Going abroad in 2021? It’s a complicated time, and travel advice is always changing, but it’s still absolutely possible to take a break. Here’s our guide to how to travel with COVID restrictions in play.
Stay aware of local rules
As we’ve all learnt, things can change very quickly in a pandemic, particularly now that we’re facing the more transmissible Delta variant. Even if you’re not leaving the country, the current lockdown rules may interfere with your travel plans.
If a relaxation of rules was originally predicted for a particular date, the situation might have changed. Check that the relaxation has actually gone ahead, rather than assuming that things have gone as planned.
Check the rules at your destination
If you book a two-week holiday abroad, you don’t want to arrive and find out you have to quarantine for ten days, or be turned away because you haven’t had a required COVID-19 test. Check the rules at your destination, both before you book and periodically before you travel.
- Is the country currently allowing people travelling from the UK to enter at all?
- Will you need to take a private COVID-19 test before you set off?
- What are the rules for people coming into the country? Will you need to prove you’re fully vaccinated? Will you need to quarantine?
- What are the rules for people leaving the country?
- What social distancing regulations are in place?
- Are you required to wear a mask under certain circumstances? If so, which circumstances?
- If you’re hoping to go to restaurants or particular tourist spots, will they be open?
The UK government website has detailed foreign travel advice by country, including specific coronavirus-related advice and entry requirements. On each country’s page, you can click the ‘Get email alerts’ link under the contents list to be updated whenever the travel advice for that country changes.
You can book your fit-to-fly COVID-19 travel test with VSM Pharmacy if you need a travel certificate.
Stay up-to-date on red, amber and green countries in preparation for the return home
If you’re travelling overseas from the UK with the intention of returning, it’s important to be aware of the UK government’s red, amber and green lists for travel, and of the rules associated with them. Even if you’re returning from a country on the green list, you’ll need to follow particular steps to limit the spread of COVID-19.
You should not travel to countries on the red list. When you’re booking a holiday, check whether the company you’re booking with will be willing to refund you if the country becomes off-limits.
Even if you travel to a green listed country, it’s possible that you’ll find yourself having to follow red or amber list rules if its status changes while you’re there, or if you pass through a country on another list before returning home. Crucially, if you’ve been in a country on the red list in the last ten days, you’ll only be allowed to re-enter the UK if you’re a British or Irish national, or if you have residence rights in the UK.
Remember that these are the UK’s ratings for other countries. A country green listed by the UK won’t necessarily green list the UK in return. For example, Australia is on the UK’s green travel list, but most travellers are currently barred from entering Australia. This is why you need to check your destination’s travel rules as well as those for the UK.
For the most up-to-date information on how to re-enter the UK from a country on the red, amber or green list, check the government’s specific advice for England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. You have to follow these rules even if you’re vaccinated.
You currently need to book a day 2 COVID-19 test before you return from a green-list country (to be taken two days after your arrival, which is day 0), or day 2 and day 8 tests if you’re returning from an amber-list country. For those returning from an amber list country who wish to terminate their quarantine earlier, the day 2,5 and 8 tests would be the best option as they allow you to end quarantine after 7 days if the day 2 and 5 tests are negative. If you’re returning from a red-list country, you’ll instead need to book a stay in a quarantine hotel. VSM Pharmacy offers a range of COVID-19 test options to suit your needs.
When you arrive in the UK, you’ll also need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the 72 hours before your journey.
If you need to stay aware of country status changes and guidance about entering the UK from overseas, you can subscribe on the UK government website for email updates. You can choose to receive these daily, weekly or whenever an update is made.
Don’t forget your masks
It’s always important to bring the essentials when you’re going on holiday. Nobody wants to sit down on the plane and suddenly realise they haven’t packed any pants. But, in the COVID-19 pandemic, the list of travel essentials has expanded.
Check the mask regulations at your destination, and make sure you have the masks to see yourself through. If you’re travelling to a place that requires masks both indoors and outdoors, of course, you’re likely to need more masks than you would in a place that only requires masks in public indoor spaces.
You’ll often be able to buy masks at your destination if you need more, of course, but, if you’re in a country that won’t let you enter a shop without a mask, you’ll need to mask up before you can buy them!
In the midst of all these regulations, it can be easy to forget why you’re going on holiday in the first place.
Have a good time. Relax, unwind, take the opportunity to see new places and experience new things. Enjoy the scenery. Taking a break is important, especially when lockdown has been a fairly monotonous experience for many of us.
These travel requirements may seem like a pain, but they’re here to help us all stay healthy. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and in the future we’ll be able to have more relaxed holidays again.