We are still facing a second year of pandemic and there is still several restrictions for UK residents with or without vaccine. I managed to travel so far, even under covid-19, although when returning to the UK, I have been forced to stay home in quarantine for 10 days. I hope this article will help you to understand what happens when you depart from UK to European destinations and the procedures when coming back, along with some useful tips before travelling.
If I thought that last Summer was already difficult to travel, under covid-19 restrictions, I had no idea what was around the corner in 2021. Travelling now is a long process that requires PCR tests, locator forms, confirming if you are allowed to travel to the destination chosen as holidays and verifying if you are forced to quarantine in the destination country and when you return to the UK. It’s a process that besides taking time, it takes money too. As a UK resident, I hope my experience will give you some guidance of how to deal with all this process.
CHOOSING THE DESTINATION
Since Monday 17th May international travel has been allowed again and travel for leisure purposes is possible for England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland only changed the rules on the 24th May, meaning some travelling rules may differ to each UK country. To keep the UK residents safe, the UK Government has created a list of green, amber and red countries that may change every week, so you know if it is advisable or not to travel and if you will have to quarantine on the way back. This list of countries is available on the Government website: Red, amber and green list rules for entering England – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). Different rules are applied to each group of countries.
Be aware that at the destination country that you have chosen to travel, you may face some mandatory quarantine, so always do some research to understand the travelling rules at the destination country. Most of European destinations will ask you to fill up their locator form. From all the European countries I have been so far this year, only Cyprus didn’t request a locator form. The PCR test was requested on arrival in all the countries that I travelled, but Cyprus, for example, if you are fully vaccinated, you will be exempt from doing the test.
GREEN LIST COUNTRIES
If you are coming back from a green list country, you won’t need to quarantine, however you will have to present a PCR test on arrival and fill the locator form up. A negative PCR test on the second day, after arrival, is necessary.
AMBER LIST COUNTRIES
Most European destinations are in this list. This year, I already completed several times a mandatory quarantine of 10 days at home.
So travelling is allowed, but when returning to UK a quarantine of 10 days at home is compulsory and you can only enter the UK, if you have a negative PCR test and a locator form filled up. A PCR test on the second and eighth day is compulsory. The covid-19 marshals will call you or will come to your residence to verify if the quarantine is being followed. A fine can be applied, if the quarantine is not followed as required by law. Don’t take risks, if you don’t want to be home in quarantine, since the marshals can come unexpectedly to your residence to verify if you are really home or not. If you must quarantine, you can do your food shopping through an app. There is plenty of apps at the moment that deliver groceries and even toiletries at your home in less than 1 hour. My favourite app is Weezy.
The rules are about to change on the 19th of July: fully vaccinated UK passengers arriving from amber list countries will no longer need to quarantine. Only a negative PCR test will be necessary on the moment of arrival and on the second day, after arrival. Note that being fully vaccinated is valid if 14 days have passed after all the doses required.
RED LIST COUNTRIES
Travel is banned in and out from red list countries, meaning, British residents are not allowed to visit red list countries and travellers from red list countries are not allowed to enter the UK. Returning from a red list country, UK residents must pay £1.750 for a quarantine stay of 10 days in a hotel approved by the government. If you are a British resident in Wales coming from a red country, you will have to quarantine in England and follow the rules mentioned, since Wales are not accepting international flights. Prior returning to UK, it is demanded to book the quarantine hotel package through the government’s portal, before filling the locator form up. PCR tests must be taken on the second and eighth day of isolation. In case the test is positive, the stay in the designated hotel will be longer.
When you depart from UK, most probably you will have to present a negative PCR test. PCR tests can be quite expensive and can cost up to £500 in London, depending from the clinic you choose and which type of test you need. I found a good price with DAM Health clinics, which have several locations in London. The price for a same day result PCR test is £99 for a complete test or £29 for a rapid antigen one and in less than 24 hours you get the result in your email. You need to book the test on their website and an invoice is sent to your email, which in UK and in some countries the PCR test invoice is also obligatory to show on departure and arrival.
The European countries I have travelled so far, only requested a rapid antigen test, which normally takes 15 minutes to get the result and it is the cheapest test. When I returned to London, coming from Cyprus and Tenerife, the rapid antigen test was accepted. Make sure to always read the rules that applies in each country regarding the covid test. If you are fully vaccinated, some countries won’t request a PCR test, for example.
When returning to UK from an amber list country, which has been always my case, I got the second and eighth day test from FitnessGenes®, which costs in total £149. If you just need the second day test, the price is £89. Once you order the tests on their website, the test will be delivered at home and once you do it, it needs to be dropped off at the nearest post box. The only thing I don’t understand is why whilst in quarantine, you have to go out of home to dropped the tests off, when you are supposed to be home…
SOME NOTES ABOUT THE VACCINE AND THE NEW DELTA VARIANT
Just because you might be fully vaccinated, it doesn’t mean you get total immunity to covid-19 and its variants. Some people, unfortunately don’t respond to the vaccine and still contract the virus.
Even if you had covid-19 and your body might have got some immunity, authorities are advising to take the vaccine because of new variants like delta. Nonetheless, if you had covid-19 and you get infected by the delta variant, the intensity of the virus should be minor.
Australia has the borders closed to tourists since 2020 and because of the new delta variant it extended this decision, which it can be kept until next year. Only Australian permanent residents, their close family members and essential workers are allowed in.
From friends and family, the feedback I got so far is that the Pfizer vaccine works best, with less or totally inexistent side effects.
Women are still having a healthy pregnancy after being fully vaccinated. This information is available on youtube. That’s where I did my research, to understand if women were still getting pregnant after taking the vaccine.
ADVISES BEFORE TRAVELLING
- Under these covid circumstances, certify yourself you have enough savings, if your flight get cancelled and you will have to spend the night in a hotel unexpectedly, or even if you will have to repeat the PCR test after a flight cancellation, which can be reimbursed or not by the airline company.
- I would recommend to book the flight ticket directly on the airline company website and not through travel websites like Skyscanner or Opodo. What I mean is that you can use those websites to search the flight ticket, but afterwards it’s better to book the ticket directly with the airline company that is operating the flight, because in case they cancel or change the flight, it’s easier to get a refund. Make sure to have travel insurance. A travel insurance doesn’t need to be done with the airline company you are flying with, you can have a credit card that provides travel insurance.
- Be really prepared for flight changes in the last minute. I remember one of my flights from Tenerife to UK got cancelled the day before. Thankfully the money was refunded.
- Use a surgical mask instead of a fabric washable mask, as some airlines only accept surgical masks. Alitalia for example only accepts surgical masks, if you don’t have one, you won’t be allowed to travel.
- Along with the PCR test, take its invoice, just in case local authorities will ask you for a proof of payment.
- Arrive 3 or 4 hours ahead to the airport, in case you will have to fill the locator forms up in a specific way that isn’t mentioned in the website of the airline company. For example when I travelled 2 weeks ago to Italy, at the departure desk my locator form wasn’t valid, because it needed to be through another website which it wasn’t specified when I purchased the flight ticket. Be aware that some airline companies, because the flight might just have a few passengers, they can close the check in earlier than you would expect. An example of that, is when I flew to Cyprus with British Airways, the check in closed one hour before the flight departure time. Consequently, I lost the flight.
Enjoy your holidays and may you, your family and friends stay safe.