Hello holidays: International travel is back
Chalkmarks My rocky road to paradise in Palawan

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 18 March 2022.

There was a rare feeling of relief in the air this week with good news making the front pages. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe arrived back in the UK and the situation in Ukraine saw President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Vladimir Putin speak of a peace plan.
Today’s news for UK holidaymakers ends two years of tight travel restrictions that saw quarantines and expensive testing – these were scrapped earlier this year. Now gone are the lengthy online passenger locator forms and the day 2 test for the unvaccinated. It’s happy Friday.
Getting from a to b just got easier. If you fancy taking a short break, take one. If you want to plan a long-haul escape, book it.
With our finger on the pulse, here is a round-up of the week’s travel news.

Post-pandemic

This morning: We knew it was coming and now it’s finally here: Passenger locator forms for UK holidaymakers returning home, and for anyone arriving in Britain, have been axed. In the small hours of the morning – 4am – they came to an abrupt end after being introduced two years ago at the beginning of the pandemic. Also gone is testing for unvaccinated travellers entering the UK. Which? explains.

This was the moment: The announcement came from the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Tuesday in the House of Commons. He said: “No more quarantines. No more tests. No more forms. International travel is back.” Hear hear cheered the MPs. Although he had tweeted all about it on Monday. Here is the Foreign Office update.

Everyone’s on board: IATA said this was a “major milestone” for the travel industry. Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK said: “Today’s announcement sends a clear message to the world – the UK travel sector is back”. Mark Tanzer, chief executive at Abta added: “It is a landmark day for holidaymakers and the travel industry.”

Here comes packed flights: Abta research today shows that 57% of people have already booked a holiday oversees, over the next 12 months. Travel Weekly has the story. The data also revealed that Spain, France and Italy remain hot favourites, while trips to Egypt were high on people’s wishlist. Sensing the shift, Gatwick Express announced it was resuming service with two trains an hour from London Victoria to Gatwick, from 3rd April. 

And they’re off: Face masks, that is! Heathrow told us that passengers no longer have to wear masks inside the airport, although added they would very much appreciate it if they still did. Then BA and Virgin updated their face mask policies saying that passengers no longer needed to wear a face covering on board – but that depends on the rules of the final destination. Short hand: passengers still have to wear masks.

New Zealand is ready: This is big. Really big because New Zealand has been closed to tourism for two years, since the start of the Covid outbreak – and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern even said they wouldn’t reopen their borders until October 2022. That’s all changed. From 1st May the country will welcome back travellers. Visitors will need to be fully vaccinated and show a negative PCR test pre-departure and again on arrival. So what’s changed? They say because Omicron is spreading so fast – with up to 20,000 cases a day – the travel restrictions are irrelevant, but they expect it to fade out quickly.

Say yes: Whenever anyone asks us for travel inspiration, one of our top three answers is Vietnam. Why go? Halong Bay, Train Street, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Sapa, Hoi An, Mekong Delta…then there’s egg coffee, Bun Cha, Pho….Why not go? And after two long years, this week the government reopened to international travel, scrapping its quarantine requirement. Visitors still need to show a negative PCR test. 

Also this week: European countries have been lifting their Covid restrictions quickly with Romania the latest to remove the requirement to need a pre-departure tests and show proof of vaccination.

Check the small print: Not sure that they are sure, but the Netherlands tweeted a confusing message that travellers no longer needed to show a negative test result or their vaccination status on arrival, and this included Britons. Then it added that those outside the EU, including travellers from the UK, were subject to the “EU entry ban”. Missing link maybe!

Across the Atlantic: On Thursday Canada announced it was dropping pre-departing testing for double-jabbed travellers from 1st April. For those who are unvaccinated, testing is still mandated. The US is not yet ready to ease its border restrictions. They still require a negative PCR test and proof of vaccination. They are close to ending masks on planes though!

Map of greatness: Sam Streets shared a very useful map which shows the latest Covid travel restrictions around the world.

Day 23: The war in Ukraine continues to impact travel to central and eastern Europe, flight routes from Europe to Asia and raises questions about the safety of travelling during times of war. With fuel costs also on the increase, flight prices are starting to creep up. The Daily Telegraph explained how holiday charges could rise by up to £400, even once travellers have booked. Operators are allowed to pass on surcharges but only up to 8 per cent.

Then came this: Passengers face days of disruption after P&O Ferries sparked outrage on Thursday when it laid off 800 of its staff without warning. Here the BBC broadcast the moment they lost their jobs. The crew were devastated, politicians were disgusted, and concerned – and passengers were angry at being left in long queues at the dockside. The ferry crew on Pride of Hull lifted the gangway and refused to leave. By the afternoon the standoff came to an end. Not to be confused with P&O Cruises, P&O Ferries is separate company, owed by logistics firm DP World based in Dubai. They operate services from Dover to Calais, Larne to Cairnryan, Dublin to Liverpool, and Hull to Rotterdam. P&O Ferries said the decision to cut jobs was “very difficult but necessary”.

The rise and rise of Paris: The Eiffel Tower grew by 6 metres (20ft) this week after a helicopter placed  digital radio antenna at the top of the 133-year monument. It now stands at 330 metres (1,083ft). Reuters captured the moment.

Park life: Figures out today reveal that when lockdown restrictions lifted in 2021, gardens, parks, forests and zoos became the UK’s most popular attractions. The BBC reports that Windsor Great Park was the most popular, seeing 5.4 million visitor numbers, followed by Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, which brought in 1.9 million. 

Hot topic: The island of Palawan in the Philippines took second place in the World’s Best Islands for Beaches in Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards. The island regularly ranks high the top 10 annual travel lists due to its natural beauty, stunning beaches and sea life. Palawan lies in the middle of the South China Sea, far away from mainland Philippines – and the journey to reach it is long even from Manila, but it’s worth it. Read our adventure. Aruba landed the top spot btw.

Could you give up holidays: According to research by the Royal Mint, 16-25-year-olds are saving £200 a month and investing in their future instead of eating out, buying clothes and travelling abroad. And if they go away they opt instead for an affordable staycation. It’s not happening!

Get moving: Kent has introduced a long-distance cycling route called the Cantii Way. It’s a 145 mile loop – three-to-four-day ride – of the county taking in Canterbury, Whitstable and the White cliffs of Dover. It officially launches on 26th May.

Crazy swingers: Tee up for a busy year of golf in Scotland. Author Michael Atkinson who has visited its 549 courses has said there’s so much pent-up demand for the sport that some venues are already getting booked up for the summer. Playing times at the Old Course in St Andrews, which is staging The Open Championship in July, is already limited he says. The Scottish Express spoke to the writers of Golfland.

Fashion verdict: Did you know the V&A has never put on an exhibition dedicated to menswear? Us neither. They are righting that wrong tomorrow (Saturday 19th March) when its first ever male fashion show called Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear opens. On display will be everything from how men have been dressing over the years, including tailored suits, designer outfits and more artistic ensembles. 

#ByeUKTravelRules

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