What do the new travel rules mean in February 2022?

Earlier this week, the government announced it would be canceling Covid testing for those entering the UK from next month.

The changes — which come into effect on Friday, February 11 at 4 a.m. — are arriving just ahead of the upcoming six-month period, meaning a large number of families are hoping to book a getaway without worrying about joining their return to isolate.

But do you know what you need before you go and where it’s easiest to get to?

Here to explain everything is Diane Price, manager of Colchester Travel. With 41 years of experience in the travel industry, she knows all about rule-changing and guidance when it comes to your next vacation.

“We are now booking a lot of holidays from February, especially for the half term, and also the summer holidays. It feels like we’re getting some normalcy back in the industry,” she explains.

So, what’s changed and what should you consider before packing your bags and heading for some much-needed sun?

Travelers may still need to do a PCR or LFT to access another country
– Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What are the new rules for arriving in the UK?

From Friday 11 February, all testing requirements will be removed for fully vaccinated arrivals – with only Passenger Locator Forms (PLF) now required. Before the end of February, this form will be simplified, confirming the traveler’s vaccination status, travel history and contact details. People also have an extra day to fill it out before they travel.

Those who have not been fully vaccinated will only need to do a pre-departure test and a PCR test the day or two days before arriving in the UK. In addition, from Thursday 3 February, children aged 12-15 in England will be able to demonstrate their vaccination status or evidence of previous infection via a digital NHS Covid Pass for outward travel.

“But what people need to realize is that tests are still needed to go to other countries – be it a PCR or an LFT test,” she adds.

Covid testing for travel must be through private companies

Covid testing for travel must be through private companies
– Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What tests do I need and how do I get them out?

Before going abroad (if your destination requires it) you will need to take a PCR or LFT test – and this cannot be an NHS test.

“You have to do a private test, but the good news is that these have come down in price. Traveling to Dubai in December 2020 when there was a short travel period I paid £184 per person to get a PCR with a fit to fly certificate. But now you can get a PCR test with a fit-to-fly certificate for around £69 per person, and lateral flow tests are around £40 per person.”

Many countries have relaxed their restrictions on arrivals in recent months

Many countries have relaxed their restrictions on arrivals in recent months
– Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Which countries are the easiest to travel to now?

The rules within each country are subject to change, and the best thing to do when booking your vacation is to check the State Department’s website to see which countries have which rules and requirements. But there are a number of countries that are currently easing restrictions.

“For example, if you’re fully vaccinated, you don’t need to test or go into quarantine if you want to go to Turkey,” says Diane.

These rules also apply to children aged 11 and under. However, for entry, travelers must complete an online form up to 72 hours before entering Turkey. All arrivals into the country will be subject to a medical evaluation for Covid symptoms, including temperature checks, and may be subject to random PCR testing on arrival.

“Spain and the Canary Islands are also quite easy to travel to at the moment,” added Diane.

If you are fully vaccinated and traveling from the UK you can enter Spain without testing or going into quarantine. Children under the age of 12 also do not have to show proof of full vaccination when entering Spain.

Anyone wishing to travel to the United States must present a negative Covid test the day before departure (children under two are not required to test, however). Upon arrival, anyone who has been fully vaccinated does not need to be quarantined, but it is recommended that they take a viral test three to five days after arrival.

However, some countries are completely free of restrictions. Those wishing to escape to Mexico or El Salvador are not required to present proof of vaccination status or a negative covid test to enter the country.

For current and complete details of each country’s entry status, visit the Foreign Office website when you book your vacation for the most up-to-date travel advice.

When is the best time to book a holiday? And is it best to book it online or at a travel agency?

Booking your holiday sooner or later seems to be the key, despite changing rules and uncertainty.

“If you put it off until the last minute, you’ll probably end up paying a lot more, especially with summer holidays and family school holidays. I’d say we’ve had more bookings in the last six weeks than in the last two years,” explains Diane.

“I would also recommend booking with your local travel agent. One reason is that with most companies we can still get what we call price parity so we can match the price with what you see online. Second, all of our holidays are ATOL protected, so if a tour operator or holiday company goes into administration, your money is safe and we can recover it.”

Diane adds that travel agents can also help travelers fill out forms, even while on vacation. “Last summer we had people from Greece call us with questions about their PCR forms, and we were able to talk them through the phone. That’s what we’re here for.”

Cruise holidays are becoming more popular again

Cruise holidays are becoming more popular again
– Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What about cruises, are they safe now?

“Cruise lines are releasing their prices earlier so people can book in advance if they don’t want to travel now, but will in a few years, and hopefully there will be no restrictions. We are now booking cruises until 2024,” explains Diane.

“Anyone who wants to go on a cruise must take a PCR before boarding, and each line has its own way of testing people, so check before you book. For example, some river cruises ask you to test every three or four days, and some do a temperature check. If you have a fever you should take a PCR or LFT, and if you are sure they will quarantine aboard the ship until they can get you off the ship at the next possible time. If you are still positive they will quarantine you at a hotel until you can fly back to the UK with a negative test. And on board passengers are still required to wear masks unless you are eating, drinking or out on deck.”

I haven’t been away since the pandemic – does travel insurance now cover Covid?

“Most businesses now all have Covid coverage – but you have to read the fine print and see exactly what that covers. With most providers, if you get Covid abroad, most companies will cover you for medical treatment if you need it, as well as for hotels you need if you’re forced to go into quarantine.

“You should also make sure that if you get Covid within 14 days of travelling, your insurance will cover you for it so you can make a claim. For example, if you contract Covid two days before you fly, you will lose that money, unless your insurance specifically covers it for you.”

Is there anything else I should know?

The most important part of any trip: your passport. “Always check the validity of your passport, because since Brexit, passports are only valid for 10 years from the date of issue. Many passports in the past had extra months on their own, but that’s not the case anymore, and many countries require a six-month validity on your passport – whereas before you could travel until the expiration date.

“For example, a passport issued on December 5, 2016 was valid until June 5, 2027, but passports have now lost that extra grace period, so it’s only valid until December 5, 2026. If you’re trying to travel, thinking you have extra months on your passport you will be refused at the airport. But as travel agents, we check people in online, so we always check passports.”

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