Can I go on holiday this summer and will I have to quarantine?

Here’s everything you need to know about the (not so) big getaway

Helen Coffey
Thursday 06 August 2020 12:11 BST

For many, it felt like summer was cancelled as soon as Matt Hancock said as much on ITV’s This Morning back in early May.

“I think that’s likely to be the case,” the health secretary answered when asked if sunny season would be off the agenda for the first time since the Second World War.

But there are now glimmers of hope that something could be salvaged as Britain’s lockdown restrictions continue to ease. Here are your questions answered...

Will I be able to go on holiday this summer?

Yes, if you want. It’s contingent on several factors: the Foreign Office travel warning being lifted; the host country being willing to accept tourists from the UK; no quarantine being imposed upon arrival or return to the UK; and the ability to fly or otherwise travel to your chosen destination.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a blanket warning against all non-essential international travel back in March, but this was lifted for 67 destinations as of 4 July. The list is subject to change at any time – more recently, a further 19 destinations were added, while others, including Spain, were removed without warning.

Meanwhile, the mandatory two-week quarantine for all inbound arrivals, which started on 8 June, has also been scrapped as of 10 July for those travelling from a separate list of approved countries and territories into England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland published its own list of destinations, although the two are currently identical. Five countries were recently added across both, while Serbia and Spain were removed from the Department for Transport’s list (they were never on Scotland’s in the first place). Luxembourg also got the boot after a surge in coronavirus cases.

Although the FCO and quarantine-exempt lists of countries are not the same, at present a number of places can be found across both, meaning that holidays to these destinations might be feasible again (although there’s no guarantee the countries in question will let Brits in).

After nearly three months of staying completely grounded, easyJet operated its first post-lockdown flight on 15 June (a domestic service to Glasgow), and other airlines followed suit – though nowhere near pre-coronavirus levels, there are now regular flights to most destinations that UK travellers are free to visit.

You might think that, as the “sick man of Europe”, Britons won’t be welcome elsewhere; but for a number of countries, UK visitors make up a significant proportion of their tourism market overall, and they’re keen to have us back. Spain, for example, opened its doors to British holidaymakers as of 21 June, without the need to self-isolate on arrival.

Italy reopened its borders for travellers from the UK and the 26 EU member states as of 3 June, and Croatia has been inviting tourists in since May. Click here for a full list of destinations with no travel restrictions for British holidaymakers.

Will I have to quarantine when I get there?

This largely depends on the country in question. Quarantining is generally implemented in countries with a low infection rate for people arriving from a country with a high infection rate (although this didn’t hold true in the UK’s case). For example, New Zealand is “closed to almost all travellers” and demands that all arrivals self-isolate for two weeks. The country has one of the lowest infection rates in the world and a Covid-19 death toll of just 22 overall.

However, there are already a number of countries that will allow British holidaymakers in without any quarantine requirements, including France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Germany, Poland, Croatia, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland.

Click here to see The Independent‘s full list of countries you’re free to travel to without the need to be tested or quarantine on arrival.

Will I have to quarantine when I come home?

For most countries, yes – a 14-day quarantine was introduced on 8 June for all arrivals into the UK, including Brits returning from abroad.

The quarantine was put in place indefinitely, but the government has relaxed the rules as of 10 July for certain countries and territories regarded as “low-risk” by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, which was set up to coordinate the government’s response to the pandemic.

The list of exempt countries is subject to change, and is being reviewed on a weekly basis. There are currently more than 60 exempt countries, including France, Italy, Croatia, Greece and Turkey.

Will anything be open if I go abroad?

It depends on where you go, but in most cases, yes. Plenty of countries across Europe are easing lockdown measures, with non-essential shops and attractions reopening.

For instance, in Venice, the famed Doge’s Palace reopened on 13 June, along with most souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. The Leaning Tower of Pisa opened at the start of June.

Many attractions in France and Spain are open, including the palace at Versailles and the Guggenheim in Bilbao, though social-distancing, the limiting of visitor numbers and advance online bookings are generally required.

Just check your specific region before travelling – as new Covid-19 flare-ups occur, measures are being reintroduced on a localised basis, meaning services could shut again or other restrictions could be imposed.

I’m booked but no longer want to go – can I get a refund?

Where a tour operator has cancelled your package holiday, you’re entitled to a full refund within 14 days (though in reality it’s likely to be a much longer wait).

However, if your holiday is still scheduled to go ahead, pulling out now would mean you forfeit any money you’ve already paid out, as your cancellation falls under “disinclination to travel”.

If you have particular health concerns it might be worth getting in touch with your travel insurance provider, although many of them have changed their terms and conditions to disallow any claims associated with Covid-19.

Contacting the holiday provider and asking to rebook for a later date next year might be your best bet. Tui is offering anyone booked up to 31 August 2020 to postpone without penalty.

Those who have booked separate flights and accommodation will find it much harder to get a refund if they cancel – the airline has no obligation to refund you if the flight goes ahead, even if the FCO advises against travel to your destination.

Can I go on staycation?

From 4 July, up to two households have been allowed to stay overnight together “in self-contained accommodation”, as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.

Many English hotels reopened on 4 July, complete with stringent new cleaning measures.

Just be aware that things might be a little different – breakfast buffets are likely to be scrapped, while spas could require guests to get changed in their rooms to avoid overcrowding of changing rooms.

However, recently reinstated lockdown rules in parts of the north of England mean people visiting family or friends in the affected areas are not allowed to stay in their homes or the same accommodation, such as a self-catering apartment, together (unless they have previously formed a support bubble).

Northern Ireland was a day ahead, with hotels, pubs, restaurants and tourist attractions all able to open with suitable social-distancing measures from 3 July.

Scotland reopened its tourist industry on 15 July; Aberdeen is currently experiencing a local lockdown, with people told not to travel there and residents banned from travelling more than five miles from home for leisure purposes. Travel restrictions in Wales were lifted from 6 July and self-contained accommodation has been permitted to re-open as of 13 July.

Up until 17 July, anyone without a car was pretty stuck when it came to domestic travel, as the government advised against all “non-essential” public transport journeys. But Boris Johnson has now said travelling by public transport is permitted throughout England, whatever the reason for your journey.

How can I stay safe while travelling?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s the standard: “Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds” advice. This is particularly important while in transit – at the airport and on a flight, train or ferry – because you’re coming into contact with a lot of new people. Take hand sanitiser with you where possible, as it’s easier than requesting permission to go to the loo to wash your hands (now necessary on a Ryanair flight). Wear a mask in enclosed spaces, and steer clear of anyone coughing or otherwise looking unwell.

If you really want to minimise human contact during the journey, opting to drive is probably the most effective means of avoiding others.

Will it be expensive to go on holiday this summer?

Holiday companies attempting to entice travellers are still proffering deals – Jet2 Holidays, for example, is offering a week to Corfu from £239pp, including flights and transfers, departing 11 September.

But those booking separate flights and accommodation as opposed to packages may find air fares are pricier than normal due to reduced capacity.

The Independent’s travel correspondent Simon Calder noted of easyJet’s first flight after being grounded for 11 weeks during the pandemic: “Fares on the few flights that are operating can be punishingly high: I paid £175 for the one-hour hop [to Glasgow].”

Currently the demand for self-contained accommodation in the UK is very high, with prices to match, so you may actually get a better deal by booking somewhere abroad.

Can I get travel insurance to cover coronavirus?

Yes – more policies covering coronavirus are becoming available.

Both Trailfinders and Allianz Assistance are selling policies that cover customers for both holiday disruption/cancellation caused by coronavirus, and medical expenses should you contract the virus abroad.

Staysure says: “If you develop Covid-19 while on holiday and need help, you’ll be covered as long as you have declared your pre-existing conditions.” Saga is also offering medical coronavirus cover.

However, most providers are excluding cover for Covid-19 on all new policies. One of the largest providers, Columbus Direct, says: “We are no longer able to offer cover for claims arising from, or related to, coronavirus.”

Policies bought before mid-March may still cover you for coronavirus-related claims. If you have an annual policy, your insurer may or may not allow you to renew with the same degree of cover.

Travelling against Foreign Office travel advice invalidates standard travel insurance policies (it is possible to pay through the nose for “war zone” insurance policies that will cover you).

For visits within the European Union, the EHIC scheme is still in operation for British travellers to the end of the year and will provide medical treatment on the same basis as local people in public hospitals across the EU.

Is it safe to go abroad?

It’s completely dependent on where you go. Many countries in Europe have managed to flatten the curve and reduce coronavirus infection rates far more successfully than the UK by using methods like early lockdown and comprehensive track and trace programmes. In fact, with the world’s third-highest death rate, it could be argued that the UK is a riskier place to be than many other countries.

It’s worth being vigilant at the airport and on the aircraft (or train, boat or any other preferred mode of transport) – taking measures such as regular hand washing and wearing a face covering – and likewise while abroad if you venture into busy, enclosed spaces. But in many cases being on holiday shouldn’t be any more dangerous than being in the UK, especially now that non-essential shops and other amenities are opening up here again.

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