This week, British holidaymakers received news that has been eight months in the making. For the first time since May 17 last year, we can go on holiday and return to the UK without taking a single Covid-19 test.
For adults, full vaccination is required to avoid day-two tests; under-18s are treated the same as jabbed adults. Things have also become easier for unvaccinated travellers, who need only take a day-two lateral flow test on arrival back in the UK without the need to quarantine.
As of February 11, when the new rules come into effect, entirely test-free holidays will again be possible. And what a welcome return it will be, flipping the focus away from expensive, tedious testing logistics and allowing us to zone in on what matters: having a relaxing, enlightening break abroad.
So where to go? A few dozen countries let fully vaccinated UK travellers enter without a swab, among them Turkey and Egypt, plus further-flung destinations such as the Dominican Republic and Peru. Switzerland is the only test-free ski option, while some destinations, such as Mexico and Costa Rica, require evidence of neither vaccination nor test to enter.
As always with Covid-era travel, however, the fine print is key. In many destinations, a Covid Pass (activated with either full vaccination or a negative test) is needed to enter indoor venues; in others, a booster shot is required for entry. For more information on this, see our country-by-country guide to travel rules.
But right now, the forecast for holidays in 2022 is looking brighter than ever. So dig out your suitcase and dust off your swimsuit: test-free travel is back.
For a last-minute half-term break
Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that the removal of day-two testing restrictions will come into effect from Friday February 11, just in time for the half-term break. While some of our favourite holiday spots – such as Spain, Turkey and Croatia – feature among the test-free destinations, to find sun in mid-February you will have to look further afield. Alternatively, there is still scope for some late-season skiing in the mountains of Switzerland.
Egypt won’t be showcasing its signature bathtub-warm sea waters quite yet, but it is the closest place to home that will reliably offer some heat over half term and has plenty to offer families.
Temperatures in the Red Sea resort destination of Hurghada, for example, will be in the low to mid 20s. However, the only snag is that if you are visiting with unvaccinated little ones aged 12 and above, a test will be required.
If you do decide to go this half term, the rewards will be great. Egypt’s Red Sea has some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world, hosting a kaleidoscope of sea life from banana-yellow butterfly fish to luminescent angelfish. If you get tired of all the swimming and sunbathing, not far inland from the major resorts you will find the vast desert, where sand boarding and camel ride excursions are guaranteed to keep the children entertained, and the Pyramids will give them a holiday with a history lesson attached.
Proof of full vaccination (aged 12 and over) or a negative PCR result. A paper health declaration (issued by airline or on arrival). For full information see gov.uk.
For half term, Thomas Cook has a full-board option at Robinson Soma Bay in Hurghada. Seven nights departing Feb 12 costs £4,506 based on a family of four staying in a family suite, flights included (020 8016 3295; thomascook.com).
Tui has a seven-night holiday at the Coral Sea Aqua Club resort in Sharm El Sheikh. A suite with a balcony costs £6,132 for a family of four, flights depart February 12 (0203 451 2716; tui.co.uk).
For now the Dominican Republic is your best option for a test-free holiday in the Caribbean, although we can expect the big-hitters to follow once test-free travel becomes the status quo. Throughout the pandemic, the tourist-dependent Caribbean islands have been keen to do everything they can to lure in prospective visitors. In the meantime, the Dominican Republic is a great bet for families with older, vaccinated children, since all arrivals over the age of seven must otherwise take a test.
Expect highs of 28 and lows of 22 in February, with few showers and clear blue skies. Prices will be relatively low, with plenty of package operators offering rates well below £1,500pp for seven nights away.
Proof of vaccination (aged seven and above) or a negative PCR test. No requirements for children under seven. For full information see gov.uk.
Love Holidays has a seven-night holiday at Vista Sol Punta Cana Beach Resort & Spa in Dominican Republic from £1,346pp, flights included (loveholidays.com).
Tropical Sky has a seven-night stay at the boutique five-star Zoetry Agua Punta Cana. Prices from £1,100pp based on two adults sharing on an all-inclusive basis, travelling March with return flights (01342 547010; tropicalsky.co.uk)
Tui has a seven-night holiday at the 5T Tui Blue Sensatori Cap Cana on an all-inclusive basis. Prices from £1,402pp, based on two adults sharing, departing from Manchester on February 14 (0203 451 2716; tui.co.uk).
If it is snow you are after, Switzerland should be at the top of your list. It is by far the easiest option for late-season, test-free family skiing this winter, after the Swiss government last Saturday dropped all testing requirements for vaccinated adults and children under 16.
Where to go? Andermatt sits in a wonderful position for gathering snow, at a confluence of valleys close to the northern side of the Alps. The altitude helps. On Gemsstock, one of the two mountains in the region, most of the slopes are at 2,000-3,000m (6,550-9,840ft). There is typically good-quality snow here when conditions in the Valais region (home to many of Switzerland’s major resorts, including Verbier) have been mediocre.
Proof of full vaccination for over-18s. Children under 16 can enter if accompanied by a fully vaccinated parent, as can unvaccinated 16- to 18-year-olds who must take a test. Fill in an entry form before arrival. For full information see gov.uk.
Sno offers seven nights’ half-board at the three-star Hotel Belvedere in family-friendly Wengen, just five minutes’ walk to the lift, with children’s playroom, for £1,687pp, departing 19 February and including flights and transfers. (020 7770 6888; sno.co.uk).
Momentum Ski (020 7371 9111; momentumski.com) offers Hotel Olympic, with a traditional Swiss restaurant on-site, from £895 B&B. Departs February 3, 2022.
Ski Solutions offers the Hotel Schweizerhof in Andermatt, centrally located with a rooftop spa, from £2,200pp departing February 12 (020 3627 1605; skisolutions.com).
For a far-flung adventure
If you have been delaying that big, life-affirming adventure, the easing of testing restrictions makes now as good a time as any to take the plunge. There are plenty of Central and South American destinations with no test requirements whatsoever, including Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and Panama. If you do decide to make 2022 the year of that big trip, be sure to book with an Atol-protected package tour operator so your money is safe: most have generous and flexible rebooking policies if you have a last-minute change of plans.
If you are fully vaccinated, you can visit Peru without any tests. (Over-50s must have had a booster to enter.) Slightly oddly, you will have to wear not just one face mask but two on the flight there. But once you have arrived, one of South America’s most exhilarating and varied destinations – with its ancient ruins and wildlife-rich jungle interior – awaits.
The best time of year to visit Peru is the dry season, which falls between May and October and comes with bright days and chilly nights. This being peak season, it is a sensible idea to book your chosen tour early to avoid disappointment. For something a bit different, consider a night at StarDome, a brand new mountaintop retreat in the Sacred Valley (stardomeperu.com; accepts bookings from Feb 1).
Proof of full vaccination or a negative test for all passengers aged 12 or older. Booster shots if you are aged 50-plus, or a negative PCR test. Complete an affidavit before travel. For full information see gov.uk.
Intrepid has a nine-day Peru Family Holiday taking in Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Amazon, departing July 23 and Aug 6. Prices from £2,065 per adult, excluding flights (0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.com).
Ramblers Walking Holidays has a 17-night Six Faces of Peru itinerary, with prices starting from £3,880pp including flights. Departs Sept 2022, with availability in 2023 (01707 818705; ramblersholidays.co.uk).
Exodus has a 15-day trip to the Lost City of Choquequirao escapes the crowds and takes in one of the more unique treks in the country. Prices from £2,949pp including flights. Departures in June, August, September and October (020 313 12785; exodus.co.uk).
Mexico is about as stress-free as a holiday gets these days, since it welcomes Britons without any vaccination or test requirements. This, combined with the delightful climate (Cancun has temperatures in the high 20s in February) make it a splendid option for a family getaway – possibly over half term, if you are keen to book something last minute.
You may, forgivably, opt for an east coast all-inclusive resort and barely leave the poolside. However, if you have an itch to see a bit more, what awaits is one of the most effervescent countries on the planet, with a rich native culture, unbeatable cuisine and a powerhouse capital city at the cutting edge of art, design, architecture, music and fashion.
No vaccine or test required for children or adults. Register your arrival using the Mexico Vuela Seguro Platform. For full information see gov.uk.
If you are looking to splurge, Virgin Holidays has a seven-night half-term option in the luxury Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita in Cancun, from £3,276 pp staying in a master suite (0344 472 9646; virginholidays.co.uk)
Set in an unparalleled location, the Hotel Esencia is a 50-minute drive from Cancun and 30 minutes from Tulum. Nightly rates in the new Rooftop Wellness Suites start from $1,080 (£802) per night, including sunrise yoga plus morning coffee and pastries (0207 078 0295; hotelesencia.com).
Rainbow Tours has a 14-day Magical Mexico itinerary, including visits to Oaxaca, Teotihuacan and Tzotzil Indian villages. Prices are from £3,595pp, based on two sharing, including flights (020 7666 1260; rainbowtours.co.uk).
The jungle-cloaked wildlife haven of Costa Rica is an exciting option if you are looking for a test-free, adventurous getaway in 2022. It boasts, along with Mexico, one of the most relaxed borders in the world; Costa Rica will let you in without proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test.
February temperatures are balmy (lows of 21, highs of 34) so it is a decent half-term option, although given the flight time of 11 hours, spending just one week there feels a shame. For something new, the hotly anticipated Habitas Santa Teresa retreat opens in the Nicoya Peninsula in the winter of 2022 (ourhabitas.com).
No proof of vaccination nor tests are needed, but travellers must fill in an advance epidemiological information form and non-vaccinated adults over 18 must provide evidence of insurance. For full information see gov.uk.
Trailfinders has an 11-night tour of Costa Rica, taking in the Monteverde Cloud Forest and sightseeing in Tortuguero. Prices from £2,279pp based on two adults, departing in February (020 7368 1200; trailfinders.com).
Intrepid has a nine-day Premium Costa Rica itinerary, aimed at families with children aged eight and above. From £2,550pp excluding flights, departing March 26 or April 30 (0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.com).
Stubborn Mule has a 15-day Costa Rica Easter itinerary from £12,000 based on two adults and two children travelling, with flights and accommodation throughout (01728 752 751; stubbornmuletravel.com).
Colombia is among the Central and South American countries that are welcoming fully vaccinated British adults without the need for a test. What was once considered a dangerous destination has evolved into a favourite among curious backpackers and those seeking an authentic South American experience. Join a tour to make the most of Colombia’s soulful cities, white-sand beaches and lush rainforests without the admin of sorting domestic travel independently.
Proof of full vaccination for adults. While under-18s can enter without vaccination, local rules mean everyone aged 12 and above must have one dose to enter indoor establishments such as restaurants. For full information see gov.uk.
Journey Latin America has a 12-day Trailblazer Colombia itinerary, taking in tranquil mountains, tropical beaches and the Caribbean coast. Prices from £3,070, including flights, mid-range hotels and B&B (020 3131 6661; journeylatinamerica.co.uk).
Intrepid has a 9-day Cafe Colombia itinerary departing March 5 and April 9, taking in plantations, farms and the Candelaria neighbourhood of Bogota. Prices from £1,695pp based on two adults sharing (0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.com).
For summer fun in Europe
From our January vantage point, the summer is looking very promising for a test-free getaway in Europe. Some of our favourite destinations including Spain, Turkey and Croatia are already welcoming fully vaccinated Britons without tests. By the time summer comes around, we can hope that the likes of France, Italy and Greece will have joined this list. But for the time being, if you are keen to get ahead of the game and book your spring or summer escape, these are your safest bets for a swab-free getaway.
While entry to Turkey is test-free, provided you are fully vaccinated, the snag (for now, at least) is that masks are mandatory in public spaces. This means your best bet will be to focus on a villa or an all-inclusive hotel. The temperatures won’t be too warm over February half-term, although by Easter the mercury will be pushing the low 20s on the Turquoise Coast. Indeed the shoulder months of April, May, September and October are when Turkey is at its loveliest.
Proof of full vaccination (aged 12 and over) or negative PCR result, or proof of recovery. Ages 11 and under do not need proof of vaccination or negative test. Complete an online form. For full information see gov.uk
Oliver’s Travels offers seven nights at the divine Villa Sahil in Kalkan from £2,016. Sleeps four, with availability throughout the year (0333 888 0205; oliverstravels.com).
Jet2Holidays offers seven nights at the four-star Ocean Blue Hotel in Dalaman from £329pp, based on two sharing and including flights departing London Stansted on April 25 (0800 408 0778; jet2holidays.com).
Peter Sommer offers an eight-day Walking and Cruising Western Lycia itinerary, taking in a gulet cruise, departing May 15 and September 25 from £2,550pp (01600 888 220; petersommer.com). Full board but flights not included.
We love Spain. More than 18 million of us visited in 2019, making it the UK’s favourite holiday destination by some margin. So it comes as welcome news that, provided you are fully jabbed, you can enter without a test. But families, take note: the vaccination requirement applies to 12- to 18-year-olds as well as adults, with no testing workaround, meaning your family holiday could be off the cards for the time being.
Spain is at its finest from spring onwards. So if you do indeed plan your holiday for later in the year, there is a fair chance that the country will have rethought its entry policies by the time you go away, especially if the omicron wave continues to wane in Europe, and if locked-out British families start spending their holiday cash elsewhere.
Anyone aged 12 and above can enter with proof of full vaccination (no more than 270 days ago, or boosted); no testing options for unvaccinated teenagers. Under-12s are exempt from vaccination or test restrictions. For full information see gov.uk
Book in at the luxury oasis of Finca Cortesin, in the hills of Andalusia, which reopens for the season on March 3. Prices from £505 per night for a junior suite (+34 952 93 78; fincacortesin.com).
Villa specialists Vintage Travel has availability at its charming, rustic Casa Acogedora in Andalucia, starting from £470 per week in May based on four sharing (01954 261431; vintagetravel.co.uk). Flights not included.
Sovereign has a range of options with availability over half term, including a seven-night stay at H10 Ocean Suites in Fuerteventura from £915pp, including flights (01293 324642; sovereign.com).
A test-free holiday in Croatia is feasible, albeit fiddly, with a Covid pass (activated by a test, or vaccine) required to enter public spaces. If you fit the bill, what awaits is one of Europe’s finest summer destinations, with crystal waters, fresh seafood and a rugged coastline peppered with islands, the chichi-er among them offering temporary homes to yachting types in the summer months.
Olivers Travels has a seven-night option at Villa Dola in Sibenik, sleeping eight and costing £3,026 for seven nights (0333 888 0205; oliverstravels.com).
Stubborn Mule has a Highlights of Croatia itinerary taking in the whole coast from Pula to Dubrovnik. A 15-day trip during the summer holidays for a family of four costs from £11,000 with all accommodation, flights, car hire and activities (01728 752 751; stubbornmuletravel.com).
One Traveller has an eight-day group holiday option to Opatija, staying at the Hotel Bellevue Palace. Prices from £2,390, with availability in May, June and October (01760 722011; onetraveller.co.uk).
Malta has been harder on teenagers than any other country on Earth. Even before most countries started rolling out the vaccine for under-18s, the country banned entry for unvaccinated teenagers. This is still the case (assuming your young ones don’t fancy a 14-day isolation on arrival), although if you are indeed eligible, one of Europe’s most idiosyncratic islands awaits. Expect the oldest stone architecture of anywhere in the world, 300 days of sun per year and a unique Mediterranean menu.
Proof of full vaccination (12+). Children aged 5–11 can travel if accompanied by vaccinated adult, with evidence of negative PCR test. For full information see gov.uk
British Airways Holidays offers even nights at the four-star Marina Hotel Corinthia Beach Resort, near the Paceville district’s lively nightlife, from £729pp, travelling on select dates between May 1 and May 31, including flights (0800 727 800; britishairways.com).
Wexas has a six-day Boutique Malta holiday from £1,395pp, including return flights. Departure dates through March (020 7838 5892; wexas.com).
As with many European destinations, to go inside venues in Slovenia everyone aged 12 and above will need evidence of full vaccination or a recent negative test result. If that requirement doesn’t put you off, what you will find is one of Europe’s most underrated destinations for activities and adventure, packing in coast, the rugged Julian Alps and the particularly picturesque Lake Bled into a relatively small space.
Anyone aged 12 and above can enter with proof of full vaccination (no more than 270 days ago, or boosted) or a recent negative test result. Complete a digital passenger locator form. For full information see gov.uk
Headwater has an eight-day Secrets of Slovenia Cycling trip, with multiple departures in 2022. The tour takes in Lake Bled, views of the Julian Alps and the green karst vineyards. From £2,209pp, including flights (headwater.com; 01606 369121).
Regent Holidays has an eight-day Cultural Landscapes of Slovenia tour, taking in Ljubljana, the Postojna Caves and Lake Bled. From £2,165pp based on two sharing, including flights (020 7666 1244; regent-holidays.co.uk).
Inghams has a seven-night holiday, half board, at the four-star Hotel Park at Lake Bled. Costs £729pp based on two adults sharing, with flights departing June 4 (01483 79 11 11; inghams.co.uk).
For a European culture-hit
After exhausting the UK for all its glories over the past two years, you may be craving a culture fix on the Continent. There are plenty of options, if you would rather not take a test to travel, although few European countries can be classified as entirely “stress-free” as the Covid Pass is in use across much of the EU.
If it’s a city break you’re after, Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Riga and Tallinn are all great no-swab options, along with Barcelona, Zagreb and Istanbul. Surely, as the year progresses, more European behemoths will join this lofty list of cities that you can enter without a test, with the Netherlands and Denmark the latest destinations to loosen their lockdowns over the past week.
If you are fully vaccinated, you can enjoy a start-to-finish German getaway without a test in sight. Note that, like much of the EU, to enter indoor establishments (restaurants and hotels included) you will need a Covid pass. If travelling with little ones who are not fully jabbed, this will mean tests for children aged five and above. All those logistics aside, Germany promises a sophisticated escape throughout the year; lovers of opera and classical music should consider going for the Berlin Festtage over Easter.
Proof of vaccination (six years and above). Alternatively, minors can provide proof of negative test or recovery. For full information see gov.uk
Kirker Holidays has a six-night small group escorted tour to the Berlin Festtage. Prices from £3,367 based on two sharing, including flights from Heathrow departing April 5 (020 7593 2288; kirkerholidays.com).
Viking has an eight-day Tale of Three Rivers cruise, taking in medieval villages and Franconian wine towns. Prices from £2,345pp based on spring 2022 departure, with flights included (0800 319 6660; viking.com).
If you are aged 12 and above, and have two shots of the vaccine, you can enter the Czech Republic unencumbered. If you haven’t been before, make a beeline for Prague: the city is up to speed with art, fashion and gastronomy trends against a backdrop of historical and architectural prowess. If you feel hungry to lap up Europe’s cultural highlights after the pandemic, consider a rail journey taking in multiple cities in one go.
Adults must either evidence of a booster shot, or double-vaccination plus a negative PCR test result. Children aged 12 to 18 will need to have proof of vaccination, or take a pre-departure PCR test. Fill in a passenger locator form. Children under 12 need not fill in a form or take a test. For full information see gov.uk
One Traveller has a six-night itinerary in Prague targeted as solo travellers, from £1,490, also taking in the beautiful spa town of Karlovy Vary. Departures on September 5 and October 3 (01760 722011; onetraveller.co.uk).
Great Rail has a 13-day Grand Imperial Cities itinerary taking in Prague, as well as Vienna, Budapest and Berlin. Prices from £2,295pp, with maximum group size of 25. Departure October 10 (01904 527180; greatrail.com).
With full vaccination, Estonia is your oyster, with no tests in sight. There’s plenty to get excited about in 2022. From the end of March, easyJet restarts its direct service to Tallinn, where the new hotspots of port-side Noblessner and Telliskivi Creative City, set in a former industrial complex, await, both in close proximity to the picture-perfect old town.
Provide evidence of full vaccination. Fill in a customer locator form. Unvaccinated children aged 12 to 18 can sidestep quarantine if they are travelling with an exempt parent, and can provide evidence of a negative PCR test. For full information see gov.uk
Explore has an eight-day Walk Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania itinerary, from £1,015. Departures in May, June, August, September (01252 240 599; explore.co.uk).
Cox & Kings has a three-night getaway to Tallinn, staying at the Hotel Telegraaf with breakfast. Prices from £1,195 based on two adults sharing, including flights (coxandkings.co.uk; 020 3797 8866).
Unlike many places in Europe, Hungary does not request a Covid pass to enter restaurants, bars and hotels (although you will need one in order to attend large-attendance sporting, dance or other indoor events). This makes a city break in Budapest perhaps one of the most stress-free options for 2022. What’s more, children can enter the country regardless of their vaccination status, so long as they are accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult.
Provide evidence of full vaccination (or a negative PCR test). Children under 18 can enter if supervised by a fully vaccinated adult. For full information see gov.uk
Book a couple of nights at the Aria Hotel Budapest, with its large, fabulously equipped rooms, a soaring garden courtyard with a space-age piano. Rooms from £250 (read the Telegraph review here).
Rules can change at short notice so be sure to check the relevant Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice on gov.uk.
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