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With the school holidays approaching, many of us will no doubt be thinking about the summer holiday we could have had this year. But just when will we be able to get away and how will the new world of travel look?
Latest travel advice
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) warning against all but essential travel has been lifted for some countries, including many popular European holiday destinations, effective 4 July. The full list of countries deemed to “no longer pose an unacceptably high risk” for British travellers is on the FCO website.
It’s worth noting that even though a country is on this list, it may still have restrictions for visitors arriving from the UK. Although it’s on the list, Greece has extended its ban for UK travellers until 15 July, 2020. You are also not allowed to enter Cyprus if you have been in the UK in the last 14 days.
FCO advice against all but essential travel remains in place for countries not on the exemption list.
Currently, those arriving into the UK from abroad (apart from anyone arriving from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands or Isle of Man) must self-isolate for 14 days.
That being said, the latest advice in England is that people arriving from more than 50 countries including Spain, France, Italy and Germany will no longer need to quarantine, effective from 10 July, 2020. You can see the full list of “travel corridor” countries that are exempt from quarantine rules here.
The FCO advice is under continual review and rules around quarantining are also being looked at every three weeks.
The Scottish and Welsh governments have not yet decided on relaxing restrictions, and quarantine regulations remain in place for Northern Ireland.
Which countries are open to the UK?
Some countries are already happy to welcome UK tourists. At the time of writing these included:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Austria (you must present a medical certificate with test results that are not more than four days old)
- Czech Republic
- Portugal (you will need to have your temperature checked when you arrive, as well as quarantining when you return to the UK)
Other countries are also allowing travellers from the UK, but you’ll currently need to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. These include:
- Iceland (or you can pay to be tested for coronavirus on arrival)
These restrictions may change – so keep an eye out. It’s expected that France will relax the need for UK travellers to quarantine on arrival, but this hasn’t been officially announced yet.
What will it be like to fly?
Spending time at the airport and boarding your flight will feel vastly different to how it did before the pandemic hit.
Airport staff will wear masks and there will be hand sanitising stations dotted around the airport. To help with social distancing, there will be markings on the floor and seating arrangements will have changed.
Staircases may also be separated and designated either for up or down travel and you’re likely to see a lot more cleaning going on.
Any shops that are open will have social distancing measures in place and will inform you how many people can enter at the same time. Cafes and restaurants will be offering takeaway services only and you’ll need to pay by card.
You’ll be encouraged to check-in online, but all check-in desks and bag drop desks will be fitted with protective screens and will be regularly cleaned. When it comes to boarding, you’re likely to be asked to board in small groups.
Once on the plane, you will be required to wear a mask and remain seated as much as possible. Some airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Etihad will also provide passengers with a hygiene pack that includes items such as a mask, gloves, hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes (contents will vary depending on the airline).
Food and drink services may also be reduced. EasyJet is currently not offering a service, but there will be water available on request. Ryanair won’t be offering hot drinks on board in July and all food will be pre-packaged and must be ordered in advance.
Many airlines are also removing onboard magazines and newspapers, and queuing for the toilets won’t be permitted.
Where can you go or stay?
When it comes to staying in hotels or other accommodation, bookings may be more limited to reduce the number of people staying in one place. Reservations may also be spaced out to ensure rooms are left empty for a day or so before someone else moves in.
It’s possible you will be asked to check yourself in and wear a mask in public areas. Protective screens may also be fitted to hotel reception areas and hotel restaurants may remain closed. Buffets won’t be allowed.
If you want to book accommodation through Airbnb, bear in mind that you won’t be refunded under Airbnb’s ‘extenuating circumstances’ policy if you cancel due to Covid-19 unless you’re sick. Customers are therefore advised to find a listing with a flexible cancellation policy when booking.
As for eating out, you’ll be encouraged to eat outside (fortunately many restaurants and cafes abroad have plenty of outdoor eating areas), which will allow you to social distance and still enjoy your meal. If you need to go inside, you may be asked to wear a mask – apart from when you’re eating or drinking.
Is your travel insurance valid?
If you took out travel insurance before the coronavirus crisis hit and before your destination was listed by the FCO, you may still be covered if you have to cancel or return home due to the outbreak. But be warned that your payout could be reduced.
If you’re only buying travel insurance now, on the other hand, most policies won’t cover you for coronavirus-related claims, and those that do will only cover you for emergency medical expenses and repatriation if you fall ill with the virus while you’re away. This means you won’t be covered if you had to cancel your trip due to the pandemic.
However, this is starting to change.
Southdowns and Coverwise are now among the insurers that WILL cover for cancellation if you cannot travel due to coronavirus (so long as your destination is not listed under the FCO travel ban) – and more insurers are expected to follow suit as travel rules change.
Finally – and perhaps most importantly – if you travel when the FCO advises against it you are likely to invalidate your insurance policy. This means that as well as not being able to claim if you fall ill, you are also unlikely to be able to make any other claim on your travel insurance, including if you lose your luggage or had an accident while you were away. It’s therefore best to double check FCO advice before you travel.You can read more about travel insurance and coronavirus in our guide.