Turkish holiday hopes have been dealt a severe blow this week with the announcement that the country has been added to the UK’s “red list” of destinations.
Under the new traffic light system set to replace the current ban on international travel, it will be subject to the harshest travel restrictions, with visitors travelling from Turkey to the UK required to enter a quarantine hotel for 11 days at a cost of up to £1,750.
The news comes as a particular disappointment following the Turkish government’s decision to allow Britons to travel for summer holidays without a vaccination certificate or negative Covid test.
This policy is based on the Turkish Government’s conviction that the vast majority of Britons will have been vaccinated by the summer months, and as such the country expects to lift the requirement of a negative PCR test for holidaymakers from the UK.
Since December 20, all commercial flights from the UK to Turkey had been banned by the country. Turkey also began easing the strict Covid restrictions in place at the beginning of March.
Below, we detail everything we know so far about the likelihood of a summer holiday in Turkey.
Am I allowed to travel to Turkey?
Until at least May 17, only those with an essential reason to leave Britain may do so. If you arrive at an airport without proof of an essential reason for travel, you will be asked to return home and could face a fine from the police.
The UK does not consider a holiday to be essential; only those travelling for work, or for other ‘valid’ reasons (such as to buy a house, or get married; the list is surprisingly extensive) are allowed to travel overseas. If you are allowed to travel, you must still quarantine for 10 days when you return home (and take three tests).
After May 17, holidaymakers can expect to travel to Turkey from the UK without needing to provide proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test. However, with Turkey now on the “red list”, travellers do face additional quarantine restrictions on their return.
How long will Turkey be on the “red list”?
There’s no saying for certain. The decision has been made based on the proportion of its population that has been vaccinated, its infection rates, the prevalence of variants of concern and its capacity to sequence their genomes.
Turkey’s current seven-day case rate sits at 210 per 100,000 people, significantly more than the UK’s 21 per 100,000 people. The Turkish vaccination drive is progressing slowly but steadily, however, with just under 25 million doses administered so far. That amounts to about 15% of the population receiving both jabs.
A review of the UK traffic light system is planned at the end of June, ahead of the main summer holiday season, which is expected to pave the way for vaccinated people to possibly avoid quarantine and take fewer or no tests. Should the situation in Turkey improve, it is probable that the country will be recategorised as an “amber” destination.
Who can enter Turkey?
On December 20, Turkey temporarily suspended passenger flights between the UK and Turkey, after news of the more infectious Kent Covid variant spread. The borders do remain open, however, and anyone is able to go to Turkey – UK residents will just need to transit through a different country.
If you have been in the UK during the past ten days, you will be subject to heightened restrictions upon entry.
Once the restriction is lifted in May, Britons can travel to Turkey without providing proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test.
Do I need to take a test before travel?
No. After May 17, all passengers from the UK will not be required to have a negative PCR test.
Do I need to fill in any forms?
Yes. A passenger locator form will need to be filled in before your arrival in Turkey. Details will be provided by your airline, and you will need to share the residential address of where you will stay, within the borders of Turkey, and your contact information.
Do I need to self-isolate on arrival?
Yes. Anyone who has been in the UK within the last 10 days must undergo a 14-day quarantine on arrival in Turkey; this can be at a residential address. You can take a PCR test on day 10 of quarantine – if negative, you will be released early.
Is Turkey in lockdown?
Technically no, though strict measures are in place.
However, Turkey began easing lockdown restrictions at the start of March.
The provinces in Turkey are split into four tiers according to Covid risk: low, medium, high and very high. A map of Turkey illustrating these tiers is available from the Ministry of Health, should you need it.
Smoking in open areas (streets, avenues and other open public areas) is banned in all areas, regardless of risk-level, and a nationwide curfew is in place from 9pm until 5am the following morning. For high and very high risk areas, the curfew also lasts from Saturday at 9pm until 5am Monday morning. Those over the age of 65 have an even stricter curfew, and are only allowed to go outside between 10am and 2pm unless going out to work. Tourists are not subject to any age-related curfews.
Shopping centres, markets, restaurants and hairdressers can only open from 10am to 8pm on weekdays, while in medium and low-risk areas, restaurants and cafes can open from 7am to 7pm for sit down service, at 50 per cent capacity.
In high-risk areas, only takeaway is allowed, and swimming pools and football pitches are closed.
Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Turkey would begin a gradual return to normal life on a provincial basis this month, which is positive news for those in the country – or hoping to get over for a relatively restriction-free holiday.
Do I need to wear a mask?
Yes. Mask-wearing is mandatory at all times in public throughout Turkey. This includes, but is not limited to, all public places, including streets, side streets, parks, gardens, picnic areas, markets, seaside and public transportation including Metro, buses, taxis and ferries.
Masks are also mandatory in all shops, restaurants, hairdressers and barber shops.
Do I need to take a test before travelling back to England?
Yes. Currently, you must take a test 72 hours before departure. If you fail to do so, you will be denied boarding, or risk a fine of up to £500 on arrival back in the UK. You can find the Government’s rules on testing before departure here.
Do people travelling from Turkey to England have to go into quarantine?
Yes. With Turkey now on the “red list”, anyone who has been in or transited through the country in the last 10 days must enter hotel quarantine upon arrival in the UK.
When will holidays be allowed to resume?
For now, the earliest date the UK government has given for the resumption of international holidays is May 17. This date is not set in stone, however, and will be subject to review. We also do not know the details of any return to holidays – for instance, if a quarantine will still be in place for returning Britons, if tests will still be required, or if travel corridors will return.
Turkey is keen for holidays to the country to resume, but it is unlikely many Britons will be able to willing to undergo the 11-day quarantine upon their return.
Are flights to Turkey still operating?
No. Direct flights from the United Kingdom to Turkey were temporarily suspended from January 1.
Non-essential travel from the UK will resume from May 17, and from this date Turkey is set to welcome British holidaymakers.
Flights from Turkey to the UK are however still operating – one way direct commercial flights are available from Istanbul with Pegasus Airlines and Turkish Airlines.
Am I still covered by travel insurance?
If you need to travel to Turkey there are a small number of providers willing to offer cover against Foreign Office advice.
How is Turkey’s vaccination drive going?
Very well. More than 24 million jabs have been given in Turkey, using shots developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech. In comparison, Spain has administered 18 million vaccines, while Greece has only given three million doses.