So, when can you actually go on holiday?

Amanda Statham
·6-min read
Photo credit: Gaizka Portillo Benito - Getty Images
Photo credit: Gaizka Portillo Benito - Getty Images

As we emerge out of the UK’s third lockdown and foreign trips are still banned, our spring holiday focus is firmly on staycations, but what about the summer ahead?

With many of us still reeling from cancelled trips, delayed holiday refunds and changes to travel corridors last year, feeling anxious about booking a future overseas trip is relatable. Experts are predicting volatility in the travel market for months to come and yet, despite this, things do feel a little more positive now thanks to the rolling out of the vaccine.

Charles Knowlton, global general manager at Topdeck Travel told Cosmopolitan UK, "The UK’s COVID vaccination programme has definitely started to boost travel confidence, leading to an increase in bookings recently." But does that mean it’s a good time to book a holiday yourself?

What is the government saying about travel abroad?

Currently, foreign holidays are banned and returning travellers have to quarantine. However, transport secretary Grant Shapps recently announced people in England can "start thinking about booking foreign trips again" as part of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown and a traffic light system for overseas travel has been unveiled.

Countries on the green list will be 'low risk' and you won’t have to quarantine on return (though you will need a negative Covid test). Returning from amber-listed countries will mean quarantining for 10 days at home and pre- and post-departure tests. Visiting destinations on the red list will result in a 10-day quarantine in a specified hotel on return, which can cost up to £1750.

Country categories are expected to be announced around May 10, with international holidays potentially resuming as early as May 17.

Which destinations are likely to be on the green list?

Countries will be categorised as red, amber or green depending on the proportion of their population that’s been vaccinated, infection rates and prevalence of variants. With this in mind, we’re predicting where’s likely to make it to the top of the green list in May.

It will most probably be green for go for Gibraltar this summer as 100% of its population has now been vaccinated, bars and restaurants are open and face masks are only required on public transport.

Israel’s also leading the way when it comes to vaccinations, with more than 81 per cent of the country’s adult population having received both doses and infections down sharply.

Malta’s rates are down and it’s already announced it will reopen to fully vaccinated British arrivals from June 1, while Iceland, where Covid rates are low, is also opening its borders to vaccinated UK residents, who will no longer need a PCR test or to quarantine.

Photo credit: Sylvain Sonnet - Getty Images
Photo credit: Sylvain Sonnet - Getty Images

Some of the smaller Greek Islands are hoping to open and be able to declare themselves Covid-free by the end of April, leading many travel experts to predict their green-list inclusion.

Mediterranean islands like Ibiza and Majorca reopened to tourists after Easter, encouraged by minister of tourism for the Balearic Islands, Iago Negueruela, who announced that, “Given our proximity to the UK, the extensive network of UK flight connections to the islands and our long shared tourism history, we feel very confident that we will have a positive 2021 summer season.”

This winter Dubai was one of the few places you didn’t have to quarantine after visiting, hence the deluge of Instagrammers by pools making us drool. However the United Arab Emirates lost its quarantine-free status after ‘a significant acceleration of infections being imported to the UK’, so that dream faded as quickly as the influencers’ tans. Now it’s jabbed more than half its population and cases are dramatically declining, so it could well get the green light in May.

Will I have to get a Covid test if I go on holiday this year?

Probably. Even as the vaccine is rolled out here, pandemic restrictions around the world will mean most countries are going to require a negative Covid test result before you can enter (or proof of a Covid vaccine).

And in order to fly back into England you’ll need proof of a negative coronavirus test to travel, even if you're a UK citizen. You must take the test in the three days before you start your journey to England, which means booking one for while you're away.

Any good news? People arriving in the UK from green-list countries will escape the need to quarantine, though they will still need to take a Covid test before departing for the UK and another after arrival.

What is a Covid vaccine passport?

At the moment these aren’t required, but the World Tourism Organisation is putting forward a serious case for global certification, so it may only be a matter of time. They're calling for a standard digital system so it’s quick and easy to prove you have immunity, much like the current international health regulations surrounding Yellow Fever with some countries requiring a certificate before you can enter.

Countries such as Iceland are already saying they’ll welcome all Brits who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, meaning you won’t have to take a PCR test or quarantine.

Photo credit: Travelpix Ltd - Getty Images
Photo credit: Travelpix Ltd - Getty Images

However, vaccine minister, MP Nadhim Zahawi, has gone on record on the BBC's Andrew Marr show to say "there are no plans for vaccine passports". According to Zahawi, the fact that the vaccination isn't mandatory in the UK means a passport would be discriminatory against people who haven’t had it, can’t have it or don’t want it. He suggested people could get written evidence from their GP if proof were needed.

If my holiday’s cancelled, will I get a refund?

Yes, if you shop wisely. This summer that means ditching old habits - snapping up a cheap flight and then scouring the internet for some cool accommodation - and buying a package holiday instead.

Phil Salcedo from HolidayPirates, told us, "Many travel companies have now changed their cancellation policies to be more generous than they’ve ever been before, so if you shop carefully you can book a trip and lose nothing if it has to be cancelled. These are the ones we’re currently reviewing and recommending to our UK users."

And when Rory Boland, travel editor of consumer advice organisation Which?, recommends getting a package deal, we listen.

"If you’ve booked a package holiday and Covid restrictions change and you can’t go, you’ll get a full refund, as package holiday operators pay into an insurance fund run by the Civil Aviation Authority.

"No similar scheme exists to protect customers who book flights and accommodation independently. If your airline fails or your hotel closes, you may well lose your money – or worse, you could be stranded abroad."

Confused? Join the club...

It's all quite variable at the moment, but to summarise: if you do want to take the risk of booking a holiday, it appears your most viable option is a package deal somewhere in Gibraltar, the Greek Islands or Balearics through a reputable tour operator. Under current guidelines, you'll need a negative test before you go, a negative test before you fly back, and be prepared to quarantine in a hotel or at home. Things might change in the coming months, and restrictions may lift, but this is an overview of the landscape right now.

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