What The Recent Travel Changes Mean – January 2022 Update
We come bearing good news: travel just got easier…again!
We don’t blame you if you’ve found it hard to keep up with the ever-changing travel rules. The traffic light system was finally given the elbow in October 2021, which expanded the number of countries we are allowed to visit. But new rules were later brought in when Omicron hit South Africa, restricting flights to affected countries and bringing back stricter testing measures – including self-isolation on our return.
Now they’ve changed yet again, and the good news is that the rules are more relaxed and simplified to make it just as easy to travel as before Omicron took hold – in fact one major tour operator reported that sales were up by 150 per cent since the announcement was made.
To keep you up to speed, here’s our outline on what these new rules are, and what they mean if you’re ready for a holiday.
UK rules apply to all destinations
Whereas at the start of the pandemic, the UK had different rules for lists of countries based on the severity of their COVID levels, the government have currently made all rules apply to all countries, making them easier to understand and follow. So whether you’re off to Austria or Zambia, the same UK rules apply.
Testing requirements have been eased
Pre-departure testing added an extra cost to travel for the average person, and a whole load of stress too. Happily, the government has now decided to ease the rules for fully vaccinated travellers. If you’re double jabbed you no longer have to test and receive a negative result before you leave for your return flight to the UK. To check the latest regs visit gov.uk.
Once you’ve landed in the UK, since 4am on 9 January the day two PCR test has been downgraded to a lateral flow. However, you can’t use the NHS ones for these in order to protect NHS capacity for testing, so you’ll need to get your hands on private tests for them to count.
The latest changes have been celebrated by the travel industry and tourists alike for the massive savings they offer. Removing pre-departure tests saves the average traveller anything between £20 and £185. And while lateral flow tests on your return are still a spend, at around £17-£30, they’re roughly half the price of the PCR test that we needed until now.
No need to isolate on your return
Never mind the cost – the inconvenience of self-isolating on our return was also a factor when thinking about holidays. Happily, that’s been scrapped (but only for those who qualify – check the rules at gov.uk). So while travellers who are currently self-isolating from a trip must continue to do so until they receive a negative PCR, from 4am on 9 January you can go about your normal business upon your return. All you’ll need to do is take a paid-for lateral flow test any time from your return to the end of day two.
However if this lateral flow test is positive, you’ll need to self-isolate immediately and take a free PCR test from gov.uk. The test will be sequenced to understand more about emerging variants.
The rules if you’re unvaccinated
If you haven’t been double jabbed, testing and self-isolation rules remain the same as before – so you’ll need to take a PCR test before you depart for your flight, and when you arrive back in the country on days two and eight. You also need to isolate on your return until day ten, even if your PCR tests are negative.
Check restrictions at your destination
As has been the case since the pandemic started, there are still strict rules on travel to other countries from the UK. Many countries – including France – still operate near-total bans on British travellers, largely because of the high rates of infection of the Omicron variant in the UK.
Our advice on this remains the same: check the rules of your destination of choice before you travel so you don’t get caught out, and continue to stay up to date with the latest news on their restrictions. They may well have changed since you originally booked your tickets. Also if you’re in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland make sure to check the relevant government website as this may differ from the rules in England.
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.
Please note that while the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing it is vital to check all the latest rules and regulations carefully, to ensure you have the most up to date details on which to base your travel plans.