The blanket advice from the UK government on restricting ‘all but essential travel’ came to an end on Saturday (4 July). The government also announced the standard 14-day quarantine period for travellers returning to the UK will be scrapped for many countries from 10 July.
What has changed, and what does this mean for UK travellers?*
‘All but essential’ travel
Since the coronavirus lockdown began back in March, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) had been advising against ‘all but essential travel’ to every country in the world. In other words, you could not travel overseas unless it was absolutely necessary.
Whilst you could have still technically travelled overseas (assuming you could get a flight), you would have found it impossible to get covered for travel insurance because insurance brokers base their policy wording on the FCO’s advice.
On Saturday 4 July 2020, the FCO updated their travel advice to remove the ‘all but essential’ clause from the travel advice for 67 countries and territories which means you can now travel to any country on the list and still be covered by your travel insurance policy – although you probably won’t be covered for any coronavirus-related claims.
The full list of exempt countries can be found here, and it includes some of the most popular European holiday destinations such as Spain, Italy, France and Turkey.
Whilst this is undoubtedly good news if you are hoping to book a foreign holiday this summer, the FCO’s latest advice does not automatically mean you can travel to any country without restriction.
Some countries such as Thailand are still requiring all foreign nationals to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, and New Zealand have completely closed their borders to all foreign nationals which means you would not be permitted to enter the country even though it is listed on the FCO’s travel exemption list.
In additional to the removal of the ‘all but essential’ travel advice for selected countries, the UK government has also published a list of countries from which travellers will no longer need to quarantine when they return to the UK.
At the moment, all travellers from overseas – including foreign nationals and British travellers returning from holiday – are required to self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive back in UK.
These restrictions will be lifted on 10 July for 59 countries and territories in what the government is calling a ‘travel corridor exemption’.
The advice is only valid for England, with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies issuing their own separate advice.
Where can you book a holiday?
Many popular holiday destinations have publicly stated their intentions to welcome back holidaymakers with open arms, and travel companies, tour operators, airlines and hotels and attractions will be doing everything they can to ensure customers are safe and comfortable.
Despite the frequently-changing travel advice, there are many destinations you can travel to and many major attractions are open already or opening in July to UK visitors. These include:
- Disneyland Paris (opening 15th July)
- Waterworld Waterpark, Costa Brava
- The Acropolis & museum, Greece
- Pompeii, Italy
Safety precautions when travelling
Airlines and tour operators are actively taking bookings now for the summer period and beyond. Whilst travelling to and from your destination, you are likely to come across a number of new safety measures, particularly when you get to the airport. These may include:
- Online only check-in
- Temperature checks
- Mandatory face coverings in terminals, airports and while travelling
- Self-service baggage drop and check-in
- Hand sanitisers
- Social distancing
- No queuing at boarding gates or toilets
Airlines have pledged to deep clean all aircraft at the end of every day using sanitiser which lasts for 24 hours. Ryanair have published a very useful video guide which will give you an idea of how travel companies are approaching customer safety.
Travel money has not fundamentally changed during the coronavirus pandemic and cash is still accepted everywhere. Indeed, many European countries such as Spain and Italy are still largely cash-based and do not have the infrastructure to take card payments like we do here in the UK.
Exchange rates have been subject to their usual ups and downs over the past few months, but there is still a strong and competitive market for foreign exchange and many high street providers including the Post Office, M&S and Travelex have all resumed selling travel money within the last week after withdrawing from the market back in March.
You can compare today’s latest exchange rates on our travel money comparisons page.
Travel insurance and coronavirus
Providing you travel to a country where the FCO’s ‘all but essential’ advice has been lifted then you should be able to purchase valid travel insurance. However, travel insurance providers are still working out how to deal with coronavirus so it is unlikely – at least for now – that you will find any policies that will cover you for coronavirus-related claims. This situation will likely change in the coming weeks and we will update this section accordingly.
For now, you can compare and purchase standard travel insurance policies on our travel insurance comparison page.
It is fantastic news that we can now think about taking a foreign holiday. You may have to be a little more selective about where you travel and travelling itself will be a different experience for a little while yet, but the travel industry has gone to great lengths to adapt in light of issues caused by coronavirus and provided you stay up to date with the FCO’s latest travel advice, there is no reason why you cannot enjoy a foreign holiday this summer.
*update: As of 29th July the situation is changing all the time. At very short notice the UK government has closed the travel corridor to Spain and other territories. As the situation across the world changes then so will the advice on international travel. All current up to the minute advice for any country is found on the FCO Website.Stay Informed
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