Will we be able to travel this Christmas? All your questions answered

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What’s the latest?

Leaders of all four UK nations reached a deal to allow different households to mix between 23 and 27 December – a Christmas bubble of up to three households – and travel freely between different tiers during those dates. For the rest of the period between Wednesday 2 December and spring 2021, a new three-tier system is in place across England, with tighter measures than before. The government released a postcode checker on Thursday 26 November, confirming which locations fall under which tier. As examples, London and Liverpool fall under Tier 2; Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Leeds and the county of Kent fall under Tier 3. Scroll down for the latest information on whether you can travel abroad over Christmas.

In brief, Tier 1 means the rule of six for indoor socialising, with bars and restaurants able to reopen till 11pm; in Tier 2, only places serving food can open and mixed-household socialising is banned indoors, while the rule of six applies outside. In Tier 3, bars and restaurants can only serve takeaway food, and hotels must close. Shops, gyms and hairdressers can re-open across all tiers, and sports fans will be able to return to live events in Tiers 1 and 2. For the exact rules in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland it is best to check each government website.

Find out more about when we can travel and what the tier rules mean.

When will we travel? What the latest UK lockdown and local tier rules mean


So will I be able to see family and friends over Christmas?

Yes. It’s been confirmed that up to three different households will be able to mix over Christmas itself, between 23 and 27 December. Social distancing won’t have to be observed, so hugging is allowed – as long as it’s at home. The relaxed rules don’t apply to meeting up in pubs or restaurants.

What exactly is the Christmas bubble?

According to the carol, the fifth day of Christmas means a gift of five gold rings, but this year the five days of Christmas refers to the relaxation of rules for a limited festive period. Between 23 and 27 December (22 and 28 in Northern Ireland to allow for travel), up to three households of any size can form a bubble together, mixing indoors and staying overnight with each other if desired. These have to be the same households throughout, and the rule applies to meeting in your home, not in the pub or restaurant. And you can continue to see other people according to the rules of your region’s tier. But some caution is advised, so those at risk aren’t affected – and the plan has been criticised by some scientists who fear a third Covid wave will happen.

What happens now lockdown 2.0 has lifted?

On Wednesday 2 December, a new three-tier system will be implemented in England (different measures are in place in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), which will be reviewed regularly. As for the ban on international travel, that depends on the tier level in your area and on the situation in other countries.

Will we be able to travel this Christmas? All your questions answered

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Will I be able to travel in the UK for Christmas?

Yes, everyone is allowed to travel freely around the UK between 23 and 27 December (and from 22 December for Northern Ireland). Outside that, life in England is under a new three-tier system – so any UK travel depends on the tier that is allocated to where you live, and where you are going. Those in Tiers 1 and 2 can travel within the UK, but not stay in Tier 3. Hotels in those two categories will reopen in time for Christmas, so a festive winter holiday in the UK could be on the cards for many people. The government confirmed that over Christmas some social restrictions will be relaxed, but the main message is: ‘Wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact.’ Find out which tier specific areas fall into using the government postcode checker.

Can I travel abroad for Christmas?

The government website reads: ‘On 2 December, across all of England, regardless of tier, the stay at home requirement will end, with domestic and international travel being permitted again subject to guidance in each tier.’ So you can legally travel overseas regardless of which tier you live in, but standard quarantine measures may still apply on your return – from Tuesday 15 December, though, the period is being reduced from 14 days to five days, with a test. Bear in mind that with rising infection rates in many areas, lockdowns are currently in place in several countries, such as Portugal, Italy and France. It’s best to take a wait-and-see approach. With different countries responding to Covid in different ways, the danger is, as we’ve seen in recent months, going to a country that decides to enter lockdown while you’re there. But there are several countries, including the Maldives, that don’t currently have strict restrictions in place and to which UK residents can – in theory – travel without quarantining on return. For inspiration, see our guide to where is safe to travel from the UK.

Where is safe to travel to right now from the UK?

I’ve already booked a holiday overseas for Christmas, should I cancel?

No. If you cancel your flight before it’s cancelled by the airline or travel operator, then you forfeit your right to a refund or the ability to amend travel dates free of charge.

How does all this affect Father Christmas’s ability to deliver my presents?

Not in any way. He has special dispensation to travel (and can quarantine after Friday 25 December).

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