Travelling abroad for holidays is currently not allowed under coronavirus laws, with people only permitted to leave under a few exceptions, such as for work or study.
It is hoped that the ban on travel could be lifted from mid-May if it is safe to do so, although this will be dependent on several factors, including Covid-19 infection rates across the UK and the success of the vaccine rollout.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it is still “too early to say” whether foreign holidays will be allowed this summer, and rising coronavirus cases across Europe is casting doubt on the prospect.
But when are the rules on holidays abroad expected to change, and will a Covid test be required for travel? Here’s what you need to know.
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Will I need a Covid test to travel abroad?
Under current UK coronavirus restrictions, you must stay at home and not travel, including abroad, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so.
It is illegal to travel abroad for holidays and this is not expected to change until around mid-May.
In England, the roadmap sets out 17 May as the earliest possible date by which international travel may be allowed, as does the lockdown exit strategy in Scotland.
Once the rules on foreign travel are lifted, it is likely that other countries will still have restrictions on travel in place, meaning travellers may need proof of a negative coronavirus test to visit some locations.
If you need proof of a negative coronavirus test to enter another country, you must use a private test provider and pay for this yourself.
You must also have proof of a negative coronavirus test in order to return to the UK from abroad, even if you are a UK citizen.
The NHS Test and Trace testing service cannot provide you with the documents you will need for travel.
The test must be taken in the three days before you depart and the results must be in England, French or Spanish.
You will then need to show these results when you check in to travel or board your plane, train, or ferry. You may also be required to show them when you arrive at your destination.
In the event your test result is positive, you must not travel. Travellers who cannot provide proof of a negative test result on arrival at the border could face a fine of £500.
When you won’t need a Covid test for travel
You do not need to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test if you are travelling:
- within the UK, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey
- from Ireland
- from Ascension, Falkland Islands, Myanmar or St Helena
Children under the age of 11 also do not need to take a test.
Other reasons you might not need a test include if you have a job on the ‘exempt jobs’ list, you are travelling to the UK for medical reasons, or you are travelling from a country where you cannot access testing facilities.
Cost of Covid tests via airlines
Many airlines are now offering Covid-19 tests as part of their booking process, for an additional cost, although they are available to purchase from other providers.
Travellers are required to arrange to take the test in advance of their flight if the country they are visiting requires proof of a negative test.
Here’s how much some of the major airlines are charging for a Covid-19 test.
Jet2 is offering a discounted PCR (swab) Covid-19 test from third party providers from £75.
To claim the discount, you need to log in to the Manage My Booking section four weeks prior to departure and follow the instructions to arrange your test.
If you get a positive test result, you will not be allowed to travel.
Tui has teamed up with testing providers Screen4 and Randox, and travellers will need to check whether a test is required for the country they are visiting ahead of departure.
The Screen4 testing kits are priced at £70 each and will return results within 24 to 48 hours of the sample arriving at the lab.
The Randox PCR testing kits are provided at a discounted rate for Tui customers at £84.
Travellers can order a testing kit via the Manage My Booking section online or via a link in the booking confirmation email.
British Airways is offering discounted antigen test kits with Qured using the discount code BATRAVEL15, which are available for delivery to UK addresses.
Travellers can book a test well in advance and must take it within three days of departure, with results to be visible within 20 minutes.
The rapid tests are available from £39 each.
Virgin Atlantic is not offering discounted Covid-19 testing kits, but its Medical, Health and Safety team has recommended a list of companies offering PCR and LAMP test suppliers.
These include Boots, with PCR tests priced from £120, ExpressTest from £60, and Qured tests from £39.
A full list of recommended suppliers is listed on the website.
EasyJet has partnered with local testing providers to offer Covid-19 PCR and Antigen testing at a discounted rate.
Travellers who live in the UK can purchase a home testing kit from Randox Health using the discount code easyJet2021 at the checkout, with each kit priced at £72.
A negative Covid-19 test result is required for all passengers arriving into Ireland.
While Aer Lingus is not providing discounted testing kits, it has recommended a list of suppliers and testing sites for travellers to use.
This includes home test kits from Let’s Get Checked, priced at €99 (£84.98), or a Randox Health PCR or rapid antigen test, priced from €45 (£42.07).