Do your homework on travel restrictions: TPG reader mistake story

Jul 5, 2020

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We’ve been asking to hear your travel success and mistake stories to both celebrate and help our TPG U.K. community — even if you’re not travelling right now.

This week, Ashley forgot to check one key thing that threw his travel plans into disarray:

“My fiancée and I live in the U.K. — she is a British passport holder, while I have an Australian passport. We were due to get married this summer in Portugal, where my fiancée’s parents live. We postponed the wedding until next year because of coronavirus, but with so much leave booked this summer for the original wedding plans, we were hoping to be able to get down to Portugal to see her parents who we haven’t seen since before lockdown began.

We’ve been following the progress of Faro Airport (FAO), the closest airport to their hometown in Portugal. We were excited to see the airport both reopen and resume flights from the U.K. after months of lockdown. We thought we would try our luck and booked a Ryanair flight from Stansted (STN) down to Faro (FAO) last weekend. We checked U.K. government travel restrictions, which suggested that British nationals would be allowed into Portugal. 

We packed our bags, bought extra masks for the journey and monitored our emails for any changes to the flight. Everything was looking fine on the day of the flight until we arrived at Stansted Airport. My fiancée was allowed to check-in for the flight without issue, though when I handed over my Australian passport, the check-in agent advised me that Australians were not currently allowed entry to Portugal. I explained that I was a resident of the U.K. and had not been in Australia this year, but it was no good. The check-in agent explained that as Australia’s ultra-strict lockdown of its borders meant Portugese passport holders were not allowed entry into Australia, Portugal had simply implemented the same restriction on Australian passport holders into Portugal.

To be honest, while we had monitored U.K. travel advice and restrictions closely, I hadn’t even thought to check Australian government advice, even though I was entering on an Australian passport. I checked the Australian government website afterwards, and sure enough, the restriction was there — no Australians allowed into Portugal.

My fiancée ended up boarding the flight so she could see her family and I’m still in London, waiting for the air bridges announcement hoping I can get down to Portugal to join her.”

Related: When will we start flying again? UK airlines share when flights will resume

Entry requirements can be tricky at the best of times, with constantly changing diplomatic relations between different countries. Add in the coronavirus concerns, and it’s even more complex.

If you’re planning to travel right now, you should double-check restrictions on your destination. This information may be easier to find and understand on the government travel advice site of the country you are travelling from rather than to, as it will be written in English versus potentially a foreign language you may have to translate. The U.K. Government advice is here, though this is designed for U.K. passport holders only.

You will then also need to check any restrictions based on the passport you are planning to travel on, regardless of where you are travelling from or when you were last in your home country. Again, the easiest way to do this may be to check the government travel advice of the country that issued your passport.

Related: What happens when you land in a country without entry rights?

Don’t assume anything in this unprecedented travel environment — do your homework!

Featured image by Benoit BACOU/Getty Images

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