The lockdown measures first introduced in the UK in March 2020 have caused disruption to international travel on a scale not seen before. Airlines and tour operators are keen for holidays and business travel to resume, but that doesn’t mean travel is now risk-free.

Read on to learn how to stay safe when travelling overseas during the coronavirus pandemic.

If you and your family are keen to get away for a much-needed break, there are now more things to think about when planning a trip abroad.

Besides the usual tasks of getting adequate travel insurance and checking your passport is valid, there’s now a whole host of additional points to consider. These include:

  • The government traffic light system
  • Local restrictions
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to check whether or not you have the COVID-19 virus
  • Vaccinations.

The virus is still spreading in many parts of the world, and vaccination and health care provisions vary by country. So you should check the government website before you make any travel plans.

You’ll need to follow the rules of the country you’re traveling to, and the government’s requirements of what to do when you arrive back in the UK.

Traffic Light System

Since the rules on international travel changed on 17 May 2021, there’s been a government-controlled ‘traffic light system’ for all countries. The government places each country into a red, amber or green category based on a range of COVID-19 health metrics. These include:

  • Infection rate
  • Vaccination numbers
  • Prevalence of variants.

Red countries are those with higher infection rates, for example, while green countries have lower rates.

You may be concerned that the government could move the country you visit to a different traffic light level with little or no notice. This could mean you find yourself needing to book an early flight home, paying for additional PCR tests, or quarantining.

Before you travel, it’d be wise to think about the impact this would have on your finances and employment, and on your children’s schooling.

You can find out more about the red, amber and green list here, as well as the rules for each category.

Local restrictions

It’s wise to check the restrictions for the country you’re visiting before traveling, even if it’s on the UK’s green list. For example, local rules in some countries mean you need to quarantine upon arrival  before being able to enjoy your holiday.

There may also be local restrictions that you feel may impact your ability to properly enjoy your holiday. These could include:

  • The need to wear masks in all indoor and outdoor spaces
  • Leisure facilities being closed
  • An early curfew on bars and restaurants.

Before you book, and again just before you travel, it’s worth looking at the coronavirus infection rate, hospitalisations and deaths of the country you’re visiting. It may also be worthwhile to check the country’s vaccination programme.

The UK is currently one of the leading countries in the bid to vaccinate all adults. But the picture elsewhere may be very different, and could affect how you feel about travelling there.


Although many insurance policies are starting to include cover for pandemic-related issues, you still need to check and review your policy carefully. Some policies may cover you and your family if you fall ill with COVID-19 before you travel, whereas others won’t.

There are now some policies that’d refund you if you decided to cancel due to not being able to quarantine on return. Again, you need to carefully check your own policy, or any new policy you take out.

It’s important to note that the government’s traffic light system doesn’t give the whole picture. Whether a country is on a green, amber or red list, the Foreign Office may still advise against travelling there. This could invalidate your insurance.

There’ll be further travel disruptions as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so a safety-first approach is vital. If you suffer an injury or illness on holiday that wasn’t your fault, our legal experts are here to help.

Find out how our experts can help you with holiday accidents and illness claims.

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