ver the past 18 months, the pandemic and accompanying uncertainty has meant that much of the UK hasn’t travelled abroad. In the meantime, rules around foreign travel have changed – both because of Covid-19 and our exit from the EU. And as more people prepare to travel abroad, now marks a good time to get up-to-date on the rules to ensure trips abroad are as safe and stress-free as possible.
The UK Government has put in place a range of measures to keep travel safe while helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19, both for those travelling out of the country and those coming in.
Here Emily Shead, who has recently returned from Spain after a five-day holiday with her mum, Christine in Mallorca, talks about what’s changed.
‘The process was a different for the two of us’
Emily, 21, works in digital marketing and lives in London, while Christine lives in Hampshire. They booked a trip to Mallorca when the Balearic island was added to the green list in June.
“When we booked, I’d only had one vaccination, but mum had both. That meant the process was a different for the two of us,” explains Emily. “As mum was double-jabbed, she wasn’t required to do a PCR test before leaving the UK – only I had to do that.”
Emily did a walk-in test at the airport, two days before they were due to fly: “The plane was busy, but everyone was respectful and wore masks. Staff also gave clear instructions on all the dos and don’ts, which was really helpful.”
During their holiday, the pair took precautions, including sanitising their hands regularly and abiding by the one-way systems around their hotel.
“Both mum and I were required to do pre-arrival Covid tests two days before flying home,” Emily adds. “I’d recommend investing time in getting things right on the form so things go smoothly when you land in the UK. To comply with the rules on returning from a green-list country, we both had do PCR tests on day two after landing – but it was worth it for an amazing holiday.”
Why have the rules on foreign travel changed?
From an easy-to-understand guide to the traffic light system, to the changes of documentation required post-Brexit, here’s what you need to know to prepare for safe foreign travel.
A cautious approach is vital to protect public health and the success of the vaccination programme. The Government has put in place a traffic light system that balances the reopening of international travel with managing the risk of Covid-19. The Government’s approach is designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19, especially variants that may be resistant to vaccines.
What do I need to do if I want to travel abroad?
Firstly, check FCDO Travel advice to see what the requirements are for entering the country you are travelling or transiting through and any protocols in the destination such as testing or the wearing of face coverings.
You must complete the relevant quarantine and testing measures for arrivals on your return to the UK, depending on whether you are returning from a green, amber or red destination. All passengers should complete a passenger locator form to travel to the UK. This requires booking references for testing and quarantine and a declaration of vaccination status for amber arrivals.
What happens if I catch Covid while I’m away?
Coming down with Covid on holiday can be a big and costly problem, so it’s best to make sure you know what you must do if the worst happens – and if you can afford it. Some countries insist you enter a quarantine hotel, and you may have to pay for it.
If you do need medical treatment in a country covered by the EHIC/GHIC scheme, the UK Government will fund this treatment as usual. Always check FCDO travel advice for the latest entry requirements and local Covid-19 rules for your destination country.
What are the new rules when travelling to and from Europe?
Since the UK left the EU, you need to check that your passport is still valid at gov.uk/check-passport. It needs to be less than 10 years old and have at least six months left on it when you return.
You’ll need travel insurance that covers healthcare, and a valid Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or in-date European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Documentation is also required for driving and if you’re travelling with a dog or cat.
Why should I follow the rules for the country I’ve travelled to after I’m home?
The priority for the Government is the public’s health, so it’s important that additional checks and correct documentation are completed. While queues will be longer, all of us have a vital role in ensuring that we pass through the border as quickly as possible.
Carriers are legally obliged to check every passenger, there are tough fines for any who don’t.
Passengers who have not completed a passenger locator form or evidence of a negative pre-departure test are subject to fines of £500 per offence. Quarantine offences carry a fine of up to £10,000.
Why should I get vaccinated?
As well as allowing greater freedoms when abroad, vaccination makes you less likely to catch Covid, suffer serious illness or pass it on to others. If fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to arrival in UK, you do not have to quarantine when returning from amber list countries.