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Government starts lifting restrictions on overseas travel

Government starts lifting restrictions on overseas travel

Holidaymakers have been given the green light to start travelling to some overseas destinations from Saturday, while the quarantine requirement for travellers returning to England will also be lifted next week, as restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic are gradually lifted.

After weeks of speculation and off-the-record briefings, the Government has now officially confirmed how some restrictions will be lifted. It's published a full list of countries from which you'll be able to travel back to England without needing to quarantine, though the rules are different for those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This is a developing story. Below is the latest info we have, as of 6pm on Friday 3 July. We'll continue to update this story and our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide as new info comes in.

How are the rules changing in England?

Exactly what's changing depends on where you are in the UK. In England, there are two key changes:
 
  • From Saturday 4 July, the Foreign Office is exempting a number of countries from its warning against all non-essential travel. It says these destinations have been assessed as "no longer presenting an unacceptably high risk" – so it's no longer advising against travel there.

    The full list of exempted countries is in the dropdown below, and includes popular European destinations such as France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey, as well as countries further afield such as Barbados, New Zealand and Thailand. However, there are lots of popular countries not on the list – for example, China, India, mainland Portugal, Sweden and the USA.

    Foreign Office travel advice is a useful safety guide, but it's also important because it's often a key trigger for whether travel insurance will cover you if you travel, and whether you can claim on insurance if you don't travel. It can also influence whether airlines and holiday firms cancel trips – so it may mean that flights and holidays to these countries are now more likely to go ahead.
  • Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, Brunei, Canada, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Finland, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Grenada, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Malaysia, Malta, Martinique, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal (only the Azores and Madeira), Réunion, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, South Korea, Spain, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Pierre and Miquelon, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turks and Caicos Islands, Vietnam, Wallis and Futuna Islands.

  • From Friday 10 July, holidaymakers returning to England from more than 50 countries and territories, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain, will no longer be required to self-isolate. Currently all travellers entering the UK, including those returning from holidays, must quarantine themselves for 14 days.

    But from next Friday, travellers returning to England from a number of countries and territories where 'travel corridors' have been established will no long be required to self-isolate, so long as they haven't been in or transited through others countries in the past 14 days. You will still be required to provide your contact info on arrival.

    The full list of destinations exempted from quarantine in this way is listed in the dropdown below – it includes many of the countries which the Foreign Office is now no longer warning against travel to, including France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey, but not all of them. Thailand, for example, is not on the list. 

    The Government had previously said countries would be labelled 'red', 'amber' or 'green', in line with a traffic-light system, based on how seriously they are affected by coronavirus. However, the announcement on Friday afternoon did not mention this. We're checking if countries will still be categorised in this way and will update this story as soon as we know more.
  • Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bonaire Sint Eustatius and Saba, Croatia, Curaçao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Malta, Mauritius, Monaco, Netherlands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Réunion, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, South Korea, Spain, St Barthélemy, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Pierre and Miquelon, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Vatican City, Vietnam.

    Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the 14 British Overseas Territories will also be exempted from quarantine requirements.

How are the rules changing in Scotland, Wales and N Ireland?

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the situation is less clear-cut as the devolved administrations have yet to make their own announcements. Here's what we know so far:
 
  • From Saturday 4 July, as in England, the Foreign Office is exempting a number of countries from its warning against all non-essential travel. The Foreign Office has confirmed to us that its travel advice applies to the whole of the UK, so its decision to lift travel warnings to a number of countries applies to travellers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in exactly the same way. 

    The Association of British Insurers confirmed that those travelling from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be covered by insurance in the usual way as long as they're not travelling against Government advice, saying: "Provided it is deemed by the Government safe to travel to your destination, you will be protected by your travel insurance, including cover for any emergency medical expenses."

    Generally though, the practical implications for travellers aren't as clear as in England, as there may be other local travel restrictions which also apply and could, for example, make it difficult to get to the airport.

    We're checking with the devolved administrations to understand what the implications are and will update this story when we know more.
  • Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, Brunei, Canada, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Finland, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Grenada, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Malaysia, Malta, Martinique, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal (only the Azores and Madeira), Réunion, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, South Korea, Spain, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Pierre and Miquelon, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turks and Caicos Islands, Vietnam, Wallis and Futuna Islands.

  • There's no news yet on quarantine exemptions – so as things stand, returning travellers will have to self-isolate for two weeks. The changes announced today to quarantine rules ONLY apply in England.

    The devolved administrations have yet to say what's happening in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland (though Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford has indicated it's likely Wales will follow the same quarantine measures as England, if Wales' chief medical officer approves). So at the moment, if you travel and return to those countries, you WILL still need to self-isolate for two weeks – which, of course, will make travel impractical for many.

I've a holiday booked – so is it now back on?

Not necessarily. The change in the rules means some holidaymakers in England who are going to certain destinations will now be able to travel from Saturday – crucially, they'll be able to do so knowing their travel insurance will likely protect them while away, and they won't have to quarantine when they return (so long as it's after Friday 10 July).

Yet even if you're due to travel to a destination the Government's given the green light to, that doesn't mean your holiday's definitely back on. Airlines and holiday firms make their own decisions about whether to operate trips – some flights had already resumed before today's announcement, while other holiday firms have warned of cancellations into August and beyond even if travel restrictions are fully lifted. So you'll need to check with whoever you booked with to see if your trip's actually running.

Crucially, even if the Foreign Office has given the green light for travel to a country and those who are returning from that country to England no longer need to quarantine, the country in question may still block Brits from entering or require them to self-isolate for seven or 14 days.

For example, the Foreign Office has stopped warning against travel to Australia and New Zealand, and from next Friday travellers returning to England from those countries will no longer need to quarantine – yet both countries are still refusing entry to most foreign nationals, including those from the UK, so you still won't be able to travel there.

Greece is another country where UK restrictions have been lifted, yet most Brits will be unable to travel currently as it's stopped all flights from the UK until at least Wednesday 15 July. For more, see the Top 10 holiday destination entry requirements.

Will I still be able to get a refund if I can't or don't want to travel?

The changes announced today will also have a major impact on refund rights for many, particularly if travel restrictions have been lifted but you still don't want to travel:
 
  • Refunds from airlines and holiday firms may be less likely as travel restarts. The lifting of restrictions is likely to mean airlines and holiday firms increase the proportion of pre-booked trips they're running, though some have started already and others may still cancel trips even when restrictions are fully lifted.

    If your trip is cancelled by an airline or holiday firm, it owes you a full refund. Yet if it's running, you're not automatically entitled to a full refund if you simply don't want to travel (though some may offer to help you or let you rebook). 

  • If the Foreign Office is no longer warning against travel to your destination, you're less likely to be able to claim on travel insurance if you have it. For many, travel insurance has been the backstop on refunds – if you took out your policy and booked your trip before coronavirus hit in mid-March, then regardless of whether your trip is still running, you're likely able to claim for cancellation if the Foreign Office is warning against travel at the time of your trip.

    However, if the Foreign Office has lifted its restrictions for your destination, you're much less likely to be able to claim if you simply don't want to travel.

  • If UK travel restrictions have been lifted but you still can't get to your destination due to local restrictions, getting a refund may be very tricky. This is a new situation which is arising, but could become a real problem for many.

    If the Foreign Office is no longer advising against travel to your destination, and you're willing to go but can't – either because the country you're going to won't let you in or it requires you to quarantine for a long period – you may struggle to get a refund. Your airline or travel firm may not owe you one if your flight or holiday is still running, and if you've insurance it may not cover you.

    We're urgently checking with insurers what their policies are in this situation. Some may offer some flexibility. For example, Churchill and Direct Line said you'd be covered to cancel your trip if you'd have to self-quarantine at your destination and this restriction wasn't in place when you booked, Planet Earth told us it "may" look at claims on a case-by-case basis if you have to quarantine for the majority of your holiday, and LV said it would likely cover cancellation in that scenario so long as your trip was booked and your policy was taken out before mid-March. However, others such as Admiral have said you wouldn't be able to claim.

    We're checking with more insurers and will be updating our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide with more info as we get it.