Updates on countries' COVID-related entry requirements and on ETIAS and on REAL ID.

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 4 of the August 2021 issue.
Spa? Hammock? Tough choices at Le Bora Bora by Pearl Resorts in French Polynesia.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 545th issue of your monthly worldwide travel magazine — not cowed by COVID, still in publication.

In my last column, I provided information on many countries’ and nonsovereign territories’ COVID-related entry requirements for American leisure travelers, or, rather, those that were in place on May 14, 2021, according to the US Department of State’s travel website travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel.html. I noted that the entry requirements were subject to change.

• Just after that July issue of ITN went to press, the European Commission came out with new COVID-related recommendations regarding US visitors. Where Americans previously could not travel to almost all European Union countries because of COVID (Ireland being the exception), the EU now allows member states to grant Americans entry regardless of vaccine status.

Each EU country still controls its own borders, however. The Commission’s recommendation is only that, a recommendation, not an enforceable policy, but it gives each member state the leeway to welcome US travelers, if they choose. Countries will still determine their own COVID-related entry restrictions, such as requiring arriving visitors to quarantine, something the recommendation does not address.

ITN subscriber Ed Graper of Goleta, California, subsequently brought another change to our attention. I had listed the Philippines as allowing US visitors but requiring anyone who arrived without a negative COVID test to quarantine. Mr. Graper pointed out that the Philippines is allowing NO foreign travelers at all, and he sent us a June 14 announcement from the Philippines Embassy in the US that begins, “Entry of foreign nationals to the Philippines remain [sic] suspended….”

ITN found that at some point between May 14 and June 14, the Philippines changed their tune and banned visitors.

Researching online, ITN discovered an announcement from the Philippines dated May 1 stating that, as of that date, foreign travelers would be allowed into the country.

ITN could not determine what was posted on the State Department’s website in the two weeks prior to May 14, but, contrary to what ITN found posted there on that date, the May 1 announcement from the Philippines stated that ALL incoming travelers had to quarantine for at least seven days, regardless of testing.

• In the meantime, while visiting family in French Polynesia, subscriber Della Sisk of Garden Grove, California, wrote to ITN to let us know that that French possession has been allowing vaccinated US leisure travelers to enter since, coincidentally, May 1. (Each traveler needs proof of vaccination and of a negative COVID test but does not need to quarantine.) ITN checked the State Department’s page for French Polynesia again on July 2, and it still stated that no US traveler could enter, but a visit to French Polynesia’s tourism website (tahititourisme.com/en-us) confirmed what Ms. Sisk wrote.

At the end of my last column, I noted that a country’s COVID-related entry requirements are subject to change at a moment’s notice and advised checking with the US State Department or with the embassy or a consulate of any country you’re planning to visit. As we now know, it is also important to check with a destination’s tourism office.

ITN will not be reporting on the continually evolving COVID-entry requirements of all countries and nonsovereign territories, but we will make sure to keep our readers up to date on major changes.

There are two “urgent” and “required” travel documents that I’ve written about in the past that, so far, have simply refused to become urgent or required.

• I introduced the European Travel Information & Authorization System (ETIAS) in May 2019. ETIAS is a non-visa travel authorization for which US travelers will need to be approved before traveling to EU countries as well as to non-EU countries that are in the Schengen Zone. I reported that an ETIAS approval would be required starting in 2021.

In June 2020, ITN reported that there would be a 6-month ETIAS grace period, wherein for the first six months of 2021, ETIAS approval could be applied for but was not necessary.

In September, ITN reported that ETIAS’ rollout had been delayed until mid-2022.

On June 2 of this year, the EU announced yet another delay in ETIAS, this time saying it would not be implemented until the END of 2022, with a grace period for the first six months of 2023 during which it would not be required. So, starting in July 2023, barring another delay, all US citizens will have to get ETIAS approval before traveling to Europe.

ETIAS applications can only be done online at etias.com. In addition to supplying biographic information and answering questions (including on past European travels), the applicant must provide an email address. There is an application fee of €7 (near $8) that is waived for anyone under 18 or over 70. ETIAS approval is good for three years.

• Meanwhile, in the US, the REAL ID program (www.dhs.gov/real-id) has not gotten off the ground yet either. It was introduced in 2005 in order to create a federal standard for state-issued ID cards for the benefit of the US Department of Homeland Security.

After working out the kinks, in 2013 Homeland Security announced that, starting Jan. 22, 2018, anyone with a state-issued ID (such as a driver’s license) that did not meet the REAL ID requirements would have to show another form of federally issued ID — such as a passport — in order to board a plane or access certain federal facilities. (Granted, if you’re taking a domestic flight to hook up with an international flight, you will be carrying your passport anyway, but this is something every air traveler should be aware of.)

That starting date was pushed to October 2020, then delayed again to October 2021. On April 27 of this year it was delayed again, this time until May 3, 2023.

Most states are not giving out REAL ID cards by default. You must request one from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, and it requires your presenting proof of identity (such as a birth certificate, Social Security card or passport) and two forms of proof of residency (such as a driver’s license and a utility bill).

You can find out if your state-issued ID is a REAL ID by checking the upper right-hand corner. If a star is there, it’s a REAL ID.

A CORRECTION to note —

There was a typo at the end of last month’s “Pleasant Travel Surprises.” For the record, Gail Wang lives in Troy, Michigan. And in the letter just before that one, it should have said Nili Olay (now) lives in Naples, Florida. ITN apologizes for the errors.

Reminders of a couple of “Calling All Readers!” info requests for you to write in on —

1. What dishes or types of food have you enjoyed most on your travels, and what was it that you liked about each? Tell us about some of your favorites (outside of the US) plus where you found them and approximately when.

Email editor@intltravelnews.com or write to Favorite Foods, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Include the address where you receive ITN (or your billing address).

2. Share a cultural insight about a particular destination that you were surprised to learn while researching a trip or about which, during your trip, you ended up saying, “I wish I’d known.” (For example, in Japan and South Korea, placing your hands in your pants pockets is a gesture perceived as rude and arrogant.)

Write to Travel Etiquette, c/o ITN at the address given above and include your address. (We’ll try to get your town right this time.)

• Phyllis Schlesinger of New York City wrote, on June 9, “This is to thank the ITN team for producing the magazine during the pandemic. I was always uplifted when I received a copy of ITN with its tips and travelers’ experiences.

“Today I booked a trip to Paris in August, and I have a trip booked for Prague, Vienna and Budapest in October. Again, thanks for the magazine.”

Phyllis, if all goes as planned, send in a couple of trip reports when you get back!

• And Vija Lochridge of Indian Wells, California, wrote, “I have subscribed to ITN for more years than I can remember, but this is the first time I have taken the time to write you.

“I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed the June 2021 issue. I just finished Rick Steves’ article about his experiences in Norway. What a great story!

“I have also very much enjoyed the series on ‘Pleasant Travel Surprises.’ The enthusiasm with which some of these serendipitous tales are recounted is a pure joy!”

More “surprises” are in this issue, Vija. Enjoy!