When can I go on holiday? Latest advice on travelling abroad and in the UK

Holidays in England and Wales resumed on April 12, with self-catering accommodation reopening in the former, and cross-border travel allowed to the latter (where self-catering accommodation has already reopened).

Meanwhile foreign holidays could resume as early as May 17 for people in England, with a traffic light system set to replace the current ban on international travel on that date. 

Countries will be rated “green”, “amber” or “red” under the UK Government’s system with only the “green list” allowing for quarantine-free travel. There will also be a “green watch list” to indicate which countries might soon be taken off the “green list”.

The rating of each country will be decided based on the proportion of its population that has been vaccinated, its infection rates, the prevalence of variants of concern and its capacity to sequence their genomes.

“The framework will help allow us to reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensure we protect our hard-won achievements on the vaccine roll out, and offer peace of mind to both passengers and industry as we begin to take trips abroad once again,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The British public could now “start to think” about foreign holidays this summer, Mr Shapps told Sky News on April 9. 

He added: “I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t book summer holidays now, it’s the first time that I’ve been able to say that for many months.

“But I think everybody doing it understands there are risks with coronavirus and of course actually, I think people would want to be clear about which countries are going to be in the different traffic light system.

“So there is only two or three weeks to wait before we publish that list itself. But yes, tentative progress, for the first time, people can start to think about visiting loved ones abroad, or perhaps a summer holiday.”

When the green list is first announced it is likely to include only a handful of destinations. 

Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, has hinted that they could include Israel, the US and Bahrain, which like Gibraltar, Malta and some British territories – have led the way on vaccinations.

We take a look at the key questions on the resumption of foreign holidays and how travel is opening up within the UK.

When can overseas holidays resume?

Foreign holidays will resume on May 17, at the earliest. A green list of countries from which British holidaymakers can return to England without facing quarantine is set to be published in the coming weeks. It is likely to include a limited list of destinations.

When was the foreign holiday ban introduced?

On Mar 22, the Government drafted legislation to legally extend the national travel ban to June 30. This was the first time that travelling to a port or airport with the intention of travelling overseas became illegal (except for a “reasonable excuse”) in the pandemic. Previously rules against non-essential travel within the country were in place to prevent overseas leisure trips.

When can domestic holidays resume?

Self-catering accommodation (including camping and glamping) reopened in England on Apr 12 as the country moved into the next stage of the roadmap. Wales has already allowed self-catering accommodation to reopen and it lifted rules against non-essential travel to and from other parts of the UK on Apr 12, allowing English holidaymakers to also take holidays in Wales. 

Only those within the same household, linked household or support bubble will be allowed to stay within the same accommodation until May 17 at the earliest, when inter-household mixing indoors will be permitted. This is also when hotels in England will be able to reopen, though many were able to reopen facilities including restaurants and spas from Apr 12. 

Hotels in Wales should be able to reopen before the spring bank holiday at the end of May, while hospitality in Scotland, including both self-catering accommodation and hotels, should reopen from Apr 26. Crossing the border in and out of Scotland is also expected to take place from this date.

What would happen if I booked a holiday and went to the airport right now?

People seeking to leave Britain will need to prove their “valid reason” for travel with supporting documentation – failure to do so could come with a £5,000 fine.

The DfT said police were stepping up patrols at ports and airports and would be conducting spot checks on passengers requiring them to show the new forms. 

What counts as a ‘reasonable excuse’ for foreign travel?

The list of permitted reasons includes work, volunteering, education, medical treatment or visits to provide care, weddings or civil partnerships, funerals, elite sports, caring for a child or dependent (there are further exemptions, here). 

Do I need to take a test before travelling back to England?

Yes. You must take a test 72 hours before departure. If you fail to do so, you will be denied boarding, or risk a fine of up to £500 on arrival back in the UK. You can find the Government’s rules on tests before departure, here.

Do people arriving into England have to go into quarantine or self-isolation?

Yes, all those returning from non red-list countries face a period of self-isolation at home (while those who have been in a red list country in the previous 10 days will face a stay in a quarantine hotel). You will need to fill in a Passenger Locator Form before arriving in England, and then self-isolate at home for ten days. And you will need to take a Covid test on the second and eighth days of your self-isolation, costing £210. You can book your tests through the official Government portal here.