Ready to Book a Holiday in Portugal This Summer? Here’s What You Need to Know
Today, on Redhead Mom, we are sharing a partnered guest post about holiday travel in Portugal.
The much-anticipated lifting of a blanket non-essential travel ban by the UK government on May 17th wasn’t quite the cause for celebration holiday makers and the travel industry alike were looking forward to.
Yes, you can now legally fly abroad to take a holiday. The problem is that, with the exception of 12 ‘green list’ countries, the government has made it clear that you are advised not to. If you decide to go anyway, for example to take a pre-booked trip that you are worried you won’t be able to get your money back for if you cancel, you face 10 days’ quarantine and a strict testing regime on your return.
If you happen to be traveling to a so-called ‘red list’ country, that quarantine will have to be completed at a government-approved hotel, at a cost of £1750.
As things stand, nearly all holiday destinations popular with British tourists are subject to quarantine controls when you return. The big exception is Portugal. Not only is the country, including its island dependencies Madeira and the Azores, on the UK’s ‘green list’, but Portuguese authorities are also happy to welcome UK visitors without restriction.
It seems probable, then, that there could be a larger-than-usual exodus of Brits to Spain’s Iberian neighbor this summer. But before you rush to book your holiday, here are some things you should know.
Gaining Entry to Portugal
At this present time, Portugal is not imposing any quarantine rules or restrictions on the movements of visitors from the UK. But to be allowed into the country, there are a couple of conditions you need to meet.
One is that you will need to take, at your own cost, an RT-PCR COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure and present proof of a negative test at the airport. This applies to anyone traveling over the age of two. Failure to show a negative test will mean you won’t be allowed to fly.
NHS tests cannot be used for travel purposes, so a private RT-PCR test could set you back anything between £120 and £200 per person. However, some travel firms are now offering heavily discounted tests to customers, so check with your travel agent or airline.
Protecting Yourself from Cancellations
If you or a member of your party test positive for COVID-19, of course, you won’t be allowed to travel and you are very, very unlikely to get any money back from either your airline or travel agent. The main exception to this is if you book flexible airfares and get notice of your positive test within the window for postponing or changing your booking.
This is why travel insurance has become more important than ever in 2021. While travel companies and airlines are obliged to refund you (or offer you credit towards another trip) if your travel plans are disrupted by government restrictions, you don’t get the same protection if you have to cancel because of a positive test.
A good travel insurance policy, however, offers financial protection for catching the virus before and during your trip. The best policies will even cover cancellation costs if you are told to isolate after coming into contact with someone who has the virus, without getting a positive test yourself.
You will also get your medical expenses paid if you catch the virus while abroad and fall ill, while the most comprehensive cover will also pay you a daily allowance if you get a positive test before your return flight home and have to self-isolate, as well as repatriation costs for a new flight when you are able to travel again.
Circumstances Change Quickly
As things stand, both the UK and Portugal are in a good place as far as controlling COVID-19 goes. Both countries are enjoying low transmission rates compared to the rest of Europe, which has allowed the relaxing of travel restrictions.
But we’ve seen enough through this pandemic to know how quickly things can change.
It’s worth following the FCDO travel advice for Portugal, especially if you are booking a holiday a few months in advance. If infection rates at home start to climb again after the widespread easing of restrictions, you would be advised to make contingency plans.
At present, Portugal is imposing a 14-day self-isolation period on anyone arriving from countries with an infection rate above 500 per 100,000 people. This was the sort of figure the UK was at during its winter peak, but is not far off the levels currently being seen in certain ‘hotspots’ like Bolton in Lancashire. We can’t rule out localized travel restrictions being imposed to take account of these differences.
There is also every possibility that Portugal could lower its threshold for asking arrivals to self-isolate. And because the vaccine doesn’t stop people carrying and transmitting the virus, even having completed the full course of the jab wouldn’t lead to exceptions being made. This would be a worst-case scenario for travelers, as being allowed to travel only to spend your entire holiday in quarantine could fall short of meeting the conditions for a cancellation claim.