When the pandemic first sadly began to affect our holiday plans for 2020, many of us were required to cancel our getaways at short notice. If you were one of the unfortunate, you may have been issued refund credit notes in the form of a flight or holiday voucher that could be used at a later date. Now is a great time to start thinking about how best to use your travel vouchers, especially since the UK government announced that they are protecting refund credit notes issued for ATOL-protected bookings that were cancelled between 10th March 2020 to 30 September 2020. This means that if the holiday company you obtained the voucher from were to collapse, you would still receive the value for the voucher.
With the pandemic's end uncertain, you may be considering what countries are safe to travel to this autumn/winter. Whilst the word “safe” is at present, slightly ambiguous, there are countries in Europe that are seeing far fewer cases than their neighbours. The Madeira Islands in Portugal have seen no more than 300 total cases, and Cyprus has experienced just over 2000 cases during the course of the pandemic—a far cry from the UK’s 600,000. So if you’re really looking to get away somewhere this season, it’s well worth considering those countries that have less total cases.
Although not currently on the UK’s travel corridor list, since the end of July, entry to Austria from the UK without the need for a COVID-19 test or quarantine has been possible. Whilst new cases saw a peak in recent weeks, overall, they are now remaining stable, with an average of no more than 1000 cases being reported a day. Having reacted quickly to the pandemic in March by introducing strict measures, Austria has been able to reopen its economy at a quick pace.
At present, Austria has the EU traffic light system in place, categorising cities as green, yellow, or red, depending on cases recorded. Whilst Vienna, Linz, and Graz currently pose a yellow (medium) risk, the rest of the country is at green (low) risk.
Currently categorised as a low risk area, Salzburg is the quintessential Austrian escape. With its classically historical old town that looks much like it did hundreds of years ago, domes and spires make you feel as though you’ve stepped right into a fairytale setting. Synonymous with The Sound of Music and Mozart, if you’re passionate about musical theatre or simply wish to explore the picturesque parks, streets, and enchanting music halls, Salzburg will be more than happy to oblige.
For an extremely central experience of the city, consider the Amadeus Hotels of Stein & Goldgasse. Both take pride of place in Salzburg’s old town; Stein offering a design, art and lifestyle experience and Goldgasse offering an artistic base with influences around every corner from the Salzburg Festival.
Please note: You will be required to self-isolate for 14 days when you arrive back in the UK from Austria.
Over the course of the pandemic, Cyprus has seen just over 2000 total cases and is currently on the UK’s list of travel corridor countries, which means on arrival back to the UK, you will not need to self-isolate. As of the 1st August 2020, the UK is in Cyprus’ Category B list which means that travel is permitted, but you need to obtain a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours before you travel.
Having been one of the most successful countries in Europe to handle the pandemic, with one of the lowest ratios of coronavirus cases per capita, Cyprus has been able to open its borders again to countries in the Schengen area and other countries based on statistics such as the number of new diagnoses and the rate at which these are increasing or decreasing.
Autumn is by far the best time to explore this romantic part of the world. With temperatures remaining at a balmy 20 degrees through winter, Paphos is renowned for its archaeological sites and vast open spaces, earning it UNESCO World Heritage status. Its open-air lifestyle affords it landscapes that range from the sandy beaches on the coastline to forest-covered mountains. Seek out the beautifully preserved Roman mosaics at Kato Paphos that were found among the remains of Roman villas, or pay a visit to the atmospheric Tombs of the Kings, a series of caves and sandstone tombs that served as the final resting place of local nobility.
You’ll marvel at the abundance of personal space and the slow rhythm of life in Paphos, and an obvious extension of that is Elysium Hotel that sits just a 5 minute walk from the Tombs of the Kings. This beach resort offers an intoxicating mix of luxury, tranquility and seclusion with beautiful views of the Mediterranean. Its fantastic design and spectacular gardens allow you the space to enjoy your holiday and simultaneously feel safe within your surroundings.
Having been heralded as one of the countries in Europe who handled the coronavirus crisis most effectively, Slovenia presently has had no more than 10,000 cases within its borders. The Slovenian authorities have implemented a red, amber, and green criteria when determining the requirements of people arriving into Slovenia. Since the UK is on the amber list, you will not be required to quarantine upon entry, and this exemption applies until the 31st December 2020.
A hub of sustainable tourism and an eco-conscious ethos, Ljubljana is one of Europe’s greenest cities. With traffic restricted in the centre of the town, the ability to roam freely, whether by foot or by bike, makes this getaway a spacious and peaceful one. All of the classic features of a medieval town meld with an urban scene, with world class cuisine, cultural gems and a fairytale feel—there’s not much left to be desired in Ljubljana.
Sitting at the foot of Ljubljana Castle, Lesar Hotel Angel backs onto a charming walled garden with most rooms offering spectacular views of the castle gardens and the beautiful city. Close to the river, Ljubljana’s most significant landmarks and attractions can be reached extremely easily. The townhouse hotel is modern and sophisticated, offering a spacious and design-led base for your stay.
Please note: You will be required to self-isolate for 14 days when you arrive back in the UK from Slovenia.
Currently, Montenegro has seen no more than 13,000 total cases since the start of the pandemic and some municipalities have fared better than others. The capital city of Podgorica has seen the most, followed by Rožaje, whilst Zabljak, Andrijevica, and Plav have seen the least. Whilst cases have begun to increase in recent weeks, this isn’t dissimilar to the state of the pandemic across Europe. As of the 28th September 2020, the United Kingdom is listed on Montenegro’s ‘green list’ of countries. This means if you are not displaying symptoms of coronavirus, you will not be required to spend time in self-isolation or quarantine, providing no symptoms are discovered by the sanitary inspectors at point of entry.
The municipality of Kotor has seen less than 60 cases of coronavirus thus far, so if you’re considering a holiday this winter it could be a good option. Perhaps it's due to the secluded fjord-like position of the Bay of Kotor that means transmission is less likely, but there really is nowhere more picturesque and natural to spend the colder days—although in Montenegro, they’re rather mild. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, be sure to check out the old town with its cultural and artistic monuments, and climb to the top of St. John’s Fortress, the main attraction of the town, with views that will leave you utterly awestruck.
A dramatic landscape calls for an equally as dramatic place to stay. Palazzo Radomiri puts you at the very heart of Boka Bay, a waterfront location in a little place called Dobrota. With luxurious rooms, it is truly a gift to wake up in such an enchanting spot. Restored 18th-century features add an extra touch of historicity and the revitalising atmosphere promises rejuvenation each and every day.
An exception to the norm, Sweden took an utterly different approach to the pandemic when it first began than many other European countries. When other countries were imposing lockdowns, Sweden kept much of its society open, and for obvious reasons has received controversial responses, of those who hail its successes and those who have condemned their response. Many of the restrictions were voluntary for their citizens with only a few compulsory factors, including a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. Whilst their total cases are now nearing 100,000, as the rest of Europe is seeing a surge in infections, Sweden is seeing one of the continent’s lowest infection rates. Whilst Sweden has seen the largest number of cases in Scandinavia, when compared to other European countries like the UK, Spain, and Italy, who imposed lockdowns, Sweden still fared better and are now seeing no more than 800 cases per day.
Whilst Sweden has banned entry to non-EU and non-EEA citizens arriving from outside the EU until at least the 31st October 2020, British nationals are not affected by this ban and do not need to quarantine on arrival to Sweden or on arrival back to the UK.
Stockholm may be the most well-known location in Sweden, but unfortunately it has seen the most cases of coronavirus in the country. Fortunately, Trosa in the Södermanland is located just 55 minutes south of Stockholm, and makes up less than 3000 of the total cases in Sweden so far, making it a far safer option for some time away this autumn.
The Sörmlands archipelago is more than 10,000 years old, offering a plethora of things to see and do. Its 60km coastline is completely unspoilt, with a range of cultural and nature activities to get stuck into.
The authentic seaside town of Trosa is home to the ever fabulous Bomans Hotell. Owner, Kristin, instills her own love of extravagance into every space, creating an atmosphere of utter indulgence and lavishness. 45 rooms take on their very own personalities, from celebrity-inspired pads to fabrics galore—Bomans has a room that ranges from the subtly sophisticated to the abundantly elaborate, and all within the reaches of the beautiful Södermanland and all it has to offer.
The measures put in place in Greece in response to the coronavirus pandemic have been some of the most proactive and strictest in Europe, having successfully slowed the spread of the disease. Although numbers are currently rising, daily cases are remaining below 1000.
Although the European Union has measures in place to close EU borders to non-EU country nationals, British nationals are not currently affected. You can still enter Greece, but must comply with their requirements on testing and self-isolation. All travellers to Greece are required to produce a COVID-negative PCR test conducted in the country of departure within 72 hours of arrival to Greece.
Whilst certainly not Greece’s most well-known city, Thessaloniki holds its own, offering travellers a sublime mix of past and present, as the country’s second largest city. The city has an extremely laid back vibe, with lots of space to permit optimal exploration and there’s plenty to see. Admire parts of the old city walls that remain scattered on the perimeter of the centre and follow them uphill to the mazes of narrow streets and traditional houses. Discover the Old Town and the castle of Thessaloniki that offer fantastic views of the area and the port below. And for the most iconic part of this seaside city, the promenade is home to the White Tower—defensive walls that served as extra protection along the coastline, providing a luminous symbol of the city’s history.
And where to stay? Ever in keeping with Thessaloniki’s lively spirit, The Trilogy House offers a vibrant display of modern design whilst in keeping with its early twentieth-century roots. The rustic, high ceilings of the 1920s townhouse blend lovingly with pops of colour in what can only be described as a stylish yet playful industrial setting. Offering 10 conceptual rooms alongside two standalone apartments, the hotel brings to life the magically dynamic character of the city itself.
Although Portugal was lifted from the UK’s travel corridors list in early September, it has still seen less cases than other countries in Europe, including the UK, Spain, and France. Daily cases are mostly remaining below 1000 per day. To help when travelling here, Portugal has created a “Clean and Safe” stamp of approval to help when deciding on activities, things to do, and where to stay.
On arrival into Portugal, you will be subject to a health screening where your temperature will be checked. You may be required to take a COVID-19 test. If you are seen to be unwell, you will need to self-isolate until you receive the test results. Direct air travel is allowed into Portugal for any travel reason from the UK.
Please note: You will be required to self-isolate for 14 days when you arrive back in the UK from mainland Portugal. Madeira and Porto Santo are exempt.
Portugal may have been lifted from the UK’s safe travel list, but its autonomous region, Madeira, still remains one of the safe travel corridor destinations. In total, since the start of the pandemic, these islands off of the northwest coast of Africa have had less than 300 cases. This is in part due to how quickly the government acted to control the spread of the virus on the islands, and also may be due to the fact that the islands see low visitor volume and transit under normal circumstances.
With extra flights having recently been announced across UK airlines, Madeira might just be the golden ticket getaway this autumn. These dramatically exotic islands see a sub-tropical temperature all year round and burst with nature’s gifts, from black sand beaches and botanical gardens to towering rock walls and iridescent streams. It's no wonder Madeira’s nickname is the “island of eternal spring”.
If you are travelling to Madeira from the UK, you must take a COVID-19 test before you travel or on arrival.
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