Having lived in varying stages of lockdown for almost six months now, lots of people are asking, ‘when can I travel again?’ The UK government released a list of countries we can visit back in July, but with regulations constantly in flux it makes sense that people are a bit concerned about booking a trip abroad. Use this helpful guide to understand when you can head off.
Quick note: circumstances can change quickly. This article was last updated on 16 September 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.
When can I travel abroad?
The good news is you can already travel abroad. The bad news is that not everywhere is open for business.
Where can I travel abroad?
The UK government introduced travel corridors at the beginning of July. 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 66 destinations spanning Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and Australasia. Sweden was added to the quarantine exemption list on 14 September and the UK government is constantly reviewing the list.
Where can’t I travel abroad?
Summer holiday favourites like Spain, France, Croatia, Greece and Portugal were recently removed from the FCDO exemption list due to rising infection rates. 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 buying it during coronavirus times).
Can I travel to countries that aren’t on the exemptions list?
The short answer is yes. You can travel to countries that aren’t on the exemptions list – as long as they’re allowing non-resident visitors.
What entry requirements might there be?
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, 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.
Will 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, followed by a fortnight quarantining in your house when you get back to the UK. Not much fun, but if you’re able to work from home – and are travelling overseas for longer than the quarantine period – it might be worth it.
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.
When can I travel abroad from Scotland?
Since Boris Johnson started easing lockdown, Scotland has been a little out of step with the rest of the UK. While English travellers were allowed to start travelling abroad quarantine-free from 4 July, Scotland didn’t lift the restrictions until almost a week later, on 10 July. The Welsh and Northern Irish governments also waited until 10 July to allow non-essential travel to resume. The devolved administrations are now using the FCO-approved travel corridors.
Devolved administration advice:
- Official FCO guidance
- Scotland government travel advice
- Wales government travel advice
- Northern Ireland government travel advice
Can I travel around the UK?
At the moment there are no restrictions stopping you from travelling anywhere in the UK. This is great news if you fancy getting behind the wheel and doing some domestic sightseeing. Just bear in mind that there are local lockdowns in place in northern regions like Greater Manchester and Lancashire and that gatherings of over six people have been banned from 14 September.
Can I travel by train?
Non-drivers will be glad to hear that it’s possible to travel by train for your staycation.
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.
Some 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
Currently there are no restrictions on how far you can travel within the UK. However, local lockdowns are being imposed in areas with high levels of infection. In these parts of the country, non-essential travel is forbidden. In some areas, people aren’t allowed to travel more than five miles for leisure. You should avoid travelling to these places. If you live in an area where lockdown has been re-imposed, hold tight for now: you’ll be able to travel again soon.
Yes. Not only is it respectful to follow the rules and regulations of the country you’re visiting, it also helps to keep you and those around you safe. No matter where you are in the world, you should still 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.