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Expert Simon Calder answers your questions on travel restrictions around Europe

As early February begins, invitations to share private jet flights to destinations as diverse as Australia and Blackpool flood in to the travel desk of The Independent. But the travel correspondent declined all offers of lavish, taxpayer-funded transport in favour of answering pressing questions on the constantly changing test requirements across Europe and beyond.

Risks in France

Q: I have booked to travel to Disneyland Paris for February half term. All our vaccines and boosters are up to date. Do you think it’s a good time to visit Disneyland Paris with Covid cases so high in France at the moment?

I’m worried about Covid safety on the plane and at the airport, and at Disneyland Paris. Do you think that having a vaccine passport, a Covid test within 24 hours of arrival and signing a sworn declaration should make it safer? Or should I change my date for the sixth time? I was thinking of rebooking for October 2022.


A: Omicron is now so embedded everywhere in Europe that I cannot honestly say that any trip can be close to risk-free. On Thursday, France reported 270,000 new Covid cases, around three times higher than the UK rate for the same day. All other things being equal, you are plainly at higher risk of contracting coronavirus in France than you are in the UK. Bear in mind that Covid rates are decreasing at a reasonable rate. But let me take each part of your trip in turn.

Airport: since my first “Covid-era” flight in June 2020, I have been conscious that some of the bottlenecks in the airport experience can present a risk.

On the plane itself: well, everyone will have taken a lateral flow test before boarding, which should shrink the risk. The air conditioning on aircraft is pretty effective and everyone is supposed to wear a mask.

Transport to Disneyland: whether you take a taxi, a coach or the train, you will be at some risk, but mask wearing (in my experience) is rigorously respected and enforced in France.

Disney, like other big organisations, has its own protocols aimed at minimising risk – as will your hotel. But no one will claim to be perfect.

If you have special reasons for protecting against infection, you should certainly defer. But I am heading over to France next week accepting the risk of contracting Covid-19 (while of course observing all the rules and being sensible). I’d rather catch the virus while having some fun. And you should be able to enjoy the theme park while it is relatively empty.

One final point: the 24-hour window before departure for a Covid test for France has now been doubled to 48 hours.

Spain pain

Q: Any chance of Spain relaxing its rule before February half term that only fully vaccinated visitors from UK are allowed into the country? Lots of families are going to miss out as they have not been able to get children fully vaccinated in time.

Andrew C

A: It’s awful. I feel enormous sympathy for families. A week ahead of half-term for many families, Spain has spelt out that anyone aged 12 or over must be fully vaccinated: “They cannot enter with a diagnostic test or a recovery certificate.” I fear I cannot see that changing in the next eight days.

App trap

Q: We are due to travel to France for half term with our 12-year-old. He has one vaccine and has recovered from Covid recovery. The much promised addition of children aged 12-15 to the NHS app seems to only apply to those who are 13-plus. Any advice on how to get round this please?

L Spires

A: Normally I try to replicate the online process, but since I don’t have any children aged 12 to 15 I am not in a position to do this – but given that evidence has been promised I imagine it will be along any hour now.

One possible issue I can foresee is that while your 12 year old can happily enter France with you, his travel options will be limited without proof of being double jabbed. It may be necessary for him to take daily tests. The travel desk of The Independent will be doing all it can to provide up-to-date information.

Testing times

Q: I am planning a short trip to Paris this month. Would you be able to recommend any good testing companies that offer decent rates for PCR or antigen tests which I now believe are required to enter France as I have seen NHS tests are not accepted?

And am I right in thinking that if I return within 48 hours of my departure?

Jake O

A: For France you need proof of vaccination and a lateral flow test, best taken at the airport or railway station (about £30) before departure.

There is no “48 hour” allowance when you come back, but no test will be required for return to the UK for fully vaccinated travellers from 11 February.

On form

Q: If you submit your passenger locator form to return to UK travel form exactly 48 hours prior to departure, what happens if your flight is delayed or suspended.


A: The exact rule from the British government is: “You can submit the form any time in the 48 hours before you arrive in the UK. The deciding factor is the time that the train. boat or plane is scheduled to arrive in the UK. The test you must pass is: will the rail or ferry firm, or airline, accept your form before you depart for the UK? I cannot see circumstances when a delay of a few hours – or even a few day – would constitute a problem.

From some time in February, by the way, the window for completion is set to extend from 48 to 72 hours.

Q: For those without smart phones or access to computers, how are they meant to complete PLF forms while they’re away? A relative is not tech-savvy at all and so I assume will be being turned away at the airport?


A: He or she will need to enlist some help. The easiest way is for you to complete the form for them and then email it to the hotel reception so they can print it out for your relative. Can be done 48 hours ahead (or 72 hours ahead from later this month).

Cyprus conditions

Q: What will be the conditions for entry into Cyprus from March please? We are triple jabbed.

Lyca 123

A: Please don’t think I’m being impolite, but my honest answer is: I have no idea. It’s almost four weeks away. At present you need a rapid antigen test taken in the 24 hours before departure. On arrival, there is a PCR test at the airport at your expense (€15-€19). You must self-isolate in your accommodation until the result is available.

Turkish delight

Q: On Wednesday I’m travelling to Istanbul for a week. I am fully vaccinated. And I am very excited. I’m also planning to take a long weekend in Europe at the end of February too – somewhere where I don’t need to take an antigen test.

Are there any extra restrictions you’re aware of in relation to previously travelling to Turkey, returning home, then travelling to another country a week or so after? Or does the fact I return home make everything OK?

“James of Port”

A: How lovely to be in Istanbul. While you can expect Turkey’s largest city to be cold (right now the temperature is barely above freezing), it will be beautiful and welcoming – and almost empty of tourists. Before the Covid crisis, at this time of year there would be a lot of visitors from Asia in Istanbul (and other great European cities), taking advantage of low-season prices. They are absent this winter, which is a cause of considerable concern. But it means you will have the city to yourself, from a tourism point of view.

Generally countries want to know where you have been over the past 10 days or two weeks. The German passenger locator form, for example, wants this information at the very start of the process. And returning home to the UK does not erase your record.

Some people may choose to omit details of previous trips, often because they can’t be bothered rather than because they are seeking to conceal the information. But given than frontier officials can easily check from the stamps in your passport, this is a foolish approach.

As new Covid infection rates in Turkey are currently about the same as in the UK (and much lower than, for example, France), I don’t suppose any countries will have a problem with your visit to Turkey. But as always in these uncertain days, I recommend that you book your next trip close to departure – just in case (heaven forbid) a new variant of concern is traced to Turkey.

Italian connections

Q: If I take a lateral flow test 24 hours before flying, when is it valid for? Departure from UK or arrival in Italy? I’m concerned that the test becomes out of time whilst in the air and I can’t enter.

No-one seems to have the answer to this.

Traveller 2

A: I have the answer. All British visitors to Italy must take a lateral flow (rapid antigen) test in the 24 hours before arrival – or a slower, more expensive PCR within 48 hours.

Tests must be taken by all arriving travellers aged seven or over.

Q: We are visiting Italy in May and TUI have assured me that the 180-day vaccine rule only applies to double jabbed individuals and because we are boosted we are exempt from the rule and will have no problem entering Italy and venues within.

I am not too confident in their response. What would your interpretation of the new rules be?


A: My interpretation is that the booster has no time limit and, according to the rules at the moment, Tui is quite correct. But who knows what the rules may be by May?

Q: My holiday is in Italy is booked to commence on 22 June. I had my booster jab on 17 November. As it stands will I be refused entry to bars and restaurants?


A: One of the latest twists of the travel knife is that boosters need to be less than six months old for travel to Italy. If everything were to stay the same, you would indeed face problems. But by the summer, everything will be different. And easier. So please don’t fret about it at the moment.

Q: I am planning to travel to Italy in April but I could fall foul of the tricky rules. Fares are rising. Should I book my flight now and hope for the best?Pam

A: I would wait until a week or so before departure. You may see fares increase further but it is better than being caught up in an unsuitable booking,

Germany guesses

Q: We would like to travel to Germany in the summer and my understanding of current rules is that over 12s need to be fully vaccinated.

My daughter is currently 11 and will be turning 12 in August when we are likely to be away.

Assuming no change to the UK vaccination age rules is there a period of grace to allow her to travel unvaccinated?

And practically how are the vaccine rules enforced – is it just at the point of entry or would proof be required for entry to museums/ eating out etc? And how would it work if we were to be driving through France and Belgium to get there?


A: At the risk of sounding unhelpful, the rules for entering Germany in August are likely to be entirely different from the current regulations. Ditto transiting Belgium and France (which, by the way, I recommend doing by train rather than car). So practice “Masterful Inactivity” – ie do nothing for now.

Swiss swerve

Q: I am flying into Basel and I am visiting Switzerland. However I am confused whether I need to comply with French or Swiss Covid regulations on entry.

Do I need to do passenger locator forms for both countries? Is passport control French or Swiss? Or are you allowed to choose? Am I classed as a transit passenger? On the UK PLF on my return, do I put that I have been in both countries?

Hopefully you can help a confused traveller.

Rob Mc

A: In normal times you can opt to leave Basel airport either into France or Switzerland. But currently the French, in whose territory Basel airport is located, insist that you comply with the rules for both countries, even though you will (presumably) opt for Swiss passport control.

Annoyingly this could mean you have to take a pre-departure test for the pleasure of spending about 10 minutes within French territory.

You should say you have been in both on your passenger locator form to return to the UK. This will be slightly tedious but not a problem.

Road to Morocco

Q: I am travelling to Morocco on 24 February. The passenger form (ONDA) asks for “last dose of vaccine date” – is that booster date or date of second dose? I am fully vaxxed and boosted!


A: Morocco is set to open to British visitors from Monday, 7 February, after a closure of 16 weeks. It looks to me that the 2nd dose is the one to reference – but please take out NHS certificates of all three of your jabs, just in case.

Rock tour

Q: What’s the latest with Gibraltar. We are travelling to Spain via Gibraltar for half term, we will be transiting through but it says we have to do a paid lateral flow test at the airport. What is the point of this when we are triple vaxxed and it’s a UK territory? Spain doesn’t have any such requirements.


A: As you probably know, Gibraltar airport is right beside the Spanish frontier. You could walk from the airport terminal into Spain in about two minutes. But the Gibraltar government requires you to take a test on the day you land – immediately on arrival if you intend to go straight across the border.

As I have previously mentioned, any journey that involves more than one foreign country is likely to trigger extra complexity. But if as you are going to Gibraltar anyway, I hope I can persuade you to spend more than just a few minutes in the British Overseas Territory. I recently made a 48 Hours film there.

Passport possibilities

Q: If I get a new passport, does the EU “90 in 180 day” rule reset?

B Cleeve

A: Legally, no. The rule you refer to is one of the Brexit consequences. Rather than going to any European Union country for as long as you like, British passport holders are limited to a maximum of 90 days (about three months) in any 180 (six months).

The way this is currently calculated is by the very analogue manner of stamps in the passport. So some people might try to stretch their stay with the help of a second or renewed passport.

But remember that the Schengen Information System – the EU database for incoming travellers – is under development and could be deployed any time now.

Happy ending

Q: We have a flight booked with BA in April as part of a holiday package. Our return flight from Los Angeles to London Heathrow has been changed so it is now five hours earlier then when originally booked, meaning we now have an eight-hour wait at Heathrow for our connection to Manchester.

We could drive or get the train quicker back home. A five-hour change is a huge difference. Is that reasonable? Do you know what my rights are and do we have to accept it? I’d like BA to put us on a later flight from Los Angeles on the same day or fly the next day. I have been trying since Sunday to call BA and cannot get through.

Alex Irwin

A: Keep going with your calls. I got through to British Airways earlier this week in under half-an-hour. Annoyingly, holiday bookings are often impossible to adjust online. When you finally get through, you could ask if you could be routed back on American Airlines, BA’s alliance partner.

Shortly afterwards, Alex gave an update: “BA have just called and amended to return a day later, extended car hire at no extra cost! Credit where it is due.”

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