The winter holiday season was thrown into disarray with the emergency of the omicron variant. However, the UK Government has now rolled back the restrictions it put in place to slow the spread of the highly contagious variant.
Fully vaccinated travellers to the UK will no longer have to take a pre-departure test from 4am on Friday (January 7) and the required Day 2 PCR test will be downgraded to a rapid lateral flow test from 4am on Sunday (January 9) – with the need to self-isolate until they receive a negative result scrapped from 4am on Friday (January 7).
And for anyone hoping to travel into the UK from sub Saharan Africa this Christmas, all 11 countries were dropped from the red list last month, ending the need for travellers to enter hotel quarantine on their arrival in the UK.
However, France continues to ban UK citizens or residents entering for non-essential reasons, meaning thousands of British travellers have had to rethink skiing holiday plans.
Portugal, Switzerland, Spain and Austria have also tightened their entry restrictions. Since December 1, all arrivals in Portugal must show evidence of a negative Covid-19 test, regardless of their vaccination status. Switzerland has also added new testing requirements. Spain is no longer accepting unvaccinated British tourists. Austria now requires proof of vaccination, a booster and a negative PCR test in order to visit.
Here is everything you need to know about how the latest travel restrictions could affect your next holiday.
What are the new rules for testing?
Double-jabbed travellers returning to the UK will no longer have to take a pre-departure test from 4am on Friday (January 7) and the required Day 2 PCR test has been downgraded to a rapid lateral flow test from 4am on Sunday (January 9) – with no need to isolate until they receive a negative result.
Anyone who tests positive must then take a confirmatory PCR test and isolate for 10 days – fully vaccinated travellers can cut this short if they take a negative lateral flow test on day six and seven of their isolation.
The rules are unchanged for the unvaccinated, who must take a pre-departure test, enter a 10-day quarantine on return, and take two PCR tests. Some countries will also impose a quarantine on unvaccinated arrivals.
What are the latest red list travel rules?
South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola and Nigeria have been removed from the red list.
This means that anyone arriving from these countries will no longer be subject to hotel quarantine restrictions.
Have any other countries imposed new rules?
Yes – including many European nations. On December 15, France imposed a ban on all British arrivals visiting the country for non-essential reasons. Germany also introduced a ban on UK arrivals on December 19, but it has now been rescinded.
As of December 1, Portugal requires all travellers to show a negative test certificate on arrival, with a fine of €300-800 threatened against those who do not comply. Meanwhile, since December 2, Spain now refuses access to partially or non-vaccinated British travellers and Austria has made boosters mandatory for all arrivals over the age of 15 – plus testing.
Are countries reintroducing lockdowns?
Yes. A fourth wave of Covid-19 has prompted further clampdowns across the Continent. Austria had been put in temporary national lockdown amid a rise in Covid-19 cases, but this has since been lifted for the fully vaccinated.
As of December 19, the Netherlands went into a strict lockdown – with the closure applying to all but essential stores, as well as restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, museums and other public places.
Slovakia, Germany, Italy and Czech Republic are among the countries to clamp down on freedoms for unvaccinated visitors and residents.
I am nervous about my winter holiday, what can I do?
If you have booked a winter, holiday, you may still be feeling nervous about what the omicron variant could mean for your getaway.
If you do decide to change holiday plans, you should contact your holiday company, accommodation or airline provider direct to see if you can rebook. There will be no obligation for any company to issue a refund due to holiday nerves, but you can contact them to ask if this is an option. Do not cancel unilaterally, or you will not receive a refund.
Can I go skiing?
France announced a travel ban for all non-essential travel from the UK, following the omicron wave. As only French citizens will be allowed from Britain, many holidaymakers are having to postpone or cancel their winter ski trips.
Since midnight Saturday 18 December (France time) or 11pm on Friday 17 December, people have been unable to travel for touristic or professional reasons.
Furthermore, all French citizens now have to take a Covid test, prior to their arrival from the UK, within 24 hours – as well as having to isolate for seven days. The period of quarantine can then be reduced to 48 hours, following proof of a negative test taken upon arrival.
What’s more Austria has also tightened its restrictions on Britons. Arrivals must show proof of a second vaccine dose, a booster jab and a PCR test taken within 48 hours of departure.
Where can I now ski?
There are some ski resorts which remain open to British travellers – so if you’re looking to book your trip to the slopes, look at travel to one of the following countries below.
Switzerland: Travellers hoping to visit Switzerland must show proof of a full vaccination certificate, as well as a negative test result taken no more than 72 hours before travel.
Italy: With borders once again open to Britons, hopeful skiers will not need to isolate upon arrival – provided they are fully vaccinated – but they will need to present a negative test taken within 48 hours of arriving in Italy. If you aren’t double jabbed, you will need to quarantine for five days and then take a test.
Canada: As long as you can present proof of full inoculation, as well as a negative test taken within 72 hours of your flight, skiers are welcome to travel to Canada for their winter holiday. However, testing upon arrival is also required and there is a mandatory quarantine until the result is received.
The US: Fully vaccinated Britons are welcome to travel to the US (under 18s are exempt from needing to be double jabbed) but they must present proof of a negative test.
Read our full guide to the rules and regulations in ski resorts here.
This article is being kept updated with the latest news and Government guidance.