What is the latest Foreign Office travel advice?

Helen Coffey
Simon Calder

One of the key determinants of whether Brits can travel abroad this summer following the global coronavirus pandemic is the Foreign Office travel advice.

The FCO keeps individual country pages on its website regularly updated, with all the latest information and warnings about potential risks, such as political unrest, natural disasters and terror attacks.

If the FCO advises against “all but essential travel” to a country, it invalidates travellers’ insurance, and visiting there is at your own risk.

Here’s everything you need to know about the current advice.

What is the latest Foreign Office advice?

The FCO is currently advising British nationals against all but essential international travel, advice that has been in place since 23 March.

This essentially prohibits travel to anywhere outside of the UK.

The advice 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 announce that this blanket warning will be relaxed from 6 July, alongside the ditching of compulsory quarantine for inbound travellers from countries deemed “safe” according to a new traffic light system.

Why can I book a flight abroad if I’m not supposed to leave the country?

Some airlines are tentatively restarting operations – for example, easyJet had its first flight post-lockdown, a hop from London to Glasgow, on 15 June after 11 weeks of being grounded.

Others continued to operate flights throughout April and May, much to the confusion of consumers, considering most countries’ borders were closed at that point and the FCO advised against all international travel.

Wizz Air, for example, restarted flights from Luton to 15 destinations in May, including Budapest, Belgrade and Tenerife. Ryanair started selling seats to numerous European destinations, including Barcelona, Athens, Bologna and Nimes, from mid-May.

Wizz said the flights were “to provide an essential service to those who need to travel”, reported Forbes – presumably referring to returning citizens and permanent residents or medical staff, the only people who would be exempt from the rules.

Which? claimed at the time that it looked like airlines were cynically still running flights so that those who had already purchased tickets but were unable to fly because of FCO advice would be unable to claim a refund.

As countries in Europe start to open their borders again, and the UK looks set to announce the relaxation of both the FCO blanket travel warning and the mandatory two-week quarantine for inbound travellers, catching a flight abroad from the UK finally seems feasible in the not-too-distant future.

The only stumbling block might be that the country you’re planning on travelling to is imposing a quarantine for Brits on arrival, or demanding a health certificate.

Can I travel within the UK?

At present, there are certain conditions under which you can stay overnight somewhere. One of these conditions is if you are a person living on your own or a single parent with dependent children, in which case you’re allowed to 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 easing of lockdown restrictions in England, which stated that, from 4 July, up to two households are allowed to stay overnight in “self-contained accommodation” together – including hotels, bed and breakfasts and campsites – as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.

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

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.

Since 10 May it has been permissible to travel within England by car, as long as you don’t stay overnight. Day trips to national parks, National Trust gardens and the beach are all allowed, as long as you drive and return home the same day. Public transport is still reserved for “essential journeys” rather than leisure travel.

When is the advice against international travel likely to end?

The government is expected to announce imminently that the FCO travel warning will be lifted from 6 July for certain destinations.

Simultaneously, the need to quarantine will be removed for travellers entering the UK from a range of countries regarded as “safe” by the Joint Biosecurity Centre – which was set up to coordinate the government’s response to the pandemic.

The centre 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 the disease and the centre’s assessment of the data’s reliability.

Quarantine will apply only to nations rated red.

There has been much speculation over which destinations will be exempt from the two-week quarantine period on arrival into the UK. France, Spain and Greece are almost certain to get the green light – but industry insiders have indicated that as many as 75 countries could have restrictions eased.

Read more

10 FAQs about summer holidays this year