As travel gets the green light, JLife discovers the destinations available to UK holidaymakers looking for a long overdue summer getaway.
The sun chasers of north Leeds had their budgie smugglers at the ready when the government announced international travel would resume from 17th May. However, Boris proceeded to put a pin in our rubber rings after the new traffic light system revealed Brits could only travel to a limited choice of countries – 12 at the time of writing – without having to subject themselves to quarantine rules on their return. With the government reviewing the list on 7th June, holidaymakers are hopeful more destinations will be added to the small and in some cases downright strange selection.
“The announcement was a bit of an anti-climax for some people,” admits Gill Matthews, local personal travel expert at Not Just Travel.
“These were cautionary steps, which is what we expected, and we’re hoping countries get added, rather than removed in the coming weeks. If the situation deteriorates at home, we also have to be mindful that countries may remove us. Yet I believe the list will develop, because there are destinations, such as Spain and Greece, that are desperate for us to go back, and come summer, we’ll hopefully have more to choose from.”
While there may currently be 12 regions on the list, restrictions and just plain logistics mean holidaymakers can’t necessarily pay them a visit: “You have the likes of Australia and New Zealand on there, but their borders are shut. There are some strange places like the South Sandwich Islands, which is quite funny really because there are no hotels or airport.”
Of the more traditional destinations, Portugal has been top of the list for many: “On the day travel restrictions were lifted, around 5,000 Brits
jetted off to Portugal alone and they will have had a wonderful time. Though there are no quarantining requirements on arrival, you have to
adhere to COVID rules. In the vast majority of cases, there will likely be social distancing on the beach, table service in bars and mask wearing in shops. It shouldn’t be too different to what we’re used to here, except with a bit of sunshine involved!”
While the sunny archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores are also welcoming visitors, the most popular Portuguese resort has been the
Algarve: “People have missed a good beach, so they’ll visit places like Albufeira, a former fishing village on the southern coast, with beautiful
stretches of sweeping golden sands. Best of all, it’s only a two-and-a-half-hour flight. Though air passengers will need to wear a mask the whole way, that’s no big deal, especially when they have seven days of sunshine to look forward to.”
For those less concerned with balmy temperatures, Iceland is proving a fashionable city break offering a distinctive natural landscape: “A trendy and modern city, Iceland’s capital Reykjavik is a great destination for a short trip. Being fairly compact, it’s easy to get around, and that’s ideal because there’s so much to do. It’s definitely the place to tick things off your bucket list, from whale watching to experiencing the natural splendour of its waterfalls and geysers.”
While many seek to get away from their fellow Brits, others will holiday to the British colony of Gibraltar: “They have the world’s first five-star super-yacht hotel in the harbour, with restaurants, a casino and a stunning rooftop infinity pool.”
Israel makes the list, yet is currently only accepting holidaymakers as part of pre-booked escorted tour groups: “You can’t book a flight and a
hotel and do your own thing, but if you have 10 days and want to make the most of them, these tours ensure you don’t waste any time seeing the sites you want to visit. There aren’t huge numbers of specialist providers at the minute, but that could change. You’ll have the expertise and knowledge of a tour manager, so you can relax knowing someone else is taking care of getting you from A to B.”
With the excitement of the green list, many are overlooking destinations closer to home. As extended families seek to holiday together after
spending so long apart, Gill sees the boom in UK cruises as the perfect getaway for all ages: “Since restrictions lifted, we’ve had over 10 different cruise lines offering UK cruises – you wouldn’t normally have such a huge range to choose from. It’s quite an interesting opportunity for those who have never cruised before. Rather than committing to seven nights in the Med, they can dip their toe into a three-night cruise around the Channel and see what they think.”
Read more in the June – July Edition of JLife Leeds.