At long last, “..people in England can start thinking about booking foreign holidays again this summer..”, according to UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps when he announced the outcomes of the Global Travel Taskforce Report (April 2021).
The report, shows how international travel could resume from 17 May 2021 at the earliest for UK residents and offers a real chance of holidays and trips abroad being back on the agenda very soon.
The Government have set out a traffic light system for international travel which grades countries on their COVID risk from ‘green’, ‘amber’ to ‘red’. This next step includes the removal of the permission to travel form- meaning passengers would no longer need to prove they have a valid reason to leave the country.
Mr Shapps, UK Transport Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that "this is the first time I'm able to come on and say I'm not advising against booking foreign holidays”. Not before time as Brits and Europeans alike are desperate to get away and catch up on those much missed trips – whether it’s a much needed holiday or trip to see loved-ones overseas.
Needless to say, passengers will have to follow different rules depending on whether they are travelling to a green, amber or red country. A COVID test will remain necessary before leaving and returning, even for ‘green’ designated locations. There will also be a watch list for countries that could go from green to amber.
It’s of course important to check what the situation is in two or three weeks' time when the list of green, amber, red, countries is produced. The red list of countries will remain under constant review – with the most recent new example being India now subject to a travel ban from 23rd April. You can see the current FCDO travel ban red list countries here.
The new traffic light system for travel is set to replace the current travel restrictions and kickstart summer holidays.
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You can only avoid the 10 day quarantine period if you are returning from a country on the green list. You will still be required to take two Covid tests with negative results. The first must be taken within 72 hours before you depart and also a PCR test on or before the second day after you arrive back.
It will grade destinations based on the level of infection, variants, vaccination levels and capability to sequence the genome of the virus. Different restrictions will apply depending on the country categorisation:
The Government is also looking at the possibility of allowing people to take significantly cheaper lateral flow tests for travel purposes.
Transport Secretary Mr Shapps echoed the common sense advice of the FCDO that “you'll want to know that you've got good holiday insurance” too. Most travel experts agree that you should buy as soon as you book, to protect yourself and your trip. If you think you will squeeze in two or more trips in 12 months, then opt for Annual Multip Trip Travel insurance which works out cheaper. You’ll also sort your insurance in one go for the next 12 months so its one less thing to worry about when you take those long awaited trips.
Whatever the final traffic light system looks like, we know for sure that travelling has changed beyond recognition in the last 12 months.
It’s a must before you travel! Some locations require at least 6 months left on your passport from your date of arrival.
All travel insurance varies and some don’t cover pandemics at all. Check your insurance remains valid if you travel to a country in which your local Government advise against certain travel due to COVID. Many will be invalidated by this and you will have no cover whatsoever. In these circumstances Globelink Insurance remains valid for insured events that are not COVID related. For more information check here.
Many locations require you to submit a health declaration online before you travel. Its up to you to check the departure requirements from your location and entry requirements to your chosen destination.
You can still book Special Assistance such as a wheelchair support but this must be pre-booked.
Carry travel size hand sanitiser and anti-bacterial wet-wipes to stay safe while travelling and a spare face covering in case yours gets damaged or lost.
Airports may restrict entry only to those who are travelling. Almost all locations require teh wearing of face coverings inside the airport and on the plane. You will need to social distance and likely follow one way systems and perhaps pre-booked security slots.
Do not travel if you have a temperature or any COVID-19 symptoms. Follow your government guidance for self-isolation and testing. Most airports have some automatic temperature checks. You will not be permitted to fly if you have a temperature, or COVID-19 symptoms.
Some airports offer airport based testing to certain locations, for a cost. Currently many locations such as Bahamas, Bermuda and Cyprus require a negative ‘PCR’ within 72 hours of travel.
It is your responsibility to check any Government requirements or restrictions well ahead of booking and travel and ensure you comply. For example negative Covid test; providing your temporary location and contact details; self-isolation for a certain time; repeat Covid test before you depart; face coverings; curfew hours in public places and restricted area travel.
Wherever you are thinking of going, always check your local Government, or for UK residents FCDO’s travel advice to stay safe and travel aware. The FCDO update their information regularly so keep checking as you explore which destination to choose.