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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

Travel is a little tricky at the moment and it’s not easy to keep up-to-date. 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 travel.

Can I travel in the UK right now?

Travel between England, Scotland, and Wales is currently allowed, and the rules of whichever country you’re in will apply. As of 17 May, here’s what you need to know:

England

  • Groups of six, or two households, can meet indoors and go away together
  • Hotels, B&Bs, and self-contained accommodation are all now open

Scotland

  • Hotels, B&Bs, and self-contained accommodation are all open
  • Up to four people from two households are allowed to stay together
  • Six people from two households are allowed to meet in an indoor public space
  • Two lateral flow tests are encouraged if you want to travel to a Scottish island

Wales

  • All holiday accommodation is fully open, and you can go away with your household
  • Up to six people from up to six households can socialise indoors

Northern Ireland (to be reviewed 20 May)

  • Holiday accommodation is open to Northern Irish residents only
  • Overnight stays in self-contained accommodation for one household are allowed
  • Two households can create a bubble together and socialise indoors (up to 10 people, including children)
  • Travel between other parts of the UK could be allowed from 24 May

Where can I go abroad?

As well as any local restrictions on whether you can travel in the UK, you’ll also need to follow 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, England and Scotland recently outlined the red, amber, and green list. Wales have announced their own traffic light system, which works a bit differently to England and Scotland.

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 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 positive test)
  • Test on day two and day eight of self-isolation
  • Test to Release scheme available from day five to end your self-isolation early with a negative test

Red list

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

All tests taken by people travelling to the UK 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.

Northern Ireland has their own arrival guidelines, as will most other countries.

Changes to travelling

Since many of us 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 who’s travelling. Everyone over 11 will also need to test negative.

Vaccines

The rollout of various vaccines across the world is providing hope for those looking to travel once again. The UK alone has given over 35 million people their first dose.

‘Vaccine passports’ continue to be discussed worldwide, and Brits will be able to show their vaccine status 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 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. You can even get a discount of 10% on PCR tests when you take out a travel insurance policy with us.

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