This half-term holiday is up for grabs (those in Tier 3 look away now). There are cancellations in some of the UK’s most-sought-after properties due to the ever-changing situation.
Back in the day, the idea of a holiday “starting early” might have involved a cocktail the night before flying, once your bags were packed and your out of office was switched on. These days, the holiday starts even earlier, only it involves inserting a swab into the darkest crevasses of your nose and throat. As it stands, our options for international holidays are as follows. There are the four destinations that let us in without any quarantine or testing restrictions – these are Gibraltar, Greece, the Canary Islands and Sweden. There are many that won’t let holidaymakers in at all (the USA, India, Thailand) and a number which you can feasibly get to, but which will require a quarantine either on arrival or on your return (mainland Spain, Italy, Turkey). Then, there is a gaggle of green-listed destinations which will test you on arrival, like the Faroes, Jersey, and Cuba, and another handful that will let you in so long as you can present a negative Covid-19 PCR result on arrival, like the Maldives, Cyprus, Barbados and a number of Caribbean countries. My destination is St Lucia, which has one of the most lenient testing requirements – the Caribbean country merely asks for a negative PCR test result taken seven days before travel. As half term approaches, there are thousands of British holidaymakers who need to get their hands on a negative Covid-19 PCR result before their holiday. This is how the process works. First up, what is a PCR test? The universally accepted Covid test for entry to a country is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. These are diagnostic tests, to see if you currently have the virus, rather than antibody tests, which identify whether you have had the virus before. How do I get a PCR test? You can only get a Covid-19 diagnostic test through the NHS if you have symptoms. So for an international holiday, you will need to take a PCR test through a private clinic – whether taken at home, or in a lab. There are many out there – we give information on some, here. The most cost- and time-effective way of getting a PCR test is by taking the test at home. Tui uses Randox, a laboratory based in Belfast. Their tests cost £120 but, when you book through Tui, there is a code to get 30 per cent off, meaning it will set you back £84. This is cheap compared to many other clinics, which typically range between £120 and £200. Step 1. The package arrives at your door After confirming my trip, and organising my test through Randox, I needed to wait a mere 24 hours before there was a knock on the door – the test kit had arrived. Step 2. Unpack the kit In the package you will find an instructions document and the following seven items. A swab A sample collection tube (containing pink liquid, to put the swab in) A transportation tube (to put the sample collection tube in) Unique Reference Number labels A pathoseal bag The box the kit arrives in A large return envelope
The Canary Islands and the Maldives have finally been granted travel corridors. Both archipelagos are popular options for winter sun, and have opened up the holiday map for Britons looking to get away before the end of 2020. Infection rates on a country's islands can be significantly lower than its mainland: take the seven-day caseload in La Palma (3.63 per 100,000 people) compared to Spain’s national rate (224): it is positive that the UK Government has recognised this in recent quarantine-list updates. Yet there are still many destinations with rates that are consistently well below 20 cases per 100,000 people (the number at which the UK Government originally considered adding a country to its quarantine list) that are still waiting to be green lit. Some of these have economies that are reliant on tourism. Below we take a look at the places that are most deserving of being added to the UK’s travel green list, with low numbers of Covid-19, open borders and without entirely prohibitive quarantine measures (14 days or more) in place for visitors from the UK. Egypt The north African country has recorded a rate of just 1.4 per 100,000 people over the past seven days. It has just 1,270 active cases of the virus having seen 106,060 in total. Tourism accounts for around 12 per cent of Egypt’s GDP, and it's an ideal destination for winter sun. Since July 1, the Egyptian Government has permitted international flights to and from Egyptian airports. All arrivals are required to present a negative PCR test certificate, which must be conducted no more than 72 hours before their flight departure time. Those travelling from London Heathrow can take their PCR test up to 96 hours before their flight departs. Other requirements include completing a monitoring card with personal details and providing confirmation of a valid health insurance policy to airport authorities. There are local restrictions in place, including mandatory use of face masks in enclosed public spaces. A direct flight from London to Sharm El Sheikh is just five and a half hours. Tui is offering a service from London Gatwick to Sharm El Sheikh. You could leave on November 1 and return on November 8 for £338. Easyjet has direct return flights from London Gatwick to Sharm El Sheikh leaving on November 7 and returning November 14 for £265.
Australia’s ongoing international border closure has sparked an unprecedented domestic tourism boom to remote, dangerous destinations including a giant monolith which has claimed three lives in six weeks.
America's biggest challenge Until the mid-80s, few people had heard of the cult ski area of Jackson Hole. Tucked into the top left-hand corner of Wyoming, with a Teton mountain range backdrop, it is now one of North America's foremost resorts. While originally famed for its tough terrain, these days Jackson Hole has plenty of facilities, lifts and terrain aimed at intermediates, families and beginners.
Last month, Health Secretary Matt Hancock pointed to Belgium as an example of a country that had managed to use restrictions on socialising to keep a lid on Covid. Now it has one of the highest case rates in the world
The whole of the United Kingdom was added to Germany’s Covid at-risk list this week, obliging British arrivals (including children in some states) to prove that they’re not importing the virus.
Czechs are famously glum in the face of even the sunniest of life events. It’s a flawlessly logical world view, really – go through life expecting the worst and you’ll never be disappointed. Statistically speaking, you’re even bound to be pleasantly surprised sooner or later.
After a year’s hiatus from flying, a hastily grabbed trip to Turkey recently showed me how exciting travel could be – and how easy it is. Why hadn’t I done it sooner? On the train to the airport, I had the carriage to myself; on the travelator, I slid along like Benjamin Braddock through a half-empty airport filled with the sound of silence. As the plane broke through the dark clouds into brilliant sunshine, I was reminded that there’s nothing like flying to get a fresh perspective on the world. After months of being grounded, travel had begun to feel like an impossible dream. Lockdown stuttered to an end, but many of us remained mired in our comfort zones, rooted to the spot, literally and psychologically. Even leaving the house can become an expedition, so what a faff a holiday can seem: the researching, the packing, the form-filling, never mind the journey and the threat of quarantine. And yet in the end, it’s easier than you think. Spontaneity is key. Choose a destination on the “safe” list, or decide to live with the quarantine if you can. Book your flight or train and go, before anyone changes their mind. Yes, our choice is ever-dwindling (within days of my return, Turkey joined the red list) but it doesn’t really matter where you go. The change is the thing. In Bodrum, after the relief of unmasking, I felt transported to another world. The damp heat of night rushed in through the taxi windows, and I stuck my head out to breathe it all in: salt-sea breeze scented with jasmine, clamorous east-west music on the radio. At the Macakizi Hotel, people were carrying on at the bar like it was 2019. I bit into what seemed like the most delicious food I’d ever tasted: exotic spices, a subtle smokiness, sea bass caught early that morning. And the view, when I awoke the next day, was worth two weeks of isolation: gulets in the bay, framed by bougainvillea, the sun shining on the water like molten silver. What a balm for the soul! What joyous, soul-stirring otherness, a few hours from home. It’s a reminder of what is out there. All we have to do is leave the house.
Propping my bike against a handy fence, I loll in blessed shade beneath clusters of ripe red and green fruit. Striped hills swell and ebb to the horizon. From beyond a nearby cellar door seeps a lip-smack-sigh of a bottle opening, the effervescent whisper of fizz foaming in glass. A swirl, a sip, a swallow: bubbles dance on the tongue, a flash of fruit tang, a distinctive dry minerality, lingering tannins.
Cerulean seas, cloudless skies, and the long, endless summer – these are the ‘Cyprus clichés’, the things I laud over my English relatives. But they’re true. They’re the reason many of us expats chose to live here. And they’re also what motivates the millions of visitors to the island each year. In 2019, back when we’d never heard of Covid-19, Cyprus welcomed four million tourists to the island – a record high. Tourism is a driving force for the economy. Thousands of us, in one way or another, relying on the annual influx to keep our finances afloat. Enter Covid-19. On March 9 (the day after my 72-year-old mother returned – corona-free, thank goodness – to the Cotswolds from her annual two weeks in the Med) our first two cases were announced: a health professional who had recently returned from the UK, and a young man who had flown back from Italy. On March 13, the President announced all borders would be closed to anyone except returning nationals for the next few weeks. And the lockdown had begun. My husband and I – both writers, and able to work from home – isolated immediately (albeit after a three-trolley shopping run that involved too many Toblerones). But in Cyprus, the tourist industry has such a far-reaching impact that many simply refused to accept that the strictures would last. As the government imposed stricter measures on arrivals, visitor figures plummeted. Summer came; the tourists didn’t. From March 15 to June 8, the government had set measures which included an entry ban on foreign visitors. But even when the airports finally reopened, figures remained at a record low. In June 2020, usually amongst the busiest months of the year, tourism was down over 90 per cent; just 22,000 arrivals – hardly enough to fill a couple of the larger hotels. Smaller establishments all over the island shut up shop; short-term rentals never opened their doors.
It’s been a rollercoaster few weeks here in Germany, as the coronavirus figures have started to steadily climb again and new lockdown curfews have been imposed on several cities and regions including Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne, Bavaria’s Berchtesgaden Land.
‘And to thee and thy company I bid a hearty welcome’ reads the inscription on the bronze gates to New Place, William Shakespeare’s final residence in Stratford-upon-Avon. The Bard’s words from Act 5 Scene 1 of The Tempest seem almost wistful now in a town longing to welcome people from far and wide.
With their fleets lying idle, cruise lines are reviewing all operational aspects to devise measures that can be incorporated to mitigate the effects of Covid-19, thus ensuring that when cruising does restart, it will be safe.
Wizz Air has taken a contrarian approach to the pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions. Since April it has launched 250 new routes (including 38 for Wizz Air UK) and opened 12 new bases. In May, it was the first European airline to restart flights from the UK, with new hygiene restrictions in place (and amid a blanket Foreign Office advisory against non-essential travel). Over the next five years, it will receive 250 new aircraft. Today it has launched new bases at Gatwick and Doncaster Sheffield. A 6am flight to Naples from Gatwick this morning marked the first of this fresh offering. From Gatwick, it will also fly to Athens, Lanzarote and Malta. It will operate routes to Tenerife, Malaga, Larnaca (Cyprus) and Lublin (Poland) from Doncaster Sheffield. “We’ve been looking to expand Wizz UK for sometime,” Owain Jones, managing director of Wizz Air UK, told Telegraph Travel. “Having seen demand for routes – a lot of UK leisure outbound routes over the summer – we took the view that we could push the brand further into the UK. We wanted to grow in London and were looking to get into Gatwick for sometime,” he added. As Wizz expands, other major airlines are pulling back. British Airways is to cut flights from Gatwick as part of its Covid recovery plan, for example. So how is this budget carrier, which includes a UK offshoot that started just three years ago as “a contingency for Brexit”, thriving in this current climate? It began with “a strong financial base,” says Mr Jones. From there, Wizz Air has worked at adapting quickly. “Rather than having [...] routes that we were serving maybe five or six times a day before the pandemic, we took the view that those aren’t going to exist for sometime, but there do remain pockets of demand across the board for all destinations,” explained Mr Jones. “What we’ve done now is really spread our capacity to pick up those pockets of demand.” So when Spain was added to the UK’s quarantine list on July 26 and more people looked to travel to the Greek islands, Wizz added capacity to those. While Portugal was, briefly, on the quarantine-free list, the airline added flights there. Most recently, when Santorini was green-lit last Thursday, Wizz added flights for over the half-term holiday. Foresight is also key. “You can see in the Canaries, for example, that infection rates are coming down, so it may be that we’ll see those come out of quarantine in the future,” said Mr Jones. Still, Wizz cannot escape the impact of the continued, and last-minute changes, to travel rules. Wizz Air UK had planned to fly at 80 per cent of capacity by the end of 2020. While in August and September it was flying as much as planned before the pandemic (80 per cent in August), as we move into Autumn, it is looking at 50 per cent. As we await the latest quarantine list update today, criticism will widely be towards the UK Government’s Grant Shapps and the Department for Transport. There is still no start date for Mr Shapps’ proposals to reduce quarantine times. However, for Mr Jones, the real need is for agreements across countries. He said: “What I think is the most disappointing aspect in terms of regulation of travel since Covid, which is a failure at an international level, even within Europe, is to reach some sort of consensus about how we can get people travelling safely and in an acceptable way across borders. That, I think, is a fundamental question that needs answering. Countries need to agree what will be effective for people to travel.” Differing domestic restrictions, such as the “firebreak” lockdown in Wales and the three-tier strategy is also harming recovery. “What we’re seeing is it chips away at confidence,” said Mr Jones. That applies to different international approaches. Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick Airport, also spoke to Telegraph Travel about the launch of the Wizz Air base. He pointed to passenger demand as one of the biggest challenges for the airport: it is down by 80 per cent. He said: “We started to see the beginning of small green shoots of recovery during the summer, but quarantine measures have had a dramatic impact on traffic, which is why we urgently need a single, harmonised approach to testing that would see quarantine lifted for passengers travelling between high risk countries if they receive a negative test result up to 72 hours before departure. “However, the launch of Wizz Air’s base at Gatwick means that once a testing regime is in place and passengers are able to travel more freely and confidently, Gatwick can offer a huge range of fantastic destinations at competitive prices.” This is the first time in seven years that an airline has launched a base at Gatwick, a glimmer of positivity for the UK’s ailing aviation industry. After seven months of international travel restrictions for Britons, the sector is in desperate need of change. Mr Jones concludes: “The key thing is for Governments to come to an aligned position about how we get people travelling, because that connectivity is going to be essential not just to the economic recovery of Britain but to the economic recovery of Europe and beyond.”
The UK's leading ski operator has launched free Covid-19 cover to protect its customers if they cannot travel this season
For centuries the ‘demon drink’ has been blamed for society’s ills, often vocally and by public figures. Curiously, the Covid crisis has given fresh impetus to the anti-boozing brigade. As infections have soared across Europe, many governments, including the UK’s, have scrambled to crack down – with the sale and consumption of alcohol often in the crosshairs. It’s as if we’ve been transported back to the 19th century. In September, with cases rising, the Government’s response was to implement a 10pm curfew on all pubs, bars and restaurants in England – a terrible scenario for venues that rely on night-time trade. But even harsher measures have been seen elsewhere. Across the border in Scotland, a country with a rich drinking culture, all pubs and restaurants now have to close at 6pm. Post-work pints are a thing of the past. No booze can be served indoors at all, turning once bustling pubs into depressing (and deserted) temperance bars. A ban on the consumption of alcohol on Scottish trains is also in the works. Prior to the second lockdown in Northern Ireland, alcohol could only be served indoors, with food, and while seated. On a recent visit, I saw a number of innovative workarounds, from bowls of stew left untouched on tables, to menus from the local fish and chip shop passed around tables in bars. Venues caught flouting the rules were handed new ‘prohibition notices’ forcing them to close, which sounds more the stuff of themed parties than real police business. Internationally, some countries have gone even further. South Africa imposed two complete bans on the sale of alcohol this year, while parts of Thailand and Greenland have made similar moves. Even local authorities in the French department of Aisne tried to put an alcohol ban in place back in March – zut alors! – but had to U-turn just 24 hours later. Curfews in Europe are also popping up. In Portugal, the sale of alcohol without food is forbidden after 8pm, and it cannot be sold in shops at all after that time. Booze bans and bar closures have also been introduced in areas of Spain. A relic of 1920s America, prohibition appears to once again be the cocktail of the day. Why the focus on alcohol? Some will say that, after imbibing it, social distancing has a tendency to go out the window. There is some logic in that. Evidence would suggest, however, that – at best – blindly cracking down on alcohol, and by extension bars and pubs, is completely pointless (at worst, it could actually be exacerbating the Covid problem – not to mention pushing businesses to the brink). Weeks after the UK’s own curfew was put in place, cases are still rising – and now even more restrictions are being placed on the hospitality sector thanks to the tier system. But hospitality venues are not a major factor when it comes to the spread of coronavirus, with Public Health England data blaming them for just five per cent of transmissions. Workplaces, schools, universities and care homes are far bigger players – so why is boozing under fire, and pubs and restaurants being thrown under the bus? In some countries, businesses are pushing back. Recently in Berlin, a court overturned a 11pm hospitality curfew after evidence was presented proving most cases came from other settings and it “was not apparent” that such a measure would do the slightest bit of good. In Berlin’s case, private gatherings of family and friends, as well as large factories, have been major culprits.
The Government has so far been opposed to scrapping quarantine in favour of Covid-19 testing at UK airports, claiming that trials runs show that only seven per cent of coronavirus cases would be detected on arrival. But this figure is now being challenged by a group of health experts and data analysts who argue that a significant oversight is causing officials to wildly underestimate the effectiveness of airport testing. In assessing research compiled by Public Health England, which underpins the Government’s quarantine policy, health consultancy Edge Health and analytical firm Oxera have jointly concluded that the data is based on an assumption that anyone with detectable Covid symptoms pre-departure will not board their flight. The seven per cent figure thus only accounts for those passengers who develop symptoms during transit, and does not consider the possibility that travellers showing signs of infection will fly regardless. Senior scientists and health experts at both companies, along with Dr Kit Yates co-director of the Centre for Mathematical Biology at the University of Bath, have subsequently published a new paper claiming that airport testing could actually identify up to 63 per cent of passengers. Its authors have criticised other aspects of PHE’s research method, alleging that the latter’s figures are theoretical and not rooted in real-world data. It therefore does not reflect the actual infection rates in other countries, and cannot accurately predict the threat of the infection spreading via inbound visitors. George Batchelor, co-founder and director of Edge Health, said: “The way in which the PHE model is set up means that only a tiny proportion of infected passengers – those who become symptomatic or are asymptomatic but detectable by a PCR test during the flight – can be detected at arrival. This means the widely quoted seven per cent excludes anyone who is in theory detectable or symptomatic before the flight takes off. “This evidently isn’t the case, and it leads to an underestimation of the effectiveness of testing on arrival (the seven per cent figure), raising serious questions about its role in informing government policy on passenger testing.” Edge Health and Oxera have now submitted their findings to the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce, which is exploring ways in which testing can be used to reduce the quarantine period for inbound travellers. The GTT is currently rejecting calls for PCR tests at airports, and is instead favouring a single-test approach that could potentially halve the quarantine period for visitors from 14 days to seven. The Department of Health has defended this approach, iterating that any change to the testing for arrivals would need to "minimise the chance that positive cases are missed, and maximise compliance with self-isolation rules." A government spokesperson said: “The scientific evidence on testing international arrivals was reviewed and approved by SAGE. Scientific modelling groups and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine independently generated similar results. “International arrivals from non-exempt countries must quarantine for the full 14 days as the incubation period for the virus means passengers who do not follow this advice may pose a risk to others. “Work is ongoing with clinicians, the devolved administrations and the travel industry to consider if and how testing could be used to reduce the self-isolation period.”
During our summer of staycations, the Telegraph Travel team discovered plenty of surprises in England and Wales. More beautiful, fascinating or compelling than we'd ever suspected, these destinations are now firmly on our must-visit lists...
Please note our writers visited these hotels prior to the coronavirus pandemic For years, all-inclusive Jamaica resorts were synonymous with bland buffets, watered down drinks and cheesy group activities. Fast forward to today and it's a different picture; think overwater villas and swim-up rooms, sophisticated restaurants, impressive swimming pools, spas, adults-only resorts, and facilities for families. Indeed, there’s an all-inclusive vacation in Jamaica for everyone. The lion’s share of the island’s stellar offerings are concentrated in and around Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril on Jamaica’s north shore – making them perfectly positioned for guests who want to venture beyond ‘the gate’ and explore well-preserved plantation era houses, the famous Dunn's River Falls and dramatic YS Falls. Almost all visitors fly into Montego Bay and from there, travel onwards by car to their resort. Here’s our pick of the best all-inclusive hotels in Jamaica for those who want to head of for some Caribbean sun, safe in the knowledge that the credit card won’t take a pounding. MONTEGO BAY Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa Situated on the site of a former sugar plantation, the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa is a humongous place promising fun for the whole family just 15 minutes from downtown Montego Bay. Set on a 2,500 square foot private beach – the longest in Jamaica – the property’s selling point is the spectacular Sugar Mill Falls water park, the largest on the island with its 280-foot waterslide and lazy river. Six tennis courts, a choice of pools, 10 restaurants covering every dining base, watersports, Soothe spa and a championship 18-hole golf course complete the line-up. Read the full review: Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa
Austrian heavyweight with small-town charm Linked to three neighbouring villages by a huge ski area, the second largest in Austria, Saalbach, located in Austria’s Salzburgerland province, has 270km of pistes to explore, along with a lively après scene and plenty of small-town charm. The succinctly named Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn ski area is more than large enough to keep even the keenest piste traveller happy for a couple of weeks. And it is served by one of the slickest lift systems in the world, with gondolas and high-speed chairlifts galore.
Standing on the rim of Ngorongoro, I looked down into the crater scanning the layers of haze through my binoculars. There was a solitary hippo grazing; a herd of zebra; and the distinctive shape of three rhinos, but I saw not one other safari vehicle. Remarkably, it turned out it was easier to spot a rhino than a tourist.
On Friday, October 23, Greater Manchester will move under the strictest “very high” coronavirus restrictions, meaning that bars and pubs in the area must close unless they are offering substantial meals, and people should avoid travelling out of the area if they live there or entering the area if they don’t.
From Friday, Greater Manchester will move into Tier 3 of the Government’s new lockdown system, meaning the region will have to endure tough Covid-19 restrictions over the school half-term holidays. Merseyside and Lancashire already occupy this category, designated ‘very high risk’, and South Yorkshire is set to follow suit on Saturday.