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Where can I go on holiday in the UK? Staycation rules explained

With the country emerging from lockdown from July onwards, we share the latest updates on UK residents travelling and holidaying in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland...

Explore Dorset, or anywhere in England (Shutterstock)

Please note: This article is written for those currently based in the UK, last updated on 5 August 2020.

We will keep this page updated where possible, but do also consult specific government guidance for ScotlandWalesEngland and Northern Ireland for up-to-the-minute advice, as well as checking individual hotels and hospitality businesses are open, before making any travel decisions.

With the UK government’s lockdown-lifting announcement that hotels, restaurants and a variety of amenities and entertainment venues in England can open their doors from July onwards, does that mean a UK staycation is on the cards?

Here’s everything you need to know about planning a UK-based staycation or camping adventure. Click the link below to answer your chosen question, or keep scrolling for all the information…

Can I travel in England?
Can I travel in Scotland?
Can I travel in Wales?
Can I travel in Northern Ireland?
Can I travel via public transport?

Can I travel to/around England?

Lavender blooming in Norfolk (Shutterstock)

Lavender blooming in Norfolk (Shutterstock)

Those living in England have been permitted to travel around England and the rest of the United Kingdom more freely. In terms of overnight stays, those living in England are now allowed to stay overnight away from home, with members of their own household or 'support bubble'. 

It was first announced that hotels, museums and galleries – among many other hospitality businesses – were allowed to open on 23 June, which was a key sign that staycations and travel were welcome. Many campsites are also open.

That said, if you do travel, you’ll still need to follow any social distancing rules set in place by the government. You will still need to take precautions like wear an appropriate face covering when taking public transport, which is currently required by law. It is now compulsory to wear face coverings in shops, too.

Remember that things can change quite quickly. 'Local lockdowns' are now in place for specific areas of the country. These are restrictions on what you can and can’t do (to varying degrees of severity) to help stop the spread of a local COVID-19 outbreak. As of 5 August 2020, places on local lockdown include parts of:

Greater Manchester
East Lancashire
West Yorkshire
The city of Leicester

Right now, it seems that none of these places have stricter restrictions pertaining to travel. You are still allowed to visit the beach, take a day trip further afield – if you live there – but there are some specific rules about who you should visit indoors (such as your home or in a pub or restaurant), who you can get in a car with, and who you need to keep a social distance from.

This may affect your travel plans. Make sure you check your local council’s website (it will usually have a gov.uk website address) for further information. As is usually the case, the rules vary slightly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland…

Can I travel to/around Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Kilchurn Castle in Loch Awe, Scotland (Shutterstock)

Kilchurn Castle in Loch Awe, Scotland (Shutterstock)

Great news! We are now allowed to travel between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Each country still has its own rules about social distancing, and where it is mandatory to wear a face covering. There is also the important consideration that each country will also impose its own ‘local lockdowns’ as it sees fit.

It’s vital that we respect each country’s varying approaches to easing lockdown measures. While we miss the Scottish Highlands, want to wander the Wild Atlantic Way and can’t wait to cycle through Carmarthenshire – we have to visit responsibly.

Scotland

In Scotland, you can generally travel around pretty freely, adhering to the usual social distancing guidelines set out by the Scottish government, as stated on the official gov.scot website.

Hotels, campsites, restaurants and many other hospitality businesses are open. If you’re planning a visit, Visit Scotland has a useful guide to what is open, what's allowed and what's not. You must wear a face covering in shops, on public transport and on public transport premises (such as railway stations, bus stations and airports) while in Scotland. It is required by law.

As of 5 August 2020, lockdown has been quite swiftly imposed back on the city of Aberdeen and parts of Aberdeenshire, due to an outbreak of COVID-19 believed to have originated from its pubs. This will certainly affect travel plans, though right now it is only to last for seven days, pending review.

It is advised that non-residents should not travel to Aberdeen and the affected area for leisure purposes, nor should those who live in Aberdeen travel more than five miles for leisure purposes.

For more information, visit the local council’s official website. If you are travelling to Scotland from elsewhere in the UK, it is wise to be vigilant in checking the local council and gov.scot for updates before making any moves.

Wales

Wales has been slowly but surely easing lockdown restrictions. Travel is permitted there, with hotels and campsites reopening in the back end of July 2020.

Businesses like pubs and restaurants, have been allowed to open since 3 August. In Wales, you are required to wear a face covering on public transport, but not in stations or shops like elsewhere in the UK. 

Visit Wales is now asking visitors to travel to Wales, as safely as possible. There have been no local lockdowns as yet, but keep your eyes peeled and carefully research the area you want to visit before you book or visit.

Northern Ireland

Similarly, Northern Ireland is slowly but surely reopening and you can very much travel there if you wish to. Hotels and campsites are now reopen, and a number of hospitality businesses are beginning to open up, as well.

England, Scotland and Wales (plus Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) are considered part of the Common Travel Area in Northern Ireland. So, if you have spent 14 days in any of those places BEFORE travelling/returning to Northern Ireland, you will not need to self-isolate on arrival.

In Northern Ireland, you are required to wear a face covering on public transport, but not in stations or shops like elsewhere in the UK. 

For specific advice, visit the Northern Irish government’s website, NI Direct – which seems to encourage UK visits by noting that ‘staycations are a way of mitigating the risk, while still supporting the local economy’. Check out Visit Belfast for useful information for travellers. 

Can I travel via public transport anywhere in the UK?

What's going on with buses, trains, trams and tubes? (Shutterstock)

What's going on with buses, trains, trams and tubes? (Shutterstock)

Throughout the coronavirus lockdown, use of public transport was only recommended for essential journeys. Those in England and elsewhere in the UK were asked to walk, cycle or drive wherever possible.

It is still wise to travel in your own car if you can, rather than risk a journey on public transport. However, it is no longer the case that public transport is only for essential journeys, such as going to work. You are now allowed to travel by train, tube or bus for other purposes.

Anyone travelling around England and Scotland via train, bus tube or another form of public transport is required by law to wear a face covering/mask for the duration of the journey, as well as in the station. In Wales and Northern Ireland, you are just required on the journey itself, not in the station. You should also adhere to social distancing guidelines where possible throughout your journey (so, try to sit far away from other passengers).

Many train, tube and bus services will still be offering reduced services, both regionally and nationally. So, you need to make sure you’re well aware of the up-to-date schedule before planning a journey via public transport. 

For England and Scotland's quarantine exemption lists, head here

For all coronavirus border updates, check out our regularly updated guide here

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