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23 Dec 2020

France, Ireland and Europe travel ban Q&A - tests, refund rights and what to do if abroad

Restrictions on travel lift for some, with PCR or antigen tests required
Eurostar boarding

Travel to France, Ireland, Spain, Italy and dozens of other countries has been restricted as a result of the more infectious variant of the coronavirus in the UK. Countries, including France, the Netherlands and Belgium, have started to ease restrictions, with some travellers allowed entry with proof of a negative covid test on entry,

Travel bans on UK residents from more than 50 countries are starting to be eased. France has said residents, and those transiting the country for essential reasons, can travel to France if they provide evidence of a negative covid test. Several other European countries are likely to do the same, although rules will differ on who can travel and what type of test you need.

With travel largely restricted to residents and/or those with an essential reason it's likely that some ferries and flights will continue to be cancelled over the next few weeks.Customers will be due a full refund, within seven days for a cancelled flight or ferry and fourteen days for a cancelled package holiday. All non-essential travel from tier 4 in England, and Scotland and Wales is banned throughout the Christmas and New Year season.

For those returning to the UK borders are not closed. Ferries from Ireland to the UK are running, as is reduced air travel from most destinations. Some countries have banned all travel to and from the UK for a period, although this should ease as testing rules are introduced.

People living in tier 4 in England, and residents in Wales and Scotland cannot travel for non-essential reasons. You should be due a refund, although some airlines are refusing this and will only allow rebooking or issue a voucher. It's still possible to travel abroad from tier 1 and 2 in England, although you risk being stranded with many flights being cancelled.

What we know country by country

France travel ban lifted for some: Eurostar and ferry

The complete France travel ban has been lifted. French nationals, EU nationals and residents in France or the EU (including UK nationals) can travel to France if they provide a negative covid test. There is also a further list of exemptions, allowing people who don't fit into the above categories to undertake essential travel, such as some truck drivers and health professionals.

Everyone travelling to France must take a covid test less than 72 hours prior to departure. Children under 11 are exempt. France has said antigen and PCR tests are both acceptable, although you need to use a French government approved provider. High demand for private tests means availability may be low.

Eurostar has restarted services to Paris.DFDS, Stena Line and P&O are operating ferries between France to the UK.

If your flight, ferry or train is cancelled you are entitled to a refund. If the service is still operating but you can't go because of the French restrictions above or you are in a tier in England, Scotland or Wales that bans travel the operator might only offer you a voucher or rebooking. Which? believes customers should be offered a refund, and the competition regulator is investigating companies that refuse. If your request for a refund is refused, complain to the company and the CMA.

Read more about flight cancellation rights, and why you shouldn't accept an airline voucher.

Ireland travel ban: flights, Stena Line, Irish Ferries, Ryanair

Ireland has banned all travel from the UK to Ireland until the end of December, although travel may restart earlier than this if a testing plan is introduced. All passengers, including Irish residents, with bookings on ferries to Dublin will not be allowed to travel. You can claim a refund or rebook. Ryanair, Aer Lingus and all other airlines will cancel flights to Ireland. For cancelled flights you are due a refund in seven days.

Travel from Ireland to the UK can continue. Both Stena Line and Irish Ferries have said that scheduled departures from Dublin to Holyhead and Fishguard will continue as scheduled. Wales is currently in national lockdown, but you are permitted to transit through the country.

Anyone travelling into Northern Ireland who plans to stay for at least 24 hours will have to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival. However, the new rules will not apply to those who routinely cross the border for essential purposes.

Read more on ferry refunds and delays.

Spain and Canary Islands travel ban

Spain has banned entry to the country, except for Spanish nationals and residents of Spain (including UK nationals). This ban is initially in place until 5 January.

If you are resident in Spain, you should carry your residence document (the green paper EU residence certificate or the new TIE), as well as your valid passport when you travel. If you have applied but not yet received your document, carry proof you have started the registration process. Padron certificates, utility bills and property deeds will not be accepted by Spanish authorities as proof of residency.

All passengers (excluding children under the age of 6 years old) travelling to Spain will be required to present a negative PCR, TNA or LAMP test taken within no more than 72 hours prior to arrival. See Entry requirementsfor further details.

All package holidays due to depart to Spain and the Canary Islands in the next few weeks will be cancelled.

Italy travel ban

Italy will not allow flights from the UK to enter Italy until 6 January. It will also not permit anyone who has transited through the UK in the last 14 days into the country, but residents of Italy can return home.

Portugal travel ban

From midnight on Sunday 20 December, Portugal banned passenger travel to and from the UK, regardless of nationality, with the exception of Portuguese citizens and those who legally reside in the country.

Poland travel ban

Flights from the UK to Poland are suspended, apart from repatriation flights organised by the Polish government.The end date to this ban is not yet known.

Which other countries have banned travel from the UK?

The list is changing quickly. The FCDO is the most reputable source of up to date information. Below are the countries that have already introduced bans or indicated they will on UK travel: Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Kuwait, Morocco, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey

Crucially, some popular transit destinations, such as Singapore, have also banned anyone who has been in the UK recently from arriving to transit at the airport.

I'm abroad. How will I get back?

For now, most flights, ferries and trains back to the UK are still operating. You can still return home.

If you can, it would be a good idea to return to the UK early while services are operating.

Most airlines had flexible booking policies in recent months so it's likely you can rebook, although date changes will be expensive in the next few days.

If your flight is cancelled and you are abroad, it's important not to accept a refund. The airline remains responsible for getting you home, including flights with other airlines and on alternate routes. This responsibility ends if you accept a refund.

If you are on a package holiday, you don't need to worry as your tour operator will ensure you get home. It's likely that you can finish your holiday.

What is Jet2 saying about holidays and flights to Turkey and the Canary Islands?

Jet2 has suspended flights and holidays to Funchal, the Canary Islands and Turkey up to and including 5 January. It will automatically cancel these and issue a full refund.

Customers who already in resort can continue with their holidays as normal and Jet2 will bring those people back to the UK as planned. The company will be in touch to advise.

What is Tui saying about holidays?

The only Tui holidays affected by the travel ban are holidays to Madeira. Therefore, it has cancelled holidays to Madeira on 21 and 24 December. Tui will be in contact with those impacted to offer a full refund or the option to amend for free.

Tui ustomers currently in Madeira can continue to enjoy their holidays as planned - there is no need to fly home early.

I have travel booked. Should I go?

Probably not. Those in tiers 1 and 2 in England can still travel and take holidays. In tier 3 you are advised not to travel abroad, but it is not restricted.

Some countries have not restricted travel from the UK, meaning flights will likely to continue to operate. However, it's possible that they may later introduce restrictions, potentially leaving you stranded.