This Mediterranean Hot Spot Is Open to Americans Again
Dependent on tourism dollars, the breathtaking Balkan seaside nation is taking a gamble and welcoming Americans for vacation.
ROME—Ah, Southern Europe in the summer. The wine, the sun, the sea… the pandemic.
But if you thought you’d have to sacrifice your European getaway this year, think again. One of Europe’s most beautiful seaside nations is happy to welcome Americans despite the EU’s travel ban on all but 14 non-European nations due to COVID-19 concerns.
You’d be forgiven if Croatia isn’t the first country that pops to mind—Game of Thrones aficionados notwithstanding—but this former Yugoslavian stronghold is the only country in all of the EU welcoming Americans and other COVID-19 outcasts this season—and it is a place that deserves your tourist dollars even without the pandemic.
The Daily Beast first learned of this travel loophole from our story about bi-national unmarried couples trying to meet up despite closed borders. Several wrote to say they’ve heard that Croatia might be a neutral rendezvous spot. And, upon checking with the Croatian government directly, we can confirm that Americans can travel to Croatia for tourism this summer without quarantine.
In an email from the office of the prime minister of Croatia to The Daily Beast, we were told that as of July 1, “persons who do not hold the citizenship of an EU/EEA Member State or the aforementioned countries, nor have regulated stay in those countries and are not members of the families of citizens of these countries, may enter the Republic of Croatia.”
They do not have to quarantine, but must declare they are COVID-free. Then they can choose one of four allowable reasons to enter the country via an online form. The broad reasons include business or economic interest of the Republic of Croatia; ownership of a company or property; personal reasons such as attending a wedding, funeral, or graduation; or tourism.
The only catch is that visitors have to book ahead.
“It is necessary to present a confirmation of the reservation or paid accommodation in one of the accommodation facilities in the Republic of Croatia,” the government stipulated in the email to The Daily Beast. That could include a hotel, resort, listed Airbnb, sailboat, or campground. Those who do not have a place to stay booked will be refused at the border.
For those coming for a wedding, funeral, or graduation, they need the invitation, death certificate, or graduation ceremony announcement. Americans can also go to Croatia for medical visits with proof of an appointment.
Not satisfied that this loophole really exists, The Daily Beast also called the Croatian Embassy in Washington, DC, which confirmed the same great news for travelers itching for a little European charm.
Travelers will only be able to board a flight to Croatia with the receipt of the online form and proof of their accommodation—and a return ticket home. Some who are already sunning themselves on Croatian beaches who have posted on an online travel forum say they had to convince ticket agents in the U.S. that Croatia is not part of the travel ban. You must have the proof of accommodation and the receipt from Croatia’s online form to get on a flight.
Paul Bradury, who lives in Croatia and writes for the popular Total Croatia News website, told The Daily Beast that the American tourism market is very important for the small nation. “Extra marketing efforts in recent years have resulted in many more tourists,” he said, noting that last year alone, 720,000 Americans visited Croatia even without the pandemic.
Most visit Dubrovnik—also known as King’s Landing—Split or Hvar on the Adriatic coast. “They are the biggest daily spenders and are very welcome,” Bradbury said about Americans. “Last summer, the first direct flight between the two countries was established when American Airlines connected Philadelphia and Dubrovnik with a summer service.”
Transiting through any EU state should be allowed, although individual member states may object to Americans in their airports. Many Americans who have made the trip have posted on Croatia tourist blogs about swift transfers through Amsterdam and Frankfurt, but it is best to check with the individual airline to anticipate any potential holdups. American Airlines used to offer the quickest direct flight to Croatia from American soil, but as of publishing, it has not resumed due to COVID-19.
The travel loophole for wanderlusting Americans is because Croatia is not part of the European Union’s borderless Schengen Zone, which means that Americans won’t be able to sneak over to Italy or down to Greece—or anywhere else in the Euro zone—once they are in the country. But after seeing all this tiny nation has to offer, why would they?