UK tightens restrictions again

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today announced that anyone entering the UK will be forced to take a PCR test within 2 days of arrival in the country and self isolate until a negative result is received.

Furthermore, the “red list” requiring 11 nights forcibly confined to a hotel room at a cost to the traveller of £2,285 has now been extended to arrivals from 10 Southern African countries. More countries will undoubtedly follow.

Additionally, face coverings will once again be mandatory in shops and on public transport throughout the country, unless a medical exemption is claimed.

Clearly, the UK is following continental Europe into the vortex of panic and is once again pulling up the drawbridge.

These measures will not be the last to be announced in the UK this Winter.

Feel free to discuss these measures on the UK forum.

Protests across Europe

Announcements of tightened covid restrictions in various European countries have been met with large scale protests across the continent.

I personally attended demonstrations and marches in Vienna and Bregenz, Austria, both of which were very well attended and focused heavily on Austria’s recently announced lockdown and the country’s unprecedented announcement that covid-19 vaccinations are to be made compulsory in the country from 1 February 2022. Heavy fines will be levied against those who do not comply and jail sentences are threatened against those who do not or cannot pay. Germany looks likely to follow suit, with Health Minister Jens Spahn quoted as saying that the majority of Germans would be “vaccinated, cured or dead” by the Spring.

Both of the demonstrations I attended in Austria were well organised and peaceful. The large crowds were extremely well behaved and I did not witness any violence, threatening behaviour or heavy handed police action at either venue.

I will post pictures and videos in the Austria forum shortly.

Protests also raged across Italy, Croatia, Belgium and The Netherlands, with one in Rotterdam sadly turning violent.

As I wrote earlier, the Winter lockdown season is well and truly under way in Europe. Additionally, governments across the continent are ramping up the pressure on citizens to accept a vaccination, with more and more basic rights and freedoms being removed from dissenters. As the continent moves deeper into the Winter, this situation can only deteriorate as panic spreads over rising case numbers. Restrictions will become tighter, lockdowns will be extended and protests will inevitably continue to erupt.

Europe can be a wonderful continent to visit during the winter months, with ski resorts, traditional Christmas markets and New Year concerts.

Sadly, this Winter is not the time even to think about enjoying any of those things.

Join the discussion on our covid forum.




USA travel ban ends

The long awaited reopening of the USA to tourists travelling from Europe finally happened on November 8. Whereas previously, tourists wishing travel from the UK, Ireland and the Schengen zone had to spend 14 days in a third country prior to entering the USA, it is now possible to fly directly from the area to the USA.

However, the reopening comes with a caveat. Anyone entering the USA as a tourist must prove that they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, as well as providing a negative test taken in the 3 days before travel. This means that if you are not willing to take a covid vaccination, you are quite simply not welcome in the USA. For many people this will be an instant deal breaker and we hope that this restriction will be a temporary one.

As for what to expect when you do arrive in the USA, it very much depends which part of the country you are visiting. It is no secret (and indeed no surprise) that American attitudes to the coronavirus pandemic have been somewhat polarised during the last 20 months. While some parts of the country have seen draconian restrictions equivalent to European style lockdowns, other parts of the country have suffered much less disruption. This holds true today, where certain states and counties are persisting with far reaching mask mandates, while in others, Covid is more or less forgotten. Last Winter, I spent 3 very pleasant months touring Florida and enjoying almost complete normality, while people further north were still being prevented from visiting their neighbours for coffee.

The contrast is not quite so stark now and most parts of the USA seem to be more or less ready to move on. However, the divisions are still there, most notably in respect to the thorny issue of mask mandates. The controversial face garments continue to pervade many parts of the country and remain as hotly contested a debate as they always were. The specific rules governing the wearing of masks, as well as other important considerations, are determined at state, county and city level. This means there may be one set of rules in one town, whereas things might look completely different 5 miles down the road.

My advice is to do diligent research and find a state and city where you can reasonably live with the specific rules. Florida and Texas seem to be the states where life has moved on the most and where restrictions are likely to be the least intrusive. They are the states which are on my radar this Winter.

Please share any questions or advice on our USA forum.



Lockdown season begins in Europe

Once again, restrictions in several European countries are tightening up, suggesting that the continent has a long and hard Winter ahead.

In the Netherlands, businesses are once again operating with restricted opening hours, with bars, restaurants and supermarkets permitted to open until 8pm, while “non-essential” businesses are forced to close their doors at 6pm. Customers of these businesses are once again forced to wear a face covering and the scope of the country’s Covid Pass – proving that the holder has been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from a previous infection has been expanded. Since the masks and passes have been introduced, case numbers have continued to rise, suggesting that tighter restrictions will almost certainly be on the way.

Meanwhile, Austria is leading the way on vaccine compulsion, introducing legislation effectively confining unvaccinated people to their homes, except for the very restrictive reasons permitted under previous lockdowns, unless and until they “voluntarily” accept the “offer” of a vaccine. Some German states are also tightening restrictions, permitting only vaccinated and recovered persons to engage in certain leisure activities and Denmark has reintroduced their Corona Pass, broadly in line with restrictions in other parts of the continent.

I cannot claim to know exactly how the dice will fall in Europe this Winter, but it is clear that those advocating tighter controls are beginning once again to prevail and those looking to enforce those controls are gearing up in earnest. Sorry to be pessimistic, but it is looking very much as if Europe is only heading in one direction this Winter. I, for one, have a feeling it is going to be quite some time before I see my home in Austria again and would urge any potential travellers to consider their options carefully.

How are the potential restrictions going to affect your plans this winter? Join in the Impact of Covid thread on our forum.


Is Business Class worth it?

This is a debate which has been raging for years and will undoubtedly continue.

Those nice big, comfortable seats at the front of the plane always look terribly inviting, but how much are you really willing to pay out in order to travel in style?

A typical long haul business class fare can set you back literally thousands. For some people this is not an issue, particularly when someone else is paying. However, for the typical leisure traveller the cost can be literally prohibitive, especially if you are travelling in a family group. For the cost of a round trip upgrade for a family of four, you can check into a nice hotel for a couple of weeks and still have money left over for a rental car and outings. When opportunity cost comes into play, the other things you can do with that money clearly heavily outweigh 8 hours of relative comfort.

However, there are times when the pointy end of the plane definitely makes sense. I came across an obvious example of this last year, when I found myself in Tanzania and decided at the last minute to relocate to Florida for the winter. Due to the ongoing covid situation, I had no idea of what my next move would be or when I would eventually return to Europe. Clearly a one-way ticket was the only sensible option. However, a last minute one-way was pricing up at around $1,600 in economy.

This is where frequent flyer miles come in. I was able to book a one-way ticket for 75,000 American Airlines miles (about a third of my remaining stack) and minimal taxes. $1,600 of savings for the use of 75,000 miles is quite a good deal even at face value. Except that the mileage ticket was in Qatar Airways’ world beating private QSuites. This was an absolute no brainer and I spent the next 27 hours lounging in almost the almost empty business class cabins, eating my way through multiple courses and sampling some of the nicest wines and champagnes I have had for quite a while.

In conclusion, although economy class has been my traditional default option for air travel, there are often bargains to be had up front and if this is the case, there is often no reason not to go for it.

Do you think premium class travel is worth the price tag? Check out our Air travel discussion forum and share your opinion.

Normal life resumes in England

I have spent the last 4 weeks in England and can confirm that life here is now almost completely normal.

All businesses (well, the ones which have survived the lockdowns) are now fully functional again and almost all have dispensed with capacity controls and social distancing. There is no legal requirement in England to wear a face mask, except for London Transport and enforcement of this seems to be almost completely non-existent. I do still see people wearing masks in shops and on public transport, but this is no more that around 10-15% of people on average and nobody is attempting to force anyone to wear one if they don’t choose to.

The entry requirements to the UK are still rather irksome. No pre-departure test is required, but all arriving passengers are still forced to fill out a Passenger Locator Form, as well as book and pay for a covid test which must be taken on day 2 after arrival. I was not asked to prove my vaccination status or provide my PLF on arrival at Harwich Port and regarded the process as a minor irritation rather than a deal breaker.

If you are unvaccinated, however, the entry requirements remain quite prohibitive. Unvaccinated arrivals are forced to book and pay for two post-arrival tests, as well as self-isolating for 10 days. However, this is where the two-tier society ends, at least for the moment. As far as I can tell, nobody anywhere is being asked to prove their vaccination status, apart from when they enter the country. This makes a refreshing change from other European countries where I have spent time in the last few months.

Overall, if you can put up with the pretty easily surmountable obstacles on entry (and of course the notorious British weather), England is actually not a bad place to be at the moment.

If you are in the UK or thinking of visiting, please visit the UK Forum to share you thoughts, questions and experiences.

England’s return to normal

I have spent the last 4 weeks in England and can confirm that normal life has almost fully resumed here.

I am still seeing some people wearing masks around shops and on public transport and even a few in the open air, but I would guess it is an average of about 10% and nobody is trying to force anyone to wear them.

All businesses (well, the ones that have survived the lockdowns) are fully open and most have no capacity restrictions or social distancing guidelines in place.

Of course, there are still the entry restrictions, such as quarantine if unvaccinated and day 2 testing for all. My own experience with this was reasonably seamless in comparison with many other countries. I arrived on the ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich and was not asked for my proof of vaccination or my Passenger Locator Form. It was more of a minor irritation than any real obstacle.

Of course, if you are unvaccinated, it is an entirely different story

If anyone is looking for a destination with a high level of day-to-day freedom, the UK is a reasonable option, at least at the moment.

Scroll to top