Travel Questions

Will new quarantine rules scupper my Poland trip?

Simon Calder answers your questions on quarantine, refunds and post-Brexit visas

Tuesday 29 September 2020 00:05 BST
Comments
*description*Man rides bike on Aleja Solidarnosci in oWarsaw
*description*Man rides bike on Aleja Solidarnosci in oWarsaw (Getty)

Q I hear you are travelling to Poland this week and are returning by the weekend. I am due to travel on Friday for four nights. Is it likely that Poland will be added to the list of quarantine countries? I’ve got until Thursday to pay for accommodation! Help!

Louise S

A I am indeed visiting southern Poland, but I will be returning on Wednesday evening; at present I am booking trips very late, and always with a view to the UK government’s weekly revelation of new no-go nations.

At around 5pm each Thursday evening, the Department for Transport (DfT) puts out the latest countries to be stripped of quarantine exemption (meaning arriving travellers must self-isolate for two weeks on return to the UK), and the Foreign Office warns against all-but-essential travel to them. This “double-lock” is intended to deter people from travelling to those destinations, and usually takes effect at 4am on Saturday.

The DfT and its partners, Public Health England and the Joint Biosecurity Centre use a range of criteria to decide who goes on the “naughty list,” but the one that is actually easy to find and measure is the number of new infection rates in the past week for each 100,000 inhabitants.

As of Monday, those rates ranged from 163 for Spain to just 11 for Singapore. The UK is on 61. But unfortunately for your travel plans and mine, the threshold set by the government is just 20. Monday’s figures pushed Poland’s score to 21.3, and the signs are that the rate will increase in the next few days. Therefore Poland looks a prime candidate for no-go status by Thursday. However, the DfT also assesses at whether there are special circumstances, eg a surge in the number of tests being made.

At present it looks more likely than not that Poland will be made a no-go country. I hope I am wrong, because you and I are statistically at far lower risk of coronavirus in Poland than in the UK. It may be that this is taken into account. But bear in mind that the Thursday announcement is not sacrosanct, and bade news can arrive on any day; in addition, Wales and Scotland have deviated from the UK policy and sometimes imposed stricter policies.

In terms of your accommodation: I suggest you either say, “I’ll let you know late on Thursday evening,” and if that is not acceptable then cancel now and re-book if necessary. I can guarantee there will not be any problem finding a room in Poland for your stay.

Malaga, Spain cityscape at the Cathedral, City Hall and Alcazaba citadel
Malaga, Spain cityscape at the Cathedral, City Hall and Alcazaba citadel (Getty)

Q We are booked to fly from Liverpool to Malaga on 1 October and fly back, but to Manchester, on 5 October. Ryanair has cancelled outbound but not inbound. Can I get a refund for both seeing as they can’t get us there?

Joanne S

A If you are still keen to travel to Malaga, despite the quarantine requirement that means you will need to stay in self-isolation for two weeks when you return to the UK, there’s an easy and profitable solution.

Ryanair must refund you in full for the cancelled flight from Liverpool to Malaga. Also, the airline is selling a flight from Manchester to the Spanish city on the day you want to travel, 1 October, for just £10. I can guarantee that your refund for the cancelled flight will be a lot more than this, so you will actually see the cost of your overall trip reduce. And because you are returning to Manchester, it is clearly feasible for you to reach the airport for the outbound flight.

If, though, you have your heart set on a refund – no doubt having booked before quarantine became an issue for Spain – then it will be a trickier process. You are in a maddening situation because of the different airports for departure from the UK and your arrival back.

Were it a simple return journey, Liverpool-Malaga-Liverpool, then the law would be clear: Ryanair would need to give you all your money back for the both legs of the trip, in cash within a week. European air passengers’ rights rules stipulate that if one half of a round-trip is cancelled, the other must be refunded. But because you are returning to a different airport, the legal position changes.

Several airlines allow passengers to book a “multi-city” itinerary on the same reference (eg Manchester-Amsterdam-Birmingham). In this situation you could expect your money back as the EU regulations require.

But Ryanair does not allow for multi-city trips and instead requires you to book two separate trips. While fairness suggests you should be able to claim both flights back, it could prove a tough one to argue. All I can suggest you do is go on to Ryanair’s live chat function and argue your corner – pointing out the wording of the European air passengers’ rights rules which require a refund “for the part or parts already made if the flight is no longer serving any purpose in relation to the passenger’s original travel plan”. Good luck.

(Getty)

Q Looking ahead to the sunlit uplands of Brexit, I wonder if you can provide an update on the “eurovisa” we’ll need for travelling to the EU?

Jennifer M

A Don’t fret just yet. A whole raft of restrictions and complications for British passport holders heading for Europe will take effect on 1 January 2021 when the transition period ends – but the so-called “eurovisa” will not immediately be among them.

But from some point in the next few years, British visitors to Europe will indeed need to apply in advance for the EU’s Electronic Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias).

Officially it’s not a visa, but it looks, walks and talks like one because you must apply in advance to visit a country/region and provide lots of personal information; pay money (€7, around £6, for three years or until your passport expires, whichever is the soonest) and receive a permit. I contend these amount to a normal person’s understanding of a visa.

You will need to give details of your education, health (particularly any infectious diseases), occupation, serious criminal convictions in the past 20 years and time spent in conflict zones.

Next, you must say why you are travelling (holiday, business, visiting family, etc), specify the country you will first arrive in and provide the address of your first night’s stay (this could pose a problem for travellers who like to make plans as they go along).

The intention is that the vast majority of applications will be approved within a few minutes. But if an application is flagged – ie there is a “hit” with one of the databases against which your details are checked – then a decision will take longer.

Coronavirus is being blamed for delaying the project, and I predict it will not take effect until 2023 at the earliest. When the online system finally comes into operation, a wide range of scam sites will doubtless be set up – fishing for hapless travellers who search online for terms such as “etias visa”. They will look plausible but will charge many times the going rate.

Email your question to s@hols.tv or tweet @simoncalder

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