How to master post-lockdown travel etiquette

·4-min read
travel etiquette post-lockdown - Getty
travel etiquette post-lockdown - Getty

In a world irrevocably changed, some things remain the same: we’re British and we’d happily spend 14 days in quarantine talking to nobody rather than say the wrong thing to one person once. So never mind the safety advice, here’s that all-important guide to the rules of etiquette after lockdown…

Airplane armrests

Once a warzone of bruised elbows and passive-aggressive posturing — and now the opposite. Repeat after us: "No, you have it. I’m fine in just this half of my seat, thanks."


It was awkward enough before, but this year you’ll have to perform the whole excruciating fandango without coming anywhere near each other. And now you can’t discreetly slip a few notes into a bell-boy’s hand (praying he doesn’t notice quite how small the denominations are until you’re out of sight), the only option is to place the money in a pile on the ground and retreat, like it’s some kind of offering to the gods. Or ask if they take contactless…


How many to pack? Simply follow this formula: (number of days away x 8) + number of times, in a normal week at home, you pop down to Sainsburys Local forgetting your mask x number of boys or men you’re travelling with, all of whom will somehow be expecting you to be carrying spares for them. Then multiply by 10 again, because you really don’t want to be caught with your T-shirt pulled up to cover your nose and mouth in a hotel corridor because you undercounted.


No need for competitive sight-seeing anymore: Covid is the perfect excuse to skip the cathedrals, galleries and museums. Forgive us, Berlitz, but Alton Towers is just safer.


Handshake? Hug? Fist bump? It’s a ‘manners vs microbes’ minefield out there. The appropriate action will vary from place to place (it’s touches on both elbows in France, like they do with kisses on the cheek, non?) — so when in doubt, nod. If they look offended, simply explain that you’re British.


As long as your nose and mouth remain covered, it’s perfectly acceptable to lower your mask’s strings in the same way that you shuffle your bikini straps down off your shoulder. (NB: Men may still not do this with their Speedos. Also NB: If your mask then blows away, you’ll have to make like Barbara Windsor when she loses her bra top in Carry On Camping.)

tourists elbow bump - Getty
tourists elbow bump - Getty


You know those terrible people who annex the seat next to them with their bags, while other passengers stand in the aisle or next to the toilet at the end of the coach? Well in a world turned entirely upside-down, those bag-blockers are now the good guys, enforcing (anti-)social distancing just like Dr Chris Witty ordered. But those people who talk in the quiet carriage? They’re still abominations against God’s natural order and should be stoned to death with their mobiles.

Swimming pools

The good news: pools are thought to be no more dangerous now than they were pre-pandemic. The bad news: that’s because they’ve always been a soup of verrucas, infant wee, unstuck sticking-plasters, half-rubbed-in Piz Buin, spilled piña coladas, and a range of bacteria as wide as the choice on ‘International night’ at the hotel’s buffet restaurant.


All fun and games until the fondue, which is essentially a swimming pool for the mouth (see above.) And so is après if you’re lucky…


There is now a new and powerful weapon at play in the lounger wars. Brave souls may move an unattended towel… but a towelette? Nein danke. Simply place a couple of used antibacterial wipes on your lounger, and no-one’s going near it for the rest of the day.

International relations

Pity the poor holidaymakers from India, China or wherever the latest variant hails from – condemned to unofficial in-resort quarantine where no-one wants to speak to, sit near or play beach volleyball with them. Incidence-levelism is the new racism. Join us and take a sandy knee in support of amber-list countries!


Ground Zero for getting infected. With 222,000 passengers typically passing through Heathrow every day, you need some serious strategy if you’re going to stay socially distanced. Time to consider some of your airport’s odder, less inviting corners and the company of its slightly more unusual clientele: plane-spotting gallery and – weirdest of all – Watches of Switzerland.


You didn’t “pass with flying colours!” and you don’t get extra points because you “nailed it first time!”. Think of it like the entrance exam for private school: the appropriate expression is “We somehow scraped through” — and a slight sheepishness about how much it costs.

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