With the relaunch of international travel due on the 17th of May, there are still a lot of questions you may have regarding the new system. Foremost among these is the talk of vaccine passports and COVID certificates, which are due to run alongside the currently proposed restrictions. To this end, there are two questions which are regularly put to our team, and which inspired us to write this blog. The most common question we are asked is, “Will I need a vaccine to travel abroad?”, usually followed by, “How do I provide proof of vaccination and testing?” Whilst the answers to both remain open to change, we’re going to address them in as much detail as possible.
Will I Need a Vaccine To Travel?
Authorities across the globe are trying to ensure a good balance between safe travel, and not discriminating against travellers who have not yet received their vaccination. They are also taking into consideration those who are unable to receive a vaccine, for whatever reason. As a result, the answer to the question, “will I need a vaccine to travel?” is not quite as simple as a mere ‘yes’ or ‘no’. What we do know is that for a UK traveller, the traffic light system provides four primary pathways to allow you to travel. As a general rule, you must satisfy one or more of the following criteria in order to partake in international travel:
- Be vaccinated (either once or twice, depending upon the requirements of the destination and which of the vaccines you have received).
- Have recovered from COVID, and thereby have antibodies against the COVID virus.
- Have taken a COVID test (either rapid or PCR) and provided a negative result.
- Be willing to quarantine. In the UK, quarantine will last for ten days, and you must pay for your own quarantine expenses.
In this way, not being vaccinated, whether for medical reasons, because of age, or for personal reasons, is not a hinderance to travel. As long as evidence of any of these three things can be provided, this standard can be passed while ensuring the safety of you and those around you.
Will This Guarantee Entry At My Preferred Destination?
Unfortunately not, as the rules for the country you’re travelling to could differ from those laid out by the UK. By way of example, both Israel and Iceland are on the UK’s green list of countries you can travel to. However, their governments both require that any visitors be double vaccinated before being allowed entry into the country. Similarly, Australia and New Zealand will not be allowing any travellers until 2022.
On the other hand, Portugal and Madeira have announced that they intend to accept travellers without any further restrictions beyond those laid out above. Portugal is leaving the decision pending until the 16th of May, when their restrictions should be fully confirmed. However, their continued monitoring and progress against the pandemic provides good reason for optimism. With further reviews and updates to green lists in June, July and October, as well as regular government assessments every three weeks, Portugal should be open in the very near future.
We should stress that even in countries that are letting in UK travellers, it is still a good idea to check their restrictions. In order to protect their citizens, it is expected that many countries may require you to have at least one dose of a vaccine before you can enter. Because these requirements may very between countries, we strongly recommend researching your desired destinations before you begin booking any holidays. If this all seems a bit overwhelming, or if you’re looking for reassurances about the restrictions for a specific destination, you are always welcome to call a PTS member to discuss. Our members are all expert travel advisors, who will be more than happy to support you.
How Can I Prove My Vaccination Status?
If you are planning on providing proof of a negative test, proof of vaccination, or evidence of recovery from the virus, the NHS app is one of the key places that this information will be held. However, it is not the only form of proof available. From the 17th of May onwards, you will be able to prove you’ve had a vaccination or a recent negative test result, via either the NHS app, or by requesting a letter of proof from the NHS. You can request a letter of proof by calling 119. For more information about demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status when travelling abroad, please visit the government’s guidance for proving your vaccination status.
If you cannot prove either vaccination status, proof of recovery, or a recent negative test, some destinations will allow you to quarantine as an alternative. In such instances, providing information via the NHS app or an NHS letter of proof, would not be a requirement. However, you will be required to provide a test on departure and on return to the UK, and this information will be accessible through the NHS app afterwards.
In short, proof of vaccination is not guaranteed to be necessary when you’re travelling in 2021, and in many cases it won’t be required. However, it remains the responsibility of the individual to look into the restrictions laid out by your preferred destinations, and to make an informed decision about whether to book your holiday accordingly.
What If Requirements Change After I Have Booked?
If something in the requirements changes after you’ve already booked your holiday, whether for the traffic light system, the UK, or the destination you’re travelling to, there are still things you can do. If you cannot provide evidence of for any of the requirements asked of you, you should immediately contact your PTS member to discuss your available options. In light of the possible changes, most travel companies are allowing for cancellations up to 24 hours before the start date, and many are allowing flexible bookings. Should any change in restrictions render your holiday impossible, please rest assured that the package travel regulations are also on your side. All PTS members are fully package travel regulations compliant, so by booking through a PTS member, you will be entitled to a full refund.
For more information about how PTS protect your bookings, please visit our consumer protection page. If you require any assistance or advice regarding changes that affect your holiday, our experienced PTS members and staff will be more than happy to help you. Please call 0207 190 9988 to talk to one of our wonderful staff members, or contact us via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.