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Can I go on holiday in the UK? Staycation rules, hotel open dates explained

With news that campsites and hotels are set to open on 4 July, 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)

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 on 4 July 2020, 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 the UK?
When do UK hotels open?
When do UK campsites open?
What 'things to do' are open in the UK?
Can I travel via public transport?

Can I travel anywhere in or around the UK?

Not yet, but by 4 July, it would appear that those living in England will be allowed to travel around the country more freely. The opening of hotels, museums and galleries – announced on 23 June – is a key sign that travel and staycations are welcome.

That said, you’ll still need to follow any social distancing rules set in place by the government (apparently, a ‘one-metre plus’ rule is coming – pending review). You will still need to take precautions like wear an appropriate face covering when taking public transport, which is currently required by law.

Previously, the official gov.uk website reported on 12 June that travelling throughout England – whatever the distance – was allowed, but that going by public transport was not advised and that staying overnight was banned, writing: “You can travel to outdoor open space irrespective of distance, as long as you can return the same night and do not put others at risk because of services you may need in the time you are away.”

Keep in mind that the 4 July reopening date ONLY applies to England. When it comes to travelling to, from or around Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the dates vary slightly.

As of 25 June, the lockdown rules in Scotland are still stricter than those in England. What is allowed can be found on the official gov.scot website. However, in Scotland, the five mile travel rule for individuals will be relaxed from 3 July.

As of 23 June, the Welsh Tourism Board is still asking visitors not to travel to Wales and to avoid all unnecessary travel. Currently, you are not allowed to travel further than five miles for leisure purposes in Wales, though this rule will be lifted from 6 July.

As of 23 June, Discover Northern Ireland notes that the country is starting to slowly reopen. It is expected that hotels may be allowed to open on 3 July, according to the BBC.

It’s important that we respect each country’s varying approaches to easing lockdown measures. So, while we miss the Scottish Highlands, want to wander the Wild Atlantic Way and can’t wait to cycle through Carmarthenshire – we can’t just yet.

We will keep this page updated, but do also follow specific government guidance for Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland for up-to-the-minute advice, before making any travel decisions.

When do UK hotels open?

UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced today (23 June) that hotels and holiday apartments will be allowed to reopen in England from 4 July 2020.

Again, this rule applies only to England and hotels in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will reopen according to their own lockdown-lifting guidance, likely at varying points throughout July. 

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that they hope hotels and various tourism businesses will reopen from 15 July, though this date my change. 

What will staying in a hotel be like post-lockdown? Honestly, we have no idea. We’ll have to try and find out. We do know that many hotels in England have already announced their opening dates and have shared some information about their COVID policies.

Merry Harriers, a country hotel in Surrey, has already shared on their website that they’ll be trialling faceless check-in processes, and arranging restaurant seating according to social distance rules. 

Likewise, Athenaeum Hotel in London, which has remained open for key works throughout lockdown, has revealed that it will not ‘throw open’ its doors on 4 July, rather reopening with a ‘tiered’ system in place instead.

When can I go camping in the UK?

Campsites and caravan parks all across the UK are currently closed.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced on 23 June that on 4 July, campsites, caravan parks and various outdoor holiday sites in England will be able to reopen – “provided washing facilities and toilets can be kept clean.”

In Scotland, it is expected campsites and the rest of the tourism sector can reopen from 15 July onwards, though the Scottish government has said that it intends for "self-contained holiday accommodation, for example, holiday cottages and lodges, caravans where there are no shared services" to open from 3 July.

In Northern Ireland, it is hoped that, if in line with scientific guidance at the time, campsites will be able to reopen on 20 July.

It’s currently unclear when Welsh campsites will reopen, possibly later in July. We will update when there is news.

If you’re a keen camper, we would recommend staying up to date with Cool Camping’s coronavirus advice for campers.

What can I do while I’m travelling in England?

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that museums, galleries, cinemas, pubs, cafés, restaurants, arcades and even hairdressers will be allowed to reopen in England from 4 July 2020. On 15 June, zoos were allowed to reopen, too. 

Therefore, it’s highly likely you’ll have plenty more things to do going forward. You’ll also be able to continue to enjoy going for walks, embracing nature and perhaps even trying wild swimming! We highly recommend making the most of the outdoors.

We don’t currently know how each individual business will adapt their venues or offerings to accommodate social distancing. Other venues – water parks, bowling alleys, gyms and theatres among them – won’t open until its deemed they are safe.

So, does this mean that exploring the country will be the same as it was pre-lockdown? Well, no, probably not. There’ll still be the odd queue outside of the shops, we still need to avoid other people and keep a safe social distance, and we still need to don face masks and practice diligent hygiene. Hand gel at the ready…

Can I travel around England via public transport?

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 in England for other purposes.

Anyone travelling around England 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. 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. You should expect less trains and delays for the time being. 

Please note: This article was first published on 23 June 2020 at 3pm. Keep checking back for future developments

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

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