Big Ben sounded at midnight last night to mark the completion of Brexit, signalling a host of changes for travellers visiting Europe.
With the country now having completed the transition phase for leaving the EU, holidaymakers heading to the Continent are now potentially faced with longer wait times at airports, curbs on duty-free imports, and the return of data roaming charges.
From today, Britons will be met with additional checks at EU airports, which the European Tourism Association has said could lead to an additional 90 seconds per passenger at passport control – or an extra five hours per planeload.
UK travellers are also faced with a raft of new fees and charges, including higher travel insurance premiums to cover the outgoing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme, larger mobile phone bills (although some networks have pledged to continue offering free roaming for the time being), and more costs and complications for those travelling with pets.
However, there are still a number of aspects of European travel that have not changed: financial protection against the failure of holiday operators will continue to be offered by the UK government, and British motorists are still allowed to drive without applying for an International Driver Permit.
The effect of the new travel arrangements is unlikely to be felt for the next few weeks, with many European countries having barred entry for UK travellers due to the new strain of coronavirus discovered last month.
Last night saw a number of European countries – including Italy, Portugal, Norway and Poland – place new restrictions on travellers arriving from the UK in effect from January 1, with exemptions only for those with essential reasons to travel. These changes come because the UK now falls outside the EU, and is therefore no seen as an international destination under EU-wide Covid-19 restrictions.
Scroll down for more updates.
More Covid comparisons as Netherlands and Portugal close borders
The Netherlands and Portugal, two favourite destinations for UK tourists, have both closed their borders to Britons as of today. Here’s how the seven-day case rates compare:
Netherlands: 376.7 per 100,000
Portugal: 253.3 per 100,000
UK: 451.5 per 100,000
“I’m so excited to see Madrid full of life once again”
Annie Bennett, Telegraph Travel’s Madrid expert, writes:
The new year is understandably going to get off to a slow start in Spain, but it looks like things will get moving around Easter – fingers crossed. In Madrid, the Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid is finally set to welcome guests in March after a top-to-toe refurbishment that will bring a bit of sparkle back to the capital. Quique Dacosta, one of Spain’s most exciting chefs and a favourite of mine, is in charge of the food, so the rather fusty vibe it used to have will have disappeared, no doubt.
I didn’t make it to Mallorca in 2020 but it has plenty to draw me back in 2021. I am intrigued by Hit Mallorca just outside Palma, which will have a restaurant headed up by multi-Michelin-starred Basque chef Martín Berasategui, as well as club and performance spaces. Sounds like you would have a pretty good night out without even trying.
Rural tourism has been doing very well in Spain during the pandemic and I’m planning to stay in some gorgeous little hotels in remote parts of the countryside while tackling a stretch or two of one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. It is a Holy or Jacobean Year in 2021, which happens when the feast of St James, July 25, falls on a Sunday. One perk of this is that all your sins are absolved if you enter Santiago cathedral through a special door that is only open in Holy Years – the perfect way to banish all the bad habits of the past year.
New image shows upcoming theme park dubbed ‘Britain’s Disneyland’
The developers behind the eagerly anticipated London Resort in Kent have released a new rendering showing their proposed theme park, which has been greeted as Britain’s answer to Disneyland.
Plans for the site on the Swanscombe Peninsula, between Dartford and Gravesend, have now been submitted for approval in the hope that work on the project can soon begin, accompanied by the promise that it will generate £50 billion for the national economy over the next 25 years.
The theme park is slated to open in 2024, and is expected to become one of the UK’s largest single-site employers by 2038.
The park will be divided in zones such as The Studios, The Woods, The Kingdom, The Isles, The Jungle, Starport and High Street. More than 50 rides and attractions will be spread throughout, including eight rollercoasters, a 2,000-seat theatre and a nightclub.
Video: The best NYE celebrations around the world
Of course 2020 must end on a note of bitter irony. The year that most people are keen to see the back of is the same year in which they are prevented from celebrating in full, thanks to public health edicts around the world banning gatherings to curb the spread of Covid.
But while the crowds were missing, some cities still managed to see 2020 out with a flourish:
30 spa holidays for a happier, healthier new year
After nearly a year of being grounded, trips taken from here on have to count on so many levels – personally, professionally, psychologically and ecologically, writes Suzanne Duckett. Whether you admit it or not, the enforced slow down and more time spent with yourself, your partner or your family has unearthed some home truths.
Lack of routine has led, for many, to comfort eating, sporadic exercise, wine being cracked open most evenings and an increased dependency on digital technology. This will be the year to reset and redress the meaning of “well-travelled” in every sense when the world finally reopens to us.
Covid in Europe: how does the UK compare?
All of Europe has been struck by rising coronavirus infection rates in recent weeks and months, although the situation in the UK has been deemed severe enough for other countries to close their borders to British travellers.
Here’s a overview comparing the UK’s seven-day case rate with those of France, Spain and Italy. The graphs give a good indication how each country has coped with the Covid outbreak over the course of the year.
France: 138.7 per 100,000
Spain: 156.9 per 100,000
Italy: 161.9 per 100,000
UK: 451.5 per 100,000
Expert view: This Oxford vaccine victory puts us on track for holidays by spring
Could we be starting to travel relatively normally and taking overseas holidays again by Easter? It might sound optimistic after so many recent setbacks, says Nick Trend, but if everything continues to go to plan with vaccination, especially now the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab is approved, I think it’s a reasonable bet.
Here’s why. Our current anxiety is – understandably – wound up by the new coronavirus variant, a soaring infection rate and the commensurate increase in the number of hospitalisations and deaths. It is these figures which are driving the new tier restrictions and which also resulted in the latest bans imposed by so many countries on visitors from Britain. So travel – and life generally – is likely to remain highly restricted for some weeks to come.
But a return to relative normality will not depend on infection levels, but on the hospitalisation and death rates. Even if the infections remain high, it would be very hard to justify restricting travel and other freedoms if fewer and fewer people are needing treatment and even fewer are dying from Covid-19.
Thailand bans eating and drinking on flights after Covid surge
Airlines in Thailand have been banned from selling food and drink on domestic flights after a sharp spike in coronavirus cases in late December.
The Thai government has also ordered that passengers should not be given newspapers, magazines or pamphlets while travelling, and has doubled down on safety measures such as screening and social distancing in an effort to halt the virus’s spread.
The new outbreak has prompted local lockdowns as officials struggle to contain infections, with many fearing that the situation will worsen due to widespread travel for New Year celebrations.
Video: How travel to Europe has changed following Brexit
Hoping for a holiday in Europe at some point this year? This video tells you everything you need to know about travelling to the Continent post-Brexit.
Canada tightens rules for air passengers
The Canadian government has announced that all air passengers aged five and over must now test negative for Covid-19 before they are able to enter the country.
Canada currently has strict border controls in place, with very few foreign nationals permitted entry – for instance, foreign workers, international students, and those travelling on compassionate grounds.
Good morning and a Happy New Year
First things first, let’s kick off 2021 with a quick look at what happened yesterday:
- Many areas in England were moved into tier 3 and 4 restrictions , effectively closing all the country’s hotels bar those on the Isles of Scilly
- Swiss police probe 12 Britons suspected of fleeing ski resort quarantine
- US to expand Covid-19 testing scheme for international arrivals
- Irish Government extends flight and ferry ban
- Britain strikes last-minute deal to keep Gibraltar border open
- Flight Centre offers UK shops as vaccine hubs