Can I travel from tier 2 to tier 1? How the UK’s new Covid-19 rules affect travel at home and abroad

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With the UK’s Covid-19 caseload on the rise through October, new stringent measures have been introduced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  

It means lots of new rules to follow based on where you live, impacting everything from going to work to eating out to visiting family.

We break down what it means if you’re planning to travel within the UK or overseas.

What the new England tier system means for UK travel

English regions are now divided into three tiers, dubbed ‘medium’ (tier 1), ‘high’ (tier 2) and ‘very high’ (tier 3). You can find out what tier you’re in by entering your postcode here.

If you live in tier 1, you are allowed to travel to tier 2 areas, but you should avoid travelling to tier 3 areas (the exception is if you are travelling to give care or making a compassionate visit).

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You have to follow the social distancing rules for tier 2 while you are there, which are stricter than in tier 1; you are only allowed to meet people outside of your household/support bubble outdoors, and even then you can only meet in groups of six.

If you live in tier 2, you can travel within tier 2 and tier 1, but the tier 2 rules on social distancing (per above) continue to apply to you even when you are in tier 1 areas.

If you live in tier 3, you should not leave your local area other than for work, education or caring services.

Travelling from England to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Wales is under nationwide lockdown from Friday 23th October until 12:01am on Monday 9th November. This means you cannot travel there no matter what tier you’re in.

You can travel from tier 1 and tier 2 to Scotland, but the Scottish government has cautioned people against visiting some higher-risk areas, including Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lothian and Lanarkshire.

You can also travel from tier 1 and tier 2 to Northern Ireland, but it is not advised. As of October 15th, Northern Ireland has imposed new restrictions which have closed all dine-in hospitality venues and hotels.

What the tier system means for travel abroad

You can travel abroad from tiers 1 and 2. You will continue to be subject to local restrictions while in the UK (eg. no inter-household mingling in tier 2), and then to the rules in whatever country you visit.

Remember that unless you visit a country on the travel corridor list, you will have to self-isolate for 14 days when you get home. You should also check the latest country restrictions.

The government has not specifically banned overseas travel from tier 3, but you would be going against the advice not to leave your local area.

Where can I travel from Wales?

During the national lockdown, from Friday 23th October to Monday 9th November, you should not travel outside of your local area.

That means no holidays in Wales, the rest of the holiday, or overseas. The Welsh Government is advising people to contact their travel company to discuss the situation if they have booked and paid for a holiday.

It remains to be seen what the rules will be after 9th November.

Where can I travel from Scotland?

There are no mandatory travel restrictions in place in Scotland, but there is lots of guidance. This states that you should “think carefully” about travelling overseas, and not travel outside of your local health board unless necessary.

It is particularly discouraged to travel to tier 2 and 3 areas of England, or into and out of the central belt of Scotland.

Where can I travel from Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland’s new restrictions primarily apply to domestic businesses.

They do not ban travel, but advice from Stormont is that “no unnecessary travel should be undertaken”, with the definition of a necessary trip left up to the individual.

What if I no longer wish to travel?

Consumer advisors Which? say that based on CMA guidance, you should be due a full refund from your accommodation provider if you are no longer able to go on a UK holiday, though they note that some places are disputing this. You may have more success at least obtaining a voucher for future travel.

Unless an airline cancels your flight, you may struggle to claim a refund unless this was already in your policy T&Cs.

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