Travellers with trips booked to Portugal were scrambling to change their plans on Thursday, after the government said the country was being taken off the UK’s “green list” of destinations. Many people now face being left hundreds of pounds out of pocket or unable to get to work once back home because of quarantine.
Luke Ashford, 33, an advertising director who lives in Norwich, had been looking forward to going on his first holiday since the pandemic began.
“I missed my chance in that small window last year and thought I’d make use of the relaxations this time. I was supposed to fly out to Lisbon tomorrow and return on 8 junio. I’m now about to cancel as a friend can’t quarantine due to work commitments and we can’t re-schedule our Ryanair flights, as everyone is now piling on trying to rebook.
“This means cancelling flights, hotels, parking and two further wasted Covid tests which will go unused, that’s £180 wasted in total on tests. I’ll also have to pay a late cancellation charge of £130 for the hotel, which we could have cancelled for free up until yesterday.
“Missing out on the quarantine status by a day makes this particularly galling especially when status changes were expected to come into effect seven days post-decision rather than after five. It feels very arbitrary. This government continues to make it up as it goes along.”
The experience has put Ashford “thoroughly’” off attempting to travel abroad. “I’m not going to try again, and will wait for permanent rule changes and other populations to catch up on vaccinations. It was a gamble, and it hasn’t paid off.”
Jon, 40, from Preston, arrived in Portugal yesterday for a week of holidays with his family.
“Moving flights would cost me over a thousand pounds for my family and it’s just not viable. We’re staying here till Wednesday as originally planned and will have to deal with the rest when we get home.
“We will have to self isolate when we get home. My son can’t go to school, myself and my wife can’t go to work. It’s a disaster and I thought they had policies in place to give you a seven-day window.
“It’s nonsense and a rule change yet again from a government that don’t know what they are doing.”
Rebecca, 33, a healthcare worker from London, is equally incredulous about what she considers another last minute government U-turn affecting ordinary people’s plans who tried following the rules.
“It feels a bit like you’ve had the rug pulled out from under you. My husband and I are – or were – flying out on Tuesday 8 junio, to return on the 12th. You can’t cancel at this point, we’re five days away from travelling.
“We feel like we have to go regardless. If we don’t go we’ll lose about £800, plus £500 in PCR tests. If we go, it won’t be the same kind of holiday and we’ll lose theatre tickets, as we’ll have to quarantine for 10 days upon return.”
It is another blow for the couple, who already lost £5,000 from having to postpone their wedding and £200 from cancelling a trip to Santorini.
“We tried to do this right, and yet there’s no direction from the government. There’s no way to work out if the PCR tests we have are suitable now that Portugal is going amber the day we fly out. It’s particularly frustrating because I’m getting my second jab tomorrow, which is great, but it won’t change anything.”
Isabel (not her real name), 28, a company director from London, is determined to go away regardless of the announcement.
“My best friend and I were meant to be travelling to Porto for her hen do next weekend. As it’s so close to her wedding, she isn’t able to self-isolate upon her return. I work from home so quarantine is all right for me, meaning I’ll be heading to Portugal solo. I’ve already been vaccinated and have PCR tests booked, so I’m not too worried about catching Covid.
“We were meant to go to Spain and rebooked to Porto two weeks ago, and have paid all the money for our trip already. It’s a shame not to have my best friend there, but she understands and we’ll likely be having her hen do after her wedding in whatever green list country we can.”
Like others, the experience has discouraged Isabel from booking further holidays weeks in advance this year.
“PCR tests are hugely expensive and travel insurance is also a concern when rules change at such short notice. We are probably going to book last-minute from now on, it’s just not worth the stress.”