Simon Calder
Simon Calder

One of the key determinants of whether Brits can travel abroad this summer following the global coronavirus pandemic is the Foreign Office travel advice.

The FCO keeps individual country pages on its website regularly updated, with all the latest information and warnings about potential risks, such as political unrest, natural disasters and terror attacks.

If the FCO advises against “all but essential travel” to a country, it invalidates travellers’ insurance, and visiting there is at your own risk.

Here’s everything you need to know about the current advice.

What is the latest Foreign Office advice?

The FCO has been advising British nationals against all but essential international travel since 23 March. However, this advice has now been lifted for 67 destinations as of 4 July.

This list is separate from the one issued by the Department for Transport, which details 59 “travel corridor” destinations from where travellers can now enter England, Wales and Northern Ireland without having to quarantine for two weeks.

In total, 48 countries and territories are exempt from both travel restrictions (46 in Scotland).

Why can I book a flight to a country if the FCO warns against travelling there?

Many airlines are tentatively restarting operations – for example, easyJet had its first flight post-lockdown, a hop from London to Glasgow, on 15 June after 11 weeks of being grounded.

Others continued to operate flights throughout April and May, much to the confusion of consumers, considering most countries’ borders were closed at that point and the FCO advised against all international travel.

Wizz Air, for example, restarted flights from Luton to 15 destinations in May, including Budapest, Belgrade and Tenerife. Ryanair started selling seats to numerous European destinations, including Barcelona, Athens, Bologna and Nimes, from mid-May.

Wizz said the flights were “to provide an essential service to those who need to travel”, reported Forbes – presumably referring to returning citizens and permanent residents or medical staff, the only people who would be exempt from the rules.

Which? claimed at the time that it looked like airlines were cynically still running flights so that those who had already purchased tickets but were unable to fly because of FCO advice would be unable to claim a refund.

As countries in Europe start to open their borders again, and the UK announces the relaxation of both the FCO blanket travel warning and the mandatory two-week quarantine for inbound travellers from certain countries, catching a flight abroad purely for leisure purposes finally seems feasible in the not-too-distant future.

The only stumbling block might be that the country you’re planning on travelling to is imposing a quarantine for Brits on arrival, or demanding a health certificate. Click here for The Independent‘s list of countries where all travel restrictions are lifted.

Can I travel within the UK?

On 23 June, the prime minister announced a further easing of lockdown restrictions in England, which stated that, from 4 July, up to two households are allowed to stay overnight in “self-contained accommodation” together – including hotels, bed and breakfasts and campsites – as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.

Many English hotels reopened on 4 July, complete with stringent new cleaning measures.

Northern Ireland was a day ahead, with hotels, pubs, restaurants and tourist attractions all able to open with suitable social-distancing measures from 3 July, while Scotland has a provisional date to open to visitors on 15 July.

Travel restrictions in Wales were lifted on 6 July and self-contained accommodation has been able to re-open as of 13 July.

Public transport is still reserved for “essential journeys” rather than leisure travel.

When is the advice against international travel likely to end?

The FCO travel warning has been lifted for 67 destinations as of 4 July.

Simultaneously, the need to quarantine has been removed for travellers entering England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 59 countries and territories regarded as “low-risk” by the Joint Biosecurity Centre from 10 July.

Popular holiday destinations that are exempt from both restrictions include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced a separate list of exempt countries for Scotland, which is the same as the rest of the UK’s barring two omissions: Spain and Serbia.

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