The information below is correct at the time of writing, but international travel is only just beginning to open up again and any change in a country’s COVID19 status will have an impact on their entry requirements.
The UK government has lifted the blanket ban on all non-essential travel, hotels and tourist attractions have re-opened in England, albeit with some restrictions, and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are beginning to release their grip too.
At last we can look beyond our own back yard and put in some serious travel planning.
And planning is what it takes these days – spontaneity is a thing of the past and bucket lists (if you believe in them) are being seriously re-shaped.
• Read B*ll*cks to the bucket list
It is now possible to travel further at home and abroad and if you’re ready for a summer holiday, no-one should stop you.
Not every hotel, B&B, pub and restaurant will be open so patience and understanding are the watchwords. You may want to ask yourself these six key questions first.
Nobody wants to spend their precious leisure time packed on a beach with litter louts and selfish folk who don’t want to pay any heed to social distancing.
So it’s essential to Know Before You Go.
Travel within the UK
In England there’s a special information hub to help you check details around your chosen destination to find out what may still be restricted.
• Visit England Know Before You Go
There’s also a ‘We’re Good to Go’ industry standard mark across all the UK tourist boards. Businesses which meet the new COVID19 criteria can display the mark to give consumers confidence that they’re taking all the right steps to keep us safe.
Plenty of attractions in England are welcoming visitors in their own, unique ways. Pre-booked time slots are common along with one-way routes, gallons of hand sanitiser and social distance markings. So days out in gardens, safari parks, and historic castle grounds can now be enjoyed.
Pubs and restaurants are offering more than just a takeaway service, but pub gardens and al fresco dining options are likely to be the busiest.
• Visit England
Whilst there’s no legal limit to how far people in Scotland can now travel, non-essential travel is still not allowed from England into Scotland, so holidays north of the border remain on hold.
Visit Scotland has a full recovery plan outlined on their website with Phase Three about to begin, opening up more attractions to Scotland-based visitors.
• Visit Scotland
The country has just begun to lift its restrictions. From Monday 6 July local people have been able to travel around Wales and outdoor visitor attractions have re-opened.
From next week (13 July) the plan is for more tourism to be encouraged, with strict social distancing and hand hygiene requirements. This will see self-contained holiday accommodation and the hospitality sector, including bars, restaurants and cafes with outdoor spaces, begin to re-open.
Updated guidance as these changes are made can be found on their website.
• Visit Wales
Ferries and flights have continued between England and Northern Ireland throughout the pandemic but still the advice is to stay away – for a little longer at least.
Locals can take a break, with holiday and caravan parks, camping sites and self-catering properties already open. Outdoor activities are actively encouraged but with the caveat to be smart under the slogan ‘Leave no trace. Love the place‘.
As restrictions on visitors from outside Northern Ireland begin to be lifted, their website will be updated.
• Discover Northern Ireland
The ‘air bridges’ option never quite got off the ground (forgive the pun) and the current ‘air corridors’ only apply to travellers to and from England.
There is now a long list of countries you can travel to without the need to self isolate on your return to England.
But not every country is willing to welcome Britons, even though UK visitors make up a large part of their tourism trade in the past, many are now focusing on encouraging more local custom.
And if you do go abroad you will be expected to abide by rules to limit the spread of the coronavirus in each individual destination.
In some cases this will mean having to take (and maybe pay for) a compulsory test on arrival. If the test comes back positive it will severely curtail your holiday plans.
Masks are much more widely used in countries outside the UK and you may find other local customs apply that you’ve never had to think of before.
Expect temperature checks, socially distant queuing, pre-booking for almost everything and be prepared for sudden local lockdowns which might include popular beaches.
If you’re still undecided where to go, Wanderlust has a comprehensive guide to the 59 destinations.
• Wanderlust destination travel guide
So how risky is it to book a holiday right now?
Many airlines and holiday providers are offering flexible booking policies which will let you move holidays and flights to different dates without a change fee, but watch out for the small print which might put a time limit on when you can make that change.
Each airline and travel company will have its own policy so take time to read the small print.
Even more importantly you need to understand what travel insurance policies will and won’t cover.
Now is not the time to stint on health-related travel insurance.
Emma Coulthurst, travel commentator from holiday price comparison site, TravelSupermarket says most travel insurance was stopped when the FCO advised against all but essential travel but now policies are on sale again.
‘Currently, there are around 12 providers on TravelSupermarket’s platform, who you can compare prices for and click through to buy policies with. And there are more policies going live every day.’
• TravelSupermarket insurance (affiliate link)
Will I be covered if I contract COVID 19 while on holiday?
Again Emma has some reassurance: ‘All of the providers currently live on TravelSupermarket’s panel cover emergency medical & repatriation for Covid-19 if you were to contract the virus on holiday. This means that you will be covered for medical treatment and be brought home, if needed, to have further medical treatment back in the UK.’
‘And if your policy was bought before Covid19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation on March 11, or if you’ve renewed your annual policy since March 11, then annual travel insurance should cover you for events relating to coronavirus as long as you would have been covered beforehand.’
Don’t forget if you are travelling in the EU to make sure your EHIC card is up to date and take it with you. The card gives you access to reciprocal free health care and is valid until at least the end of this year.
What about cancellation if you get COVID19 before you go and have to self-isolate?
Once again you need to study the small print and make sure you know what you’re buying.
Any policy bought before 11 March should cover you for cancellation. If the policy covers a pre-existing medical condition that makes you more vulnerable to Covid 19, you also may be able to claim.
There are a few insurers who have added cover if you contract the virus and cannot travel, but you need to make a thorough comparison to make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t included.
For an independent guide to your travel rights during the pandemic we recommend Money Saving Expert.
• Money Saving Expert coronavirus travel help
As for us?
We’re playing it cool – riding the waves of the virus rather than the high seas and staying local a little longer.
Choose your holiday well and always travel mindfully.
For the definitive advice on all travel for UK citizens, see Foreign Travel Advice from the UK Foreign Office.
• UK foreign travel advice