On 5 November, England went into lockdown again until 2 December, closing non-essential businesses and banning non-essential travel within the UK and abroad. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own COVID-19 restrictions, but the same basic rules to travel: people are advised against travel abroad or to other parts of the UK unless for work, education or other legally permitted reasons. Lots of us are asking, ‘when can I travel again?’
The UK government released a list of countries we can visit back in July, which still applies, but travel for holiday is now off the cards for at least a month, until the current lockdown eases. Even then, regulations are constantly in flux and regional lockdowns can complicate plans. Bookmark this helpful guide to understand when you can head off.
Quick note: circumstances can change quickly. This article was last updated on 24 November 2020. For more up-to-date information, our handy travel restrictions map is updated every morning with the latest information about where you can go.
Can I travel abroad?
From 5 November, non-essential travel abroad or within the UK is not permitted. You can only travel for work, educational or other legally permitted reasons.
Which countries are on the travel corridors list?
If you do travel abroad during lockdown, quarantine measures still apply for countries not on the travel corridors list.
The UK government introduced travel corridors at the beginning of July, which is a list of places it’s possible to go to without having to quarantine on return. If the rate of infection remains lower than 20 per 100,000 people over the course of seven days in any given country on the list, then UK visitors can travel there without having to quarantine. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) is responsible for the list, and updates it whenever new agreements are made or when the situation changes in the approved countries.
The list currently includes 60 destinations spanning Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and Australasia. Greece was the latest to be removed from the safe travel list on 14 November and the UK government is constantly reviewing the list.
Which countries are not on the travel corridors list?
Holiday favourites like Spain, France, Croatia, Germany, Italy and Portugal have been removed from the FCDO exemption list due to rising infection rates. Travel-wise, the risk comes down to whether the country will be removed from the list between booking your trip and heading off. A good insurance policy is absolutely essential (we’ve put together a guide on travel insurance during coronavirus).
Can I travel to countries that aren’t on the travel corridors list?
Provided you are travelling for essential reasons, you can travel to countries that aren’t on the exemptions list – as long as they’re allowing non-resident visitors in. But you’ll have to quarantine for 14 days on your arrival back in the UK.
Note that from 15 December, the quarantine will be halved. You’ll have to quarantine for five days on arrival back in the UK, then take a PCR test at your own expense (£65-£120) which takes 24-48 hours to get results. If the result is negative, you no longer need to self-isolate.
Entry requirements during COVID-19
Many countries have locked down completely and have suspended all flights. Others are only allowing their own residents to fly in. Some countries are allowing tourism, but under certain circumstances – for example, the United Arab Emirates is allowing people to visit Dubai for tourism, but nowhere else in the country.
Many countries also require visitors to get a COVID-19 test before arrival, including Italy and Hong Kong (Heathrow airport has begun offering rapid COVID tests to these two destinations) so you’d need to bring a medical certificate proving that you’re virus free.
You can see a full list of restricted countries on our travel map. The yellow ones have some restrictions in place, while the green ones are ‘open for business’. The red ones are, unfortunately, closed for the time being.
Do I need to quarantine?
If you travel to a non-exempt country, you will need to quarantine once you get back to the UK. Depending on where you’re going, this could potentially mean spending 7-14 days of your holiday self-isolating in your hotel room on arrival, perhaps also paying for a coronavirus test, followed by a fortnight quarantining in your house when you get back to the UK (or only five-seven days after 15 December).
Can I travel to the USA?
At the moment, British nationals cannot enter the USA if they have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil or China within the previous 14 days. Those that are eligible to enter the USA must be prepared to self-isolate for up to 14 days after arrival.
Despite these restrictions, you can still submit an ESTA application if you plan to travel to the USA within the next two years, with normal processing time, because ESTA holiday visas are valid for two years. However, bear in mind that being in possession of an ESTA visa does not automatically mean you can travel to the USA. Your recent travel history determines your entry and potential quarantine requirements.
Can I travel abroad from Scotland?
At the moment, non-essential travel from Scotland to England and abroad is advised against and there are restrictions on socialising and the hospitality sector.
Advice for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales:
- Official FCDO guidance
- Scotland government travel advice
- Wales government travel advice
- Northern Ireland government travel advice
Can I travel in the UK?
The lockdown from 4 November means that all of England is in tier three for at least a month, and travel is also limited in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This rules out non-essential travel within the UK for the time being.
Since the UK lockdown began on 5 November, people in England cannot travel to other parts of the UK unless for work, education or other legally permitted reasons. UK-based holidays are not allowed, including camping, road trips, and hotel stays.
On 2 November a tier system was implemented across Scotland, with areas placed into one of five tiers depending on their number of coronavirus cases. If you live in Scotland, you can go on staycation but are advised not to travel to Wales. As of 17 November it’s illegal to travel into other parts of the UK from Scotland.
From Wales, travel is currently not allowed to and from England without a ‘reasonable excuse’. People in Wales can travel within Wales provided they adhere to regulations, but it’s a good idea to check the latest rules before booking your trip.
Can I travel by train?
Non-drivers will be glad to hear that it’s possible to travel by train within the UK, provided you are undertaking only essential journeys during lockdown.
Train travel tips during coronavirus:
- You need to wear a face mask for the duration of your journey, whether you’re in England, Wales and Scotland. You can be fined £100 if you don’t comply.
- On-board catering is limited, so pack some snacks and a thermos if you’re going a long way.
- Some rail companies require you to have a seat reservation to help maintain social distancing on board.
- It’s best to book your ticket online and display it with an app: this keeps things as contactless as possible for you and the train staff.
- The best time to travel by train is during off-peak times. Not only is it cheaper, it also makes it easier to practice social distancing. Try to avoid rush hours and, if you’re travelling to a tourist hot spot, Friday afternoons and Monday mornings.
UK staycation inspiration
- How to best explore the National Parks in Wales
- 10 incredible places to visit in England (other than London)
- 6 of the best places to visit in Scotland
- Top 9 UK staycations 2020
When can I travel? FAQs
The lockdown from 4 November rules out non-essential travel within the UK for at least a month. This means that unless you have to travel for work, education or other legally permitted reasons, you should stay at home for the time being.
Yes. No matter where you are in the world, you should follow basic measures to keep coronavirus at bay. Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds at a time, avoid touching your face, keep two metres distance from people who aren’t in your household and wear a mask if you’re going to be in a crowded place. Read up on your destination’s rules before you go. Remember some places will have fines in place for non-compliance, so don’t risk losing any holiday spending money.
Read up on the latest travel advice in your destination before you go. While travelling, be as hygienic as possible, and do your best to give people two metres of space. Wear a mask whenever you use public transport, hop in a taxi or jump on a plane. You should also keep your mask on when you’re inside a train station, airport or shop. Always wash your hands after touching a surface and before touching your face or eating. Keep a bottle of hand sanitiser in your pockets for those moments when it’s not practical to get to a sink. If you need to cough or sneeze, keep your mask on – that’s what it’s there for – and cover your face using the crook of your elbow. Immediately change your mask, throwing away or bagging up the soiled one to wash later.
It depends where you’re travelling from. If you were in a country listed as exempt by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) then you don’t need to. Otherwise, you’ll need to self-isolate for 14 days. The FCDO list gets updated regularly, so check it before you go and before you fly home to make sure you’re following the latest advice.