Latest Travel Rule Changes – Get Prepped For Your Winter Getaway
Navigating the endless changes in the rules for travel is tricky, but if you’ve spent all year looking forward to your ski holiday don’t lose hope. There is a little more red tape, form-filling and testing to be done currently thanks to the Omicron variant, but as the snow’s falling, and the slopes are calling, the Switched On team has pulled together this helpful guide.
Testing on return to the UK has changed
When you have been away on holiday, unless you are visiting a red-list country (see next section for more info), you need an antigen (lateral flow) test before you return to the UK and a day-two PCR test once you are back. You’ll need the booking reference number for the PCR when you complete your Passenger Locator Form on the way home. The name is a bit misleading for this test, as a ‘Day Two’ PCR is a test that can be taken any time up to two days after the day you land (arrival day = day 0, first day back = day 1, second day back = day 2). You must isolate until you get the results however.
Changes to the UK red list
Since the Omicron variant was first identified in South Africa on 24 November, 11 countries have been added to the UK’s red list. These are: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Anyone returning from a red-list destination must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days and 11 nights, at a cost of £2,285. An additional adult (or child over 11) in the same room costs £1,430, and children between five and 11 cost £325. Children under five are free.
The latest rules for skiing destinations
COVID-19 regulations are changing on an almost daily basis so it’s important to keep checking all the relevant government websites to ensure you’re fully up to speed on what what’s for your intended destination. Austria is in quarantine until at least 13 December, with slopes open only to local skiers until then. Once it reopens, only skiers who have been vaccinated or can provide proof of recovery from COVID-19 will be able to use ski lifts, as well as bars and restaurants in resorts. It’s worth bearing in mind that Austria proposes to make COVID-19 jabs mandatory for residents next year, so the government’s stance will likely remain strict.
Only vaccinated travellers (aged 12 and above) can enter France — and all must show a negative antigen test on arrival and sign a sworn statement of absence of COVID-19 symptoms. There are different rules for children (see below). Ski resorts are operating well but the Pass Sanitaire (the health pass showing proof of vaccination or past infection within six months) must be shown to access ski lifts a well as hospitality venues in resorts.
Similarly, in Italy, the Super Green Pass is in force, requiring proof of vaccination to use ski lifts and visit restaurants and bars. Negative COVID-19 tests are no longer acceptable. Vaccinated Brits must provide a negative PCR or antigen test no older than 48 hours to travel to Italy and unvaccinated British skiers must isolate for five days on arrival — by private transport only.
Switzerland has just relaxed its rules for countries with Omicron, but UK skiers must show a negative PCR upon entry and a second PCR/antigen between four and seven days after arriving. You can buy a ski pass without a COVID certificate, but you must hold one to enter bars and restaurants — obtained with proof of vaccination, recovery, or negative PCR/antigen every three days.
For the US, any British skiers over the age of two must provide a negative COVID test no older than 24 hours before departure, and in Canada travellers five years and older must be fully vaccinated, show a negative PCR no older than 72 hours, and be tested on arrival — isolating until results are known.
To take children skiing, Switzerland is your best bet this winter, as children under 16 are exempt from COVID rules. They must test before and after entry like all adults (with over 16s classed as adults).
Elsewhere, unvaccinated children aged 12 and over are not allowed to ski in Italy (regardless of past infection or negative tests) and in France, teens over 12 who are not double jabbed must show proof of past infection or take a PCR test every 24 hours.
Transiting through Geneva or Zurich airports
This became a real sticking point recently when Switzerland imposed a 10-day quarantine on all British skiers despite most heading for France and Italy. This was later clarified as unnecessary for transit passengers, but Brits must complete an entry form with the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health and hold a negative PCR to enter Switzerland — though you’ll need a negative test for France, Italy, or Austria anyway.
Other handy tips for skiing during COVID
- Once you’ve navigated the rules, it’s worth writing a checklist of what you need to do when, and work out in advance where you can pick up tests in resort — most ski resorts are well organised now and information easily found online.
- Take a good supply of masks — they are needed everywhere, and when you’re wearing sunscreen and carrying skis/getting hot and sweaty on the slopes, you’ll want to change them frequently.
- Do as much of the prep as you can before you go, to maximise time on the slopes. Organise your tests, taking them with you when you can. And check your insurance policy so you know what’s covered and what’s not. Set up a UK Passenger Locator Form to fill in when you are in resort, having your COVID test booking numbers and addresses to hand ready for your return leg.
Whether you’re heading to the slopes, or to enjoy some winter sun, Switched On Travel Insurance offers great value cover that’s packed with features, including automatic cover for a range of COVID-19 related issues. Plus for added protection if you’re travelling to Europe take a look at Switched On’s COVID-19 PROTECT add on. You can find out more here.
While the details given in this article were correct at the time of writing it’s important to check the relevant government websites before you travel to ensure you have the most up to date information to hand!