Holidays have been firmly put on hold in recent months, as the travel industry shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic. But as the lockdown rules are slowly being eased in Britain, the government is expected to announce changes to its travel advice in the coming weeks. However, experts are urging keen travellers to check their documents before attempting to book anything.
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The official advice over the last few months has been to avoid all overseas travel unless it is absolutely essential.
However, with lockdown measures being slowly lifted, it’s thought that the Foreign Office could change its guidance by the end of this month.
The government has also enforced a new rule which means that any passengers arriving in the UK by plane, ferry or train – including UK nationals – will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
The new quarantine rules will mean that travellers can be fined £100 for failing to fill in a form with the details of the address they’ll be staying in.
The new rules could put a dampener on any summer holidays if the lockdown measures do allow Britons to go abroad for non-essential travel.
But experts have warned that if they want to get away this season, travellers must check their passport expiry date.
Travel expert Simon Calder has urged holidaymakers to make sure their passport is valid before they book anything.
During the lockdown, the government told the public not to renew their passports unless it was essential, as a new system was in place which meant they were taking longer to produce.
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Those looking to renew their passports online would have seen the official guidance as the passport office struggled to meet demand.
“It is taking longer than the usual three weeks to process applications because of coronavirus (COVID-19). Do not apply unless you need a passport urgently for compassionate reasons, for example if a family member has died, or for government business,” the website states.
Though the lockdown restrictions may be lifted, it’s likely there could still be delays for those needing new documents to travel – which could put holidays at risk.
The offices have had to implement new working practices and social distancing measures in order to keep its staff and customers safe, which means producing the passports takes longer than usual.
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However, impatient Britons are warned not to go ahead and book their next sunshine break until they have the new passport if theirs has expired.
The official advice on the website states: “Do not book travel until you have a valid passport – doing so is at your own risk.
“Your new passport will not have the same number as your old one.”
New parents hoping to get a passport for newborns or anyone applying for their first ever passport could be affected the most, as ordering a new passport rather than simply renewing takes even longer than the usual three week period.
The fast track service is also not operating due to the current crisis. The government website warns: “Premium and Fast Track services are temporarily unavailable because of coronavirus (COVID-19). Phone the Passport Adviceline if you need a passport urgently for compassionate reasons, for example if a family member has died, or for government business.”
However, those with a few months left on their current passports should also check the rules and regulations for the country that they’re hoping to visit, as tourism starts to reopen around the world.
Some countries, such as Thailand, Egypt and Turkey, require at least six months validity on a passport – meaning travellers could be unable to book if it’s been almost ten years since it was issued.
However, for those who can’t go abroad this summer there is some hope, with campsites and other holiday parks making plans to reopen soon so that people can have a break a little closer to home.
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