When can Britons go on holiday again and where can they go?

Joanna Whitehead
Praia da Marinha, Algarve, Portugal. The country has been one of the most receptive to UK tourists returning: iStock

As the travel industry slowly begins to relax restrictions on movement, it feels as if there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon for those desperate to get away this summer. It goes without saying that safety must take precedence over any personal urge for, let’s say, a Florentine gelato, but the optimists among us are starting to see a shift in the right direction. With restrictions remaining in many destinations, we’ve looked at where Brits might be permitted to travel and when.

When can Britons go on holiday again?

International travel

At present, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) continues to advise against all non-essential international travel.

The FCO’s advice – which they say is under “constant review” – doesn’t make travel abroad “illegal” as such, but it does invalidate your travel insurance and means you may find it tricky to get help from the embassy or consulate if things go wrong.

However, the government is expected to confirm the Foreign Office’s blanket warning will be eased on 6 July.

On 15 June, the European Union lifted travel restrictions, leaving individual countries to decide if and when they’re ready for visitors. Economic affairs commissioner Paulo Gentiloni stated that the EU “will have a tourist season this summer, even if it’s with security measures and limitations”.

From 8 June, the UK government implemented a blanket 14-day quarantine on all arrivals into the country – including Brits returning home.

Until both the FCO advice and the quarantine measures change, it simply won’t be feasible for the majority of British wannabe-holidaymakers to book a trip abroad.

However, this is set to change with the relaxation of quarantine rules for certain countries. There will be different rules for different destinations; France, Greece and Spain have been confirmed among the countries that British holidaymakers will be able to visit without breaching Foreign Office advice or needing to quarantine on their return to the UK. Travel industry sources have said that as many as 75 countries may be exempt from the quarantine rules from 6 July, but the government has yet to release a full list.

The Joint Biosecurity Centre – which was set up to coordinate the government’s response to the pandemic – is categorising countries with a “traffic light” system.

Each country is rated green, amber or red, depending on the prevalence of coronavirus, the trajectory of disease and the centre’s assessment of the data’s reliability.

Quarantine will apply only to nations rated red.

Domestic travel

At present, there are certain conditions under which someone can stay overnight at another household. One of these conditions is if a person is living alone or is a single parent with children under 18, in which case they case pick one household to form a “support bubble” with and are permitted to stay the night at their home.

On 23 June, the prime minister announced a further lifting of lockdown measures in the UK, which states that from 4 July, up to two households will be allowed to stay overnight together “in self-contained accommodation”, as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.

Many English hotels are gearing to reopen from around this time in July – for example, The Pig hotel brand is opening some properties from 4 July – complete with stringent new cleaning measures.

Be aware that things might be a little different – breakfast buffets are likely to be scrapped, while spas could require guests to get changed in their rooms to avoid overcrowding of changing rooms.

Northern Ireland will be a day ahead, with hotels, pubs, restaurants and tourist attractions all able to open with suitable social-distancing measures from 3 July, while Scotland has a provisional date to open to visitors on 15 July.

At present, travel restrictions in Wales will be lifted on 6 July and self-contained accommodation will be able to re-open on 13 July.

For anyone without a car, travelling any distance will remain difficult until leisure trips by train are once again permitted.

People have previously been urged not to rush to beauty spots such as the Lake District. In May, Visit Cornwall stated that “unless you can visit a location and return within 90 minutes or so, you should visit a location nearer your home to spend time outdoors”.

Malcolm Bell, Visit Cornwall’s chief executive, said: “Our response at the moment is please stay away. It would be better to start planning a holiday for the future.”

Where can Britons travel?

Portugal

Sunset in Lisbon, Portugual (istock)

Portugal is definitely in favour of opening up to tourists, with the country’s foreign minister, Augusto Santos Silva, stating that British holidaymakers would be “most welcome”.

While talks are ongoing, Mr Santos Silva said that he hoped an ‘air bridge’ between the UK and Portugal could be agreed by the end of June. However, there is concern about a recent upsurge of cases in Portugal and a decision has yet to be made on whether it will make the grade when it comes to the “green” list of safe countries.

There are no specific restrictions on mobility within the Portuguese territory, but social distancing and the use of face masks on public transport and in enclosed areas are mandatory.

Restaurants, bars and cafes, museums and cultural spaces are all open with extra measures including social distancing.

Beaches, cinemas and theatres are open with reduced capacity.

Quarantine restrictions?

Nope. Mr Santos Silva described quarantine measures as “an enemy of tourism”, before adding that he respected the UK government’s right to enforce one.

Spain

Praia das Rodas, Spain (istock)

On 21 June, the State of Emergency declared in Spain on 14 March came to an end. From this date, UK travellers were allowed to enter Spain. This includes the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera). Providing you don’t have coronavirus symptoms, there should be nothing stopping you from being permitted entry.

Beaches re-opened across Spain on 1 June, but local authorities are taking measures to ensure social distancing and hygiene regulations are observed.

Major attractions such as Granada’s Alhambra Palace, the Mezquita-Catedral in Cordoba, the Alcazar in Seville and Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum have also re-opened.

People aged six years or over are required to use face masks outdoors, on public transport and in enclosed spaces. Failure to comply with this could result in a fine of up to €100.

Quarantine restrictions?

No. For a while it looked like Spain might implement quarantine measures for UK tourists following the UK’s blanket 14-day quarantine on all incoming arrivals from 8 June. But the Spanish government confirmed that as of 21 June Brits are allowed in on the same terms as visitors from countries in the Schengen free travel zone .

Arancha González, the Spanish foreign minister, said: “We will allow British visitors to enter Spain, just like the rest of the European Union or Schengen areas, as from the 21st of June freely and without the need of a quarantine.”

Turkey

Kaputaş Beach near Kaş, Turkey (istock)

Turkey’s approach to the pandemic has been comparatively relaxed, with lockdowns largely confined to specific times and age groups. Restaurants, bars, cafes and beaches all re-opened on 1 June, alongside museums and ancient sites, and unrestricted travel is permitted within the country.

In mid-June, however, the wearing of face masks in public became mandatory in 47 out of 81 provinces, including the major cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Bursa, following an upward trend in the number of daily infections.

Despite this, a Turkish government official told the Financial Times earlier this month that an agreement between Turkey and the UK was “close” with a provisional date of 15 July mooted for travel to resume between the two countries. “The two sides are in close contact,” the official said. “The UK is a very important country for us.”

Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced a ‘healthy tourism certificate’ programme in mid-May that promises social distancing at pools, beaches, restaurants and regular health checks for staff.

Sources have indicated Turkey is likely to be on the UK government’s list of countries exempt from quarantine.

Quarantine restrictions?

Visitors to Turkey will not be subject to quarantine measures, but those entering the country may be screened using thermal cameras to assess body temperature.

France

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France (istock)

France opened its borders to the EU on 15 June, following the re-opening of hotels and campsites earlier in the month. Bars and restaurants re-opened on 2 June with “adapted health measures”, and most shops and open-air markets are now open. Public spaces such as parks, gardens, beaches and lakes are open across France, unless it’s not possible to apply social distancing measures.

Major attractions have also been permitted to reopen – the Palace of Versailles reopened on 6 June, while the Centre Pompidou and the Louvre are opening on 1 and 6 July respectively.

Face-masks are mandatory on public transport, and many shops and supermarkets require customers to wear them. Those who fail to do so could face a fine of €135.

Quarantine?

At the moment, yes. France was prepared to let Brits come and go freely, as it is doing with citizens of all EU countries, plus Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the Vatican, but made it clear that it expected reciprocity in this arrangement. Since the UK imposed a blanket 14-day quarantine on all incoming arrivals from 8 June, France has responded in kind.

However, this is likely to change from 6 July if the UK government announces, as expected, that quarantine measures will be dropped for a list of “safe” countries, including France.

Italy

Val d’Orcia, Tuscany, Italy (istock)

Despite starting out as the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic, Italy has since managed to flatten the curve and open up to visitors once again; the country became one of the first to re-open its borders on 3 June.

The country has been relaxing lockdown measures since mid-May, and beaches and parks are now open with social distancing rules in place.

Cafés, bars, pubs, restaurants, ice-cream shops, patisseries and other eateries are now permitted to open with certain restrictions on the number of patrons. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be worn by staff and customers and social distancing rules must be followed.

Cultural attractions have also started opening their doors. In Venice, the famed Doge’s Palace reopened on 13 June; the Leaning Tower of Pisa opened at the start of June.

It’s currently compulsory to wear a face mask in enclosed spaces including public transport or anywhere where it may not be possible to exercise social distancing.

Quarantine restrictions?

No. From 3 June, Italy has allowed Brits to enter the country with no need to quarantine for two weeks.

Best of the rest

UK holidaymakers can travel unrestricted to Germany, Croatia, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland, without the need to be tested or self-isolate (although they currently still face a 14-day quarantine when they return home). Other countries allowing UK travellers to enter but demanding testing and quarantines are as follows:

Austria

British citizens must produce a negative Covid-19 test no older than 96 hours and self-isolate for two weeks on arrival.

Ireland

All arrivals from overseas, including Irish residents, are asked to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. This does not apply if you are returning to Ireland from Northern Ireland. From 28 May there has been a legal requirement for passengers, including Irish residents, arriving in Ireland from overseas to complete a Public Health Passenger Locator Form with penalties for non-compliance.

Slovakia

British citizens must produce a negative Covid-19 test no older than 96 hours and self-isolate for two weeks on arrival.

Slovenia

Border restrictions were dropped on 15 May, but a 14-day quarantine is required.

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