Updated: June 16
One by one, countries are re-opening their borders and it’s looking possible that we might, possibly, be able to squeeze in a holiday this summer. Maybe.
The Foreign Office is still advising against all non-essential overseas travel for an indefinite period and tour operators won’t resume holidays until this advice is lifted. Also, if you go abroad you’ll have to quarantine for 14 days when you get back to the UK. The quarantine requirement is expected to remain in place at least until June 29, after which it will be reviewed.
At the moment, flights to all destinations are extremely limited (and where available, quite pricey). However, easyJet has restarted flights this week and Ryanair says it will operate about 40% of its normal schedule in July.
Major tour operators, including Tui and Jet2 have cancelled all their beach holidays this month, but they plan to restart in early July, assuming the Foreign Office amends its advice against all non-essential travel.
So where can you go right now and where are you likely to be able to go for the rest of the summer as travel restrictions are gradually lifted?
Here’s a roundup of the travel restrictions for the main holiday destinations:
Portugal has no mandatory quarantine in place (and there are flights from the UK – Wizz Air has a limited service to Lisbon from Luton) but visitors have their temperature checked on arrival and they’re referred to the health authorities if they appear unwell. Hotels have reopened with a limit on visitor numbers and strict social distancing measures in place.
Museums and other cultural attractions such as monuments art galleries, palaces and churches are also open as are restaurants, cafés, patisseries, terraces, promenades and shops of up to 400 square metres.
Sailing clubs, golf courses, taxis, car rental firms and public transport have been operating since the start of the month.
British tourists are no longer required to self-isolate, providing that for the 14 days prior to their arrival in Italy, they were physically located in their country of departure.
If travelling on Alitalia, they must take two completed copies of the ‘Self-Declaration Form for Travel’ to the airport.
Currently, there is only one flight to Italy, from Heathrow to Rome, but there are other flights that require stops en route, although they are pretty pricey.
The 14-day quarantine will be lifted on July 1 and visitors will be provided with free coronavirus tests on arrival. Alternatively, they have the option of presenting a negative test taken no more than 72 hours before departure.
It will lift its 14-day quarantine for some countries from as early as mid-June, but it will remain in place for UK tourists, who currently have to spend at least their first night in Greece in government accommodation waiting for mandatory Covid-19 test results. Only ferry travel to the islands is available at the moment but flights to the islands are expected to resume on July 1, but which time it’s possible – but by no means definite – that UK holidaymakers will be allowed to return.
A leading UK tour operator to Greece told me this week that he had spoken to the Greek Tourism Minister who has tried to discuss the possibility of quarantine-free travel between the UK and Greece but had been told by the UK Government that it wasn’t ready for such talks.
This is a tricky one. Its mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals will be lifted for EU countries on June 21, but it might or might not be lifted for Brits, we don’t actually know yet. Find out more here. Certainly it’s too soon to plan a trip to the Costas just yet – but it is now looking more likely that travel will be possible later in the summer.
France has re-opened its borders but Brits will be asked to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, although this won’t be policed so it doesn’t look like there’s anything to stop you going, aside from the lack of travel insurance and the obligatory quarantine when you return that it.
Iceland has also re-opened to tourists, but arrivals will have to take a Covid-19 test, which is free until July 1, after which you’ll be charged £90 per person. Children born from 2005 won’t need one.
It will re-open its borders on July 1 and it’s so keen to have the Brits back that it’s cut the cost of tourism visas and travel companies are being offered a range of financial incentives to re-launch their programmes to holiday hotspots like Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada.
Tourists are banned at the moment but Dubai is hoping to reopen – and to relaunch commercial passengers flights – in July, however it has yet to confirm a date.
Foreign tourists are banned until June 30. Thailand hasn’t yet announced when it will allow flights from the UK to resume, but its tourism minister said this week that he wasn’t expecting international tourists to return until the third-quarter of this year, and he said that even then there might still be some travel restrictions in place. Initially Thailand is looking at re-opening its more remote resorts, such as Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan.
What else do you need to consider?
When planning an overseas holiday, remember that you’ll be required to self-isolate for 14 days when you return to the UK, or risk a possible £1,000 fine (in England) if you don’t. This rule will be reviewed every three weeks, so could be lifted by June 29.
Also check that you’re able to get travel insurance with cover for Covid-19 before you book. Most travel insurance policies have removed cover for Covid-related cancellations and disruption, but some (although not all policies) still provide cover for Covid-related medical treatment. This is less of a problem when travelling to the EU where medical treatment is available with an EHIC card until the end of 2020. Remember though that this doesn’t cover repatriation costs.
As the situation is constantly changing, booking a package is the safest way to ensure you’ll get a refund if you’re holiday is cancelled due to ongoing or new travel restrictions. If you book a flight only, you won’t be entitled to a refund if the flight goes ahead but you can’t travel unless you book a flexible ticket with the option to cancel. If you book a hotel, apartment or villa, make sure it offers free cancellation.
You should also bear in mind that lockdowns and quarantine requirements could be re-introduced if countries see spikes in coronavirus cases, and these measures might be introduced at short notice.