Business Traveller looks at what readers need to consider before travelling abroad, from entry requirements and testing to quarantine, masks and vaccine passports.
WHAT ARE THE ENTRY REQUIREMENTS?
Before departing for your destination (or even choosing a location), you should check the requirements for entry into the country and for re-entry home. These can change regularly, but you can find all the relevant information on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) website or overseas government websites. Airlines such as British Airways and Easyjet have also created Covid-19 information hubs, which allow visitors to see the travel restrictions in place in each country on their network.
DO I NEED TO TAKE A TEST?
Some countries still require proof of a negative Covid-19 test for entry depending on your vaccination status. Check whether you need to take a PCR test, which can take 24 to 48 hours to receive results, or the more rapid antigen (lateral flow) test which can be completed at home and gives a result within 30 minutes. You will also need to make sure that you take the test in the right timeframe, which ranges from 24 to 72 hours depending on the destination. To make matters more complicated, this timeframe can apply to ‘pre-departure’ or ‘pre-arrival/landing’.
You must also check if you need to take a test to return home after your trip. If this is the case, plan ahead, find and book an appointment with Covid-19 testing providers at your destination. If you are only required to take a lateral flow test, then you can buy a rapid antigen test and carry it in your hand luggage. Note that to re-enter the UK, it is no longer necessary to take a pre-departure test, but you must arrange a Day 2 lateral flow test and may need to submit a booking reference into the passenger locator form.
WILL I NEED TO QUARANTINE?
The requirement for quarantine tends to be dependent on the numbers of Covid-19 cases in the country of departure. Some countries will demand that you self-isolate, while others exempt those who are fully vaccinated, have recently recovered from the virus, or show proof of a negative PCR test.
Note that while the UK’s traffic light system was scrapped last month, the red list has remained for countries with a high incidence of Covid-19. Travellers returning from such countries will have to book a hotel quarantine package via gov.uk/coronavirus (click link to International Travel), which will cost you £2,285 for ten days and two Covid tests. If you have not arranged this before arriving in England, you can be fined up to £4,000 (and will still have to pay for your quarantine package on arrival).
DO I NEED TO DOWNLOAD A VACCINE PASSPORT?
In short, yes. Fully vaccinated travellers, or those who have had a positive PCR test within the past six months, should download a digital PDF of the NHS Covid Pass from the NHS app and print off a copy in case (God forbid) your phone runs out of battery during your travels. You will be required to show proof of vaccination at border control (via the QR code) or a paper version, and you may also be asked to upload this into your booking with an airline or rail provider before arriving at the terminus. Note that the pass lasts for 30 days, so check the expiry date and re-download the pass if it has expired. You can also request a Covid Pass letter online if you do not have the app – nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-pass/.
WHAT OTHER FORMS DO I NEED?
It is likely that you will need to fill in a form providing personal information and travel details. These forms have various names, including the UK’s Passenger Locator Form and the EU Digital Passenger Locator Form (dPLF) – which is only for Italy, Malta and Slovenia – so make sure that you are using the correct version for your destination. It might be that you only need to complete a ‘sworn statement’ certifying that you do not have Covid symptoms and have not been in contact with a confirmed case in the preceding fortnight. You may be asked to show either a digital or paper version of the document at the border.
IS MY MASK PERMITTED?
While we’re all accustomed to wearing masks, some countries and transport services have strict rules on the type of face covering allowed. Check whether the likes of cloth masks, face shields or masks with an exhaust valve are allowed in your destination, on-board your chosen airline or rail provider. Many of these services instead require a surgical mask, or a FFP2 (filtering face piece), KN95 or N95 mask, as they provide extra protection.
CAN I CHANGE OR CANCEL MY BOOKING?
Check whether you can amend or cancel your booking free of charge if you need to postpone travel plans. Most companies have extended their flexible booking policies because of the ongoing travel uncertainty, waiving the change fee and offering refunds or travel vouchers in the event of cancellation.
SHOULD I BUY INSURANCE?
When travelling during a global pandemic, it is wise to purchase travel and health insurance. Despite Brexit, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) still works for Brits up until the card’s expiry date.
After that, UK travellers will have to apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). The UK government, however, advises that travellers should still purchase travel insurance which includes health cover as the two cards do not cover private medical healthcare. Shop around for the best provider, and make sure to check whether the policies cover Covid-19-related incidents.
WHAT ARE THE LOCAL RULES?
Regulations differ around the world – from caps on group numbers to curfews and proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter establishments – so check ahead of departure to ensure your trip is as smooth as possible.