Update: Austria’s Travel Restrictions Under Nationwide Lockdown

Planning a trip to Austria for the holiday season? While borders are still open during the nationwide lockdown and travel from most countries is possible, tourism is effectively closed under current regulations.

This article has been updated with current information as of Dec. 3, 2021 at 9:52.

With Austria back under lockdown since Monday, Nov. 22, travelers coming from outside the country might be wondering whether they have to cancel their holiday travel plans. That depends which country travelers are coming from, their travel dates and their reasons for travel.

For now, the full lockdown is set to end on Dec. 11, though the Austrian government will reassess the national COVID incidence on that day to decide whether it will be extended. A lockdown for the unvaccinated is planned to continue afterward.

Here is an overview of the current entry requirements, as of Dec. 3, 2021:

  • Entry from countries with a sufficiently low coronavirus incidence is possible without quarantine, as long as you have stayed in one of those countries for the last 10 days. You must show either a negative PCR test, a valid vaccination or proof of COVID recovery (“2.5-G rule“). Find the official list of countries here.
  • Entry from countries with a high incidence of virus variants is generally prohibited unless you are an EU/EEA citizen or resident, with a few other exceptions. That list of countries currently includes: South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini—for which a landing ban has been issued. Find the official list of countries here.
    • Exceptions: People who come to Austria for academic or business purposes, for important family events (ie. weddings, baptisms, birthday parties) or to visit a life partner are allowed to enter the country with pre-travel clearance and a negative PCR test or proof of COVID recovery, but will be subject to an immediate 10-day quarantine, which can be ended after 5 days with another negative PCR test.
    • Quarantine exemptions: People who enter Austria for “urgent, unforeseeable” familial reasons “that are particularly worthy of consideration” are exempt from quarantine, with a negative PCR test. This includes, for example: serious illnesses, deaths, funerals, births and religious weddings—though related celebratory gatherings are prohibited.
  • Entry from all other countries (currently including the US, England, Serbia, Turkey and China) is possible with pre-travel clearance and either a negative PCR test, a valid vaccination or proof of COVID recovery. Those who can only show a negative PCR test will be subject to an immediate 10-day quarantine, which can be ended after 5 days with another negative PCR test.
    • Quarantine exemptions: People who enter Austria for “urgent, unforeseeable” familial reasons “that are particularly worthy of consideration” are exempt from quarantine, with valid COVID health clearance. This includes, for example: serious illnesses, deaths, funerals, births and religious weddings—though related celebratory gatherings are prohibited.
  • Transit passengers that do not make a stop in Austria are also allowed entry with no need for COVID clearance

Is tourism allowed during the lockdown?

For those who are able to enter the country during the lockdown throughout late Nov. and early Dec., restrictions differ depending on reasons for travel. Since Nov. 22, all non-essential businesses have been closed and unofficial gatherings prohibited. That includes Christmas and Advent markets, retail shops, hotels and Airbnb stays. Even gatherings inside the home are subject to restrictions.

Tourists who were planning to visit Austria for sightseeing, Christmas shopping or an overnight at a ski lodge, for example, may run into some barriers—not because they aren’t allowed to enter the country, but because there are only a few valid reasons for being out and about during lockdown.

“Austria’s borders are open, but in view of the impending lockdown, tourist trips will probably only be possible again starting December 13th,” states a COVID travel guide by Austria Werbung, the advertising agency for Austrian tourism.

Here are reasons listed by the government for which exiting the home during lockdown is allowed:

  • Avoiding an immediate danger to life, limb or property
  • Care and help for people in need of support as well as “the exercise of family rights and the fulfillment of family duties”
  • Covering the basic needs of daily life, including:
    • Necessary errands
    • Contact with individual close relatives, important caregivers or a partner who does not live in the household
    • Health care, including coronavirus vaccination and testing
    • Covering basic religious needs
    • Animal care and veterinary visits
  • Professional and educational purposes, if necessary
  • Going outdoors for physical and mental relaxation
  • Completing administrative or judicial processes that cannot be postponed
  • Participating in legal elections
  • Entering certain “customer areas”
  • Attending certain gatherings such as funerals and demonstrations

With regards to a visit for the holidays under current conditions, a spokesperson for the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) COVID hotline said that family members from outside the country should theoretically be able to visit their family in an Austrian household, though current restrictions are still unclear.

Private gatherings are currently only allowed with one individual family member who lives outside the Austrian household, which would include a life partner from another country, but whether that applies to an overnight stay of multiple family members from outside the country is not certain, according to the spokesperson.

The jury is still out for tourism-related travel after Dec. 11, when the general lockdown is set to end.

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Gregory Manni
Gregory Manni grew up between Detroit’s suburban sprawl and Lake Michigan’s shoreline, and has since become a disciple of ecology, poetry, and story. He moved to Austria in 2021 to see about a girl, and his current aim is beating back climate change through the act of writing. He tweets at @gregory_manni.

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