UPDATED 22nd May 2021
Whilst many people are desperate for the 17th of May to arrive so they can book a holiday, let me just stop you there. International travel is currently fraught with danger. Several potential hiccups may conspire to sabotage your plans. These hiccups could cost you thousands on top of the cost of your holiday. Before you take the plunge you need to consider each of these five really good reasons to delay booking a holiday overseas. Do not become the next story in the Mirror about some hapless tourist who decided to take the risk only for it to bite them on the ass! If you become one of these people, you only have yourself to blame. So, without further ado, lets consider five reasons good reasons why you should delay booking a holiday overseas.
Note, this post is targeted at UK residents and is based on information correct at 9th May. The situation evolves rapidly so do check the latest guidance before acting as From Miles To Smiles can not be held responsible for any stupidity on your part!
Five Reasons To Delay Booking A Holiday
First up, it looks likely that a negative PCR test will be a pre-requisite for travel. Typically, within 72 hours of departure (less for some destinations) you will need to obtain a negative test. You will not be able to travel without this and fines may apply if you fail to comply.
Approved test centres
Whilst many people may feel that they can head to an NHS test centre to satisfy this requirement, this is not the case. Travellers will need to obtain a test from an approved supplier at additional cost. Some companies may offer tests for as little as £20 but to achieve this saving you will need to book a holiday with that company. This cost saving may be offset by inflexible cancellation terms if you cannot travel due to a positive test.
The Covid testing network shows a list of approved suppliers in the UK and lists prices for each test. For an express test (results within 24 hours) Assured Screening offers the best option at £96. In addition, all passengers who enter the UK must obtain a test within 72 hours of travel. Failure to do so can result in a £500 fine on arrival and the test must satisfy these conditions.
For advice on overseas testing centres, visit the FCO but it is your responsibility to book and arrange the test. In Portugal, these tests cost between €50 and €150 per person.
For a couple travelling therefore, the minimum extra cost you will incur for these tests lone will be £400 – £600. That also assumes you get a lovely negative test result.
Pitfalls of PCR tests
Do you really want to sacrifice holiday relaxation time to take a test? Do you think you will enjoy the wait for the results? And what if your result is positive and results in mandatory quarantine overseas? The tests alone are one really good reason to delay booking a holiday overseas until entry requirements ease.
Furthermore, the press loves to share horror stories of individuals spending significant amounts of money for tests only to not receive the results (or the actual tests) in time for travel. With increased demand, this is only likely to get worse.
Of course, as I alluded to previously, the additional issue with Covid tests is that you run the risk of a positive result. Such a result prevents you from travelling. It is unlikely that you will be able to obtain a full refund of your travel expenses if you cancel with just a few days’ notice.
Even if you have a positive negative test on departure you may receive a positive test before your return. The FCO states that ‘If your test result is positive, you must not travel. You must follow local rules and guidance for positive coronavirus cases.’ This means significant extra expense without the fun that usually accompanies a stay in a foreign country.
Check the rules
Ideally before you travel, you should familiarise yourself with the rules and calculate whether you have sufficient funds to cover this potential additional cost. Isolation may be in your chosen accommodation or state approved accommodation but will be at your own cost!
Furthermore, how does this impact on your employment? If you are currently working from home, you may simply be able to work overseas during your quarantine. If you have a place of work that you need to attend however, this could result in loss of earnings or even your job. It is wise to check your company policy beforehand.
The prospect of a positive test resulting in significant additional costs overseas or the loss of your job might be another really good reason to delay booking a holiday overseas this summer.
Whilst many companies have introduced Covid friendly policies, it is now more important than ever to check the small print. You need to check what happens in the above situations and whether your policy covers you. To be able to accurately ascertain possible extras or cancellation fees you will incur, you should check the policy for:
- inability to travel due to a positive coronavirus test
- hospitalisation or death of a close relative due to Covid
- medical repatriation or treatment of Covid whilst overseas
- unused pre-booked excursions due to self -isolation as a result of a positive test (although you could hold off booking any trips until you arrive at your destination
- mandatory quarantine overseas or in the UK
According to Which most insurers offer Covid cover but none will protect you from every conceivable coronavirus possibility. Basic policies may offer cover if you test positive for coronavirus whilst away. More superior policies may include cover for cancellation due to a change in government policy. No policy currently offers cover for UK quarantine costs but things change rapidly.
To check out the best policy for you, head to Holiday Extras and complete the form for a personalised quote. Holiday Extras offers a Covid bubble policy which includes very comprehensive protection. This includes cover for mandatory isolation overseas due to a positive test before your return but it bumps up the cost significantly. Never has the comment ‘you get what you pay for’ been more true.
This Which article offers excellent advice about Covid-19 travel policies but the lack of a fully comprehensive policy that covers every possibility means that you may occur lots of additional costs. If you do not have the funds to pay for these extra, you definitely should delay booking a summer holiday.
The world has shrunk
Ok, so you are still here and still resistant to any suggestion that you should delay booking a holiday this summer. Perhaps you are happy to pay for tests and confident that you will be able to avoid contracting Covid, however, here comes the real kicker.
The government has now introduced a red, amber and green system which determines the steps you must undertake to visit each destination. The status depends on several factors including vaccine progress, infection rates, and prevalence of variants. Only 12 countries and territories have made it onto the green list and before you start researching tourist destinations in Brunei, you must check the entry requirements of each of those countries. Green status in the UK does not mean a green light for entry in those destinations.
So what does this all mean?
Just when you thought there was a glimmer of hope, green status means that you will have to:
- provide a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departure from the UK
- obtain a further negative Covid test within 72 hours of your departure to the UK
- pay for an additional PCR test on or before your second day back in the UK. Oops, those numbers above in the Covid test section have just increased by another £50 – £100 per person.
For ease I have compiled a table showing the status of each of the 12 green countries and territories. This is correct as at the 8th of May but please check the latest requirements as things change rapidly.
Entry requirements for
|Ascension & Tristan da Cunha||Compulsory quarantine for 14 days||Negative test within 72 hours of departure||×|
|Australia||Entry is restricted and a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a designated facility applies||Within 72 hours of departure||×|
|Brunei||Entry is restricted and a 7 day quarantine at a government facility||Within 72 hours of departure||
|Falkland Islands||Tourists not currently permitted and other visitors must self isolate for 14 days.||N/A||×|
|Faroe Islands||Test on arrival and self isolation for ten days. Visitors can take a PCR after 4 days for early release but need to have a worthy purpose for their visit.||Covid test within 48 hours||×|
|Gibraltar||Entry restricted to only Gibraltarians, residents of Gibraltar, Spanish nationals and residents in transit.||Negative PCR within 72 hours||×|
|Iceland||Non-essential travel is not currently possible||Negative PCR within 72 hours followed by a negative test on arrival and another 5-6 days later||×|
|Israel||Foreign nationals not permitted to enter unless citizens of Israel or in other limited circumstances. All visitors are required to quarantine for 14 days or ten days after completion of two negative tests.||×|
|New Zealand||Border closed to almost all arrivals and quarantine in an approved facility for 14 days with a negative PCR before leaving quarantine.||PCR test within 24 hours of arrival, on day 3 and day 12.||×|
|Portugal||There are no restrictions on travel from England and Scotland.||Negative PCR within 72 hours of departure||√|
|Singapore||Visitors need prior permission and must quarantine for 21 days during which time they must undertake 3 PCR tests||PCR within 72 hours of departure||×|
|South Georgia||Restricted access and the Falkland Islands regulates access and fees apply starting at applies fees of £130 for 3 days plus £20 for every additional day.||×|
|14 days isolation on arrival including a test at the beginning and end of quarantine to check they are free of COVID-19||Within 72 hours of departure||×|
Perhaps you now understand why I propose you delay booking a summer holiday. As you can see, only one of the green countries allows tourist entry without quarantine. Others have closed their borders entirely. This rules out a holiday to these destinations unless you are willing to quarantine on arrival. Frankly, I can think of nothing worse than spending the bulk of my trip in quarantine. Even if you plan to travel for an extended period and are happy to endure the quarantine, there is likely to be additional costs for additional tests.
My advice is to save your money, find adventures and new places to explore in the UK and wait until you can engage in travel without so much uncertainty.
But what if the country you wish to visit is an amber or red country?
The conditions for trips to an amber country means that you will have to:
- provide a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departure from the UK
- obtain a further negative Covid test within 72 hours of your departure to the UK
- Self-isolate at home for 10 days on your return.
- pay for additional PCR test on days two and eight after your return. This now means 4 PCR tests per person. See how the costs (not to mention the hassle) are mounting?
Whilst you still may be determined to travel and willing to isolate on return this is no guarantee that you will avoid quarantine on arrival at your chosen destination.
If you have your heart set on a trip to India, UAE, South Africa or the Maldives think again. These are all red countries and this means that you will:
- have to provide a negative Covid test within 72 hours of departure from the UK
- have to provide a negative Covid test within 72 hours of your return departure to the UK
- need to undertake additional PCR test on days two and eight whilst in quarantine.
- need to pre-book government approved quarantine facilities. You will be escorted there directly from the airport and must remain there for eleven nights at a cost of £1,750 which includes the additional testing.
Finally, the UK will not permit direct flights from a red country to the UK meaning travellers will have to take a longer route to their chosen destination. This may incur additional requirements.
Other important notes
- If a traveller tries to conceal their arrival from a ‘red list’ country, they face a jail sentence of up to 10 years or fines of up to £10,000
- Guests cannot leave their room and must eat all 3 meals in their rooms
- There is no automatic right to exercise during quarantine and guests must clean their own rooms
- If guests test positive on day two they must quarantine an additional day at a cost of £152 per day.
- If they test positive on day eight their stay extends to 18 days (Source: The Telegraph).
The government does not plan to do a overall review of country status until the end of June. However, countries can change status with little notice. When you leave the UK, your destination may be amber or green, but on your return, the status may be red. This will require quarantine that you may not have budgeted for and this could have severe cost and employment implications.
So, at the very least surely this is an excellent reason to delay booking a summer holiday overseas?
Isolation and quarantine
I have covered this comprehensively above, so is your holiday overseas really worth all this additional cost, stress and possible isolation upon your return? If you do need to self-isolate, you will not even be able to leave the house. Failure to abide by this rule could result in a fine of up to £10,000.
I have also discussed government mandated quarantine and how this automatically applies to red countries. However, the knock on effect of this is that to ensure compliance, border authorities have had to resort to 100% checks at immigration. Yes, you can thank all those smart arses who sneakily entered the UK and failed to quarantine for this development. Inews suggests queues could be up to ten hours in length (mmm, breeding ground for Covid contamination possibly?). Who wants that kind of hassle on their return from holiday?
The possibility of isolation, quarantine and long immigration lines are just more reasons to delay booking overseas travel until more normality resumes.
What do you think
I love my travel as much as anyone so I am not trying to rain on your parade. I am desperate to leave the UK for adventure and exploration. However, the current media optimism (wow, never thought I would say that) for international travel is misleading and unwarranted. It would be insane to book a package holiday right now. Any trip that does not allow full flexibility should be avoided until the end of June when country status will be reviewed.
I would love to know what you think however. Will you book overseas travel in May? If so, how do you plan to mitigate against some of these possibilities? Feel free to add your comments below but please keep it respectful.
A safer way to travel
All that said there is one option that you may wish to consider. Once the government adds more green countries, or existing green countries remove the quarantine requirement, consider booking flights using AVIOS points. This allows you to book flights that you can cancel up to 24 hours before departure with a full refund (check the latest terms to ensure this still applies). You can save the cost of your flight if circumstances change and you cannot travel. If you are unfamiliar with AVIOS, check out this post which will get you started. If you put your everyday spending onto the British Airways credit card you will soon be able to rack up the points.
Now, of course you may decide to take the plunge even though there are several great reasons to delay booking your holiday this summer. If you decide to throw caution to the wind, please ensure you have an emergency fund. This can cover the additional expenses you may incur in these scenarios. The British government and your friends and family should not have to bail you out.