How I travelled to a green list country: tips from a travel professional

Jackie Steadman is the owner of TravelTime World, an independent travel agency and ABTA Member based in Hertfordshire. Back in May, Jackie travelled to a holiday destination on the green list, so here she explains how she prepared for her journey and offers her top tips for travelling to green list destinations.

How I prepared for my trip

Travelling is in my blood and I’m used to travelling a lot, so I was really excited to finally do so again. There’s nothing better than the buzz of the airport and being able to buy things I don’t normally do, such as local foods and crafts. But I was mostly looking forward to enjoying the sun and being out and about. 

In preparation for my trip, I visited the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) website to find out the entry requirements for the country I was visiting. As I was travelling to Portugal (which was on the green list at the time), I read that I needed to take a test before I left using a private testing provider and fill out Portugal’s ‘Passenger Locator Card’ as requested by the Portuguese authorities. This documentation was then checked by my airline when I checked-in for my flight. Each destination has its own requirements when travelling to the country, and they will change over time, so make sure you check what applies to you and your holiday by reading the FCDO advice and checking with a travel professional.

I also checked what the requirements would be for my return journey to the UK by referring to the Government’s Traffic Light system. As I was travelling from a green list destination, that meant I wouldn’t need to quarantine in the UK on my return, but I would need to take a pre-departure test up to 72 hours before my return journey and book and pay for a second PCR test to be taken by day two of my return. These tests need to be supplied by an approved private testing provider, so you can’t use any of the free tests currently being offered by the NHS. 

You can find more guidance on the Traffic Light system at ABTA’s Government requirements for travel page or by speaking with an ABTA Member travel provider.

The journey experience

I flew from Luton Airport and the experience was much as I had expected; there were standard COVID-19 protocols that you’d expect in any indoor area in the UK, such as the use of face coverings, social distancing and hand sanitiser. 

Check-in was relatively quick and easy, and after going through security we boarded the plane from the last row forward, in order to avoid crowding and ensure social distancing. 
The in-flight experience was also as I expected, with face coverings worn for the duration of the flight, except when eating or drinking. There was a full trolley service and even duty free.

Arriving at Faro airport, everything was very quick and efficiently done, since I had already filled out the ‘Passenger Locator Card’ online and all the custom desks were open, ready to greet all passengers.

My experience while away

Arriving in the hot sunshine, it felt wonderful to be on holiday again after such a long time. We were warmly greeted by the locals who were delighted to welcome the first waves of tourists for the summer season.

I had already researched the local coronavirus protocols while preparing for my trip, so I knew that I would need to wear a face covering in crowded areas and practise social distancing at all times. 

I stayed in a self-catering villa, but also visited hotels and dined out often. We wore face coverings when walking around indoors and took them off when sitting down to enjoy a nice meal or have a relaxing drink in one of the beach bars. 

Finally enjoying some time on the beach, the only time I needed to wear a face covering was when walking to the area I settled in. Obviously, I didn’t need to wear a face covering when swimming, snorkelling or kayaking. As the Algarve is so much more than a fly and flop destination, we also went on a boat trip to a beautiful cave, which was such an exhilarating experience after so many months of confinement!

While travelling around Portugal and in the resorts, the local guidance didn’t distract from the enjoyment of being on holiday at all.

Coming back to the UK

Before I left for the UK, I needed to take my pre-departure test up to 72 hours before my flight. This can be either an antigen test or a PCR test and I arranged mine via one of the approved private testing providers in the UK before I left for my holiday. This meant I had packed the test kit with me and took the test as part of a video appointment with my test provider.  

I also needed to complete the UK’s ‘Passenger Locator Form’ up to 48 hours before my flight. This included adding the reference number for my second PCR test on day two of my return, which I was sent when I booked with the private testing provider.

With all my paperwork done, the return journey was again pretty smooth. There were very small queues upon arrival at Luton Airport, all the custom desks were open as well and it took me about half an hour between the aircraft landing and getting to the car at the car park. On day two after returning to the UK, I took the PCR test I had already booked which returned a negative result. 

While there were some additional steps to consider for this holiday, it was definitely worth it to be able to travel abroad again after so long. I’m looking forward to passing on this knowledge to my clients so they can enjoy their long-awaited holidays this year too.

For more information on travelling during the pandemic, visit abta.com/readysteadytravel.