While in Vienna, I received a slew of messages asking me about how international travel was and if I had any advice to share. I am by no means an expert here but I have now been to Mexico and Vienna so I thought I’d write down everything I could think of in hopes that this is helpful to anyone planning a trip.
Overall, Europe felt comparable to New York. People are very careful, you have to wear a mask anytime you are inside. And you should prepare to show your vaccine card a lot. The airport was really organized and I felt safe the whole time – I would definitely go back again. To be honest, now that I am back I really wish that I had extended my stay to go visit friends in Belfast and/or Paris. It was my first big trip across the pond and I was so nervous!
International Travel Tips
Be prepared to use your vaccine card everywhere. This is common in New York too. I originally recommended laminating it but as a few commenters pointed out, this is a bad idea. Get a little case for it! You will need it for the airports but also to gain admittance to most things (we had to show ours at the opera, both museums, etc.
Just like in the US you will need to be masked up everywhere you go – museums, ubers, indoor dining, etc. One difference in Austria is that they mandate you wear a KN95 mask. You can read more about how some European countries are doing this in this article.
Your fabric masks will be useless for anything official (like a museum or the airplane). I did not know this ahead of my trip to Vienna, waited in line wearing my fabric mask, and was dismayed when I went to board and they told me I had to run across to the store to buy the proper mask. Don’t be like me… be prepared and buy the mask ahead of time!
This is common knowledge but you will need a negative COVID test to get home. What might be less common knowledge is that rapid tests overseas are less rapid than they are in the US. Whenever I’d had a rapid test in New York or Charleston, I’d get my results within an hour – max. Both international rapid tests I’ve taken have gotten me results in around 8 hours. So, basically, don’t be breezy and say, “oh I’ll get it at the airport or in the morning before my flight.” You likely won’t get your test results in time. Also a fun/weird thing: in Vienna the test was a a swish/gargle test – no nose swabbing.
I strongly recommend having your hotel (or the testing site if that’s an option) print out your results so that you have everything handy!
Allow Extra Time at the Airport
I have found that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Policies are constantly changing and I feel like we are all a little confused! Even leaving Charleston (the quaintest, coziest, easiest airport) there was some confusion… Austria recently changed their policies so that if you are vaccinated you don’t have to complete the pre-travel questionnaire but the gate attendants here didn’t know that which led to a lot of confusion (and me having to attempt the form again and show her the screenshot).
Getting home from the Cancun airport was a hot mess. Europe was actually MUCH easier – smooth sailing. The Vienna airport was really organized and they had systems in place to review everyone’s documents quickly But you need to prepare to have your documents ready and printed – both at check-in and then again when you get to the gate. (By documents I mean boarding pass, any pre-travel forms or letters of attestation (this varies depending on the country you visit), and your COVID-19 test results.) Just print EVERYTHING and keep it in an easy to access place and you will be fine!