Will Turkey become the new ‘red list’ launderette?

·2-min read
Cheap and cheerful: Istanbul is an excellent choice for UK-bound travellers from Asia and Africa to launder their red list status (Simon Calder)
Cheap and cheerful: Istanbul is an excellent choice for UK-bound travellers from Asia and Africa to launder their red list status (Simon Calder)

Turkey could become the “quarantine launderette” of choice for travellers seeking to reach the UK from red list countries.

It was among eight nations, including Egypt, Sri Lanka and Kenya, removed from the UK’s highest risk category on Wednesday. Hotel quarantine is no longer obligatory for arrivals, and travellers fully vaccinated in one of 55 countries approved by the UK need not self-isolate at home from 4 October (they can already avoid quarantine if vaccinated in the UK, EU or US).

But despite the reduction of red list nations, the UK still requires hotel quarantine – at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers – from 54 countries. Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Africa and much of Latin America remain on the red list.

Increasingly, many travellers are legally avoiding hotel quarantine by spending 10 full days in a third country on the amber or green list before continuing to the UK.

While France, Germany and the Netherlands have good air links, they also have relatively high costs for travellers.

In contrast, Turkey is a relatively low-cost location. Comparing rates for a Holiday Inn, Istanbul’s Old City is quoting only €72 for a double room, compared with €86 in Frankfurt, €105 in Amsterdam and €185 in Paris.

A couple who spent 11 nights in Istanbul’s Old City would pay the equivalent of £676 for accommodation, compared with £3,715 for hotel quarantine in the UK– though that cost includes three meals a day.

Istanbul also has the best-connected airport in the world. Turkish Airlines serves more countries than any other carrier. It has daily flights from dozens of cities in nations on the UK’s red list – including Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta in Asia, and Addis Ababa, Tunis and Zanzibar in Africa.

Passengers departing from Brazil, South Africa or Nepal are currently banned from entering Turkey. “However, there is no obstacle for the passengers travelling from these countries to have a transit flight via Turkey,” says Turkish Airlines – which is continuing flights.

Connections from Turkey’s largest city to resort areas are readily available at very low fares, with Pegasus charging an average of £20 one-way from Istanbul to Bodrum, Dalaman or Antalya.

Travellers can then continue direct from the coast to the UK after spending 10 full days in Turkey on a range of direct Jet2 flights.

The Leeds-based airline is offering links this autumn from Antalya or Dalaman to Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle and Stansted.

In addition easyJet is continuing services, with an Antalya-Manchester flight on 19 October priced at just £41 one way.

While Turkey provides an alternative to quarantine for travellers vaccinated in the UK, European Union and US, people who have been vaccinated in Turkey must still self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in Britain.

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