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What you need to know about travelling during the coronavirus pandemic

an image of someone packing a face mask into their suitcase when preparing to go on holiday
As of 19 July, fully vaccinated travellers can now go on holiday to amber list countries from the UK without needing to self-isolate or quarantine on return. Make sure you check the FCDO’s travel advice before you set off and while you’re away.

With holiday guidelines changing a lot at the moment, we’ve done our best to cover what you need to know about travelling during the coronavirus pandemic.

Keep reading to learn more from our guide, like where you can go and what you need to remember when you next go away.

Can I travel in the UK right now?

Travel between England, Scotland, and Wales is allowed, and the rules of whichever country you’re in will apply. As of 19 July, here’s what you need to know:

England

  • All holiday accommodation is open
  • There are no limits on who you can stay with
  • The remaining public spaces (including nightclubs) are reopening
  • No limits on meeting people indoors, but meeting outside is recommended
  • Face coverings and social distancing are no longer mandatory but still recommended

Scotland

  • All holiday accommodation is open
  • You can meet with up to eight people from up to four households at home
  • You can meet with up to 10 people from up to four households in an indoor public space
  • You can meet with up to 15 people from up to 15 households outdoors (in a private garden or public space)
  • Children under 12 aren’t counted in these numbers
  • Restrictions are currently at a ‘modified Level 0’
  • Social distancing and face coverings are still mandatory
  • Further restrictions set to be lifted on 9 August

Wales

  • All holiday accommodation is fully open
  • You can stay and socialise indoors with up to six people from different households
  • There is no limit for households/extended households
  • Face coverings and social distancing are still mandatory
  • Restrictions currently at ‘Level 1’ – plan to move to ‘Level 0’ on 7 August

Northern Ireland

  • All holiday accommodation is open
  • Up to six people from two households can meet inside and also stay together overnight (under 13s not counted)
  • 10 people can meet indoors if one of the two households has more than six people
  • 15 people from five households can meet in a garden
  • Face coverings and social distancing are still mandatory
  • Plans to ease restrictions from 26 July, to be reviewed 22 July

Where can I go abroad?

Before you go away, you’ll need to check the FCDO advice and any entry requirements for the countries you’d like to visit.

FCDO travel advice

When it comes to the FCDO, there are two levels of travel advice that can stop your holiday in its tracks: advice against ‘all travel’ and advice against ‘all but essential travel’.

Travel providers often make decisions on whether holidays can go ahead based on the FCDO’s advice, which means your holiday could be rearranged or cancelled for countries with advice against ‘all’ or ‘all but essential’ travel.

FCDO advice can also affect if your travel insurance will cover your trip. Look at our European FCDO Travel Advice Extension to find out how we can cover you against ‘all but essential’ travel advice.

Entry requirements

Naturally, entry requirements differ from country to country. They’re going to depend on where you’re travelling from, the status of the pandemic in your destination, and personal details about yourself like negative tests and vaccinations.

The FCDO has a helpful guide on the entry requirements for all countries around the world.

Red, amber, and green list

As other countries have their own requirements, the UK has the red, amber, and green lists.

Often referred to as the ‘traffic light system’, these lists decide the testing and quarantine restrictions you need to follow when coming back to the UK after having been in a country on the relevant list within the past 10 days.

Green list:

  • Test within 72 hours before travelling back
  • Test on your second day back
  • No self-isolation (unless you test positive)

Amber list:

  • Test within 72 hours before travelling back
  • Self-isolation at home for 10 days (extended with a positive test)
  • Test on day two and day eight of self-isolation
  • Test to Release scheme available from day five of self-isolation to cut your time at home short
  • Travellers who are fully vaccinated** no longer have to self-isolate when they return from an amber list country (unless they test positive)

Red list:

  • Test within 72 hours before travelling back
  • Stay in a quarantine hotel for 10 days (extended with a positive test)
  • Test on day two and day eight of self-isolation

All tests taken by people travelling to England need to be PCR tests, pre-booked with an approved test provider. The invoice numbers from these tests will need to be added to your passenger locator form, which everyone needs to fill out.

an image showing the requirements for each travel traffic light list

Changes to travelling

If you haven’t travelled for a while, you might be wondering what to look out for. Luckily, most of the changes are just what we’ve become used to in our day to day lives.

Temperature checks, face coverings, increased hygiene measures, and social distancing all apply when travelling.

These measures are just there to help keep everyone safe, and there should be plenty of information – whether that’s signs for one way systems, or to remind you to wear a mask – if you get stuck.

Flying

There will be some flying-specific changes to look out for.

To help maintain social distance, expect to only be allowed in the airport if you’re travelling. Special assistance might need to be pre-booked, and one-way systems will be common.

A ‘contactless experience’ will be in place, where possible. So try to have your passport on the right page to be checked, and make sure you’ll be able to lift your own luggage into the overhead containers.

Expect basic inflight services, and to remain in your seat as much as possible. If you need to use the toilet you’ll probably have to ask a flight attendant to let you know when it’s free.

Cruises

Cruise lines have also made big changes to keep you safe. For example, crew and passengers will be provided with additional health information such as the local restrictions.

People with symptoms may be denied embarkation to a cruise, or given a cabin to self-isolate until they can be tested.

If someone tests positive, the health protection team will help with their disembarkation (if necessary and possible), and will help to manage people that have come into contact with them.

Driving (to Europe)

If you’re planning on driving to Europe from the UK, you’ll need to be aware of the local guidelines for wherever you go.

Since most people cross the English Channel into France, you’ll have to complete a health declaration form for everyone (older than 11) who’s travelling.

Everyone over the age of 11 who is not fully vaccinated will also need to test negative (PCR within 72 hours, or lateral flow within 48 hours) before travelling and self-isolate for 7 days after arrival. If you are fully vaccinated, you don’t need to self-isolate on arrival or provide evidence of a negative test result before travelling.

Vaccines

The rollout of various vaccines across the world is providing hope for those looking to travel once again. The UK alone has fully vaccinated more than 35 million people.

‘Vaccine passports’ continue to be discussed worldwide, and Brits will be able to show their NHS Covid Pass using the NHS app.

Some countries have already confirmed they will have different entry requirements for people who’ve been vaccinated, while some cruise lines have said they will require all passengers and crew to have had their jabs.

Last things to check

Most of us haven’t been abroad for a while, so before you go ahead and book your next holiday, there are a few things that you might need to brush up on.

First of all, read up on how Brexit has affected travel. You might need to apply for a GHIC if your EHIC is expired or you’ve never had one, and you should make sure you have at least six months left on your passport before going away.

Finally, travel insurance is more important now than ever, so don’t forget to get a policy that suits your needs and where you’re going. Our Covid Cover can help you leave the worry at home on your next holiday.

*Amber list rules may differ or change for certain countries at short notice, even if you are fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated travellers are required to have their final vaccination dose at least 14 whole days before arriving back in the UK. Keep up to date with the latest FCDO travel advice before and during your trip.

** You need to have had your second vaccination at least 14 days before travelling for this to apply.

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