News Travel news updates: Malta paying tourists to visit, Israel opening borders from May

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Travel news updates: Malta paying tourists to visit, Israel opening borders from May

Get the latest in travel news with our travel brief: your new favourite destination for COVID-19 travel advice and inspiration to keep you dreaming about your next escape.

Editor’s note: this week’s content has been updated with the latest information.

Although some countries are opening their borders to British travellers, going abroad for holidays is still currently illegal. International travel restrictions will  be in place until at least 17 May.

On 29 March the UK government introduced a £5,000 fine for anyone going overseas from England for non-essential purposes. The reason for leaving must be announced on the  ‘Declaration to Travel’ form, introduced on 8 March. If you don’t fill it in, you could face a fine of over £200.

For the latest guidance, check Skyscanner’s Coronavirus Travel Advice, FCDO foreign travel advice and local government advice for the country you’re visiting.

Travel news updates – 16th April

Malta will pay tourists to visit this year

Waterfront in Malta with colourful boats in the harbour.

Malta’s tourism authority has announced it will pay foreign visitors up to €100 when they book a stay of three nights or more, starting from June. Malta’s Tourism Minister, Clayton Bartolo said: “The scheme is aimed at putting Malta’s hotels in a very competitive position as international tourism restarts.” The amount paid out depends on the hotel’s star-rating, with €100 for 5 star hotels, €75 for four-star hotels and €50 for those staying at three star hotels. The payout is per person, not per booking, so if you’re travelling with friends they’ll all get the stipend too.

Israel is opening its borders to vaccinated tourists from May 23

Panoramic rooftop view of Jerusalem showing sacred places of Christians, Jews and Muslims.

The Israel Ministry of Tourism announced that the country is preparing to welcome vaccinated tourists starting from next month. This will happen under a phased approach, with people visiting as part of a tour group allowed to enter from May 23. As part of organised groups, their actions and movements will be easier to follow, making it easier to track potential outbreaks. Individual travellers will be welcomed back at a later date – provisionally July.  As well as being fully vaccinated, visitors will need to undergo a PCR test before visiting. They’ll also need to go through a serological test on arrival at Ben Gurion Airport to prove they’ve been vaccinated. Israel closed its borders at the beginning of the pandemic, and has been closed to tourism ever since.

Travel news updates – 15th April

Greece lifting quarantine for vaccinated and COVID-19 negative travellers from the UK

View from top of a village in Santorini. White and blue buildings in the foreground, rugged clipps and deep blue sea in the background.

From next week, Greece will be dropping quarantine measures for travellers from 32 countries – including the UK – if they’re fully vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19. The countries include the 27 European Union member states plus the USA, UAE, UK, Serbia and Israel. A senior tourism ministry official told Reuters that these are “baby steps” before the country reopens fully on 14th May. She added that only limited destinations will be part of the plan at first: “airports will reopen in Kos, Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Corfu, Athens, Thessaloniki and Chania and Heraklion on Crete.” 

Although Greece is happy to welcome British tourists, it’s currently illegal to travel overseas for non-essential purposes. Jetting off on holiday could land you with a £5,000 fine, so it’s best to wait until restrictions are lifted – provisionally on May 17.

JetBlue and British Airways announce routes between the UK and USA

Equestrian statue of George Washington in Boston Public Garden

American low-cost carrier JetBlue has announced its first-ever transatlantic flight routes, connecting London with New York and Boston. The airline hopes to offer a much lower fare than competitors on these routes. Meanwhile, British Airways has expressed a desire to restart flights between the UK and USA due to a high uptake of COVID-19 vaccines in both countries. BA’s transatlantic flights have been suspended throughout the pandemic. The airline’s chief executive, Sean Doyle, said “there’s an immediate opportunity to open up the US.”

Travel news updates – 14th April

Scotland eases local travel and socialising restrictions early

Sunny view across Edinburgh city centre  from Calton Hill

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that some restrictions will be easing on Friday, April 16. This is ten days earlier than the expected move from Level 4 lockdown to Level 3. Stay Local restrictions will be lifted, allowing people to travel outside of their local authority area for outdoor socialising, recreation, and exercise. People will be allowed to meet outdoors in groups of six from up to six households, with under 12’s not counting towards this limit. However, Stay Local guidance is still encouraged for non-essential retail, and staying away from home overnight is still not allowed. 

Plans are still in place for every region of Scotland to move down to Level 3 restrictions from April 26. Tourist accommodation will be allowed to reopen at this point, and non-essential travel between Scotland, England, and Wales will be permitted. Decisions on travel to and from Northern Ireland are expected, pending the upcoming announcement from Stormont on 15 April. Scotland’s island communities, which usually sit at a lower restriction level than the mainland, will be kept at Level 3 until at least mid-May in order to facilitate tourism. 

With Scotland opening to staycationers soon, check out 6 of the best places to visit

COVID-19 test price drops ahead of overseas travel restarting next month

Close up on a gloved hand putting a COVID-19 swab in a sample jar.

Earlier this week, The Global Travel Taskforce announced that people planning to travel overseas would need to take and pay for a PCR test both before and after travelling – adding an extra cost to holidays. The high cost of PCR testing has caused concern that the price of a trip will be prohibitive, with rates sitting around twice as high as an equivalent test in Europe. According to the government’s approved list of providers, a package of two tests can cost anywhere from £160 to £549. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News that he would be “driving [the costs] down” and “potentially even removing providers if they’re not playing ball.” Some firms have already responded by halving the costs of testing from £120 to £60 for those flying with partner airlines.

Don’t know your PCR from your LAMP? Find out more about COVID tests for travel

Travel news updates – 13 April

Update: When will hotels open in the UK?

Sunny beachside village in Cornwall. The sky is blue and the water is shallow and turquoise.

Self-contained holiday accommodation, including self-catering lets as well as campsites, will be able to open across England from 12 April as the second step of the UK Government’s plan for easing lockdown in England. However, hotels and B&Bs will remain closed until 17 May at the earliest. Only those within the same household, linked household, or support bubble will be allowed to stay within the same accommodation until May 17th.

Dates for reopening vary across the UK’s four nations.

NationProvisional reopening dates
England12 April (self-contained)
17 May (hotels, B&Bs)
Scotland26 April
Wales12 April (self-contained)
17 May (hotels, B&Bs)
Northern IrelandNot announced

Domestic travel restarts across England and Wales

Cloudy view across the dramatic hills of Snowdonia National Park in Wales

12 April marked the date when many non-essential businesses across England and Wales were able to reopen their doors. High street retailers, pub beer gardens, and outdoor attractions such as zoos and wildlife parks welcomed back visitors. Non-essential travel between England and Wales also became possible. This easing of lockdown has made day trips easier, giving people the opportunity to enjoy new scenery.

Things are moving a little slower in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which are both currently operating under Stay Local advice. However, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today announced travel restrictions in Scotland will ease ten days ahead of schedule, with Stay Local guidance ending on April 16 instead of 26. Northern Ireland is expected to outline more reopening dates on Thursday 15.

Travel news updates – 9th April

UK government’s Global Travel Taskforce release details about traffic light system for travel 

The Houses of Parliament and Big ben as viewed from the River Thames.

The UK government’s Global Travel Taskforce has outlined its framework to safely reopen international travel. Recommendations include a traffic light system with countries rated as ‘green’, ‘amber’ or ‘red’. Placement on the list will depend on data such as the percentage of population that has been vaccinated, current rate of infection, the prevalence of new variants, and whether the  country has access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.  There will also be a ‘green watchlist’ which will show whether it’s likely or possible that a country will be moved to ‘red’ or ‘amber’. The definition of each list is as follows:

  • Green: arrivals will need to take a COVID-19 test before departure, and a PCR test on or before day two of their arrival back in the UK. They won’t need to quarantine unless the result is positive. 
  • Amber: ten day quarantine is mandatory on return back to the UK. Arrivals will need to take a pre–departure test as well as PCR tests on days two and eight of their return to the UK. There will also be the option to Test to Release on day five.
  • Red: arrivals will need to follow the current restrictions for red list countries, including a 10 day stay in a quarantine hotel, departure testing and PCR testing on days two and eight with no Test to Release option.

Regardless of whether travellers have been vaccinated, they will still need to complete the COVID-19 tests pre-departure and on arrival to the UK.

Find out which borders are currently open with our Travel Restrictions map, and find out how to set up price alerts for the best deals on flights when non-essential travel is again possible.

Travel news updates – 8th April

Countries partnering up to offer quarantine-free travel corridors

Empty road in the Australian outback with a kangaroo crossing sign

We reported last week that the UK and USA are considering pairing up to offer a quarantine-free travel corridor. Other countries are also putting similar measures into place, with Australia and New Zealand announcing their own bubble. Both countries have had strict border controls and low infection rates throughout the pandemic. Another interesting corridor is Germany to Mallorca. The Balearic Island was recently removed from Germany’s risk-list, so travellers only need a negative Covid test and don’t require quarantine on arrival. The island depends heavily on tourism, so it’s hoped that this softening of restrictions will help to breathe new life into the economy.

Read more about travel bubbles and corridors

Skyscanner trends find increased demand for holidays in Greece, Dubai, Spain, Turkey, and Orlando 

White sandy beach in Ibiza with some empty sunloungers placed close to the water.

In anticipation of travel restarting, people have been searching for flights to a number of key destinations. We’ve looked at the numbers to find the biggest trends in travel for the coming months, and the most popular places are:

Greece: the southern European country has seen a surge in popularity for 2021 following confirmation that British tourists – both vaccinated and non-vaccinated – will be welcomed back from mid-May. This is pending the UK government’s decision on when international travel can resume, and whether Greece will be on the green, amber, or red list.

Dubai:  we saw a large number of Britons travel to Dubai over Christmas while it was on the travel corridor list. A seven-hour flight from London, it’s not quite long-haul, but splashes out year-round sunshine. It’s also set up to cater to all types looking to escape – including couples, families, and solo travellers. While it’s now on the ‘red list’ of countries, people may be banking on it being moved to ‘green’ or ‘amber’ due to the UAE’s high vaccination rate.

Spain: one of Britain’s favourite holiday destinations is maintaining its popularity with Ibiza rising to become a key destination for post-lockdown breaks. After more than a year at home, it’s likely people will be seeking sun, sea, sand, and nightclubs. Part of the Balearic Island chain – which also includes Mallorca, Menorca, and Formentera – it’s been suggested that UK travellers with vaccine certificates could be welcomed back from May.

Turkey: there is anticipation that British tourists may be allowed to visit Turkey without a vaccination certificate or negative COVID-19 test, making it a more seamless option for summer breaks should it end up on the green list for UK travellers.

Orlando: Virgin Atlantic and British Airways both announced at the start of March that they would resume three or more daily flights to the world’s theme park capital from May 17 and with attractive pricing. Orlando is a fun-filled destination for families. Plus, many people may be looking to give their kids a bit of extra magic after a whole year of lockdown.

Once corridors do open, here is some guidance on how to find a last-minute flight

Travel news updates – 6th April

Government confirms traffic light plan for international travel, with more updates expected later this week 

Focus on a pedestrian traffic light, with the bright lights of a big city blurred in the background.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed when non-essential international travel reopens that a traffic light system will be put in place. This will add ‘green’ and ‘amber’ status countries to the current ‘red’ list of destinations that require mandatory hotel quarantine. If you return from a green list country you won’t need to isolate, but you will need to take a COVID-19 test both before and after travelling. At the moment, it is still too early for the government to confirm which countries will be green or amber-listed. Mr. Johnson  also told the nation that the government cannot confirm whether holidays will be able to resume from 17th May, but did say that more information on international travel will be given later this week.

Read more about COVID tests for travel

United Arab Emirates introduces 1-Year Visa for remote workers

Dubai skyline as seen from a beach with palm trees in the foreground

As temporary working-from-home situations become more permanent, the United Arab Emirates is looking to attract digital nomads by expanding its remote working visa program. It was originally announced in October for Dubai only, but has now been extended to the rest of the UAE. The destination is hoping to capitalise on its year-round sunshine, 0% tax rate and famously lavish lifestyle.

Read all about workcations: 2020’s big remote working trend

 Cruise ships no longer able to dock in Venice 

Gondolas sailing under a bridge in Venice

The Italian government has backed a ban on large passenger and cargo ships approaching the historic centre of Venice. The lack of cruise ships during the pandemic has been credited with improving water quality in the lagoons. The request, which was raised by UNESCO, may also help to preserve the city’s buildings. Some are concerned that the waves caused by large boats are contributing to erosion and flooding. It’s also good news for the local economy, as small restaurants and hotels often need to compete with on-board accommodation. A new site is being sought-out, but in the meantime, large boats will have to dock at the industrial port on the mainland, about 15 minutes drive from the historic centre.

Travel news updates – 1st April

This week, a number of countries – including Malta, Cyprus and Thailand – announced plans to welcome vaccinated travellers this summer. In other news, Boris Johnson may bring his announcement about summer holidays forward a week, a leading tourism body is calling for a new autumn bank holiday, and dates have been announced for UK hotel openings. Read about all this, and more, in this week’s travel brief.

Boris Johnson hints at upcoming April 5th announcement on summer holidays 

Wooden steps leading down to a quiet, sandy beach with the clear blue sky and sea in the background.

Boris Johnson has suggested that he’ll make an announcement about summer travel a week earlier than anticipated. The government’s Global Travel Taskforce report is being published on April 12th, but the Prime Minister will need to sign off on it first. This means he could make some of the contents public before the official release date. Johnson said “A lot of people do want to know about what’s going to happen on the holiday front and I know there’s a great deal of curiosity and interest.” He then asked people to wait until the report is released, before adding “I certainly hope to say more by April 5.”

Start planning with our post-lockdown dream holidays 

Cyprus set to welcome vaccinated Brits from May 1st

Cyprus has announced plans to reopen to tourists from the UK who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. People will need to have had both doses of a European Medicines Agency (EMA)-approved vaccine at least seven days before they travel. However, we will need to wait a little longer to take advantage of this opening, as it’s currently illegal to go abroad for non-essential reasons, such as tourism. Doing so puts travellers at risk of a £5,000 fine. These restrictions are likely to be in place until 17th May at the earliest, pending the Global Travel Taskforce report.

UK and USA travel corridor could open by June

View of Manhattan's skyline with the Statue of Liberty in the foreground.

Ministers from the UK and USA governments are reportedly in talks about starting a pilot scheme to facilitate a safe travel corridor between the two countries. According to industry insiders, this could be in place by June as more people across Britain and America receive their vaccines. One of the areas that the government’s Global Travel Taskforce is looking at is ‘Engaging with other like-minded countries’ – that is, countries like the USA which already have an advanced vaccine plan.

Plan a trip to the Big Apple with our New York travel guide

Thailand opening up the island of Phuket for vaccinated tourists from July

View of a cove in Phuket. Tropical trees cover the hills, all the way down  to a small white sand beach lapped by turquoise waters studded with speedboats.

Thailand’s tourism minister recently announced plans to welcome visitors back to the island of Phuket from July 1st. Re-opening will depend on meeting the target of inoculating 70% of the island’s population against the virus. Tourists who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 won’t have to undergo quarantine during their stay. Plans are still under discussion, and other requirements might still apply – for example showing proof of vaccination and taking a PCR test on arrival.

Malta reopening to vaccinated Brits from June 1st

Busy harbour in Malta with lots of small fishing boats, backed by historic buildings and a cloudy blue sky.

Malta’s tourism authority has confirmed plans to welcome British travellers back from 1st June, as long as they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Tourists will be able to visit the islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino without prior testing. They will need to prove they’ve received the second dose of an EMA-approved vaccine at least ten days before travelling, most likely by showing their vaccine certificate before boarding their flight.

Read all about how to embrace freedom in Malta

New bank holiday in September proposed as ‘reward’ for getting through the pandemic

A red London bus driving across a bridge with the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben in the background.

The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) is calling for Britons to get an extra day off in September to make up for the loss of Easter and the first May bank holiday, both of which took place under lockdown. In addition to rewarding UK residents for getting through a “devastatingly hard year”, it would also offer the opportunity for the tourism industry to “repair (its) balance sheets”. During 2020, visitor numbers across British tourism sites were down by 66%.

Bank holidays mean day trips, and these English castles are perfect for a historic day out

Planning your summer staycation? Try these UK hidden gems for a long weekend

A cottage in the Cotwsolds with lavender fields in the foreground.

From camping on hidden beaches in Norfolk and golfing by the sea in Scotland to tucking into afternoon tea in idyllic Essex villages, Britain has plenty of exciting places to see and things to do. If you need some inspiration, our UK hidden gems article has plenty of suggestions for a post-lockdown break. Before setting off, check local lockdown restrictions – staying away from home for non-essential purposes is still illegal in most parts of Britain. 

Your questions around cancellations and compensation, answered

Man sitting in an airport at sunset, his legs propped on his suitcase, watching an aeroplane take off.

With so many new countries opening up to vaccinated tourists, many people will be keen to start booking holidays. However, if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that things can change in a heartbeat. Our guide to flexible travel has everything you need to know about booking flights, hotels and car hire without losing out. You’ll also find lots of information about flight cancellation policies and compensation in our Coronavirus travel advice article, which is updated on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays with the latest news.

Travel news updates – March 2021

Woman looking at departure board in airport
  • Spain to lift UK travel ban from March 30, allowing Brits to visit without quarantine. However, non-essential travel is still illegal, until May 17 at the earliest. Find flights to Spain for later this year.
  • Aer Lingus has announces its first ever transatlantic services from Manchester Airport with flights to New York JFK and Orlando launching on July 29, Barbados from October 20, and Boston from summer 2022. Read our top 5 tips for safe flights during the pandemic.
  • £5,000 fine introduced for people going on overseas “without fair reason”. Non-essential travel may resume on 17 May. Read our flexible travel guide for tips on booking transferrable tickets.
  • Traffic light system is being considered for international travel, indicating risk levels and restrictions, Find out what the current UK hotel quarantine rules are for arrivals from red list countries.
  • Foreign governments and cruise lines consider admitting tourists based on COVID vaccine certificates and infection status. For more in-depth information, read about COVID vaccine certificates and health passes for travel.
  • We asked the experts about COVID testing for travel.
  • EasyJet has announced two new flight routes to Newquay, with non-stop flights from Manchester launching on 21 June and Glasgow on June 29. The latter will be the airline’s first-ever flight route from Scotland to Cornwall. Get inspired by 15 of the best places to visit in Cornwall
  • Never mind the Caribbean – discover Scotland’s beaches this summer

Find out which borders are currently open

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