Going on holiday has always required some planning, but with the global Covid pandemic, there is even more to think about. From understanding which countries you can visit, what covid related entry requirements they have, through to what you will need to do when you return. The situation is constantly changing too, so what was valid last month may be different the next. Here is our guide for staying on top of the rules, so you can make the most of your holiday.
Checking the entry rules for the countries you want to visit
There are two sets of coronavirus rules for any country. The first is the ‘Green, Amber, Red list’ that the UK government update every 3 weeks. It is important to understand that this list tells you about the rules you must follow when you enter the UK from specific countries, not whether you can go there in the first place!
The foreign travel advice website summarises the entry requirement and rules for 226 countries. This is the place to start, both for planning your holiday and before you travel. As an example of the details given, here is what the website says (August 2021) about the entry requirements from the UK to Croatia:
Entry rules in response to coronavirus
“To be allowed entry into Croatia, all travellers from the UK regardless of their vaccination status must present either a negative COVID-19 antigen test, which must not be older than 48 hours, or a negative PCR test, no older than 72 hours on arrival. People travelling to Croatia from the UK are not permitted to do these tests on arrival in Croatia. Passengers arriving without a valid test certificate will be denied entry to Croatia.”
Note that although Croatia is in the EU, not all EU countries will have the same requirements. If you are planning a multi-country holiday, you will also need to check any requirements for crossing the border.
In the example above, there is a clear time limit for the two types of Covid tests to be valid. 48 hours between test and entry to the country for an antigen test and 72 hours for a PCR test. Finding a local authorised testing provider is important to ensure you have a valid coronavirus test before traveling, otherwise you are likely to be turned away at the airport or denied access to the country and have to pay for a return flight.
Airline rules, testing, and proof of vaccination
As well as the rules for the country you are visiting, you will need to check the website of your flight or ferry provider, and indeed departure airport or ferry terminal. Extended waiting times are to be expected and mask wearing may be mandatory. Your travel provider should list the exact documentation they are expecting to see, please make sure you have what they are asking for, otherwise you may be barred from travel.
Ensuring you have a valid covid test is vital. A home Lateral Flow test or ‘free’ PCR test are not valid for travel. The critical documentation is an in-date, valid test certificate. You will need a valid coronavirus travel test if you wish to travel abroad.. We offer fast private Covid testing in Bournemouth, including next day results, to help ensure you have the right certificates in the right time frame!
Finally, you are likely to require an NHS Covid pass. You can get a pass once you have had 2 doses of the Moderna, AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine. Alternatively, if you have proof of natural immunity shown by a positive PCR test result for COVID-19, lasting for 180 days after the date of the positive test and following completion of the self-isolation period. To get the pass, you need to have access to the NHS app. Note, this is not the same as the Covid 19 NHS app. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can also access these services from a PC or tablet browser.
Keeping up with rule changes whilst on holiday
You will have probably noticed how quickly the rules applicable to a country can change! For this reason, it is really important to check for any changes that might affect you and your travel plans. We recommend you check the government travel advice website daily. Local news or your travel provider are also a good source of information. You can also sign up for e-mail alerts, notifying you of any changes.
What will you need to do when you return?
The first thing you will need to do, before you are allowed to return to the UK, is complete a passenger locator form. This is free, and can be submitted any time in the 48 hours before you arrive in the UK. You will need to show your form when you check in to travel or board your plane, train or ferry to the UK.
The rules for your return to the UK will depend on the countries you have visited. Each country is on a red, amber or green list, which details the return requirements, including testing or quarantine. Planning for this in advance, will allow you to book any required tests before you leave. Note that a covid test is likely to be required before your travel (taken in the country you are visiting) as well as when you return to the UK. Details on how to find valid testing centres whilst abroad, can be found on the travel advice website.
Where quarantine is required, you may be able to use the Test to Release scheme. This can help reduce your quarantine period after international travel, but will require additional testing instead.
What to do next?
As we mentioned at the start, covid has introduced an additional layer of complexity to travel. By fully understanding both the requirements for the country you are visiting, and what will be needed when you return, you can help make your vacation more enjoyable. We can help, by offering a range of pre and post travel testing packages to best suit your needs. Feel free to contact us to find out more.