The mask is slipping. After two years of hidden faces and muffled conversations, mask rules are being discarded around the world.
Most of Britain ditched the divisive face covering back in January, sparking something of a domino effect. Norway and Denmark quickly followed suit, as did a clutch of Eastern European countries. Reticent Scotland recently joined the club, the US is now mask-free (including, thanks to the invention of a Florida judge, on planes and trains), and – as of May 16 – France has scrapped all of its rules.
Elsewhere, rules have been significantly eased. In Spain, for example, where masks were once required even in outdoor settings, they are now only needed on public transport and in hospitals. The same rules apply in Portugal and Belgium.
But not every nation is so keen to abandon face coverings.
Greece, for example, will demand masks in most indoor settings until at least June 1.
Italy will require high-grade FFP2 masks to be worn in many indoor public places, including theatres, concert halls, cinemas, live music clubs and sporting events, until at least June 15.
In Austria, FFP2 masks are also still compulsory in some public spaces, such as supermarkets.
Wearing a medical-grade mask remains a legal requirement in retail outlets and on public transport in Germany, depending on the region you visit.
In Turkey, while they have been dropped in settings with sufficient space and ventilation, such as restaurants, they remain in more tightly-packed venues like cinemas and concert halls, as well as on public transport.
Beyond Europe, masks are still widespread, with Egypt, Morocco, Thailand, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Cuba, St Lucia and Barbados among the holiday hotspots that retain strict rules.
So for those hoping to have a completely mask-free holiday, what are the options? Here’s our comprehensive guide.
23 countries that have scrapped all mask rules*
What is it about the Nordic nations? All have been reticent to restrict their citizens’ freedoms for the duration of the pandemic – with Sweden famously eschewing lockdowns altogether and its neighbours only shutting down society for a brief period – and all five have now scrapped masks.
Elsewhere, Eastern European countries have also been quick to return to normal – something that was predicted when Telegraph Travel quizzed a clutch of experts earlier in the year.
- Czech Republic
- Netherlands (except airports)
Rest of the world
While the below list is not exhaustive – the latest rules can be tricky to come by and we have focused our research on popular holiday destinations – nations beyond Europe have been far slower to scrap their mask rules.
- Dominican Republic
*With the possible exception of hospitals and care homes.
Five countries where masks are only needed on public transport**
Beyond healthcare facilities, it seems that trains, planes and buses will be the final settings where masks still roam. Portugal and Spain are among the countries retaining their use on public transport.
**As well as hospitals and care homes.
How long will masks be required on planes?
Rules vary according to both your airline and your final destination. Furthermore, airlines’ official policies sometimes seem to differ from what actually happens in the sky. It short, it’s complicated – and you might want to keep a mask in your hand luggage just in case.
Keeping it simple, Jet2 and Tui have scrapped all mask requirements. “It’s no longer a legal requirement to wear a face mask at our airports or onboard our planes,” says Jet2. “However, as per UK Government guidance, we recommend that you continue to wear a face mask in these spaces, and you might need to wear one when you get to your overseas destination.”
Other airlines, such as BA, Virgin, EasyJet and Ryanair, are still enforcing masks on flights to those destinations which retain some mask rules.
EasyJet no longer requires face coverings on flights between England, Northern Ireland, Jersey, Isle of Man, Denmark, Finland, Czech Republic, Croatia, Bulgaria, Scotland, Slovenia, Sweden, Gibraltar, Switzerland, Hungary, Iceland and Poland, as all of these countries have scrapped their domestic mask rules.
Ryanair has listed 14 EU countries to which masks are still required: Austria, Latvia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Estonia, Luxemburg, France, Malta, Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain. Its list is somewhat confusing as France and Lithuania have scrapped all their mask rules.
This article is kept updated with the latest information.