People of the UK, get packing those bags and slathering on the sun cream, cause it’s time for a summer holiday! The ever-benevolent British government has finally given the green light to travel in some form, albeit in that typically clownish sort of way that this administration seems desperate to trademark. We’re not about to reveal our parallel existence as a fly on the wall, but it is easy to presume that those in power came to these decisions via the magic of a double diamond slot machine.
Should travel legislation really be decided by the ups and downs of free slots games online? That isn’t for us to say, it really isn’t, but we’ll add a bit of online betting to our to-do list and get back to you on that one. Weekend warriors and long-term nomads alike have been waiting for news to trickle out of Westminster ever since the UK’s vaccination program kicked into high gear, so what does the recent announcement mean for getaways this year?
Well, to strip everything back a little, it doesn’t mean anything at all. Grant Shapps, the UK travel secretary, announced 12 destinations that will make up the initial green list, spots around the world that can be visited without the need to quarantine on return. What destinations make up the list? We’ll get into that shortly, but it happens to be a mixture of war zones, British dependencies and other spots that simply aren’t accepting tourists right now. Great!
Portugal tops the billing for most, although the popular spot on the Iberian Peninsula comes with its requirements. This also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, Portugal’s autonomous territories dotted in the vast expanse of the world’s second-largest ocean. Portugal has long been a glorious destination for a host of reasons, be it the cultural allure of Porto and Lisbon, the coastal resort resplendence of the Algarve or the whale-watching offered by the aforementioned archipelagos, and visitors might well be able to add ‘Brit watching’ to that list once summer is here, provided those Brits have had a PCR test within 72 hours and tested negative.
What of the rest of the list? Australia and New Zealand were always expected to make it to the green list but both borders are currently locked shot to all visitors, barring a few exceptions. If you aren’t a citizen, you aren’t going. The same goes for Singapore, with prior government permission required to enter. Iceland and the Faroe Islands are open only to fully vaccinated visitors unless you’ve got a pretty good reason that extends beyond wanting to see the stunning nature and visit one of the oldest parliamentary meeting places on the planet. Well, you can visit, but you’ll need to take a PCR test within 72 hours of departure followed by double screening and a six-day quarantine on arrival. But hey, you won’t have to quarantine when you get home, so there is that. You’ll still need another PCR test though, so maybe hold the phone on that one.
Israel is also on the green list, but Israel also happens to be headline news at the moment for all the wrong reasons. A little further afield, Brunei makes it onto the green list as the Asian Football Confederation’s only representative, although the self-proclaimed Abode of Peace is notoriously difficult to get into as it is. Oh, and you’ll need to quarantine on arrival. Homosexuality is illegal in Brunei and punishable by death and the country is an ever-present in the bottom rungs of human rights indexes worldwide, so COVID restrictions should be the least of your worries when it comes to considering a visit to the domain of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the second longest-reigning current monarch on the planet.
Okay, so not much outside of Portugal so far, but the green list also includes a host of British Overseas Territories! Make of that what you will. The acronym is BOTs, for reference. Gibraltar is the most eye-opening of them all, largely because Gibraltar is awesome. The southernmost part of mainland Europe, Gib is a time machine to another world, namely an ‘80s British seaside town transported to the Mediterranean around a massive rock inhabited by immensely curious monkeys. It also happens to be home to the best selection of breakfasts on the continent, although that shouldn’t be a huge surprise.
Where else? Why South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands of course! Not so fast, buddy, SG&SSI doesn’t have any airstrip to talk of, so unless you’re on a cruise or own a yacht you won’t be visiting this inhospitable hotspot for scientific research and the famous Antarctic toothfish. The Falklands are the nearest point to SG&SSI, and typing ‘Falkland’ into a search engine offers ‘war’ before ‘islands’ as an autocorrect option. Flying to the Falklands from the UK has a fixed rate of £2,222 for non-citizens. Stanley and the penguins will have to wait.
All of which leaves us the combined might of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, a trio of islands in the South Atlantic that are magnificent destinations if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford the flight. That flight only goes as far as St Helena too, as Tristan da Cunha has no airport and the runway at Ascension is so full of potholes that it has been closed to everything except military flights and emergency medical evacuations. Which is useful, truth be told. St Helena does have a fascinating array of attractions like Jacob’s Ladder, a 700-step cardio nightmare that represents all that remains of a former cable car. The views are spectacular.
All cynicism aside, things are looking up for Brits desperate to head abroad for a holiday. This is particularly true if you happen to be filthy rich or a scientist on a research trip to the South Atlantic, so maybe we were a little hasty on the ‘all cynicism aside’ portion of this. Still, did we mention that Gibraltar is awesome?
The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of frequent In Your Pocket contributor and all around good chap John William Bills, and In Your Pocket neither endorses nor takes responsibility for their content (although we do find them highly entertaining). You can find more of Mr Bills’ work here.