And just like that, another set of lockdown restrictions have eased! A time that many of us have been looking forward to whether it’s for hugging our nearest and dearest, eating a meal that is still warm after 5 minutes of being served or booking holidays! Yes, it’s official, we can finally go on holiday abroad (hooray!) but be warned, it’s not going to be straightforward. To help you navigate the complex world of post-pandemic travel we’ve compiled the following travel checklist you can use to stay safe as well as prevent any travel headaches this summer. Guidance below is for travelling from England though rules are similar for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Choose your destination:
The main issue when it comes to choosing a destination is choosing a relatively ‘safe’ destination and sorting out your pre and post-travel covid testing (as well as budgeting for it). Most of you will know by now that the government has created a traffic-light system (green, amber and red) to classify countries according to their infection and vaccination rates, taking into account other important factors such as the prevalence of variant strains of covid. The bottom line is that leisure travel to ‘green’ destinations is permitted without having to quarantine (subject to covid testing) and frankly, far less hassle in terms of covid testing and needing to quarantine. Furthermore, the government has advised against non-essential travel to amber and red countries but they will be reviewing the lists every three weeks.
Book your covid tests:
Below is a summary of the main requirements when it comes to covid testing required to travel into and out of the UK.
For outward travel, check the requirements of your travel destination for details on pre-travel testing. You will need to provide confirmation of your negative test result before travelling and you must not travel if you test positive.
For your return to the UK, you will need a negative PCR or lateral flow test dated no more than 3 days before return travel to the UK (beware of fake providers selling tests or certificates cheaply) no matter where you are travelling from. You will also need to ensure that the test provider meets performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml. On your return, testing will depend on the classification of the country you are travelling from, below is a brief summary but please check the government website in the event guidance changes.
GREEN: PCR test on Day 2 (these cost in the region of £80-150)
AMBER: PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8 of your return, quarantine for 10 days or throw more money at the problem and ‘get out of jail’ on Day 5 with a negative PCR test.
RED: Mandatory stay in a quarantined hotel for 10 days (at your own expense and note hotel stays can cost in the region of £1750) with testing on Day 2 and Day 8.
You need to follow these rules even if you have been vaccinated.
Check holiday cancellation policies
This one is really important. Make sure to be aware of flight and hotel policies when it comes to cancellations or date changes. You may not be eligible for refunds if you cannot travel due to changes to the status of the classification of the country you are travelling to made by the UK government.
Check travel insurance
It goes without saying that travel insurance is a travel essential at any time but most importantly, during the pandemic. As discussed above, check what sort of cover your policy provides when it comes to illness versus being unable to travel due to your destination being re-classified as amber or red.
Download your vaccination passport
The much talked about ‘vaccination passport’ comes in the form of the NHS Health App (different to the Covid app). Travellers without a smartphone can request a paper copy. Travellers who have not been vaccinated may be subject to extra tests. Check entry requirements to your destination for full details.
Complete your travel documents:
You will need to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) both for your outward as well as return journey. You can access the PLF for travel into the UK here (you can search for the PLF’s for each country on the same site). Last year, communication around this requirement was poor and many travelers without the form were denied boarding. Don’t forget to do this at least 48 hours before you travel and ensure that you have your copy ready for boarding!
Stay safe whilst abroad:
While our vaccination programme has gone incredibly well, we are not out of the woods yet and all the usual measures such as social distancing, hand-washing and masks still apply. Don’t forget that many countries are in the early stages of their immunisation programme and the risk of exposing and transmitting the virus to others is very real.
It’s also worth considering what you would do if you or someone you are travelling with were to become unwell? Do you know what the number is for the emergency services or where the closest hospital or medical clinic is located? It’s a good idea to make a note of these before you travel for peace of mind.
When it comes to health-related documents, in addition to your travel insurance, the former European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will be valid until the date of expiry on your card for travel within Europe. If you don’t have an EHIC you can check your eligibility and apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) free of charge. Both will allow you to get state-provided medically necessary healthcare within the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Note demand is high currently and there may be delays in processing applications.
So in summary:
- Choose your country carefully
- Take a covid test before you travel (and hope like hell it’s negative)
- Book and pay for the tests you will need on your return to the UK
- Don’t forget to complete your Passenger Locator Form before you fly
- Check cancellation policies, insurance and healthcare service details when planning your trip
- Stay flexible and be open to the fact that things may change. And if that all sounds like too much, go for a staycation instead!
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