When can I go on holiday abroad in 2021? Date international travel from Scotland may be allowed after lockdown
Some countries are considering introducing Covid vaccine passports
People are desperate to book a summer holiday after nearly a year of coronavirus restrictions.
Despite the current international travel bans in place in Scotland, some airlines including TUI and Jet2 have already launched flights and package deals for the 2021 summer holiday season.
And with the vaccinations programme well underway, with the government planning to inoculate everyone in the top nine priority groups by mid-April, many are hopeful that they will be able to travel abroad for some sun in the hotter months.
So, will we be able to go on this summer?
Here is everything you need to know.
Will we be able to travel abroad in summer?
Nicola Sturgeon revealed Scotland’s roadmap out of lockdown on Tuesday 23 February in the form of a four-phase gradual easing of restrictions.
The First Minister announced indicative dates for the reopening of the economy, including shops, hospitality, gyms and hairdressers, as well as detailing a return to the levels system that was in place before the lockdown.
Depending on the progress of the vaccinations programme, there are plans for the stay at home order to be lifted from 5 April, while this “substantial” reopening of the economy could begin from 26 April.
However, Ms Sturgeon warned that travel restrictions are likely to remain essential “for some time yet” to guard against the importation of new variants of the virus.
She said: “We saw over the summer how new cases were imported into Scotland, after the virus had almost been eliminated. We do not want that to happen again.
“In particular we do not want to import new variants of the virus, which could be more resistant to the vaccines that we are currently using.
“And so the strategic framework rightly emphasises the importance of both travel restrictions and test and protect. They will help us to ease restrictions safely.”
The government will publish another document in mid-March which will give more detail on reopening the economy from late April, including plans for May and into summer.
More information on when international travel could be permitted may be revealed then.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson said during his roadmap announcement for England that foreign holidays could be permitted from 17 May.
A report recommending how international trips can resume for people south of the border will be published by 12 April.
Will there be rules for travelling abroad?
Experts have warned of the risks involved with booking a foreign holiday for this summer.
Many consumer organisations have urged travellers to ensure they have a flexible booking policy after chaos was caused by flight cancellations last year.
Right now, passengers travelling to Scotland from abroad are required to have proof of a negative coronavirus test, taken a maximum of 72 hours before departure.
Passengers with a positive test result, or an invalid certificate, will be refused boarding.
Travellers arriving into Scotland from all countries outside the Common Travel Area (the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) also have to book a stay for 10 days in a quarantine hotel.
The self-isolation costs £1750, which covers the government-sanctioned hotel stay, transport and testing.
It is unclear when these measures will be lifted.
Could there be Covid vaccine passports?
It is also possible that international destinations could ask for proof of a Covid vaccination before anyone can enter.
Vaccine passports have been discussed by countries, including Greece, as a way to safely reopen international travel for leisure.
The First Minister has suggested vaccine passports would be worth considering if they could “give us greater normality”.
She said: “Yellow fever certificates exist for travel to some countries, so there may well be scope for vaccination giving you the ability to do certain things that without vaccination you might not be able to do.”
However, she said vaccine protection levels and ethical issues had to be considered before such a policy was introduced.
Ms Sturgeon added: “I think it’s not straightforward, it’s not simple… I don’t close my mind to this, but I think, like everybody else, we want to think through this carefully.
“And if some kind of mechanism like this can give us some greater normality back at some stage that we wouldn’t otherwise get, then let’s think about that.”
There are concerns that vaccine passports could exacerbate social inequalities as there are some people who are unable to get vaccinated for reasons beyond their control.
Could I book a staycation?
When summer holidays were met with complications last year, many people decided to opt for a Scottish staycation instead.
The government eased restrictions to allow further travel beyond local areas, overnight stays and the reopening of the domestic tourism sector.
This may happen if Scotland moves back into the levels system from late April.
The government hopes that the whole country will move from Level 4 down into Level 3 then.
However, under the previous Level 3 restrictions there were still strict travel restrictions in place, with people only allowed to make journeys outside their own council area for essential reasons.
Staycations may only be permitted if areas go into lower levels.
Scots had previously been warned against booking breaks within the country during the Easter holidays.
Ms Sturgeon said it was “highly unlikely” that hotels and self-catering venues would be fully open by then to accommodate people.
But the First Minister did say that summer staycations could be possible depending on “data nearer the time”.
Can I go on holiday now?
International holidays are currently prohibited from Scotland due to the lockdown, with tight travel bans in place.
People are not permitted to travel outside their own local authority area unless it is for an essential reason, like work, education, exercise or caring responsibilities.
There is not yet an exact date as to when the guidance will change.