Coronavirus: Is it safe to go on a UK holiday and how can I travel?
Day trips are now permitted within England, and there is plenty of speculation about when overnight stays might be permitted once again.
Travelling around Britain, though, remains complicated and largely against the rules– especially for people without cars.
This is what we know, what we think we know, and what we predict.
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When can I go on holiday in the UK?
If your definition of a holiday is staying overnight somewhere other than your principle home, no.
The government says: “Leaving your home – the place you live – to stay at another home for a holiday or other purpose is not allowed.
“This includes visiting second homes.”
But I’ve been locked down in my second home. Can I go back to my main residence now?
Technically, no. The government says the only circumstances when this is permissible is if a student is moving permanently to live back at their family home.
Can I go camping or sleep in a caravan?
No, that would count as “another home” and is not permitted. The Caravan Club says: “We are planning on the assumption that we will be able to introduce a phased reopening of our sites network during July.”
Nor is wild camping permitted.
So what can I do to reacquaint myself with travel?
If you are in England, you can take a day trip to the great outdoors. “You can travel to outdoor open space irrespective of distance,” says the government.
But you cannot stray across the borders of Wales or Scotland; those nations, as well as Northern Ireland, are maintaining their “stay at home” message. So much of the following information at present applies only in England.
How can I travel for fun?
Walking, cycling or travelling in your own car. Although inter-city trains are being ramped up to a near-normal service, social distancing measures on board trains have reduced capacity sharply: by 75 per cent according to Avanti West Coast, 80 per cent by LNER’s reckoning and 90 per cent in the transport secretary’s books.
So there is no room for day-trippers or tourists. The only people who can use trains are those who cannot work from home and must travel to work, and those who must make an essential journeys.
Avanti West Coast says: "It’s vital that you only use our trains if you have an essential journey with no alternative travel options." Anyone who does need to use a long-distance train should make a reservation.
Travelling for fun does not count.
Since travelling by bike or car is far more dangerous than by train, reducing risk of contracting coronavirus has the unintended consequence of increasing the likelihood of harm in an accident.
National Express says: "A restricted timetable is currently scheduled to resume from Wednesday 1 July 2020." The long-distance coach firm plans a skeleton network serving key destinations from central London and Heathrow airport, with a few cross-country services including Liverpool to Leeds and Bristol to Nottingham.
Megabus is running some services in Scotland, which under Scottish government rules cannot be used for leisure travel: "You must stay at home, do not travel unless for food, health and essential work."
What about carsharing or hitchhiking?
The government says: “If you have to travel with people outside your household group, try to share the transport with the same people each time and keep to small groups of people at any one time.”
Hitchhiking is not technically banned but a Twitter poll revealed that four out of five respondents believed thumbing a ride was irresponsible – and only 15 per cent of drivers did not condemn it.
When will we be allowed on holiday in the UK?
All the signs are that England will be first to open up. Center Parcs currently plans to reopen its villages in England, including Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire, on 12 June. Many businesses are working towards early July. But some parts of the country – particularly islands – could be slower.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are working at a different pace, and may well institute – as with England – domestic tourism first.
What happens if I decide to break the rules?
“If the police believe that you have broken the law – or if you refuse to follow their instructions enforcing the law – a police officer may issue you with a fixed penalty notice of £100 (reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days),” says the government. And if you are a repeat offender, the penalty increases exponentially.
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