Travellers must carry permit to go abroad or face fines in illegal trips crackdown

Emma Featherstone
·33-min read
England's border restrictions have tightened beyond quarantine hotels - Getty
England's border restrictions have tightened beyond quarantine hotels - Getty

Passengers travelling overseas from England will be required to complete and carry a 'Declaration to Travel' form, starting from Monday.

Airlines, ferry companies and train operators will be legally obliged to explain on their websites that the document must be filled out before travelling. They will then check that passengers have completed the form before they board – individuals who have not done so may not be allowed to join the service they have booked.

Anyone identified by police as trying to travel overseas for reasons that are not currently permitted will be asked to return home and they risk receiving a fixed penalty notice for breaking non-essential travel rules. These fines start at £200 and double for each incident; they can go up to a maximum of £6,400.

This measure is a "necessary step to protect the public and our world-class vaccination programme", Home Secretary Priti Patel told parliament in January; the details, however, were not published until Friday, some 40 days after it was announced.

The form is not required for travel within the UK, to Ireland, to the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, the government's guidance states. Different border rules apply for travel abroad from the devolved administrations.

Foreign holidays are currently prohibited under lockdown legislation, and will not be permitted from England until May 17 – at the earliest. All travellers returning to England are subject to a 10 day quarantine, with arrivals from red-listed countries required to pay up to £1,750 for a stay in a designated hotel.

Scroll down for the latest travel updates.​

06:02 PM

What happened today?

Thank you for following today's live travel blog. Here's a quick recap of the headlines:

  • Cyprus to open up for vaccinated tourists on May 1

  • Seychelles to reopen to all visitors from March 25

  • Eurowings to enter UK holiday market

  • RNLI issues warning ahead of fair weather weekend

  • Thailand considers allowing vaccinated tourists to skip quarantine

  • Andalucía introduces Covid-19 insurance for visitors ​

  • Save Our Summer campaign: Replace travel corridors with testing

Join us on Monday for more breaking travel news.

05:51 PM

'Patient X' had recently returned from Brazil

Speaking at today's Downing Street press briefing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has described the process of finding 'Patient X'.

"Using the latest technology, and with the dogged determination of our testing and tracing scheme, we've successfully identified the person in question," Mr Hancock said. "The best evidence is that this person in question stayed at home, and there's no sign that there's been any onward transmission."

However more testing will be introduced in Croydon, where the patient lives, as a precautionary measure.

Pictured last year, military personnel in Rio disinfect the area around the Christ the Redeemer statue - Getty
Pictured last year, military personnel in Rio disinfect the area around the Christ the Redeemer statue - Getty

"This positive outcome was only possible because of the huge genomic sequencing capacity that we now have in this country and because of our Test and Trace team," he continued. "It shows the importance of this capability we've built, and how important it is to be transparent where new variants are found.

"Being transparent about what you find helps to stop the spread of this disease, and in particular these new variants of concern that are so worrying. So I'm really, really delighted that the team have done this work."

Dr Susan Hopkins of Public Health England added: "This individual was interviewed extensively, and lives in a household that had recently returned from Brazil, and all had quarantined at home."

05:35 PM

Watch: New Zealand tsunami threat

Tens of thousands of coastal residents in New Zealand, New Caledonia and Vanuatu fled for higher ground on Friday after a series of powerful earthquakes triggered small tsunami waves.

Warning sirens sounded as authorities ordered evacuations amid fears of waves of up three metres (10 feet).

After the largest waves passed, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) downgraded the threat level and evacuated citizens were permitted to return, though aftershocks were still being recorded in the area.

05:19 PM

What will decide whether the UK opens its borders on May 17?

It's no exaggeration to say that May 17 is being held as a beacon of hope in the travel industry. When the Prime Minister outlined his 'roadmap' for easing lockdown last week, the date was given as the earliest that the UK could reopen its borders to international travel.

However, several factors will be taken into consideration before any decision is made to re-open the borders – including the number of ‘concerning’ Covid-19 variants still floating about, and the success both of our own vaccine program, and those of other countries.

The government guidance explains: “This decision will be dependent on the global and domestic epidemiological picture, the prevalence and location of any Variants of Concern, the progress of vaccine rollouts here and abroad, and what more we have learned about the efficacy of vaccines on variants, and the impact on transmission, hospitalisation and deaths.”

The red list, meanwhile, is likely to grow, meaning more inbound travellers will be faced with a 10-day hotel quarantine sentence. According to a senior airport source, “the red list is going to get longer before it gets shorter, which was disheartening to hear.” Other Government insiders have indicated in recent weeks that new countries could be added “within a few hours”. Both Spain and the US were reportedly being considered last week.

Here’s what the 'roadmap' document says: “The Government will act swiftly if evidence emerges that suggests more countries should be added to the red list. Likewise, if evidence emerges that vaccines deployed in the UK are sufficiently effective against Variants of Concern (or the situation in those countries changes) countries may also be removed.”

We know from Grant Shapps’ currently suspended travel corridor list’, however, that once a country is red-listed, it doesn’t come off easily.

04:56 PM

Mandatory form for travel: what you need to know

All people travelling overseas from England will be required to complete a form stating their reasons for travel, starting from March 8. It can be downloaded from the gov.uk website.

The permitted reasons for travel, according to the Department for Transport, include:

  • Work

  • Volunteering

  • Education

  • Medical, or compassionate grounds

  • Weddings, funerals and events (see more information, here)

The three-page form requires travellers to fill out their personal details and tick a box indicating why they are leaving the country.

Passengers should print the completed form and carry with them or save a completed version on their mobile phone or another device they are carrying with them.

Some people with jobs that qualify for travel exemptions may not have to complete the form.

Passengers should carry a printed copy of their completed form or save it on their mobile phone or another device they will be travelling with.

04:45 PM

'As a proud Northerner, I never thought I'd miss London this much'

Lockdown has country girl Lucy Aspden pining for London’s landmarks, nightlife – and even the tube.

Tell us, do you miss it too?

04:21 PM

Cyprus and Seychelles to open up for vaccinated Britons

Cyprus will reopen to tourists who have been fully inoculated against Covid-19 from May 1 and the Seychelles will welcome all visitors from March 25, irrespective of their vaccination status.

British holidaymakers are the largest visitor market for Cyprus and it is the first European country to confirm it will waive other restrictions for Britons who have received both doses of an approved vaccine – however, May 17 is the earliest UK travellers will be permitted to take foreign holidays under the Government's roadmap out of lockdown.

"We have informed the British government that from May 1 we will facilitate the arrival of British nationals who have been vaccinated ... so they can visit Cyprus without a negative test or needing to quarantine," the country's deputy tourism minister Savvas Perdios told the Cyprus News Agency.

The Seychelles is reopening to tourists - Getty
The Seychelles is reopening to tourists - Getty

Sun-starved Britons will also find hope in the announcement from the Seychelles that quarantine requirements will be waived for all visitors (except those from South Africa) later this month with a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure the only remaining condition of entry.

Sylvestre Radegonde, the Seychelles' minister for foreign affairs and tourism, said on Thursday: “The measures being announced reflect broadly the recommendation of our tourism partners and have been done in full consultation with and the endorsement of our health authorities.”

04:03 PM

Queue-jumping and clandestine jabs: Peru’s ‘vaccinegate’ sparks outrage – and a national inquiry

As Peru’s hospitals battle a second, fiercer wave of Covid-19 cases, the launch of a vaccination campaign this month was a much-awaited glimmer of hope for one of the hardest-hit countries in the world by the pandemic.

President Francisco Sagasti got the first of an initial 300,000 doses on February 9. It was hoped the breakthrough would restore confidence that the health crisis could be overcome, Peru’s ministry for health said.

Long queues to refill oxygen tanks continue in Lima as the country battles a second wave of coronavirus infections - Raul Sifuentes /Getty
Long queues to refill oxygen tanks continue in Lima as the country battles a second wave of coronavirus infections - Raul Sifuentes /Getty

Instead, the rollout has caused indignation, a flurry of senior political and academic resignations, and a national investigation.

In what has been dubbed “Vaccinegate”, it has emerged that more than 200 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine were secretly administered to politicians and well-connected individuals before the healthcare workers who had been promised them.

Luke Taylor has the full story.

03:47 PM

10 things you learn on a family holiday during a pandemic

With its borders opening to vaccinated travellers on May 1, family favourite Cyprus could now be one of the first places we can travel to. But beware. Travelling with kids in tow amid travel uncertainty has its moments. As Claire Irvin found out…

Covid-19 has turned the world upside-down, including family holidays 
Covid-19 has turned the world upside-down, including family holidays

Among her tips? Leave the lab tests to the professionals

With my eye on the new Amara hotel in Cyprus, we booked, well clear of last October’s Thursday night quarantine lottery. All that remained was to arrange my Covid test, 72 hours ahead of departure. Depending on the time of your flight, this can be more complicated than it sounds. I flip-flopped between lab test and home swab test before deciding it wasn’t important enough to leave home for and anyway, surely I was grown-up enough to test myself. Choosing a brand which claimed only 1 per cent of tests came back inconclusive, I spent half a day in a tailspin of self-induced anxiety before FaceTiming a qualified friend to make sure I did it properly. A day later, the results came back inconclusive. I ended up spending a day in London and £500 on a six-hour test. The moral of this story, I think, is clear…

Read the full article.

03:24 PM

'Travel is bouncing back – and it'll be better than ever before'

With hope in the air, airlines and operators are talking more positively – and with an honesty and openness not seen before, writes Nick Trend, who has been talking to tour operators.

galicia spain - Getty
galicia spain - Getty

It was refreshing to be reminded of the energy and optimism that has traditionally been central to travel but has been so suppressed over the past year. It is a business that attracts enthusiasts. Many of these industry leaders may be hard-nosed businessmen and women, but they are not shifting widgets. They are in travel because they love what they do. Typically, they have not been recruited in some random graduate training programme but began out in the field – as reps or guides or chalet hosts – and worked their way up.

That energy has been rekindled in the past couple of weeks by the feeling that (fingers crossed) the worst is over, that the pent-up demand, the urge to travel, really is strong enough to translate into bookings.

Read the full story.

03:11 PM

Government confirms new border measure

People travelling overseas from England from Monday 8 March will be required to carry a new form setting out that their trip is permitted under the current stay at home restrictions, the Department for Transport has confirmed.

Carriers will be legally obliged to explain on their website that the form must be completed before travelling.

Transport providers will also checking the forms have been completed before boarding. Passengers without a completed form may not be allowed on to the service they have booked.

Anyone identified by police as attempting to travel internationally for reasons that are not currently permitted will be asked to return home and risk receiving a fixed penalty notice for breaking stay at home rules. These fines start at £200 and can go up to a maximum of £6,400.

03:00 PM

Hoteliers ready to welcome Britons back to Cyprus

Kratinos Socratous, director of Sales and Marketing, Parklane, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, said he was "delighted" with the news that Cyprus will welcome vaccinated Britons tourists from May 1.

The UK is a key market for us and we are feeling optimistic for a successful season. All of the us at Parklane, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa and are looking forward to showcasing our island and new hotel to travellers again.

As a resort, we are fortunate enough to have 25 acres of beautifully manicured gardens as well as a 300 metre beach, ensuring that privacy and space is a given for our guests. It is also ensures we have the facilities to provide a whole host of activities from beach volleyball and tennis to kayaking and sailing. Additionally, returning to the hotel this summer will be our ever popular Football Escapes academies.

02:46 PM

Tourist attractions gear up for April 12 reopening

Those of us waiting patiently for April 12 when holidays within England will (hopefully) be permitted once more might be keen to book a trip to some of the country's top attractions. Alton Towers and Stonehenge are among those ready to welcome visitors.

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02:27 PM

Eurowings to enter UK holiday market

German airline Eurowings is to enter the British market citing the surge in interest for flights between the UK and Majorca following the publication of the UK Government's roadmap out of lockdown.

The carrier will fly from Manchester and Birmingham to Majorca from the end of May, initially twice a week from both airports. It might expand this offering in the coming weeks.

Eurowings says it is "by far the largest provider of air travel" between Majorca and Germany.

02:06 PM

RNLI issues warning ahead of fair weather weekend

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01:59 PM

Hotel quarantine leaves some workers 'completely forgotten about'

Oil and gas industry workers on overseas jobs have said they have been "completely forgotten about" by the UK's hotel quarantine rules, as they are unable to see their families.

Gary Douglass, of Sunderland, is effectively unable to come home to see his family amid his 28 days on, 28 days off shift pattern.

Mr Douglass, 51, would have to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel on his return to the UK, at a cost of £1,750.

"I'm pretty gutted to be honest with you," he told the PA news agency. "If it was 12 months ago I could accept it but the UAE and most other countries brought in restrictions there and then and the UK stayed open.

"So, why, 12 months down the line, are they putting in all these restrictions? We've been completely forgotten about."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We recognise the impact restrictions have on many people and are grateful for the public's continued efforts to comply with the rules and help us tackle this global pandemic."

01:54 PM

'Guernsey is barmy to extend its ban on cruise ships'

Cruise lines are plotting a return to British waters, but the Channel Island is banning passengers until 2022.

Jane Archer is baffled:

Just as there is a glimmer of hope that cruise lines might soon be allowed to resume sailing in UK waters, Guernsey goes and does a Canada, banning cruise ships for the rest of 2021.

Its reason – to protect residents from Covid – makes sense. Or it would if the island was also outlawing holidaymakers arriving by air or ferry for the rest of the year. But no. The Visit Guernsey website assures such visitors they will be “greeted with open arms” once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

Read more.

01:33 PM

Thailand considers allowing vaccinated tourists to skip quarantine

Officials in Thailand are now looking into the possibility of vaccine certificates following an order from Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha.

The local tourism industry is eager to kick-start the much struggling sector by scrapping quarantine for vaccinated tourists from as early as July 1 and has launched a campaign entitled #OpenThailandSafely; however neither a vaccine passport program nor a date have been confirmed.

The campaign has highlighted in particular the advantages of letting in tourists from countries such as the UK and the US, where many people have already been vaccinated.

01:22 PM

'Five life lessons I taught my children on holiday'

If this past year of home education has taught parents anything, it’s that not all classrooms have four walls. Judith Woods has certainly been reminded that the most worthwhile life lessons aren’t learnt sitting bolt upright at a desk or its 21st-century iteration: slouched in bed with a laptop and the curtains drawn.

Judith and her daughter at Machu Picchu in Peru, where a pisco turned her holiday sour
Judith and her daughter at Machu Picchu in Peru, where a pisco turned her holiday sour

She writes:

One joy of travel is that every day is a school day – and an effortless one at that. But for children, holidays are about so much more than art and architecture. Away from home, our offspring are not simply admiring (or sulkily pretending not to admire) the view. They are seeing – scrutinising, even – us, their parents, as we negotiate new places and engage with stressful situations. As a result, our infractions, shortcomings and tiny victories are as much on display as any grandly galleried Old Master – and judged far more harshly.

Read all about her five unexpected life lessons here.

01:02 PM

Portugal hopes to welcome back Britons in May, says tourism minister

Portugal hopes to be able to welcome UK visitors from May 17, the country's tourism minister Rita Marques told the BBC.

Ms Marques told BBC News:

For now, non-essential travel needs to be restricted. But I do believe that Portugal will soon allow restriction-free travel, not only for vaccinated people, but those who are immune or who test negative.

Portugal is currently on the UK's hotel quarantine red list. Read our guide on travel to Portugal.

12:57 PM

17 amazing UK campsites beside the sea

When the rules allow, why not escape to the coast and pitch up by the sea at a campsite. We have suggestions from Cornwall to Scotland, including:

Bryher Campsite, Isles of Scilly

bryher
bryher

Bryher Campsite enjoys lovely salty views of Hangman Island and Tresco, but its situation between two hills means it's relatively sheltered. During the summer Bryher can, in the right weather, feel like an other-worldly paradise, with a glorious sandy beach at Green Bay and a quieter cove at Rushy Bay for swimming. Facilities include lavatories and basins, with coin-operated showers, hair dryers, washing machines and tumble dryers. There are also fully equipped bell tents to rent, with kitchen and airbeds; £65 a night for four, £52 for two.

Where to eat: If you're looking for a cosy pub, try Fraggle Rock, but if you're tired of campfire cooking, treat yourself to local seafood on the outdoor bar at Hell Bay Hotel.

Price: £11.75pp per night, under 4s free

See the full list.

12:45 PM

Greece flight searches on the up as prices fall

Flight search engine Skyscanner has seen an untick in searches for trips to Greece over the past week.

zakynthos - iStock
zakynthos - iStock

Jon Thorne, from Skyscanner, says:

UK holidaymakers continue to react to announcements on travel. European short-haul destinations are the order of the day for the summer months, with searches for 2021 summer hotspot Greece increasing rapidly over the last week. It’s good news for those eager to get away this summer and book ahead as airlines look to be keeping prices low and flexible booking policies in place in order to entice travellers back to the skies.

Our analysis shows that average prices are up to 34 per cent lower compared to the same time last year, and up to 31 per cent cheaper than summer 2019.For those who prefer to wait until we have a clearer idea of dates, Skyscanner’s price alerts are a handy tool for being the first to know when flight prices drop on favourite destinations.

12:30 PM

Cyprus holiday options for this summer

Britons looking to book a holiday for later this year – particularly those who are on course to have received two doses by May –may now be looking more closely at trips to Cyprus. Thomas Cook has some suggestions:

Budget self-catering

Stay a week self-catering at the Stephanos Hotel Apartments in Polis, north of Paphos. Rooms are simple and traditional with a small kitchen area and the hotel has its own pool and bar.

Fly from London Stansted for a week from £220 per person (thomascook.com).

Rural retreat

Enjoy a week room only at the rural, boutique Leonidas Village Houses in the village of Goudi, about half an hour outside Paphos. The charming, rustic bolthole has a pool and kitchens in each room.

Fly from London Stansted on 4th July for a week from £275 per person: (thomascook.com).

12:14 PM

Saga cruise ship launch delayed until July 26

Saga has written to all of its customers booked on cruises and holidays to let them know they will delay their return to operations in light of the Government's lockdown exit strategy, reports Benjamin Parker.

Saga Holidays will return on May 17, more than two weeks after its planned return of May 1, while cruises won't be back before at least June 27, almost two months later than first planned. The decision means that the inaugural cruise of new ship Spirit of Adventure, originally due to depart on May 4, has now been pushed back until July 26.

A spokesman for Saga said: "The health and safety of our guests and crew has been our number one priority and throughout the pandemic we have made all decisions with their wellbeing in mind."

In January Saga became the first cruise line to announce it would require all passengers to be fully vaccinated in order to sail.

12:01 PM

Beautiful British hotels still with availability for the week of May 17

All being well, many British hotels will finally be able to fling open their doors on May 17. But with some favourites already booked and others still without a confirmed return date, travellers keen to get away will be looking for alternatives.

Emma Beaumont has selected five top spots to secure right now to ring in the return of hotels in style.

Country retreat

thyme
thyme

If you like... Heckfield Place, Hampshire

Try... Thyme, the Cotswolds

Hampshire’s forward-thinking estate Heckfield Place has limited space in the third week of May, so try fellow swish country pile Thyme, in the Cotswolds, instead. There’s plenty to explore in the self-styled ‘village within a village’, which includes a manor house, pub, restaurant and cookery school along with extensive grounds. This summer, the hotel will be handing out picnic blankets so guests can enjoy a glass of rose in the orchard before sitting down to supper. The heated springwater pool will be back in action, as will the Meadow Spa’s five treatment rooms. If you simply can’t wait until then, the estate has a crop of self-catering cottages, which are scheduled to reopen on April 12.

Doubles from £245; thyme.co.uk

Read the full story.

11:50 AM

Will I be able to go on holiday if I haven't been vaccinated?

In recent months it has moved from a hypothetical to a near-enough certainty that vaccine passports will be the key to opening up our holidays in the post-lockdown era.

A flurry of countries have outlined plans for accepting proof of vaccination as a way for holidaymakers to enter this summer, restriction-free.

However, the Seychelles has joined the likes of Greece in confirming that it will be open to visitors who haven't yet received both does.

Here's what you need to know about travel before vaccination.

11:28 AM

Try the Seychelles on an island-hopping itinerary

A confirmed reopening date for tourism in the Seychelles is a boon for long-haul operators. Among those welcoming the news is Tropical Sky Holidays.

Mags Longstaff, the company's programme director, said:

This is very welcome news and we expect many destinations to follow suit. Whilst some visitors were not fazed by the previous quarantine measures, the Seychelles is a destination that is best explored as part of a fabulous island hopping itinerary, which – under the new rules – is now entirely possible. We look forward to seeing this approach echoed in other destinations over the coming weeks and months

The company is offering the following deal:

Savings of £350 per person on a ten-night island hopping itinerary that combines Mahe, La Digue and Praslin, staying in a choice of four star properties. With this offer, the price starts from £2,249 per person, based on two sharing for departures in September 2021, including international flights into Mahe, transfers and ten nights accommodation on mixed board basis.

11:18 AM

Hundreds of thousands of passengers affected by cyber hack

A cyber attack has compromised hundreds of thousands of customers with Star Alliance airlines.

The attack targeted the IT systems of Airline communications and IT specialist Sita.

"After confirmation of the seriousness of the data security incident on February 24, 2021, SITA took immediate action to contact affected SITA PSS customers and all related organisations," SITA said in a statement.

"We recognise that the Covid-19 pandemic has raised concerns about security threats, and, at the same time, cyber-criminals have become more sophisticated and active. This was a highly sophisticated attack."

Sita informed Malaysia Airlines, Finnair and Jeju Air that passengers may have been affected by the breach. Air New Zealand has also been affected and its customers have been informed. Other Star Alliance member airlines include United Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Swiss, SAS and Croatia Airlines.

11:06 AM

What you need to know about travel to Cyprus

Cyprus has announced that it will begin welcoming vaccinated Britons from May 1.

While current restrictions in the UK still forbid most international travel, the Prime Minister's roadmap out of lockdown states that this ban will be lifted some two weeks later on May 17 (provided all goes according to schedule), making Cyprus one of the few potentially viable foreign holiday options this summer.

Here we explain the current rules on travel to the country.

cyprus
cyprus

11:03 AM

Why the Seychelles is the ultimate family holiday destination

The country will reopen to Britons, regardless of their vaccination status, from March 25 (although we'll have to wait until foreign holidays are permitted once more).

Michelle Jana Chan visited last year and found the Indian Ocean nation to be ideal for a family trip.

We spent quarantine snorkelling among the rocks, or paddleboarding and kayaking around the circuitous coastline. Back on land, the resident naturalist taught the children about the Aldabra giant tortoise, how its long neck could reach branches a metre from the ground; he pointed out the great frigatebirds, which cannot land on the sea or dive, so must attack other birds to steal their catches; and the graceful white-tailed tropicbirds, one of which we found nesting at the base of a tree, nervously staring back at my three curious children, who stood silenced in awe, a better reaction than to any Christmas present.

Above all, it is the profuse wildlife and abundant vegetation that makes the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands, stand apart from other paradises. On another day, at Anse Georgette, one of the most glorious beaches on Praslin, we spotted reef sharks and stingrays in the shallows. In the verdant forest backing on to the beach, we gently plucked giant Praslin snails from shiny leaves, catching ghost crabs in our hands, with friendly geckoes jumping from branches on to our bare skin; above, fruit bats soared against the strong blue skies, with their distinctive scalloped wings.

Read the full story.

10:41 AM

Etihad reports $1.7 billion annual loss

Abu Dhabi based Etihad Airways is still targeting a 2023 return to profit after posting a loss of $1.7 billion for 2020.

Passenger traffic plummeted by 76 per cent to 4.2 million and its annual operating revenue fell 52 per cent to $2.7 billion

It is the airline's fifth consecutive annual loss as it spent big to compete on market share with Gulf rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways.

10:29 AM

The most fascinating language you probably know nothing about

Like this Mediterranean island nation’s food and culture, it is a fusion of the influences that have passed this way in the last millennium, writes Juliet Rix.

The Maltese capital, Valletta - Getty
The Maltese capital, Valletta - Getty

Maltese, or Malti, has Arabic syntax and pronunciation, but it’s the only Semitic tongue to be written in Roman script, and more than half its vocabulary comes from Europe. For centuries it has picked up words from neighbouring Sicily and from the pan-European Knights of St John (the Knights of Malta), who ruled here for 250 years until the British took over in 1800 bringing the next linguistic twist.

Malta is bilingual – Maltese and English are both official languages. Day-to-day, they mix like milk and cereal – and yes, it occasionally gets a little soggy.

Read the full story.

10:15 AM

Epic 46-day river cruise takes inspiration from world cruises

If you have 46 days and £21,000 to spare, you now have the chance to tick off seven European rivers in one epic bucket-list holiday, reports Dave Monk.

AmaWaterways has revealed a brand-new trip that travels through 14 countries on four ships, leaving Paris on June 1, 2023. After seven nights on the Seine, travellers will take a TGV to Lyon to sail along the Rhône and Saône.

Transferring to Basel in Switzerland, they will spend three weeks on the Rhine to Amsterdam, then sail back along the Rhine and Moselle to Luxembourg. Next it’s along the Main to Nuremberg to spend the rest of the cruise on the Danube to Budapest and all the way to Romania and Bulgaria.

AwaWaterways president Rudi Schreiner told a CLIA virtual river conference: “We put this together because ocean world cruises are selling like hot cakes. Even without announcing it yet to the public, we have had so many past guests sign up for it that we are now looking at a second or even a third cruise.” The itinerary costs from £21,061 per person. More details of the trip are due to be released soon.

10:04 AM

The best private island hotels in the Seychelles

The Indian Ocean nation is set to reopen to visitors from March 25 and Britons may be mulling it over as a potential destination for when we're allowed to travel again.

Paula Hardy suggests it is a place where social distancing is a pleasure rather than a pain.

Among her recommended islands is:

Bird Island

Bird Island - Getty
Bird Island - Getty

A haven for thousands of fair terns and frigate birds, Bird is nature’s own island. There are few frills here – no spa, no air-conditioning, no golf buggies – just a rustic safari-style lodge and memorable guided walking tours with the resident island conservationist. Bird’s 24 detached chalets are large, with shady terraces and simple furnishings. Four-poster beds are protected by mosquito nets, and louvred window shutters on all sides allow the Indian Ocean breeze to do the cooling, assisted by ceiling fans. Food is served only at set meal times, and eaten in the communal lodge house restaurant.

Read the full guide.

09:55 AM

Ryanair to return to Belfast airport after 11 years

Ryanair has announced it will recommence flights from Belfast City Airport after a hiatus of 11 years.

It will run flights to and from eight destinations in mainland Spain, the Balearic islands and Italy between June and October.

The airline will offer up to seven flights a week to each of the following destinations:

  • Malaga

  • Mallorca

  • Faro

  • Alicante

  • Barcelona

  • Ibiza

  • Milan

  • Bergamo

  • Valencia

09:35 AM

Andalucía introduces Covid-19 insurance for visitors

Andalucía will offer Covid-19 travel insurance to international tourists staying in regulated accommodation in 2021.

The region's International Travel Insurance for non-resident travellers will be in place until December 31. Cover includes:

  • Medical, surgical and hospital expenses related to Covid, up to €4,000

  • Additional transportation and repatriation costs

  • The cost of an extended stay at regulated accommodation

Juan Marín, vice president of the regional government of Andalucía and minister of tourism, said: "The introduction of the International Travel Insurance for Andalucía has consolidated our preparedness to once again begin receiving tourists. Hospitality and tourism are vital to the local economy of Andalucía and the UK is an important source market for us; so it is with pleasure that we can confidently say we are in a position to welcome back our British visitors."

Find out what to Med destinations could look like this summer.

09:20 AM

CAA: 90pc of flights cancelled in pandemic have been refunded

The majority of passengers whose flights were cancelled during the pandemic have now been refunded, according to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

More than 95 per cent of refunds have now been paid to 20 million passengers whose flights were cancelled during the Covid crisis, Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the CAA, confirmed. The refunds totalled more than £3 billion.

Speaking to MPs on the transport select committee on Wednesday, Mr Moriarty said many of the major airlines were now at 100 per cent or 99 per cent refund levels. He said that some refunds were "less straightforward: due to problems such as bookings made via an online travel agency.

He added:

This is an enormously important issue for consumers and I appreciate that. In the early days of the pandemic airlines were overwhelmed with the scale of the issue; that’s one of the reasons we took action.

I’m not complacent, there are some refunds that still needs to be paid and these will often be more complicated cases.

09:08 AM

Replace travel corridors with testing, says industry campaign

The government should scrap the travel corridor regime that oversaw holidays last summer and replace it with a broader, more rigorous testing of passengers, according to the Save Our Summer campaign.

Nine in ten respondents to a new SOS survey of nearly 400 of the travel firms supporting the campaign said they did not want to see the same arrangements in place this summer, reports travel publication TTG.

The government’s travel corridor regime caused disruption for passengers and travel companies as countries were moved on and of the s were rolled on and off list, often at short notice.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency and co-founder of SOS, said:

Firms across travel and tourism are united in calling for the government to introduce widespread testing for arrivals instead, even if it means extra costs. This would enable travel to seamlessly start up safely and responsibly, in the same way schools are doing.

08:54 AM

Seychelles: reopening is the next step for economic recovery

The Seychelles has announced that it will be welcoming visitors from across the world, irrespective of their vaccination status, as from March 25, 2021.

The contribution of travel and tourism to the country's GDP is around 65 per cent.

seychelles - Getty
seychelles - Getty

These are the remaining restrictions after March 25:

  • Visitors will now only be required to present a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior to departure

  • There will be no quarantine requirement nor restriction on movement upon entry into Seychelles

  • Additionally, the minimum stay in establishments upon arrival will no longer be applicable

Sylvestre Radegonde, the Seychelles' minister for foreign affairs and tourism, said on Thursday:

The vaccination campaign has been quite successful. The government has done everything in its power to make sure that the population is protected. We have now arrived at the point where opening our borders further is the next step to allow for our economic recovery. The measures being announced reflect broadly the recommendation of our tourism partners and have been done in full consultation with and the endorsement of our health authorities.

08:41 AM

Staycation prices a third higher in holiday hotspots this year

The cost of staycations could be a third higher this year as British tourists look to have their first post-pandemic holidays.

A snapshot investigation by consumer group Which? showed that the cost of holiday lets in some of the UK’s most popular seaside locations had risen by a third on average, while some had soared even higher.

There have been warnings that, with foreign holidays off the table for many, there will be unprecedented demand for UK trips this summer, pushing prices up.

The Which? research tracked prices of 15 holiday lets listed on Airbnb and Vrbo for last summer when booked in May and June and compared them to the amount charged in February for this summer.

It found the price of one let in Brighton had soared by 140 per cent, from £53 a night to £127, with the average increase being 35 per cent.

Read the full story.

08:31 AM

What happened yesterday?

The main headlines from Thursday:

  • Bookings soar for Spanish holidays

  • British Airways launches rapid-result Covid tests

  • Ryanair promises year of low prices to boost holiday revival

  • 'Measures may not be enough’: Travel bosses react to yesterday’s budget announcement

  • Greece tightens travel restrictions

  • Italian ski resorts come to terms with a lost winter ski season

  • Hancock optimistic for 'great British summer'

  • Seychelles to reopen this month

Now onto today's news.