International travel is back today: Here’s what you need to know

May 17, 2021

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After months of lockdown, Britons can now legally travel abroad for a holiday. It’s the day many have been waiting for since early January when the U.K. entered its third national lockdown.

The U.K. government’s roadmap out of lockdown officially entered step 3 from Monday, 17 May, with the return of:

  • Indoor dining at pubs, cafes and restaurants as well as indoor household mixing, though the rule of six still applies indoors;
  • Outdoor mixing of up to 30 people;
  • The reopening of cinemas, indoor exercise class, hotels and cinemas; and
  • The end of the worldwide ban of foreign travel for leisure purposes from the United Kingdom.

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“We are delighted to be getting back to what we do best today and flying our customers on international leisure trips once again either for a break or to reunite with loved ones after many months apart,” EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said on Monday. “We know the pent-up demand is there — we see it every time that restrictions are eased and so to cater for it we have put an extra 100,000 seats on sale from the U.K. to green list destinations to help our customers take to the skies once again.”

Related: All 12 countries and territories that are on the UK’s green list

It’s an exciting day for anyone eager to travel after such a long time staying home. For anyone looking at domestic travel, hotels have reopened and you can legally travel anywhere you would like — there’s no obligation to stay home or stay local. There’s also no longer a requirement to shiver outside during these cool May temperatures, as you can eat and socialise indoors, provided you follow the rule of six.

Related: Green list alert: Great Avios availability to Gibraltar for 2 with British Airways this summer

For anyone who has seen the weather forecast for the U.K. for the next few weeks, you might be keen for some proper sunshine and warmth. It is no longer illegal to travel abroad for a holiday, though the government advice is that you should not travel to amber or red countries for non-essential reasons. What does this mixed message mean in reality?

You are very unlikely to be stopped from travelling to an amber or red country when leaving the U.K., though it will likely invalidate most travel U.K. insurance policies. You should also check the current entry requirements for any destination you are looking to travel to. Some, like Israel, are not allowing individual foreign tourists entry despite being on the green list. Others may require negative COVID-19 test results on entry and/or within 72 hours of arrival. You should look to book these well in advance of your travels.

Related: Italy reopens to British tourists with a negative COVID-19 test result

You will not be required to present a negative COVID-19 test by U.K. police or Border Force at a U.K. departure point in order to board any flight. Note, however, that if the country you plan to enter requires a test result on arrival, you may be asked for this documentation by your airline before boarding. This is because if you land in a country without sufficient entry rights (such as a negative test result), the airline you arrived with will likely be responsible for returning you to when you came from. Airlines would rather ensure the documentation is correct before you board your first flight, rather than risk having to deal with this at your destination.

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

If you are returning to the U.K. for any reason (including returning from a holiday abroad), here are the current rules:

  • Green list countries: No quarantine requirement. However, you will still need to test two times: once prior to departure, which can be a lateral flow test, and once post-arrival, which must be a PCR test.
  • Amber list countries: Must undertake a 10-day quarantine at home or at a place of your choosing such as your own hotel/Airbnb. You will also be required to pre-book and undergo two tests during your quarantine: one on day two and one on day eight.
  • Red list countries: Non-British nationals or residents travelling from red countries will not be permitted to enter the U.K. Those who are eligible to travel to the U.K. will be required to undergo a 10-day quarantine in a government-supervised hotel, which costs £1,750 for a solo adult.

Note that if you need to transit an amber or red list country to return from a green list country, you will have to follow the rules of the highest-risk country you transit. This means that several green list destinations like the Faroe Islands and St Helena are really amber or red countries as they have no direct flights from the U.K.

Major transit hubs like Dubai (DXB) and Doha (DOH) have been added to the rest list despite having impressive vaccination numbers. The U.K. government has said that this is in part because they operate major international transit hubs with passengers mixing in airport terminals from all over the world (including from and to rest list countries).

Related: Everything you need to know about transiting through European airports during the pandemic

If you are looking for some inspiration for that long-overdue travel abroad, you can read all about the three European destinations you won’t need to quarantine before, during or after your trip:

Related: The 3 countries and territories you can visit from the UK without quarantine on either end

Featured image by Leon Neal/Getty Images.

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