From travel insurance to PCR tests: How to book a holiday abroad in 2021

29 July 2021, 12:13 | Updated: 29 July 2021, 13:03

From travel insurance to PCR tests: How to book a holiday abroad in 2021
From travel insurance to PCR tests: How to book a holiday abroad in 2021. Picture: Getty

By Emma Clarke

Confused? This helpful travel guide will explain what you need to do if you're booking a holiday abroad.

The rules around foreign travel are constantly changing and evolving, owing to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

And while the Government has introduced a traffic light system to help identify the countries that are safe to visit, these lists are reviewed every three weeks, making it difficult to plan ahead.

So, if you're feeling overwhelmed and confused by it all - you are not alone.

Here's a helpful travel guide explaining what you need to do and consider before booking your holiday abroad...

What are the current UK travel rules?

Red list countries

You should not be travelling to countries and territories on this list at this time.

If you are entering the UK from a red list country, you must:

  • Be a British or Northern Irish national, or have residence rights in the UK
  • Take a paid-for Covid-19 test before you travel (not applicable to children aged 10 and under)
  • Book a quarantine hotel package, including two Covid-19 tests
  • Complete a passenger locator form
  • Upon arrival stay in the quarantine hotel you have pre-booked, and take two Covid-19 tests

Amber list countries

If you are entering the UK from an amber list country, you must:

  • Take a Covid-19 test 3 days before you travel
  • Book and pay for two Covid-19 tests to be taken on day 2 and day 8 of your arrival
  • Complete a passenger locator form
  • Quarantine at home upon arrival for 10 days

You do not need to quarantine or take a day 8 test if:

  • You are fully-vaccinated in the UK or as part of a UK vaccine programme overseas
  • Under 18 on the day you arrive in England, or in a country with a vaccination programme approved by the UK
  • You are part of a UK-approved vaccine trial

For these rules to apply, you must have had your final dose at least 14 whole days before the date of your arrival in the UK. You still have to book your day 2 test.

If you are travelling to the UK for less than 10 days, you will need to quarantine for the entirety of your stay, and must still book your day 2 and day 8 tests - even if you will no longer be in England on the dates of these tests.

Green list countries

Before you travel to England from a green list country, you must:

  • Take a Covid-19 test (children aged 10 or under do not have to)
  • Book and pay for a Covid-19 test for day 2 after your arrival
  • Complete a passenger locator form

Once you're in the country, you must:

  • Take your day 2 test (children aged 4 and under do not have to)
  • Quarantine only if you have a positive test result or if the NHS Test & Trace app tells you you've been in contact with someone with Covid-19

Read the full list of rules on the Government's website here.

When do I have to quarantine?

On July 28, the Government announced that passengers arriving from amber countries who have been fully-vaccinated in Europe and the USA will not have to quarantine upon entering England - nor will they have to take the day 8 test.

The new rules will kick in from 4am on August 2, and will apply to those who have been double-jabbed with vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or in the Swiss vaccination programme.

Passengers who meet this criteria must still complete a pre-departure Covid-19 test, as well as a PCR test on day 2 of their arrival.

Those vaccinated in the US will need to provide proof of US residency and all travellers must complete a passenger locator form before they arrive in England.

Anyone travelling to England from a red list country will need to book a quarantine hotel package and 2 Covid-19 tests for when they arrive. You can read the full list of rules in the section above.

What are the rules for France?

If you've travelled to France in the 10 days before your visit to England, you must quarantine for 10 days after you arrive and take two Covid-19 tests - one on day 2 and the other on day 8.

These rules apply even if you are fully-vaccinated.

Which countries are on the green and amber lists?

The UK Government reviews the travel list every three weeks, so it is important to understand that countries and territories can quickly be removed from one list and placed onto another.

Another key thing to remember is that just because a country is on the green or amber list from a UK perspective, it does not mean the country will allow you entry. You must check before you book.

Currently, among the countries on the green list are Croatia, Malta, Iceland, Australia and New Zealand.

Amber list countries currently include Canada, Cyprus, France, Italy and the United States.

Find out more here.

How do I book a PCR test?

If you are booking a PCR test for travel purposes, you cannot order a free one via the NHS. You must book privately and pay for the test(s).

You can find a test provider in England via the Government website here.

Boots pharmacy also provides PCR testing services. Learn more here.

Otherwise, airlines and travel companies also provide private tests for passengers, though they do vary in price.

Can I get travel insurance at the moment?

If you already have travel insurance, you need to check your policy to see whether or not it covers Covid-19-related events.

For those taking out a new policy, there are many that now encompass Covid-19 clauses, but you should check with your provider before booking or going abroad.

Failure to buy the right type of travel insurance could mean you end up footing hefty emergency bills, including medical treatment and travel disruption.

What if my return flight gets cancelled or I get stuck abroad?

Cancelled flights

If your flight home is cancelled, your provider must get you home at the earliest opportunity if:

  • You are leaving the UK or an EU country
  • It is a UK or EU airline

Most package holiday companies are also obliged to provide alternative transportation, however, it won't necessarily be on the same date as you originally planned.

Stranded abroad

If you're stranded because of a cancelled flight (UK/EU), your airline must find accommodation for you.

However, you may have to pay the fees upfront then be reimbursed at a later date.

Travel association ABTA, meanwhile, states that if you're on a package holiday, the company is only obligated to find you accommodation for up to three nights, if your return trip is cancelled.

If in doubt, contact your provider directly and find out what their policy is.

Can I get a refund if my flights are cancelled before I go?

If your (UK/EU) flights are cancelled, the airline should issue you a full refund within seven days, or offer you an alternative flight to your destination.

While some companies have been issuing vouchers instead, you are entitled to a refund, so you are well within your rights to request this.

In some cases, there may be a delay in processing your refund, given the volume of requests and the pandemic.

Package holidays should refund you within 14 days, but it may also take a little longer to process at this time.

With regards to hotels, hire cars and other add-ons, policies can be different, so check with your provider directly to see what their refund policy is.