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Leaving on a jet plane? Here's what you need to know about the return of international travel

The advice against non-essential international travel is no longer in place.

Malaga Airport Spain.
Malaga Airport Spain.
Image: PA Images

ALMOST THREE MONTHS ago to the day, Simon Coveney spoke about the fact that holidaying abroad was “illegal” but that it “may change” over the summer. 

The conclusion of that change comes in today. Holidaying abroad is no longer illegal but the government advice against non-essential travel is also no longer in force from today either. 

The date has been known for some time but there has been significant work in the past few weeks and months to make sure the correct systems are in place. 

So what do we know and what should you expect if you are travelling abroad? 

Where can I go?

There are no conclusive answers to this because countries across the world are still implementing their own Covid controls based on a person’s citizenship, country of origin or vaccination status. 

For example, the United States is still not allowing Europeans into the country, apart from some exceptions, while the UK is allowing travel from Ireland without any restrictions. 

For most people travelling from Ireland for a holiday this summer the EU is the most likely destination, which is why there is so much focus on the Digital Covid Cert (DCC). 

The DCC will allow holders to travel in the EU (and six non-EU European countries) without the need to quarantine. 

Travel restrictions for people travelling from Britain are also being loosened today, with those fully vaccinated and those who have recovered from Covid no longer required to quarantine. If you’re instead travelling from Britain with a negative PCR test you are still required to quarantine at home n arrival but you can end that quarantine after five days with a second negative test. 

Do I need a Digital Covid Cert to travel in the EU?

The short answer is no, but if you have one it is likely to make the travel process a lot easier. 

You may already know what the DCC is but here’s a brief explanation. 

The DCC is a standardised EU system which shows that the holder satisfies one or more of three categories to exempt them from quarantine:

  • That they been vaccinated
  • That they have recovered from Covid-19 in the preceding six months
  • They have had a recent negative Covid test

Physically speaking the DCC is a QR code relating to that individual that can be scanned at an airport or another location that might require one. 

There is no specific DCC app but each country is likely to have its own digital place to save the code. 

Ireland’s Covid Tracker App now has a ‘wallet’ function allowing users to store their DCC in virtual form. There are also a number of third-party smartphone apps that can provide that same function including the airline you might be flying with. 

It is not necessary to have the QR code in virtual form, if you have it on paper that is fine too as it will be scanned in the same way. If you received your DCC in the form of a PDF you can print it out or save it as a screenshot on your phone, as long as it is clear and scannable you should be fine.  

Can children get a DCC and do they need them?

Yes, children can have a valid DCC but they shouldn’t need one. 

If a minor is travelling with a parent within the EU and the parent is exempted from quarantine then the child also does not need to quarantine. 

Children under six are exempted from testing across the EU but countries set their own testing requirements above that age. 

Children aged over 12 arriving into Ireland from a foreign country will require a negative PCR test from the previous 72 hours unless they have valid proof of vaccination or Covid recovery.

Are the rules associated with the DCC standard across the EU?

PastedImage-16991 Source: reopen.europa.eu

No, they are not. For example, some countries will accept an antigen test as a negative test while others require a PCR test. 

Some countries will require you to be tested on arrival regardless while some may require you to fill out a passenger locator form. 

The advice being given by Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs is to check what restrictions are in place in the country you are travelling to on the ReOpen EU website

The website has a simple tool for prospective travellers to input their country of origin and destination and it provides them with an outline of the requirements they may need to fulfil at each end. 

PastedImage-16858 Source: Citizens Information

One thing to note though is that Ireland is not accepting DCC’s based on antigen tests, so if you’ve travelled to somewhere that you could enter based on an antigen test this will not be acceptable when you return to Ireland.

You will be required to have a negative PCR test from the past 72 hours to enter Ireland if that is the case, but if you have a DCC based on vaccination or acquired immunity you should not need this. 

But after all that, I still don’t actually NEED a DCC?

No, what you need to be able to do is fulfil the requirements of travel to the stated country. If you can prove this with a DCC that’s handy but if you can prove it another valid way then you will be okay too.  

For example, if you have documented proof of your negative Covid test and it is enough for your destination then that should be be fine. The issue is ensuring that your ducks are in a row and the DCC is designed to take away that hassle. 

airport 301 People are being asked to use the self-service check-in if possible. Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Ireland’s Minister of State for eGovernment Ossian Smyth outlined that fact last week, explaining that the DCC is actually about speeding up the process.  

You’ll likely be required to present your proof of when you’re boarding and when you land as well so the DCC may help eliminate some fustering 

“If for any reason you don’t have a certificate, you can still travel on your existing documentation,” Smyth said last week.

If you can show evidence that you’ve been vaccinated, or that you’ve been tested, you can still travel. So it’s not a prerequisite for travel, you don’t have to have a Digital Covid Cert to travel, but it does make it faster.

Okay so I meet the requirements and am going on holiday, will my airport experience be the same?


Source: daa/Vimeo

If you’re over 13 you should be wearing a face mask in the airport, but aside from that it shouldn’t be too different. 

Airlines are also likely to require you to wear a mask on board but you may wish to check with individual airlines about what their specific policy is for masking.  

Timing your way to the airport shouldn’t be too different though. 

For example, Dublin Airport is advising that people arrive two hours prior to the boarding time for European flights and three hours for long-haul flights.

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Things may be a little different at check-in with passengers encouraged to check-in online and use the self-service bag drop kiosks where possible. Passengers in Dublin Airport are also being asked to carry just one piece of hand luggage to cut down on the checking that takes place. 

What if I need to drive abroad on a licence with an extended expiry? 

Drivers can apply for a Letter of Entitlement if they are intending to drive in a foreign country on a licence with an extended expiry as a result of Covid-19. 

The Letter of Entitlement/Driver Statement, obtained from the National Driver Licence Service, will show the new expiry date of their driving licence. 

EU countries will recognise a driving licence where the period of validity has expired up to the end of the extension period granted by the issuing Member State.

For licences that have been extended, drivers should check with car hire companies in advance of travelling to see if a driver statement is required.

Is it worth it all though, will your holiday feel like a holiday or are places still closed down? 

That’s obviously a matter for yourself depending on what you’re looking for but, speaking on The Journal‘s The Explainer podcast, travel journalist Eoghan Corry explains that most places in Europe are about four to six weeks ahead of Ireland in terms of the reopening of hospitality. 

“They’re a bit more used to the policing of the restaurants and masking indoors and outdoors,” he said. 

Nightclubs have been open in Spain and Portugal but, this is important, nightclubs have been closing in particular regions because politicians and health officials in Ireland are no different from their counterparts across Europe. They’ve been to hell and back and they’re not going to sacrifice everything for the sake of this great reopening. 

In Spain, Corry says, there may be “extra inconveniences” such as beaches and swimming pools being marked out and requiring pre-booking. 

Despite this, he adds that “a lot that’s been learned from last summer” about how tourism can operate during  a pandemic so thing should hopefully run more smoothly. 

“I can say with certainty, you can expect every country in Europe to be more open than you find Ireland as at the moment, particularly with indoor dining which is a big issue for inbound tourism.”

On the latest episode of our podcast The Explainer we spoke to travel expert Eoghan Corry and our coronavirus newsletter author, reporter Nicky Ryan, about the latest on travel and Covid:


Source: The Explainer/SoundCloud

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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