Our ambassador Julia Hobson has kindly put together a list of things to consider if you are thinking of travelling abroad on cycling holidays in the coming months. As the owner and main guide for Endless Trails MTB, these tips from Julia will be useful for anyone planning a trip to Europe or further a field.
With the ever-changing restrictions we’ve all been living under in some form for the last 15 months, many of us are in desperate need of a holiday. It hasn’t been easy to make plans as the uncertainty around international travel continues and guidelines constantly change.
However, last week’s announcement that the UK government were to end quarantine for double vaccinated UK citizens on returning home from amber list countries saw many people starting to get excited that maybe, just maybe, a foreign holiday was on the cards again!
All over the country bike bags are being dusted off, suncream is being ordered, and websites scoured for deals on travel to be able to ride bikes in the sunshine!
There’s no doubt that travel will be a little more complicated than we were once used to. For anyone lucky enough to be considering journeying overseas though, with a little bit of planning and sifting through the relevant guidance, it might not be quite as stressful as you first imagined.
We’ve put together a list of things to consider if you are thinking of travelling abroad on cycling holidays, which will hopefully make life a bit easier. We’ve focused on travel to Europe, as we imagine this is where most people looking to take a riding trip, and it’s where we (Endless Trails MTB) are running several Alpine mountain bike holidays this August/September.
Travel to Europe throughout this Summer is almost certainly going to continue to require double vaccination AND proof of a negative Covid test taken 48 hours before departure to avoid having to quarantine on arrival in Europe. Your second jab must have been at least 1 week before you travel as well.
For UK residents, if you haven’t had a second jab, you should be able to get one 8 weeks after your first now, by attending any drop in clinic in your local area (even if you have a later date booked already).
For some destinations, you will need to do a pre-departure test either within 72 (if it is a PCR) or 48 (if it is an antigen test) hours before travel, test negative and show the certificate of this before crossing borders or being allowed on a plane.
Pre-departure tests are available from various places online, Boots also offer a same day service for £60. Unfortunately you cannot use the free NHS lateral flow tests. Plenty of others are available online and will list if they are suitable for travel purposes.
Proof of Vaccination Status
Some destinations may not insist on a test as long as you’ve had both vaccinations, or you’ve recently recovered from Covid-19. For example as of the 19th July, you no longer need a negative test result if you are fully vaccinated to enter France.
Each country has its own rules for entry and it’s up to you to check these carefully. However, if a country will allow you to travel fully vaccinated, you can use the NHS App to prove this, or request a letter by calling up the NHS 119 helpline (England residents only). Information on travel for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’s residents has not been released yet.
You can download the NHS App to get your proof of vaccination status. From here you can print off a certificate, which will be needed rather than just the QR code on your phone at some entry points.
At present, anyone entering France (and possibly other EU countries), must sign and submit a sworn statement at the border attesting to them being Covid symptom-free and not having come into contact with anyone with Covid in the last 14 days. The French form is available here.
Unfortunately, there are some countries in Europe such as Italy, where even if you are double vaccinated and have a negative test result, you still cannot enter without a compelling reason, and must quarantine on entry. This may change but is set to run until at least the 30th of July.
Guidelines and individual country rules are changing all the time, so it is worth checking the government website of the country you are travelling for up to date information. You can find links to most of these from the UK government website.
Returning to the UK from cycling holidays
Most of Europe is currently on the UK Amber list which means when you travel back to the UK, you will need to self-isolate at home for 10 days, and pay for tests on days 2 and 8 if you are not vaccinated. If you are double vaccinated, you will need a pre-departure negative test before leaving the country you are in, then a day 2 test, there is no need to quarantine. However, to confuse things further, from the 19th of July, this does not apply to France, where you will still need to quarantine and take tests on days 2 and 8 even if you are double vaccinated. As things are constantly evolving, you can find updated details about this on the UK government website.
The pre-departure test you will need before flying/driving back to the UK can be done on the last afternoon of your trip in many hospitals and pharmacies in Europe. Results are generally available within 20 minutes for antigen tests, or by midnight for PCR tests. The cost of these in France is roughly €49. England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will likely all have their own rules, so check the relevant government websites for information.
The UK currently requires people entering the country to present a passenger locator form. It must be completed before you arrive and submitted within a 48-hour window of disembarking. You will likely be asked to show this when you board your plane, train or ferry. You must fill out your passport and travel details, as well as the address where you’ll be staying. You’ll also need the reference numbers for the two Covid tests that you must take on days 2 and 8 after arriving in the UK (or just day 2 if you are double vaccinated).
Travel insurance for cycling holidays
As a UK citizen, you must now have travel insurance which also covers you for repatriation in the event of an accident to enter much of Europe. You should take out travel insurance at the same time as booking any cycling holidays. From getting sick abroad to having to cancel your flights because of self-isolation, the coronavirus pandemic could wreck your holiday, even if you’ve been vaccinated.
If the FCDO advises against travel to a country, or “all but essential travel”, this could invalidate your insurance. If you’ve booked a package holiday such as the guided tours we at Endless Trails MTB operate, you will likely be offered a refund, which makes it easy to cancel or rebook for a time when your insurance will be valid. However, this isn’t always the case. For flight or hotel-only booking, you won’t be entitled to a refund unless you paid for a refundable room or ticket.
Many insurers will not cover you for Covid-related issues, so if you have a travel insurance policy, you should check your cover, and bear this in mind as a possibility you may need to be prepared to budget for. However, numerous insurers will cover you for travel to an Amber list country in these circumstances and also provide specific activity cover for cycling or mountain biking.
Bikmo offers its own travel insurance policy that includes cover for coronavirus (COVID-19). For example, the cover is provided if you have received a positive diagnosis of Coronavirus (COVID-19) within 14 days of the start of the trip. You’d also be covered for any medical costs abroad, as a result of falling ill with Coronavirus (COVID-19) whilst abroad. You can find out more details about our policy’s coverage for COVID-19 here. For mountain biking, selecting the category C sports add-on would fully cover you for a guided trip or any non-competitive MTB riding you do abroad.
EHIC and GHIC
Double-check the expiry date on your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), if it hasn’t run out yet it will continue to work as it always has. But if it has expired, replace it with a new GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) which is free from the NHS here. The card allows UK residents access to free or reduced-cost healthcare in most European countries when travelling. You still need to take out a decent travel insurance policy – GHIC and EHIC aren’t a replacement.
You must have at least 6 months remaining on your passport now for entry into Europe. Your passport must also be less than 10 years old on the day of travel. You don’t need a visa for travel to Europe which is less than 90 days and for leisure purposes.
In addition to this, you may need to show a return travel ticket, and justify where you are staying on your trip or that you have the means to support yourself financially for the duration. It really depends on the country you are travelling to and the border officials you come across, but worth having everything in order to make your journey as smooth as possible.
Individual country rules
Masks rules vary in different countries, with some requiring you to wear them indoors and on public transport, and others requiring their use outdoors in public places still. Curfews may also be in place in some places. The best place to find up to date information on individual countries is the Government website for that country.
Bike preparation for cycling holidays
Having done all this organising, the last thing you want is to arrive on a cycling holiday and find your bike breaks on the first ride. So make sure it’s in good working order with a service beforehand. Parts availability is a nightmare worldwide this year, so take plenty of spares, including things like inner tubes, brake pads, spokes, tyres, derailleurs and hangers, as you are unlikely to be able to pick up spares in local shops.
Remember you cannot fly with e-bike batteries so ensure you have arranged the hire of these locally. With the shortage of bike parts and increased demand for bikes, there may be an increased risk of theft in some places so it’s worth ensuring your bikes are covered through a policy like Bikmo’s cycle-specific insurance policy.
Driving to Europe?
Post Brexit you don’t need an International Driving Permit, but you will need a Green Card from your insurer and a GB sticker if you’re planning to drive your car abroad. European countries also have rules on what you need to carry in your vehicle by law, for example, a red warning triangle and hi-viz jacket, plus a spare bulb kit in France.
Of course, all of this information is changing all the time as the global situation evolves. Travel this year will be somewhat risky and complicated compared to normal, and not even an option in many destinations for anyone unvaccinated. But I do not doubt that for those who make the effort the rewards will also definitely be worth it.
Endless Trails MTB cycling holidays
If you are an experienced mountain biker looking for a week of epic enduro/all-mountain riding in the Alps then Endless Trails MTB have a few places remaining available on cycling holidays in September. Details can be found here.
If you do manage to make it abroad, then stay safe, enjoy the break, and don’t rub it in too much to your mates back at home who can’t travel! Whether it’s at home in the UK or overseas, have a great summer and happy riding.