Can I visit Wales? Latest travel advice as Easter self-catering breaks proposed

Emma Featherstone
·6-min read
can i visit wales 2021 holiday travel advice self-catering - Getty
can i visit wales 2021 holiday travel advice self-catering - Getty

Wales is under Level 4 lockdown rules; non-essential travel is banned and residents are expected to stay at home as much as possible. Another review of the restrictions is due on March 12.

Hopes have been raised for the reopening of tourism, however. First Minister Mark Drakeford said on February 19 that "self-contained" holidays may be able to take place over Easter.

This would put the resumption of self-catering breaks in Wales ahead of those of England (where an April 12 restart is planned, as detailed in the UK Government's roadmap out of lockdown). A quicker reopening for tourism in Wales could be possible due to its falling infection rates, which are lower than those of the other UK nations.

"I met our tourism taskforce yesterday, [and] we'll be having some detailed discussions with them now over the next couple of weeks to see if there's anything that we might be able to do around the Easter period," Mr Drakeford told the BBC earlier this month.

"The most that would be [is] the reopening of self-contained accommodation where there aren't shared facilities and there isn't social mixing. But if we could do that [...] I know that would be a boost to the industry and a big boost to hundreds of thousands of families in Wales for whom going down the caravan for a few days or a break would be a very welcome prospect."

However, the First Minister also said that Wales will look to impose restrictions on people travelling into the country from areas with a high incidence of coronavirus. He suggested this would not amount to an outright ban on visitors from England.

That said, England’s stay-at-home order will continue until March 29 at which point people will still encouraged to minimise travel. April 12 will be the earliest date from which self-contained accommodation in England will be able to reopen, allowing people to stay overnight with members of their household.

Here, we answer the key questions about travel to Wales.

What are the lockdown rules in Wales, and when might they lift?

People in Wales must only travel for essential reasons and stay-at-home restrictions remain, with all current rules in place until at least the next review on March 12. The restrictions relating to travel and tourism include:

  • Non-essential retail and hospitality remain closed

  • From Feb 20, four people from different households can meet up to exercise, as long as they stay local

  • Stay-at-home restrictions in place

  • Only essential travel is allowed

  • When outdoors, people are advised to wear a face mask in public places

  • All indoor and outdoor events are cancelled and visitor attractions are shut

  • House parties, events and gatherings are unlawful

The next review is set to look at restrictions on non-essential retail and close contact services. The Welsh Government will also need to look at its rules on travel and tourism if it decides to allow self-contained accommodation to open in time for Easter bank holiday, which falls on April 2–4.

When will hospitality reopen in Wales?

A step-by-step reopening for the tourism and hospitality sectors is most likely, according to Mr Drakeford’s latest comments.

"When we reopened tourism last year, we didn't go from nothing to everything in one go. Our first steps were to reopen self-contained accommodation, where people had all their own facilities and that self-contained accommodation was occupied by people in your own family group," he said.

"I hear everything that the tourism industry says to us in Wales and want to recognise how important the Easter period is to them."

Pubs and restaurants were not mentioned in the latest announcement on restrictions. Mr Drakeford said they would also not be included in the next two three-week reviews, which are due on March 12 and April 2.

"The industry was clear that they didn't want to be left in the dark,” he said.

“That is why I was clear with them that in the next six weeks our priorities will continue to be children and education, whether it is possible to open some non-essential retail, if there is any prospect of even a modest resumption in the tourism industry. Hospitality, if we can accomplish that successfully, their turn will come."

He added that the hospitality sector had said it did not want a stop-and-start approach to reopening.

pembrokeshire coast - Getty
pembrokeshire coast - Getty

When will Wales welcome tourists?

Wales often took a tougher stance than England towards Covid restrictions in 2020. This included a temporary ban on travel from Wales to England. In December, this changed allowing travel from Wales to Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas of England.

A new approach to travel between Wales and other areas of the UK could be introduced when non-essential trips are permitted.

While Mr Drakeford said on February 19 that he would not seek to impose a ban on visitors from elsewhere in the UK, he did suggest restrictions could remain in place.

"The border is not the issue, the issue is trying to make sure coronavirus doesn't get seeded again into low incidence areas," he said.

"If we have wide disparities we will act again to make sure low incidence areas do not face influxes of people travelling to Wales bringing the virus with them."

Should I book a holiday in Wales?

To do so would come with the risk that your holiday could not go ahead and that you might lose some, or all of, the money you had paid towards it.

The Welsh Government has yet to confirm any clear dates for the reopening of tourism and, as last year proved, restrictions can change quickly. Those in Wales who plan to take a chance on booking a self-catering break with their household should pay careful attention to the refund policy of their accommodation provider.

Residents of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are subject to restrictions on travel in their own country. The roadmap published by the UK Government puts March 29 as the date at which stay-at-home rules will be lifted. However, during this stage, people will still be encouraged to minimise travel.

April 12 is the earliest date at which people in England will be permitted to take domestic breaks with their own household. This is when self-catering accommodation in England may be able to reopen.

Restrictions on travel into and around Wales can also have an impact. Mr Drakeford suggested that Wales will seek to avoid the resurgence of infection rates in low incidence areas through travel from high incidence areas of the UK. This could impact those in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland who book a holiday in the country.

It is not yet clear how "high incidence" areas will be determined for travel from England. Last year, the UK Government’s Tier system was used as a reference. Under the UK Government's roadmap, England’s reopening is designed to happen uniformly across the country with no return to the Tier system.

Also of note is that while the First Minister has made positive comments towards the reopening of self-contained holiday lets, he has not yet addressed the plan for other overnight accommodation, such as hotels and Bed and Breakfasts.

Welsh Conservative Party Leader Andrew RT Davies is among those calling for the publication of a roadmap out of lockdown for Wales, following Mr Johnson’s announcement on February 22.

Read more: When can I go on holiday abroad?