• Gregory Perreault

To Austria! What does it look like to travel internationally in a pandemic?

This blog is going to be more practically focused about the process for traveling in the pandemic. The short answer is "it's hard." A longer answer is "it's really hard."

Once you understand the "spirit of the law"--which is hopefully obvious--meeting the rule of law is a little easier to follow. The spirit of the law is this: Austria, like many countries would love for people to come visit, but it needs to have more rationale than tourism and it needs to be done safely. This is in part because traditional tourism with hotels, hostels, etc. is nearly impossible to do safely right now.

So what's the rationale? Work and family is pretty defended. For Fulbright scholars, the grant documentation provided by the Fulbright Commission grants us a Visa D in our passport. That allows for transit, leasing, etc. I found the Austrian Consulate in DC extraordinarily helpful in navigating the paper work they need, but here's the essence of the exception to the travel ban: (1) they want to see that you've tested negative and are willing to quarantine, (2) they would like you have a visa D, residence, and/or (3) they would like you to be traveling to be with family who has those things. They are trying to protect travelers because even now with lockdown measures currently eased, hotels are not open. Which means it's not ideal for sightseeing if that's the main purpose.

How is done safely? There were a few steps here. Austria wants you to test for COVID within 72 hours of arrival, have a medical certificate filled out that shows a negative test, and then that has to be sent to the Austrian government. My airline (United) prompted me to fill out the form online, although I'd already been alerted by Fulbright. Once in Austria, the norm is the KN95 masks which are required if you're out-and-about. Also, Vienna has been doing this for a while, but the rest of Austria appears to be following suit: weekly COVID tests, and once you have your test, this grants you access to shops, museums, restaurants, etc.

Finally, they want to know where you're planning to be; so you have to fill out a "Meldezettel"--a certificate of registration--with your landlord. Within three days of arrival, you bring that in to a local office to show them your registration in addition to other documents.

All of this to say what you may have observed from social media: travel is not impossible, just a bit more paperwork, more safety measures, and you have to have reason to supersede the travel ban.

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