Families from the UK who are heading abroad for the spring half-term break continue to face a complex array of Covid testing requirements as restrictions for popular destinations remain in place.
While the UK has relaxed all Covid travel restrictions, many other countries have retained a variety of test requirements before holidaymakers can enter.
On Sunday (15 May) Spain announced that it was extending its entry rules until at least 15 June, meaning adults must be fully vaccinated before travelling to the Spanish mainland, Canary Islands or the Balearics. Unvaccinated children can travel, but those aged 12 and over need to show a certificate of Covid recovery or take a negative PCR test no more than 72 hours before they travel.
Spain’s rules are stricter than most other countries in Europe, with destinations such as Greece, Croatia and Austria lifting all restrictions on travellers, regardless of their vaccination status. Others, such as France and Turkey, allow unvaccinated holidaymakers to travel but only having completed a negative lateral flow or PCR test before they arrive.
However, even here there are differences in approach, with Portugal and Cyprus both requiring lateral flow tests for the unvaccinated to be completed by a healthcare professional no more than 24 hours before departure, rather than allowing travellers to take their own swabs at home.
For most countries, testing requirements start with children aged 12 and over, but the rules are different for families going to Italy, where anyone who is unvaccinated and over six must prove their Covid status with a test.
The US is stricter still, with every traveller aged two and above required to complete a Covid test no more than 24 hours before they travel, regardless of their vaccination status.
“It’s great to see people are travelling abroad again, but as individual countries are responsible for their own Covid testing rules, passengers must remain wary to ensure they’ve taken the right tests for their destination,” said Nick Markham, co founder at Cignpost ExpressTest, which operates testing centres at airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham and Edinburgh.
“The risk is that they can’t get a last-minute test in time for their flight, so prebooking the right test at the airport should be thought of as a holiday essential, like buying insurance or finding the best deal for your travel money.
“With testing rules changing regularly and often at short notice, we advise people keep checking the requirements for their destination to make sure they don’t get caught out.”
Families who navigate the Covid testing requirements must also keep on top of rules for wearing face masks, with the EU recently announcing that coverings are no longer required on flights to many EU countries. However, popular destinations including Greece, Italy and Spain say they intend to keep mask rules in place for the half-term break.