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Planning your winter island escapes
Planning your winter island escapes
As we all exit Lockdown #2 one piece of good news is that travel corridors have continued to be reviewed and the world is gradually opening up more as the weeks go by. Therefore, it feels an opportune moment to recap on where in our Tropical Sky world is open, and where you can travel without quarantine right now.
There is a common theme. All those destinations that have opened their doors and, perhaps more importantly, have agreed a travel corridor with the UK Foreign Office, require an element of testing prior to travel. The need to present a negative Covid-19 PCR test upon arrival at your chosen destination has caused a little concern with some of our travellers, but there is more good news here. Back in July when some of these countries came on the ‘go’ list, obtaining a PCR test meant a tracking down a private clinic and paying a high fee for the privilege. Now, test results are not only more widely available, but they are hitting the high street in many major towns with Boots leading the way, and costs decreasing as a result. They may not be available on every high street yet, but with the promise of a 48-hour turnaround, the Boots service ticks the box for us and many destinations and is very welcome news.
Until the vaccine programme is rolled out PCR tests are likely to be a key facilitator for long haul travel as tourist destinations seek to minimise risks, but it does allow a real sense of confidence when travelling that you are doing so in a very responsible way. As ever, it is important to check every destination’s requirements but our Travel Specialists are always on hand to help.
Of course, with vaccines ever closer and ongoing trails of airport testing in the UK, we hope to see some of these measures ease over coming months, but for those travelling this winter this guide will give a very top line view of what you need to know. Please do remember, these measures are to protect the local communities and we hope you will see them as a small step needed to enable you to discover or revisit some of these beautiful island destinations and help them rebuild their economies that are so heavily reliant on tourism.
Where can I go now and what do I need to know
The majority of the Caribbean Islands are now open with no UK quarantine requirement, as well as the Maldives, Seychelles and parts of the UAE such as Dubai – read on for full details on what to expect and what you may need to do pre-travel to ensure your holiday goes smoothly.
The Caribbean Islands
The first region of our long haul world to open up to the UK market, their strict entry protocols have ensured they keep tight control over Covid-19 and welcome tourism back too. Cases have remained incredibly low and by adopting these new entry requirements, they have kept Covid-19 well under control. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will shortly be resuming flights so perfect timing for that much needed post lockdown pre-Christmas break!
Antigua – To enter Antigua you will need to present a negative Covid PCR test prior to boarding your flight and on arrival in Antigua, taken within seven days of travel. You will also complete an online Health declaration prior to travel and have a health screening and temperature check on arrival. You will then be free to move around the island observing all social distancing and local regulations. You will receive messages during your stay to check you remain symptom free. Most hotels have now reopened but some attractions remain closed and there is a local curfew from 11pm-5am.
St Lucia - You will need to present a negative Covid PCR test prior to boarding your flight and on arrival in St Lucia, taken within seven days of travel. You will also complete an online pre-arrival registration form and have a health screening and temperature check on arrival. You will then be transferred to your chosen resort. All hotels must pass strict Covid-certification checks prior to opening and most hotels have now reopened. Land excursions are available – not all attractions are open but you can feel reassured that all those that are also have to be Covid certified, and all water-based excursions including scuba diving and sailing are operational. Travel around the island is still restricted and car hire is not yet available, but you can book a twin centre stay and move from one hotel to another – a very popular way to experience this stunning island.
Barbados – Here UK arrivals are required to have a two-step testing process. You will need to present a negative Covid PCR test prior to boarding your flight and on arrival, taken within three days of travel. You will also complete an online pre-arrival registration form, upload your test results and have a health screening and temperature check on arrival. You will then be transferred to your chosen resort and 4-5 days after you took your first test in the UK you will be required to take a 2nd test locally. Once this 2nd test result is back you are free to explore the island. For the short time (usually two days) prior to your 2nd test result being returned, you will be required to remain within your hotel/resort with some restrictions on facilities that will be available and for this short time the beach is also out of bounds. However, once the test result is back you can fully explore the fabulous island of Barbados.
Grenada – To enter Grenada you will need to present a negative Covid PCR test prior to boarding your flight and on arrival in Grenada, taken within three days of travel. You will need to complete a Health declaration online, upload your test results and required documentation and download a dedicated app. You will be transferred direct to your resort. If you are happy to remain within your resort there are no further tests required, but if you would like to explore the island you must take a second test on the 4th day after arrival.
The Grenadines – To enter the Grenadines you must complete a pre-travel authorisation form and will need to present a negative Covid PCR test prior to boarding your flight and on arrival, taken no more than five days prior to arrival. You will be retested on arrival and then again between day four and five. Until the final negative test result is received you are required to quarantine in some resorts, however a few resorts have been given ‘Bubble Status’. One such resort is Petit St Vincent - so long as guests arrive on designated flights into Union Island or Canouan and have arrived with the pre-travel test, they will be tested on arrival and be free to relax and enjoy the resort. Worth noting however that you must also comply with protocols in place on your international flight, so if arriving via Barbados you must take your pre-travel test within three days of your flight.
Anguilla - When their borders opened last month, Anguilla launched a unique Holiday Bubble concept to maximise the holiday experience. As with other islands, a negative PCR test is required and this must be taken 3-5 days prior to arrival. Visitors complete the online pre-arrival authorisation and pay a fee that varies according to the length of stay. All visitors will be tested on arrival and again on day 14 – the costs being covered in the pre-paid fee. During this time, visitors remain in their bubble, which means they are not restricted to their chosen resort but can enjoy a variety of amenities, activities and local restaurants.
The British Virgin IsIands – With their borders opening yesterday, this is our newest addition to the ‘open’ list. You will need a negative Covid test taken within three days of arrival and you must upload your results along with various other documentation when you apply online for your travel authorisation. You will then be required to pay a charge of USD175 per person (online prior to arrival). You will then be tested on arrival, and again on day four of your stay, and once the final negative test result is received, you are free to explore the islands at your leisure. The arrival fee covers the costs of these tests and in resort tracing via the app and special bracelets that must be worn for the first eight days of your stay. Prior to the test on day four of your holiday you will be required to stay in your resort/hotel or if on a sailing trip, onboard the yacht – but of course if you are sailing you can still enjoy the open waters during that time … we can think of worse restrictions!
St Kitts and Nevis - With borders recently opened St Kitts and Nevis are in the early phases of reopening. You will need to take a test within 72 hours of departure with results uploaded with your Travel Authorisation form. After a health screening and temperature check you then head to your resort. For the first 7 days you must stay within the resort, then if in week 2 you would like to explore the island you can take a second test, a negative result meaning you can go on approved excursions. Only after 14 days and third test can you explore further, so at this stage any itineraries to stay in more than one resort need to bear that in mind.
Aruba – The most recent addition to the travel corridor list, Aruba offers two options. The preferred option is to take a test within 72 hours of departure with results uploaded along with your Personal Health Assessment prior to travel. If you cannot get tested pre-travel, you can be tested on arrival with the fee prepaid. If you opt to be tested on arrival you need to quarantine at your hotel for up to 24hrs whilst awaiting results, otherwise you are free to enjoy your holiday as soon as you leave the airport. There is a mandatory visitor’s insurance policy that must be purchased pre-travel too for $30pp.
Cuba - Very welcome news for those seeking to head to Cuba is that the authorities have now confirmed the entry requirements as follows and opened Havana and Varadero for Tourists. No test is needed prior to travel but we would recommend a self-test before you go to ensure you can travel with confidence, but there will be a mandatory test on arrival. This may be included in some airline ticket prices. After checking you have appropriate travel insurance and have completed the new health declaration forms you are then able to head to your hotel or resort and you must remain there until test results are received – usually within 24 hours. Once you have a negative test result you may continue with your holiday, observing all local guidelines. Some areas of Cuba do remain closed to Tourists so for now touring isn’t an option but excursions will be available very soon.
Other Caribbean islands
At this stage the FCDO still advise against all but essential travel to the Bahamas, Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Of these, only the Bahamas currently requires pre-travel testing. Jamaica have introduced a USD40 pp fee for their ‘Jamaica Cares’ programme to cover, which includes travel insurance for your holiday. The Dominican Republic will randomly select visitors for a free Covid rapid test on arrival and you’ll also need your immigration and health form completed prior to travel.
Indian Ocean & Middle East
Whilst the borders of Mauritius and Sri Lanka now remain closed until early 2021, this stunning region is now very much open thanks to the Maldives and the Seychelles. Both have travel corridors and exemption from FCDO advice against travel, but importantly so do the UAE and Qatar, which opens up the excellent flight networks of Emirates and Qatar airlines giving a choice of direct and indirect flights whilst remaining within the UK travel corridor. It’s also worth noting that when the time comes both Sri Lanka and Mauritius already have Travel Corridors agreed and are exempt from from FCDO advice against travel.
The Maldives – By far the most long awaited travel corridor, the UK government certainly kept us waiting a while to enable travel to these idyllic islands, and thankfully, the process is straightforward. You will need to present a negative Covid PCR test prior to boarding your flight to the Maldives, taken within 96 hours of travel, upload the results with your online Health declaration form which must be completed within 24hrs of travel and download a dedicated app. After temperature screening on arrival you will be transferred direct to your resort to relax and enjoy your holiday.
The Seychelles – Entry requirements are a little stricter at the moment, but after some time enjoying some R&R in your first resort you can explore the islands freely. You will need to present a negative Covid PCR test prior to boarding your flight, taken within 48 hours of travel, and upload the results with your online Health Travel Authorization and pay the USD50pp fee. After health-screening on arrival you will be transferred direct to your resort. You will need to remain at this resort for the first six days of your holiday and then take a 2nd test, the cost of which is included in the pre-paid fee. Once the negative results are received, you are free to explore the islands.
Dubai and the Emirates - The UAE have made it extremely easy to travel to Dubai. Whilst they recommend taking a test 96hrs prior to travel, it is possible to be tested on arrival free of charge. You would be unable to leave your resort whilst awaiting results but results are returned quickly, usually the next day. There are no other tests required.
Much of mainland Europe is closed for now but two of our favourite destinations are open for business and permitted for travel with corridors agreed.
The Canary Islands – Just like the majority of the destinations listed above, to enter the Canary Islands you need to receive a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of travel and complete Health Form prior to departure from the UK. There are no other restrictions and you can then move freely around and between the islands. *Edit 10 Dec - unfortunately the Canary Islands are no longer benefittng from a travel corridor, however with the reduced quarantine of test and release many may wish to consider this still.
Madeira – Very similar to the Canary islands, you need a negative PCR test taken with 72 hours of travel and complete a Passenger Locator form 12-48 hours prior to travel. On arrival, there will be heath screening and temperature check. If a second test is needed this will be provided free of charge. The government recommend using their app to assist with monitoring, but there are no restrictions so you are free to relax and enjoy your time away.
We hope this guide proves useful to help you decide on the right winter break for you. Of course, local rules regarding social distancing and the wearing of masks apply worldwide – very much the ‘new normal’ for now at least – and the availability of some facilities may vary whilst visitor numbers are lower than normal. But from beautiful brides celebrating their weddings overseas to families and friends escaping the cold to get some much needed winter sunshine, those who have travelled this winter have given us fantastic feedback, many not wanting to come home. So don’t be put off – book your trip today!
This information is correct to the best of our knowledge as at 02 December 2020. Please follow the advice on our Travel Aware page and check the FCDO latest advice pages for your chosen destination.