Holidays abroad aren't likely until after May under new guidelines

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

From Cosmopolitan

With the UK currently in its third lockdown thanks to coronavirus, life’s all about staying home and not spreading covid-19 right now. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still dream of golden beaches and infinity pools, right? The question is, when will we experience them again?

While there are obviously bigger things at play, you'd be forgiven for dreaming of warmer climates and dipping you toes in the sea. And while all but key workers should be quarantining to their homes for now, we can definitely look to holiday plans in the future.

But is it wise or even safe to book one? With many of us still reeling from cancelled trips, delayed holiday refunds and changes to travel corridors last year, it’s understandable to hold back in 2021.

Experts are predicting volatility in the travel market for months to come and yet, despite this, things do feel a little more positive going into Spring thanks to the rolling out of the covid 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 in recent weeks." But does that mean it's a good time to book a holiday yourself?

What is the government saying about travelling abroad? - Boris Johnson's foreign holidays announcement

On 22 February, as part of his road map out of lockdown, Boris revealed holidays within the UK would be on the cards as soon as April. Foreign travel, though, is not looking quite so optimistic.

The earliest travel abroad will be allowed is the 17th May, though the government have said that is 'subject to review', so may be pushed further back depending on the rate of infections.

When might I be able to travel abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic?

Photo credit: Alexander Spatari - Getty Images
Photo credit: Alexander Spatari - Getty Images

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Unsurprisingly, that hasn't stopped experts from the travel and tourism industry trying to encourage people to get a holiday in the diary. Minister of tourism for the Balearic Islands, Iago Negueruela said he "feels very confident that we will have a positive 2021 summer season, given our proximity to the UK." On The Beach, meanwhile, say top destinations booked in 2021 include Majorca, Costa Blanca and Tenerife.

Will I have to quarantine if I go on holiday this year?

Coronavirus legislation means all arrivals into the UK currently have to quarantine in their homes or chosen accommodation for 10 days. As of February 15th, the government are also introducing 33 countries on a 'red list', which means any arrivals (including UK residents) will have to partake in a 10-day hotel quarantine.

The list currently includes Portugal, South Africa, Mauritius and Seychelles. Arrivals also have to foot the hotel bill, which can be anything up to £1750.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

It's also worth considering that even if you book somewhere that isn't currently on the 'red list', you run the risk of it being put on before or during your holiday - meaning you'll incur a £1750 hotel quarantine upon your return.

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

It’s highly likely. Even as the vaccine is rolled out here, pandemic restrictions around the world will mean most countries do and will require a negative covid test result from under 72 hours prior before you can enter.

Also, holidaymakers aren’t allowed to use the free NHS testing service, instead having to pay up to £150 for a private one. You can get these at major airports like Gatwick, which now has a covid-19 screening centres, or through airlines. EasyJet offers discounted at-home or walk-in clinic tests, with passengers receiving a unique code to access the discounts when booking through the website.

In order to fly back into England now, you must also have proof of a negative coronavirus test to travel, even if you're a UK citizen. You must take the test in the 3 days before you start your journey to England, which means booking one for while you're away.

Oh, and also? All travellers entering the UK will be required to take two coronavirus tests while quarantining (at home or in the hotel) in an attempt to prevent variants entering the country. They are responsible for paying for these.

Photo credit: Luis Alvarez - Getty Images
Photo credit: Luis Alvarez - Getty Images

What is a covid vaccine passport?

The World Tourism Organisation is currently putting forward a serious case for global certification, which essentially means if you can prove covid immunity through the vaccine, you will be able to travel more freely.

They’re calling for a standard digital system, meaning it’s quick and easy to prove you have immunity, much like the current international health regulations surrounding Yellow Fever (some countries require certification to prove your vaccine before you can enter.)

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 your old habits of 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."

Rory Boland, travel editor of consumer advice organisation Which? also recommends getting a package deal:

"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.”

Suddenly no fuss, refundable packages like TUI’s seven nights all-inclusive at the Marylanza Suites & Spa Resort Tenerife including return flights for £541 seem very appealing.

Confused? Joint the club, 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 the 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 for 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 for now.

The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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