Travel certainly looks a little different to what we’re used to.
All travel providers have adapted the way they work to help keep us, and their staff, as safe as possible. It’s important that you’re aware of the changes to travel before you set off so you’re prepared for your journey.
There are a number of changes to everyday life that will also apply to travelling now, whether you’re going by plane, boat, or otherwise.
Mandatory negative testing
You need a negative Covid test to enter the UK, and this is true for many other countries.
It needs to meet the strict testing standards, which can vary from country to country, and usually needs to be taken no longer than 72 hours before travelling.
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Many public places, including airports and ports, will be performing regular temperature checks on everyone who enters. This is just another measure to spot any unidentified Covid symptoms.
Face coverings that meet the standards are required in pretty much every enclosed, public space.
Some people are exempt from wearing face coverings on medical grounds, and this still applies when travelling.
Keeping things clean
Businesses have been making a very welcome effort to keep their premises clean since the coronavirus pandemic began, and this will continue when you’re travelling.
You’ll notice hand sanitising stations dotted around and more cleaning staff working to keep things as disinfected as possible.
Social distancing measures will still be in place, wherever possible, when you’re travelling. You can expect carefully managed communal areas, clear dividers, and one-way systems.
Arriving at your destination
However you’re travelling, you’ll need to abide by the local guidelines and restrictions of your destination.
This might include self-isolation, curfews, or testing upon arrival. Check the government’s website to see the guidelines for the country you’re going to.
Travelling by plane
There are some changes that you might only see if you’re flying. Here are the most noticeable ones:
In the airport
- As you might expect, you’ll only be allowed in the airport if you’re travelling, which unfortunately means you won’t be able to wave anyone off. Exceptions can be made if you need special assistance, though.
- Special assistance will still be available in airports, and it’ll be carefully managed (e.g. disinfecting wheelchairs after use) to keep you safe. You’ll still need to pre-book any special assistance you need.
- The same limits as normal will apply for liquids (100ml limit), so make sure you sort your items out beforehand to prevent any delays or disruptions. In some cases, you might be able to take more than 100ml of hand sanitiser in your hand luggage.
- Going through security will remain largely the same, although trays will be thoroughly disinfected between uses and there’ll be clear dividers between staff and passengers.
- A ‘touchless experience’ is being implemented throughout airports across the globe. To reduce the transmission of germs, airline apps, contactless payments, online/self-service check-ins, and bag drop facilities are being used wherever possible.
- There may be some new restrictions on baggage. Some airlines now refuse to lift cabin luggage into the overhead lockers, and ask customers to check luggage into the hold if they’re unable to lift it themselves. You’ll also have to socially distance at the conveyor after your flight and make sure you only handle your own bag.
- When you show your passport, it’s best if you have it open to the right page, and you might be asked to scan your own boarding pass, which will both reduce unnecessary close contact.
- Some airports are offering rapid testing that can allow for travel to certain destinations. These ‘Lamp’ (Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification) tests are being used on flights from London Heathrow to Hong Kong, for example, and provide results within an hour. Some destinations do still require a PCR test, though.
- Finally, duty-free might be open for reduced hours or closed in some cases.
Aircraft already have very advanced air-filtration systems that clean the air to a high quality and help to stop the spread of germs. These are similar to the systems used in hospitals.
The surfaces in planes will be thoroughly disinfected between flights too.
Inflight services, such as food, drinks and duty-free, will be reduced to a minimum to prevent close person-to-person contact, where possible. In some cases, you may be allowed to take your own food with you on the plane.
All passengers will be encouraged to remain in their seats as much as possible. This means that queuing for the toilets won’t be allowed as there’s not enough room to social distance, so you might have to ask a flight attendant when you can leave your seat. If you have any medical conditions that mean you need to use the toilet often, just let the flight attendant know and they should be able to help.
Travelling by boat
There are also specific actions being taken by shipping companies based on government guidelines to keep passengers and staff safer when travelling.
Here’s a guide to the things that might be new:
All crew and passengers will be provided with additional information, offering guidance on what they need to do/know.
This might include the symptoms of Covid, the health risks for vulnerable people travelling to other countries (e.g. the local health service), and the most important preventative measures.
All ships will also carry Covid-related supplies (PPE, etc.) as described in the disease commodity package.
Anyone with symptoms of Covid could be denied embarkation, or given a cabin to self-isolate in. Passengers will then be tested, where possible.
Everyone that boards the ship will be reminded of the importance of reporting symptoms, and the proper channels for doing so if they/anyone else has them.
Limiting the spread
All crew and passengers will be reminded of the public health advice (hand-washing, disinfecting surfaces, face coverings, social distancing, etc.) and their responsibility to stick to the advice.
If someone is self-isolating on a ship, measures will be followed to minimise the risks of transmission.
Nobody will be allowed to enter the cabin unless it’s absolutely essential. So, food will be left outside the door and any housekeeping duties will be paused until the self-isolation period ends.
The disembarkation of any ship will be advised on by a health protection team, who will:
- Arrange the disembarkation of any possible Covid cases
- Determine how close contacts of anyone who tests positive are traced
- Decide who can stay on the boat
- Recommend updates to measures for cleaning, hygiene, surveillance, and reporting
- Choose the necessary follow-up monitoring for Covid cases
- Limit restrictions on further travel, where necessary
Driving to Europe
Once you’re allowed to drive to Europe, there will be a few new measures to look out for, including specific, legal requirements for driving into each country in Europe.
For example, when travelling to France, you need to complete a health declaration form for every passenger.
You’ll also need to provide a travel certificate and evidence of negative PCR tests for anyone over the age of 11.
Finally, you’ll need to follow local French government restrictions, which includes a curfew between 6pm and 6am where you’ll need a legally-permitted reason to travel.