By Kathryn Stocks

Things are looking up for those who like to travel. The U.S. will finally be opening its borders on November 8 to fully vaccinated Canadians arriving by air, land or passenger ferry. This is great news for our snowbirds, many of whom stayed home last winter.

Those with mixed doses of vaccine will also be allowed in. The U.S. confirmed on October 15 that people with mixed doses will be considered fully vaccinated as long as the vaccines are authorized by the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization. Canada will still require everyone returning to this country to provide proof of a negative test.

Europe has been open to Canadians for several months but many of us are still wary about travelling there right now. For those wondering what it’s like, Centennial News caught up with Heather Lemieux. She, Michael McCabe and several friends got back into it in September when they visited five countries in Europe: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Spain.

Heather said that no test was needed to get there. For their flights from Toronto to Zurich to Berlin they just needed proof of double vaccination. She had everything on her phone, but also took paper copies of both her vaccinations.

“We could do just about everything we wanted to do,” Heather said. They found that Europe was basically normal but not as crowded with tourists. And every country was different. She said Austria was the most lenient and France required seeing vaccination proof more often. “We  were “super careful,” she said, and they avoided crowded spots.

Everywhere they went they had to show proof of double vaccination and their ID, not necessarily a passport but a driver’s licence or something similar. They always kept their documents with them. Vax proof and ID were needed at all attractions and restaurants, especially those that were indoors.

For an outdoor concert in Berlin, Heather said they had to show proof of double vaccination when they booked the tickets, send in test results 72 hours before or bring the results with them, and take a rapid test as they walked in.

In one place, they needed to either show their vaccination as a PDF or take a rapid test just outside the venue. “There were rapid tests in Berlin on just about every second corner,” she said.

Mask wearing was required indoors but not outdoors. Most stores wanted masks and some asked for vaccine receipts. Germany required N95 masks on its trains, planes and other transportation, except when eating and drinking.

“The strictest thing is on your way home,” Heather said. You need to have the ArriveCAN app on your phone but you don’t fill it out until 72 hours before you fly. You need your passport number, the date and type of your first and second vaccinations, and a PCR test 72 hours before you land in Canada. You also need to provide a quarantine plan. The PCR test cost them $330 for two and their hotel provided useful information about where to get it. Travellers without the ArriveCAN app were not allowed on the plane.

Two of Heather’s friends booked their flight home with Air Canada but the airline flipped their reservation over to United. They weren’t allowed to board the plane because it went through the U.S. and only American citizens could fly to the States from Europe at that time. In November, however, the U.S. will lift its ban on visitors from the European Union so this shouldn’t be a problem for those keen to travel again.