that does not mean that their vacation there is unlimited: some restaurants and shops are still closed, and not all hotels have reopened. In addition, the number of flight connections automatically limits the number of trips that can be booked. An overview:
Spain: Mallorca is booming, Valencia blocked
Since the end of the travel warning, the demand for Mallorca trips has skyrocketed. Many organizers reacted immediately with discounts for the Easter holiday and free PCR tests. For example, TUI, Germany’s largest travel company, offers discounts of more than 50 percent in some cases and is bringing the season that was previously planned to start from March 27th to March 21st.
FTI has issued discounts of between 100 and 150 euros per trip for spontaneous travelers. And at Dertour, ITS and Jahn Reisen, guests who book a flat-rate flight by March 22nd receive the corona tests required for entry free of charge (travel period March 27th to April 20th).
The airlines are also massively expanding their range of flights from Germany to Mallorca: Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings has launched 300 additional flights to Palma, which are due to start this week.
With the beginning of the Easter holidays, Condor will be serving Mallorca nationwide from eight German airports. The holiday airline is already offering more flight options at Easter than during the high season of the previous year.
TUIfly will almost double the range of flights over the Easter period compared to the original plan. The holiday airline Sundair will start with Mallorca flights from four German airports on March 28th. Wizz Air will follow on April 1st with flights from Dortmund.
The demand is high: Despite the rapid expansion of capacity, many offers are already fully booked over Easter – or ticket prices of 400 euros and more are being asked.
However, there will be no holidays in normal mode: In the Balearic Islands, there is a nightly curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Many hotels are still in hibernation, and the catering trade is only open to a limited extent: in Mallorca, for example, there are capacity limits for restaurants and cafes, they have to close at 5 p.m.
After all, those willing to travel from Germany will not argue with others about the coveted places. The UK government continues to prohibit its citizens from traveling abroad for vacation purposes.
And there will be hardly any domestic tourists on Mallorca over Easter: by April 9, the Spanish government will only be allowed to leave their region in rare exceptional cases by decision of the central government in Madrid. Holidays outside their own autonomous community are strictly forbidden.
Theoretically, the other Balearic Islands and several mainland regions (including Valencia with the Costa Blanca) can be traveled again without the obligation to quarantine after returning. But the travel options for last-minute travelers beyond Mallorca are currently limited, because Ibiza and Menorca are not year-round destinations; here the season usually doesn’t start until the end of May.
However, TUI confirmed to WELT that the start of the season is to be brought forward in some cases: Package tours to Ibiza will be possible from mid-April, and to Valencia from April 19. Menorca is to follow from the beginning of May.
Unlike the Balearic Islands, Valencia only allows entry and exit until April 12th for good reason – tourism is expressly excluded. Travel there beforehand is therefore not permitted.
If you want to travel to Valencia and the surrounding area on your own after this date without an organizer, there are options: Lufthansa, for example, is already offering non-stop flights from Frankfurt to Valencia. Vacant holiday apartments in Valencia and on the coast have various portals on offer, such as booking.com, fewo-direkt.com or tuivillas.com.
Portugal: the number of flights is limited
In Portugal, in addition to the Azores, the regions Alentejo, Centro and Norte can now also be visited without a travel warning and quarantine, and thus most of the country. Here, too, as in Spain, a negative PCR test must be proven to enter the country. However, a carefree holiday is hardly possible at short notice, because there is a tightened lockdown on the mainland until after Easter, similar to Germany.
Market leader Olimar is already offering trips to Portugal now and also over Easter. “We are seeing a significant increase in demand across all age groups,” says a spokeswoman. Self-drive tours and holiday homes in the hinterland are increasingly in demand.
In contrast to Mallorca, however, no last-minute discounts are issued, mainly because the range of flight capacities and open hotels are still limited. “People finally want to go on vacation again, so many are willing to pay more.” Other organizers, such as FTI, start traveling to the Azores from the end of March. At TUI, the Atlantic islands are only sporadically in the program.
The active tour operator Picotours, which usually has many trips to Portugal in its program, offers trips to the Azores from April, to mainland Portugal from May. “You should wait until then before traveling there,” advises a spokeswoman, referring to the existing lockdown restrictions. In fact, larger shops and museums are only allowed to open after Easter (from April 5), restaurants and cafés are restricted only from April 19. These are already open in the Azores.
Holiday apartments can be booked on all major Azores islands on the various online platforms, even for March. Ferry trips between the individual islands can also be booked individually. The shipping company Atlântico Line connects the islands with each other, but with a limited timetable.
The local airline SATA will not be offering non-stop flights to the Azores from Frankfurt until May 16, Lufthansa plans to fly directly to the Azores from May 23. Transfer flights, on the other hand, are already possible with TAP Air Portugal via Lisbon. The city is still listed as a risk area by the Robert Koch Institute. But those who do not leave the airport terminal when changing trains are not subject to any quarantine obligations when returning.
Olimar also sees the next holiday region for quarantine-free holidays in Europe coming. “We expect the travel warning for the Algarve to drop in March.” The seven-day incidence on the southern Portuguese Atlantic coast is just below 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants.
Croatia: By car to Istria
The four regions of Croatia without a travel warning are currently the only ones in southern Europe that car vacationers can visit without quarantine on entry and return – even at Easter. Transit through Austria and Slovenia is possible without any problems, provided that no stop is made (except for refueling). A negative PCR test must be presented at the Croatian border.
Of Croatia’s travel warning-free areas, the Istrian peninsula on the northern Adriatic is the most attractive for tourists – and practically the easiest to reach from Germany. The journey from Munich takes five hours without traffic jams. Arriving by plane is currently not possible due to the lack of flight connections from Germany to the Istrian airport in Pula.
There has been no run like on Mallorca since the travel warning was lifted on March 7th, Konstantin Gaitanides, head of the Croatian market leader ID Riva Tours, told WELT. “But we have noticed a significant increase in demand since then. On the one hand after short-term trips in March and April, on the other hand after vacation opportunities from August. “
Because of the Mediterranean weather, Istria has always been recommended as an Easter and spring destination. Although the region was still completely in lockdown three weeks ago, around a quarter of the hotels there are now open, “at Easter it will be half”. Holidays are therefore possible, especially since restaurants and cafes in the outdoor area are allowed to entertain guests. For Easter and Whitsun, the availability of hotels and holiday homes currently looks “very good”.
Other organizers confirm this. Dozens of hotels in Istria can already be booked this week through TUI, and the number of bookable accommodations will continue to rise in April and May. According to ID Riva Tours, the price level in Istria in the holiday home sector is at the previous year’s level. Hotels are currently, as part of limited promotions, sometimes ten to 20 percent cheaper.
In order to avoid the spread of the coronavirus despite the opening to foreign holidaymakers, Croatia is considering introducing test stations for tourists in popular holiday areas, including Istria. If necessary, holidaymakers could then have quick antigen tests, but also PCR tests carried out. Authorities and regional tourism associations are currently advising on details and locations. Should these test stations come, they would be an important confidence-building and practical measure that at least facilitates tourism in pandemic times.