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How to plan a multi-country holiday during COVID-19

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you'll be ready.

Many of us haven’t managed to get away as much as we’d have liked in 2020, so if you’re planning a post-lockdown adventure, it makes total sense to want to maximise your time on the road. A multi-country holiday offers the perfect opportunity to make up for this summer’s lack of adventure, and tick a few places off your list in one go.

A multi-destination trip can also give great insight into local life. For example, you can travel to the Finnish capital Helsinki for some serious sauna hopping, and then take the ferry from there across the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, the compact and picturesque capital of Estonia. Check out our list of 10 of the best multi-stop holidays in Europe, Asia and North Africa.

Other benefits of a multi-country holiday? It can be far more cost-effective than taking three separate trips. For example, if travellers from European cities take one long-haul flight to Singapore (currently open for transit only), they can make the most of the ticket cost by hopping on some budget Air Asia flights from there to Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City or (once the current lockdown measures are lifted) Bangkok. Short-haul flights from Singapore to these Southeast Asian cities average out at as little as £30 one-way, so it seems like a shame not to take advantage if you’ve travelled all that way.

Planning a multi-country holiday

Wherever in the world you’re planning on going, there’s a tick list of things to bear in mind. Read on, and visit our dedicated multi-city flights bookings page to learn how to use Skyscanner to book multi-country holidays.

1. What are the COVID-19 travel restrictions in each destination?

During the coronavirus pandemic, travel is a bit more complicated than usual. Some destinations require all entrants to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival, like Canada. Others, like Brazil, require proof of travel insurance with complete coverage from each visitor. Some countries, including Ecuador and Egypt, require arrivals to present a negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19. At some borders, like on arrival in Russia, everyone is subject to a temperature check. And many countries, like Australia, New Zealand and the USA, are generally closed to all arrivals except for residents. Flights are still disrupted globally and some countries, like India, have suspended almost all international inbound and outbound flights.

Before planning your trip, consult our regularly updated map of global travel restrictions for an easy-to-digest glance at which countries are open for business. Then, check in with each country’s own government and local embassy pages for up-to-date news on entry requirements – there, you’ll be able to check whether quarantine on arrival is in place, and what documentation you might require upon arrival.

2. Do I need a visa for a multi-country holiday?

One of the most important considerations for a multi-country holiday, regardless of coronavirus, is whether or not you need a visa in each destination you go to. A quick way to check is via the website, which also provides a secure, visa application service.

Make sure all your visa documentation is in order before you depart, and bear in mind that any last-minute travel changes – for example, if COVID-19 travel restrictions change and you have to take a different route – might result in a new visa requirement.

If you’re one of the 26 countries in the Schengen Area, you don’t need a visa to visit other countries within that zone, but individual countries’ coronavirus restrictions will apply. For example, you could opt for a short-haul cultural crawl from Berlin to Copenhagen to Stockholm, without having to worry about visas or – at the time of writing – high levels of coronavirus infections.

3. Do I need to quarantine on arrival, or when I get home?

This entirely depends on your departure and arrival destinations. Keep an eye on government websites like the FCO for entry requirements and bear in mind that on a road trip, your chosen route might affect the quarantine rules. For example, travellers driving from the UK to Germany do not need to self-isolate at either end – but if you’re driving back via France and make a stop-off, you’ll need to quarantine for 14 days on arrival back in the UK.

Tips to reduce risk on your multi-country holiday

1. Be flexible and informed

Bookmark each destination’s government pages to check the restrictions for the countries you’re planning to visit, so you can check in regularly before your departure date. Bear in mind that travelling in the era of COVID-19 requires more flexibility than you may be used to. You might need to change your plans quickly if travel restrictions change, so always keep an eye on the relevant embassy and government information pages.

2. Invest in complete coverage travel insurance for a multi-country holiday

The only way to protect your multi-country holiday money from unexpected changes is to invest in complete coverage travel insurance. Check official insurance websites for policy changes due to coronavirus, as certain existing policies may now have stricter cut-off dates in which you can claim compensation for a cancelled trip. Talk to your insurer, study policy fine prints and consult our complete guide to flight travel insurance. Bear in mind that it can be difficult to be covered by travel insurance if you fly somewhere against your government’s advice.

As a travel incentive, some airlines are offering free COVID-19 insurance cover. For example, Virgin Atlantic has a free coronavirus insurance policy automatically added to all flights from 24 August 2020 up to and including 31 March 2021.

3. If you’re on a multi-destination road trip, take precautions every time you stop

This includes wearing a mask (especially in countries where masks are mandatory in public), paired with frequent hand washing and using hand sanitiser whenever a sink is not available. Check the World Health Organisation (WHO) website for tips on hygienic best practise when travelling – and our own guide to taking a safe road trip during COVID-19.

4. Book hotels with free cancellation

This summer, many travellers were caught out by last-minute changes in government travel policies. For example, in August, when the quarantine rules changed for UK travellers coming back from Croatia, many holidaymakers had to pack their bags and book a new, last-minute flight home. Inconvenient as it is, this is an occupational hazard for travel during coronavirus. To protect yourself financially in case this happens, book hotels that have free cancellation as an option.

We’ve compiled a list of hotels in safe destinations that offer free cancellation – including family-friendly Ekies All Senses Resort in Halkidiki, Greece; uber-cool citizenM Copenhagen Rahuspladsen Hotel in Denmark; and the design-centric Market Street Hotel in Edinburgh, UK.

If your hotel booking is cancelled, read our guide on what to do next.

5. Book free cancellation throughout your multi-country holiday

For the same reasons as above, it’s imperative to book car hire with free cancellation when taking a multi-country road trip during coronavirus.

If you book a package multi-destination holiday, it might be easier to claim a refund if circumstances change. Plus, if you book flights plus car rental or hotels via the same airline carrier, your trip technically counts as a package holiday. This means that if government travel restrictions change when you’re abroad, you should be eligible to a full refund within 14 days under the Package Travel Regulations.

6. Research a back-up plan

Multi-country holidays during coronavirus must be flexible, in case travel restrictions change while you’re away. For example, France is currently out of action for British travellers, who might be road tripping in Italy. Instead of crossing the border into south-eastern France from northern Italy, consider changing your route to drive via Switzerland and Germany, from where you might be able to zip across Northern France to the ferry port without exiting the car, avoiding self-isolation when you arrive back in the UK. Ideally, though, you will have booked flexible car rentals, hotels and flights, so you can take a flight home without entering France at all.

Multi-country holiday FAQs

1. What if I’m driving through a country with travel restriction but I’m not going on holiday there?

If you do this, bear in mind that as soon as you step outside of the car, you have to abide by the restrictions in place. For example, British road trippers in Germany or Italy can’t exit the car in France on the way home, without incurring the mandatory 14-day self-isolation rule when they get back to the UK. Whenever possible, it’s best to avoid this situation, perhaps by flying to Italy or Germany and then hiring a car on arrival. Opt for flexible booking policies where you can.

2. What if my multi-stop flight has a stopover in a country with restrictions but I don’t leave the airport?

Each country and airport has its own transit rules, which vary for travellers according to where they’re coming from. For example, travellers from these destinations are allowed to transit through Singapore Changi Airport, but only residents are allowed to enter Singapore itself, who will also be issued a 14-day Stay at Home Notice (SNH). Research the guidelines for every airport you’re travelling through, as well as its country’s government advice, and keep those pages bookmarked so you can check for changes while you’re away.

3. What if the travel advice for a country changes while I’m there?

If your government travel advice changes to negative advice for a country that you’re already in, your travel insurance should cover you until you return home. You don’t necessarily have to come home early, as long as you follow the advice of the local public health authorities – but of course, if an impending quarantine measure will affect your ability to work or take your children to school, then you’ll probably want to get home in advance of the new policy.

On multi-country holidays, new travel restrictions might mean it’s time to head to your next destination early – meaning that it’ll be a huge help if you’ve got flexible hotel, train, flight and car rental bookings. Get in touch with your holiday provider, rental company or hotel booking platform to make the necessary changes.

4. What if the travel advice for a country changes to negative travel advice before I’m supposed to leave?

If you travel somewhere against your government’s advice, it will most likely invalidate your travel insurance – and if you go and get sick, you could incur some serious fees in medical bills. On multi-country holidays, swap out the affected destination for a back-up, and avoid it entirely.

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