It’s finally happening: May 31 marks our first chance for a half-term holiday spent abroad in many moons.
But where to book? Assuming Boris Johnson sticks to the roadmap and foreign travel is permitted by May 17, much hangs on the ‘traffic light’ system, expected to be unveiled by May 10, and which destinations will be on the ‘green’ list by then.
Green-listed countries and islands will mean no need to quarantine upon return, and only two tests required (one 72 hours before getting back to England, and another upon arrival; the latter possibly being free).
While nothing is certain at this stage, Telegraph Travel has been crunching the numbers to assess which destinations look the most likely to be green-listed. And from Europe to the Caribbean, some nations aren’t even requiring a negative test anymore, nor proof of vaccination.
Here are your most promising options for the upcoming May half term.
Where can I go on holiday for May half-term?
Spain is top of the list for British holidaymakers in terms of popularity, and the feelings are mutual – its tourism minister said this week that they are “desperate” to welcome us back this summer.
The good news is that Spanish Government has confirmed that it will allow British holidaymakers to enter by June. Fernando Valdes Verelst, the Spanish tourism minister, said on April 27 that a ‘vaccine passport’ will allow Britons to visit.
Those who have not received two doses of a vaccination will likely either need to take PCR tests prior to arrival, or have certification to prove their immunity to Covid-19.
The bad news is that Spain isn’t likely to make Britain’s green list yet, on account of a recent case rate five times that ours (128 per 100,000 over the last seven days; compared to the UK’s: 24 per 100,000). Spain also falls just short in terms of the number of people who have had their first vaccination (26.9 per cent to date). The UK’s threshold for green list status is thought to be 30 per cent.
However, there’s still time for Spain to catch up and Grant Shapps has hinted that islands could be assessed separately from the mainland; meaning the Balearic and Canaries, including the likes of Ibiza, Majorca and Tenerife, could yet be green-listed – all islands that generally have much lower case rates than the mainland.
For the meantime, though, in the words of Shapps himself yesterday: “Spain specifically, I’m afraid I just don’t have the answer [regarding its traffic light status] because the Joint Biosecurity Centre will need to come up with their assessment and we can’t do that until a bit nearer the time. So we will need to wait and see.”
Portugal could well make the green list if it continues in the current trajectory, as the country’s average daily case rate remains consistently below 500.
Even if the mainland doesn’t make the cut (possibly due to its land border with Spain), Portugal’s islands could well be rated independently. In which case the Azores could be a contender for the green list, along with Madeira, the latter of which is already welcoming travellers who can provide evidence of vaccination.
Meanwhile, Portugal’s vaccine drive is continuing apace, with 24.6 per cent of its population having had their first inoculation, not too far behind the UK.
Greece, too, is eagerly awaiting the return of British tourists, and will open to the UK from May 17, provided visitors have proof of vaccination or a negative test.
Its current nationwide figures, however, probably won’t qualify for the green list. Greece has inoculated just 15.8 per cent of its population thus far, and its recent seven-day case rate is 159 infections per 100,000; six times that of Britain.
Once again, however, its islands could spell a different story, and Greece is already onto this, having launched a major campaign to fully vaccinate people living on 85 islands with more than 10,000 inhabitants by May 17.
Malta is a strong contender for the green list, with a high vaccination rate – 49.3 per cent of its population has had a first dose. Its case rate of 44 per 100,000 in the last week is also falling. And the country has confirmed it will reopen to vaccinated Britons from June 1.
Tolene Van Der Merwe, Malta Tourism Authority director UK and Ireland, said: “The people of Malta are looking forward to tourists returning who have loved our sunshine, culture, food and warm spirit year in year out.
“Malta has implemented its ‘Sunny and Safe’ Covid protocols so visitors can be reassured all restaurants, accommodation and service providers must comply with the highest levels of cleanliness and safety.”
Oft-overlooked but with plenty of Mediterranean charm, Israel is light-years ahead in terms of its vaccination drive. More than 82.5 per cent of the adult population has received a first dose, and 77.7 per cent are fully vaccinated. Moreover, its seven-day case rate is just 9.9 per 100,000; nearly half that of ours, almost guaranteeing it a spot on the UK’s green list.
Israel has also conducted a ‘world class experiment’ in vaccine passports, enabling citizens to enjoy a (relatively) normal life if they’ve been jabbed. Crucially, it has also said that vaccinated holidaymakers will be welcomed after May 23, though they will need to take a pre-departure PCR test. For those with proof of full inoculation, there will be no need to quarantine – nor (if the current rules remain) to wear a mask indoors. There is no curfew and beaches are open – with no requirement to mask-up.
Gibraltar has a lot going for it in terms of its Covid status, with the most comprehensive vaccination campaign of anywhere in the world – 100 per cent of the population having received a first dose. Its current seven-day case rate is the same as ours (24 per 100,000). It also had a good track record for keeping cases low last year too, and was the last remaining option for a quarantine-free holiday in 2020.
Bars and restaurants are open again in Gibraltar and face masks are only required on public transport. What’s more, British Airways has just launched direct flights from London City starting from June 25 – another optimistic indication that The Rock will feature on the green list.