Should I stay or should I go? A question I have been asked so many times lately! While this is a personal decision, hopefully my handy guide should help if you are thinking of travelling overseas this summer.
Whether we like it or not, overseas travel is happening, with, our without government advice against non-essential travel in place. While I am not recommending that anyone ignore public health advice, in fact I have cancelled my own summer holiday to Spain, I understand many people are thinking of travelling overseas to see relatives, or to their holiday homes, and many others are weighing up the pros and cons of travelling overseas if their flights are operating and no refunds are due.
The fact that Ireland is allowing visitors into Ireland, even from high risk countries such as the USA, only ads to confusion about whether we should or should not travel. Hopefully this handy guide will help you decide whether to travel or stay at home. If you do decide on travelling overseas my 10 tips for travelling during Covid-19 will help you prepare for that journey.
1. Government advice against non-essential travel is still in place.
The Irish government are currently advising against non-essential overseas travel to all countries except those that are on our “Green List“. It is important to note that this is just advice – if you want to get on a plane to Spain (currently not on the Green List at the time of publication), you can. The latest government travel advice as stated on the Department of Foreign Affairs website is as follows:
In accordance with Government policy, which is based on official public health advice, the Department of Foreign Affairs continues to advise against non-essential travel overseas. This includes Great Britain but does not apply to Northern Ireland. It also includes all travel by cruise ship. However, as of 21 July, travel to a very limited set of locations is exempted from this advice. The security status for those locations to which non-essential travel can resume has been changed to ‘normal precautions’ (“green”) rating. Individuals arriving in Ireland from these locations will not be required to restrict their movements on arrival.
2. You need to self-isolate for 14 days after returning into Ireland
Currently if you travel abroad to ANY overseas country that is not on the Green List, including the UK, you should self-isolate for 14 days on your return. This Green List is subject to change and will be updated every two weeks.
Upon your return into Ireland you will be given a locater form to fill out, where you must provide contact details and information on where you will be self-isolating. You may be contacted by government officials to check if you following their advice. Note, it is illegal to NOT fill out the locater form, but NOT illegal to break quarantine.
3. If you travel against government advice, your travel insurance will be invalidated
If you travel against government advice to non ‘Green List’ countries it is important to note that your travel insurance will be invalidated. This could have serious financial repercussions if you travel outside of the EU. However, if travelling within Europe, you can get the European Health Insurance card which will give you medical treatment for free, or at a reduced rate, in all European countries. See more here. Note, this will only cover you for medical treatment, and not for cancellation or curtailment, or for expenses occurred should you have to remain in a country due to a Covid-19 outbreak.
4. Modern aircraft have air filtration systems similar to hospital operating theatres.
While the plane journey is just one of the components associated with travelling overseas, it is one that many are concerned with. However, it has been widely stated that the risk of catching an infection on an aircraft is typically lower than in crowded shopping centres or pubs. The main reason is that modern airplanes have cabin air filtration systems equipped with HEPA filters. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air filters) have similar performance to those used in hospital operating theatres, and can capture 99% of the airborne microbes in the filtered air. You can read more on HEPA here.
5. Prepare in advance for a plane journey
If you are thinking of travelling overseas, is important to plan out your journey carefully. Priority boarding may no longer apply, and cabin baggage polices may change – airlines will do all they can to mitigate queues and will not want you standing in the aisles using the overhead bins. Note all airline policies differ, so make sure you check with the airline you are using.
Face masks will be mandatory on planes and inflight services will be very limited. Most transactions will be cashless, in flight meals will be either non existent or simple snacks, so bring your own food on board, or allow extra time in the airport to enjoy a pre-flight meal.
6. Countries have individual policies.
It is important to check the guidelines in the resort / city that you are going to. Some holiday resorts and hotels will require you to pre-book pool times, beach space and even breakfast times. If there is a particular restaurant or theme park that you wish to visit, book it in advance to avoid disappointment.
Masks are mandatory in many countries and you may get our temperature checked on arrival. Holiday hot spots like Spain and Portugal depend on tourism, and you will find that they will do all possible to ensure protocols are being obeyed. I have already seen evidence that the percentage of people wearing masks is much higher in these countries than in Ireland, and early reports from Spain and Portugal is that holiday resorts are quiet and holiday makers feel reassured that strict measures have been put in place.
7. Flights are and will operate from Irish airports regardless of government advice and refunds wont be given.
Many airlines are currently flying from Irish airports, but schedules with some airlines are only being announced a few weeks before departure. If you are due to travel over the next few weeks and you have not been told your flight is cancelled, then it is more than likely operating.
If your flight operates, and government advice against non-essential travel is still in place, you are NOT entitled to a refund if you wish to cancel. Most airlines will allow you change dates for free, note Ryanair will only waive change fees on NEW bookings made since the 10th of June.
You may be able to claim on your travel insurance if you don’t want to travel, and government advice against non-essential travel is still in place to the country you are due to travel to, but best to check with your insurance provider, as all policies are different.
8. You ARE entitled to a refund if your flight is cancelled
If your flight is cancelled, you are entitled to a refund under EU261. These are taking longer than usual to get processed, but you should receive one if you apply. Note EU 261 is an Air Passenger law, and applies to flights originating from Europe, not hotels, package holidays etc.
For more information on the latest travel updates, how best to secure a refund and travel insurance, check out the travel tips section of my website.