We all know life has been turned upside down over the past eighteen months. That’s nowhere more true than in travel, with border restrictions across the world designed to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus and new variants.
As we exit lockdown, travel is once again opening up. But that doesn’t mean it’s all back to normal. Travelling abroad has changed for now. It’s important to take a cautious approach that protects public health and the success of our vaccination programme, balancing the reopening of international travel with managing the risks of Covid-19.
Where can we go?
Countries are split into three broad groups – green, amber and red to highlight the public health risk of visiting each country. All countries are reviewed by the JBC on an ongoing basis to balance the level of risk international travel poses.
Different countries have different requirements. Returning home from a green list country you will have to take a pre-departure test before you travel and a day 2 PCR test after you return.
Coming back from an Amber list country means that you must take a PCR test before returning to the UK, by day 2 and on day 8 after arrival. If you are not fully vaccinated yet you should quarantine at home for 10 days.
Coming back from a red list country means that you will need to quarantine at a designated hotel for 10 days before being given the all-clear.
What do we need to do?
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office provides travel advice for over 200 destinations on GOV.UK – just search FCDO travel advice along with whichever country you’re planning to travel to. FCDO Travel Advice also includes up to date information on what the entry requirements are at that destination.
Depending where you are travelling, you may need to take a PCR test before you fly to confirm you don’t currently have the virus. This must be done privately, rather than through the NHS, and there are a host of registered suppliers here.
You’ll need to complete a passenger locator form and arrange to take a PCR test before or by day 2 of your return to the UK. It’s useful to keep all your booking references for tests and flights in one place to make the process of filling the passenger locator form in.
Find out what you need to do when you return to the UK by following the signposts on FCDO travel advice on gov.uk
What happens if I catch Covid while I am abroad?
Coming down with COVID on holiday can be a big and costly problem, so it’s best to make sure you know what you must do if the worst happens – and if you can afford it. Some countries insist you enter a quarantine hotel – and you may have to pay for it, the uk government cannot foot the bill.
Make sure you have the money needed or adequate insurance before you go.
If you do need medical treatment in a country covered by the EHIC/GHIC scheme the UK Government will fund this treatment as usual.
Always check FCDO travel advice for the latest entry requirements and local Covid-19 rules for your destination country.
‘We’re being careful before we fly’
After postponing their family holiday to Italy last summer, due to concerns about COVID-19, and a few fun but unrelaxing camping holidays, south-east London family Mitra Abtahi, David Reilly and their eight-year-old son Sebastian are more than ready for their upcoming holiday to Malta.
While the southern Mediterranean island wasn’t their first choice of destination when they were planning back in the spring (they changed flights from Greece to Portugal and then landed on Malta), they now can’t wait to get on the plane. Visiting a green-list destination was important to them as they didn’t want to have to self-isolate on their return and risk Sebastian losing more time at school. Malta held the most appeal in terms of sea and sunshine.
A staycation was an option, and they have a few UK-based jaunts planned too, but they were keen to get away for an overseas holiday while they could.
“Going abroad is one of the things we all look forward to, which we associate with having fun and spending time together with no distractions. It’s about switching off and making memories,” says Mitra.
“The lockdowns had a major effect on our lives and health, to be honest. Although, we tried to experience new things where we could, it didn’t ever feel like an adventure or an escape from the day-to-day. I feel like we really need to get away, especially as we don’t know for sure what’s going to happen after the summer and when we’ll get to travel again.”
Now that they are both fully vaccinated, Mitra and David feel much happier travelling overseas. However, they have taken extra precautions such as pre-booking taxis for airport transfers rather than using public transport. Mitra also says they’re reducing social interactions in the lead up to their holiday.
The booking process has been pretty time consuming, as they have planned the holiday independently but, with pre-departure tests booked, travel insurance organised, proof of vaccinations in hand (and on phone) and taxis ready to collect, they can now concentrate on the fun things.
“I never thought I’d say this, as I used to travel a lot for work, but I’ve really missed going to airport and catching a flight to a different country,” she says. “I can’t wait to get away – just to be out of our zone and somewhere completely different.”
As for Sebastian, he’s mainly excited about watching a movie on the flight over and taking that first thrilling leap into the pool.
It’s not just the pandemic
Since the UK has now left the EU some processes for travelling to and from Europe now apply too. Your passport now needs to have longer until it expires. Check your passport is still valid at gov.uk/check-passport.
Make sure to check your travel insurance covers all your needs including healthcare and you have a valid Global Health Insurnace Card (GHIC) or in-date European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). In-date EHICs are still valid for travel to Europe. There are changes to driving in Europe so make sure to check you have the correct driving documentation for your destination at gov.uk/guidance/driving-in-the-eu.”
All you need to know
Whether you’re planning a break or are already booked, visit gov.uk/travel-abroad for the latest information – and remember, restrictions can change at short notice.