If you’re in the UK, travelling abroad will soon be back on the table – depending on where you want to go. International travel for non-essential purposes will be permitted for people in England from 17 May. However, even after 17 May travel restrictions still apply, which includes travellers getting regular coronavirus tests.
On 7 May the UK government announced a traffic light system, labelling countries green, amber or red depending on their coronavirus risk.
The ‘green list’ has 12 countries and islands on it which people in England can travel to without isolating or paying to quarantine in a hotel when they return.
If you’re planning to travel internationally after the 17 May, here’s a checklist of things to remember…
1. Is the border open?
Even though the UK’s border is reopening on 17 May, some other countries’ borders remain closed, and some that are open still have strict measures in place. Make sure you check your destination’s border is open to UK travellers before booking your flight.
2. Do you need to self isolate on arrival or on your return?
Just because a border is open, it doesn’t mean you can go on holiday there. For example, Bolivia’s borders are technically open, but travellers have to self-isolate on arrival for 10 days. And what about on the way back? If a country is labelled amber or red you will have to self-isolate or quarantine in a hotel on your return.
3. Will places be open?
Even if a country’s border is open, it doesn’t mean that the usual tourist attractions will be. While much of London is now open for business, this is not the case for every capital. France allows visitors from the UK for example, but the Eiffel Tower is currently closed. Albania’s borders are also open to people from the UK and you do not have to isolate on arrival – however, bars and restaurants have a 10pm curfew. Wherever you’re going, a country’s tourist board is a great resource to find out which tourist attractions are welcoming visitors, and which remain closed for the time being.
4. Do you need a health certificate?
Some countries that are open and do not have a quarantine in place are still asking for health certificates before you fly. A Covid-19 ‘fit to fly’ medical certificate states that you have tested negative for Covid-19 and can therefore travel. Before travelling anywhere this summer, be sure to check the UK government’s foreign travel advice for the country you’re visiting, to find out if you need a health certificate.
5. Do you need proof of a negative COVID-19 test?
For most places, yes. Make sure you check how old these can be, too: the Seychelles and Cyprus, for example, require a negative test no older than 72 hours, while Croatia asks for 48 hours. Be sure to check what the specific rules are for the destination you plan on visiting.
6. Do you need a visa before you travel?
Many destinations, such as Laos, have cancelled their visa-on-arrival for UK travellers, which means you will have to check more carefully if you need a visa before visiting anywhere. Other countries, such as Azerbaijan, have suspended their e-visa service. Remember the rules around visas can change at short notice, so be sure to regularly check the UK government’s foreign travel advice for your destination to find out the specific visa requirements.
7. Are there any other forms you need to fill in?
Some countries require additional paperwork. Travellers to Jersey, for example, must fill in a registration form 48 hours before arriving. Expect much longer waits at the airports than you had in a pre-coronavirus world, too. From filling out contact details to the address of where you are staying, you should expect paperwork at the airport before you’re allowed to enter a country. Also be aware that if you visit a green or amber country you must fill out a free, but rather lengthly, Public Health Passenger Locator Form ahead of your return to the UK. Many have reported that the form takes over 15 minutes to fill in, so save yourself some time by filling it out on the plane. If you're really organised, you can even fill it out and submit it electronically 48 hours before your arrival back in the UK.
8. Do you need proof of booked accommodation?
If you’re the kind of traveller who leaves booking a hotel until literally the last minute, you will need to change your ways. In line with ‘track and trace’ measures, many destinations around the world will need to see proof of your accommodation at the airport, so make sure you have it printed out and ready for inspection.
9. Can you get insurance for your trip?
It will be extremely difficult to find cover for somewhere where the FCO advises against travel. But now that the government has lifted travel restrictions to some countries and islands – the 12 territories labelled green – it will be easier to find insurance. Just make sure you check the fine print to work out what exactly you are covered against and what your rights are. If you think you can travel without insurance, think again. While we would always recommend you travel with insurance, now it is more important than ever. Many countries will not even allow you to enter without proof of travel insurance, so be prepared to have your policy checked at the airport.
10. Do you need to take a mask?
You will almost certainly need to wear a mask during the entire trip on the plane or train, but also consider your destination’s rules around wearing masks. Some countries, such as Spain require masks to be worn in public places such as transport and in shops, while other places will need you to wear your mask whenever you are outside of your accommodation. When in doubt, make sure you have one just in case.
11. Do you need to book to use the toilet on the flight in advance?
Even something as trivial as nipping to the loo won’t be simple in a post-COVID world! In order to maintain social distancing, many airlines are imposing stricter in-flight measures. You will need to stay in your seat the whole time with your mask on. If you want to go to the toilet, depending on who you’re flying with, you will either have to ask the air steward for permission, or pre-book your toilet slot before flying. Check the specific rules with your airline.
12. What else will you need to book?
Once you have cleared the airport measures and you are in your destination, there will still be things to think about. Gone are the days of spontaneously wandering where you want when you want. If you want to go out for dinner, book ahead. If you have a particular museum in mind, check if it’s open and whether you need to pre-book a time slot. With social distancing in place, you will need to be more organised about where and when you want to go. As well as this, be sure to check if your destination has a curfew in place because of coronavirus and make sure you know what the local social distancing measures and rules on groups are.