The Government has not exactly been fanning the flames of enthusiasm for well-deserved getaways this summer.
All we know for now is that until May 17 foreign travel for tourism is illegal and EU leaders agreed on Thursday to introduce vaccine passports by the summer. We are due a review on April 12, which hopefully will give us the green light, although thousands of us have been voting with our feet booking trips near and far. Quite right, too.
Read the small print, obviously, to make sure you will be refunded if disaster strikes again but we believe firmly that it’s never too early to think about a holiday, not least because it gives us something to look forward to. And we all need that. So here is our guide to what to expect in some of our most popular destinations, with the likelihood of holidays marked out of five…
ALL GO IN GREECE
Ray of hope: We could head to Greek islands like Kefalonia, pictured, as Greece’s tourism minister Haris Theoharis has said he is hoping for a ‘semi-normal summer’
The Greeks love us and we love Greece. So much that four million Britons fly in each year. Dear old Greece already has forged a ‘vaccine bubble’ agreement with Israel and Cyprus, meaning those who have been vaccinated will be able to travel between the countries without needing to quarantine or be tested.
It is now keen to strike the same deal with the UK and welcome us in May. Greece is rolling out its vaccination programme at a rapid rate, from mega-facilities capable of inoculating up to 20,000 people a day. Parts of the country, including Athens, are in lockdown, with all restaurants, bars and hotels closed. However, restrictions are expected to lift in the spring. Face masks are mandatory in indoor spaces.
TOTAL VACCINES ADMINISTERED: 826,370 (population 10.7 million).
WHAT THEY SAY: Greece’s tourism minister Haris Theoharis is hoping for a ‘semi-normal summer’. He says discussions are under way between Greece and the UK and hopes a ‘vaccine passport’ scheme could facilitate travel between the two countries. He added that the scheme would mean only unvaccinated tourists would need to be tested.
WHAT WE SAY: If we’re going anywhere for sure this summer, it’s to Greece. The country has fared better than most of its European neighbours during the pandemic, having registered 155,000 infections and a death toll of 5,700, and has introduced an impressive vaccination programme.
Luxury: Seven nights at three-bedroom Villa Anastasia (sleeping six) on Crete from £3,163 on June 22, including flights (gicthevillacollection.com).
Budget: Seven nights at Matina Aparthotel in Pefkos, Rhodes, from £532pp in July, including flights (jet2holidays.com).
FOGGY FOR FRANCE
The French government has said little about when it hopes to reopen to tourists. Pictured is the pretty town of Barjols in Provence
THESE ARE TESTING TIMES
You cannot go through the NHS for Covid tests for travel abroad. Instead, you must buy a test
A government taskforce is due to report on April 12. Only then will we know the exact rules for overseas travel regarding tests and jabs.
If all goes to plan, we should be able to head off for foreign shores from May 17. Here’s what seems likely ahead of the report …
- Covid tests with a negative result, taken 72 hours before travel, will almost certainly be required for all those returning to the UK. Such tests are also likely to be needed before visiting most countries.
- Both these requirements are probable whether you have been vaccinated or not. It is still early days on international agreement on ‘vaccine passports’.
- You cannot go through the NHS for Covid tests for travel abroad. Instead, you must buy a test, which will cost from around £100 to more than £200.
- For almost all countries you will need a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test. Some will allow antigen tests.
- Check the rules of the country you are visiting on the ‘entry requirements’ section at gov.uk. Cross-check with the country’s tourist website.
- To purchase a test, try Boots (boots.com/covid-19-testing) or Superdrug in conjunction with Melio Health (meliohealth.co.uk/products). Boots tests cost £120, with results in 48 hours. Superdrug tests cost £149, with results in two to three working days. In Turkey, the cost of a test is about £25. Why can’t it be that cheap for us?
- Plenty of private clinics offer tests, but make sure that whichever one you use is approved by the UK Accreditation Service.
- Tests take about 15 minutes. Make sure that a ‘fit to fly’ certificate is included in the price.
- When returning to the UK, tour operators and travel agents should be able to help with booking tests 72 hours prior to travel.
- If you are travelling with stopovers on a long journey, you should get a test within three days of your final departure point to the UK.
With cultural venues shut, restaurants open only for takeaways and a strictly enforced 6pm curfew, many French residents have been crossing the border into Spain.
There are situations where residents can leave the house during curfew but they must have an attestation, a form filled in and signed by an employer, for instance.
Restaurants, bars, theatres and gyms have been closed since October last year and will reopen on April 6 at the earliest. However, beaches are open.
Nice, which has the highest rate in France, has gone into partial lockdown for the next two weeks.
The government may extend the lockdown to other areas, including Paris and Calais, where infections have surpassed 250 per 100,000 people. About 50 per cent of new cases in France are caused by the so-called British variant of the virus.
The slow pace of France’s vaccination programme has been much criticised. However, the campaign has gained some momentum in recent weeks. And French President Emmanuel Macron is concerned that vaccine certificates would discriminate against those who have not been immunised, particularly young people.
TOTAL VACCINES ADMINISTERED: 4.1 million (population 67 million).
WHAT THEY SAY: The borders are currently closed to anyone wishing to travel from the UK and the French government has said little about when it hopes to reopen to tourists.
WHAT WE SAY: Without much guidance, it’s difficult right now to predict whether we will be able to holiday in the country this year.
Luxury: Seven nights at three-bedroom Villa Marie (sleeping six) in Provence from £4,048 in August (akvillas.com). British Airways flies to Marseilles.
Budget: A week at Residhome Nice Promenade from £316pp in September, including flights. (thomascook.com)
EYES ON ISRAEL
The world’s leading country for vaccinations, Israel is a strong contender for a summer getaway.
Domestic tourism resumed this week, including the reopening of hotels, museums and theatres, for people who can show that they have had both their shots or have recovered from coronavirus, using a ‘green pass’ mobile app.
This is likely to become a requirement for international tourists once borders reopen.
Israel will move into the second phase of its exit plan on March 7 when restaurants and cafés, currently restricted to deliveries, reopen. The main airport could open on March 6 at the earliest.
Social distancing and facemasks are still required in most indoor social settings.
The country has struck a deal with Greece and Cyprus to allow restriction-free travel for vaccinated tourists.
TOTAL VACCINES ADMINISTERED: 7.9 million (population 9 million).
WHAT THEY SAY: The Tourism Ministry has launched a new campaign, ‘Bring Tourism Back to Israel’, in which they expect to open up to international arrivals ‘in the middle of 2021’.
WHAT WE SAY: The country’s impressive vaccination programme makes it a good bet for a summer holiday.
Luxury: A week’s stay in a four-bedroom villa (sleeping 12) in Tel Aviv is from £2,555 in July. Virgin Atlantic flies to the city. (airbnb.co.uk).
Budget: Seven nights in a three-bedroom beachfront apartment (sleeping eight) in Haifa is from £833 in July. (airbnb.co.uk)
COUNT ON CROATIA
The president of the Croatian Tourism Association has said he expects ‘good numbers [of tourists] from the second half of May onwards’. Pictured is the popular Croatian city of Dubrovnik
Deals were plentiful in Croatia last year as the country enjoyed a busy summer. And competitive prices are expected to continue this summer, according to the president of the Croatian Tourism Association, Veljko Ostojic, who said tourism will ‘start recovering in the second quarter’.
Masks are required indoors and outdoors where it is not possible to maintain a 1.5-metre social distance, with £55 fines for those who do not comply. Hotels and beaches remain open but restaurants are operating only for takeaways. Arrivals from the EU can visit unrestricted. However, anyone arriving from the UK, South Africa and Brazil needs to self-isolate for 14 days owing to the mutant strains. The country has begun its vaccination programme and aims to inoculate 50 per cent of the adult population by summer.
TOTAL VACCINES ADMINISTERED: 194,267 (population 4 million).
WHAT THEY SAY: Veljko Ostojic said he expects ‘good numbers [of tourists] from the second half of May onwards’. The Croatian National Tourist Board has launched a new campaign on social media ‘Croatia Full of New Beginnings’.
WHAT WE SAY: Croatia’s eagerness to welcome tourists and its comparably low infection rates make it a good bet for an affordable holiday in the sun.
Luxury: A week at six-bedroom Villa Pegasus (sleeping eight) near Split from £4,289 in June (croatianvillaholidays.com). Croatian Airlines flies to Split.
Budget: Seven nights at three-bedroom Villa Tempera in Istria (sleeping six) from £769 in September (myistria.com).
WAITING ON SPAIN
Spain is looking to introduce a vaccine passport scheme, with the Balearics – Ibiza, Formentera, Mallorca, pictured, and Menorca – seeking to become the first region to do so in May
Since coming out of one of the world’s tightest national lockdowns last year, Spain has taken a more localised approach to restrictions and this is likely to continue as regions are expected to open up to tourism at different times.
The country is looking to introduce a vaccine passport scheme, with the Balearics — Ibiza, Formentera, Mallorca and Menorca — seeking to become the first region to do so in May. The Canary Islands, which has maintained the lowest infection rate of all regions in Spain throughout the pandemic, is expected to open up soon after. Spain’s foreign secretary proposed that ‘vaccine certificate holders could be exempt from taking a test’.
Bars and restaurants are slowly starting to open up in some regions of mainland Spain with social distancing measures in place. The country is vaccinating its residents at a slow rate, with recent problems over deliveries and distribution of vaccines hampering the campaign. Face masks are mandatory indoors.
TOTAL VACCINES ADMINISTERED: 3.4 million (population 47 million).
WHAT THEY SAY: Spain’s Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto believes that if the vaccination campaign goes to plan and herd immunity is achieved throughout the summer, ‘it gives hope and certainty that the second semester of 2021 will be when the reactivation of the tourism sector’ takes place.
WHAT WE SAY: Our best chances of visiting Spain this year will be from July onwards. Holidays before then could be tricky.
Luxury: Seven nights at five-bedroom Casa Grande Country House (sleeping ten) is from £7,656 in September. Wizz Air flies to Mallorca.
Budget: Six nights self-catering at Protur Aparthotel in Mallorca from £688pp in July, including flights. (tui.co.uk).
DOUBTS OVER ITALY
The prospect of holidaying in Italy this year remains unclear. The entire country is currently under a 10pm curfew. Pictured is Italy’s breathtaking Amalfi Coast
SHOULD I BUY MY EUROS NOW?
It’s tricky to predict future currency movements — as we saw when the recently resurgent sterling dipped again earlier this week.
‘We expect sterling to strengthen a little further over the next few months as the UK’s vaccine rollout helps the economy recover faster than most expect,’ says Adam Hoyes, of Capital Economics. ‘Our current forecast is for the pound to rise only from €1.15 to €1.16 by the end of the year.’
So if you are planning to travel abroad this summer, what should you do? Hedging your bets could be the answer.
Buy some euros now while exchange rates are on the up and the rest nearer the time.
This will protect against a fall in rate, but still allow you to take advantage if it goes any higher.
Whatever you do, just don’t wait until you are at the airport to buy your currency or you are sure to get stung.
BY VICTORIA BISCHOFF, MONEY MAIL EDITOR
Restrictions in 15 of Italy’s 20 regions were eased earlier this month through its three-tier regional programme, enabling bars and restaurants to serve customers indoors. In Rome, the Colosseum and Vatican reopened for the first time in two months.
The entire country is under a 10pm curfew and its state of emergency has been extended until April 30, banning residents from crossing regional borders after a 10 per cent week-on-week rise in new cases.
Italy’s National Federation of Travel and Tourism Industry is urging the government to launch a digital vaccination passport but the authorities have said little on the matter.
More than three million jabs have been administered but, like France, progress has been hampered by delayed deliveries. Italy’s new Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, pledged last week to speed up the country’s vaccination programme.
TOTAL VACCINES ADMINISTERED: 3 million doses (5 per cent of population)
WHAT THEY SAY: Not a lot. Tourism minister Dario Franceschini says ‘Italian tourism will return very quickly’ after the pandemic.
WHAT WE SAY: The prospect of holidaying in Italy this year remains unclear. If you are desperate to visit, hold off for a few months before booking.
Budget: Seven nights at three-bedroom Villa Chiaraluce (sleeping six) in Puglia from £475pp (saving 20 per cent) in September, including flights. (dialaflight.com).
MAKE IT MONTENEGRO
Montenegro’s new government removed all restrictions for overseas visitors in January — one of only a handful of nations across the globe to have done so.
The open invitation originally included British holidaymakers, until the Kent strain was discovered. Now a ban on Britons is in place, although this is likely to go by the summer.
The government wants to make the country ‘corona-safe’ to lure back holidaymakers, although there is a problem with vaccine supply. Masks must be worn in indoor and outdoor public places. Cinemas, theatres, cafes and bars are open but not nightclubs.
TOTAL VACCINES ADMINISTERED: No data as vaccine programme only began this week .
WHAT THEY SAY: The new foreign minister, Djordje Radulovic, states: ‘Tourists can come from Great Britain, Germany, France, Russia — you name it — [and they] will be safe and sound in our country.’
WHAT WE SAY: Worth considering for a holiday in late May because visitors will be extremely welcome (visit-montenegro.com). The population is 622,000 and there are about 400 new Covid cases a day at the moment, so it appears a low-risk choice.
Luxury: A week at three-bedroom Villa Murgeza (sleeping eight) in the Bay of Kotor from £4,136 in July (oliverstravels.com). EasyJet flies to Tivat.
Budget: Seven nights at three-bedroom Serene (sleeping six) on the Lustica Peninsular is from £899 in May (jamesvillas.co.uk).
The Portuguese tourist board is ‘optimistic’ about tourists returning to the country by July. Pictured is the incredible Praia do Camilo beach in the Algarve
Being a ‘red list’ country owing to its close ties with Brazil, where a new Covid variant was discovered in January, Portugal faces an uphill battle to convince tourists it will be ready for the summer.
However, so far there have been only a handful of Brazilian cases (seven at last count), while the British strain has been repeatedly recorded, and tourist officials are ‘mystified’ as to why Britain has added Portugal to the red list.
A state of emergency has been extended until March 16. Currently, restaurants and bars are only operating for take-aways and home deliveries. Museums are closed.
TOTAL VACCINES ADMINISTERED: 752,317 (population: 10.2 million).
WHAT THEY SAY: Foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva says flights between Portugal and Britain ‘should be back in operation before the summer’. The tourist board is ‘optimistic’ about a tourist return by July (visitportugal.com).
WHAT WE SAY: Having closed its borders to Brazil, Portugal’s ‘red list’ status is likely to be lifted in time for the summer season.
Luxury: A week at six-bedroom Villa Ophira (sleeping 12) in the Algarve is from £3,289 in May (villaselect.com/destinations/portugal/algarve/albufeira/villa-ophira). Wizz Air flies to Faro.
Budget: Seven nights at three-bedroom Villa Severino (sleeping six) in the Algarve is from £695 in June (solmarvillas.com).
GIVE TURKEY A WHIRL
Turkey’s stunning Kalkan Beach. The country’s culture and tourism minister predicts that the number of new daily cases of Covid in Turkey will drop below 1,000 by April when he believes tourism can begin again
… AND WHAT ABOUT CRUISING?
Everything hangs on the Government changing its advice.
If the April 12 review includes a green light for cruise ships, they could sail by the end of May. Meanwhile…
- Cruise lines are well-prepared. Passengers will need a negative Covid-19 test before, and sometimes during, the cruise, plus temperature checks on returning from shore.
- Several cruise lines, including Saga and Crystal, will require passengers to be fully vaccinated.
- Britain looks the safest bet for early summer sailings, with Argyll Cruising (argyllcruising.com) and Majestic Line (majesticline.co.uk) looking to restart from May if the Scottish government allows.
- Riviera Travel (rivieratravel.co.uk) is offering deals from July on eight-night itineraries including ‘Scotland’s Highlands & Islands’ on MS Seaventure with prices from £1,999 pp.
- P&O Cruises have stopped selling cruises with departures before June 21.
BY LESLEY BELLEW
Restaurants and cafes will soon reopen in some parts of Turkey and hopes are high that this will be the start of a return to something like normal in time for the summer.
The country has been ahead of other countries in establishing temperature checks for both guests and staff at hotels, new hygiene standards and better ventilation systems, which are now compulsory for all hotels with more than 30 rooms as part of a strict national Safe Tourism initiative ~ (gototurkey.co.uk). Some hotels in Istanbul and other large cities have reopened.
Since mid-January Turkey has been rolling out as mass vaccination programme. More than seven million people have received jabs.
TOTAL VACCINES ADMINISTERED: 7.98 million (population: 84.3 million).
WHAT THEY SAY: Culture and tourism minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy predicts that the number of new daily cases of Covid will drop below 1,000 by April when he believes tourism can begin again.
WHAT WE SAY: Turkey looks like a strong contender for a summer getaway. A sign of this is that Tui, Britain’s biggest tour operator, is offering deals with as much as 46 per cent off to tempt early bookers (tui.co.uk).
Luxury: Seven nights at one-bedroom Villa Sun (sleeping two) in Kalkan from £1,625 in June, including flights. (simpsontravel.com).
Budget: Seven nights at Sun City Apartments from £290pp in August, including flights (easyjet.com).
SAFE IN CYPRUS
A night-time curfew has been in place over the winter with only essential businesses operating, yet airports are being opened to all flights from Monday as Cyprus gears up for tourism this year.
A vetting system has been established with visitors from Category A countries (including Australia and Singapore) not having to take a Covid test on arrival, while Category B countries (including Germany and Greece) must.
Britain is a Category C country, with tourists banned for now, although this is likely to change in time for summer as Britons are key overseas visitors. Cyprus is the European Union leader in spot tests for Covid per person — it conducted 25,554 per 100,000 people in the February 15-21 period.
TOTAL VACCINES ADMINISTERED: 56,791 (population 875,899).
WHAT THEY SAY: The health ministry is counting on rapid tests and ongoing vaccinations to make visits safe: ‘Although the epidemiological situation shows steady progress, the situation remains fluid and easily reversible, and requires care to avert a deterioration.’
WHAT WE SAY: Cyprus has a well thought-out, cautious strategy and would make a safe choice for a holiday once we are allowed in.
Luxury: A week at four-bedroom Captain’s Villa (sleeping eight) near Paphos from £3,794 in July (cyprus-villa-retreats.com). Jet2 flies to Paphos.
Budget: Seven nights at three-bedroom Lena Villas (sleeping six) in Polis from £344pp (saving 35 per cent) in May. (tui.co.uk).
BOLD IN BULGARIA
Easyjet announced this week that it will begin flights from the UK to Sunny Beach in Bulgaria, pictured, this summer
From Monday restaurants will be allowed to reopen in Bulgaria — but only at half capacity and with premises closing at 11pm. Bars will also reopen, with ‘organised tourism trips’ allowed, while nightclubs are due back on April 1.
People working in tourism are also being given priority for vaccines in order to instill confidence among overseas visitors. With gyms, cinemas and shopping malls open since February 1, Bulgaria is making bold steps forward.
A sign of confidence in its strategy is that Easyjet announced this week that it will begin flights from the UK to Sunny Beach on the Black Sea in the summer. British visitors are currently banned until April 30.
TOTAL VACCINES ADMINISTERED: 188,512 (population 6.95 million).
WHAT THEY SAY: Prime Minister Boyko Borissov says that ‘strictly observed measures that are at the same time the most liberal in Europe’ will allow life to continue as normal and tourism to take place in the summer.
WHAT WE SAY: Could make a good-value getaway on one of the new Easyjet flights, but are relaxations coming in too quickly?
Luxury: Seven nights at six-bedroom Zlaten Breeze (sleeping 12) near Albena from £1,890 in August (villasinbulgaria.co.uk). Wizz Air flies to Albena.
Budget: A week at two-bedroom Villa Sequoia (sleeping five) near Golden Sands is from £571 in August (vrbo.com).
LONG HAUL OUTLOOK
Australia intends to have its entire population vaccinated before re-opening to tourists around ‘this time next year’
President Joe Biden is reinstating Covid travel restrictions on non-U.S. travellers from Brazil, Ireland, the UK and 26 European nations, with South Africa to be added shortly. He is reversing an order made by Donald Trump to relax restrictions.
Meanwhile, in the Maldives, visitors must take a Covid test with a negative result 96 hours before departure (visitmaldives.com).
Britons who have had two vaccine jabs at least a fortnight before departure and have proof of this may visit the Seychelles (seychelles.travel).
Australia intends to have its entire population vaccinated before re-opening, which Tourism Minister Dan Tehan does not anticipate until around ‘this time next year’ (australia.com).
And South Africa looks unlikely for this summer due to its variant Covid strain (southafrica.net).
- For information on all countries see the relevant ‘entry requirements’ page at gov.uk.