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Travel News An essential guide to quarantine hotels

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An essential guide to quarantine hotels

Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure – whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and encouraging news from around the world about borders opening up, you may be thinking it will soon be time to pack your bags again. And you could be right: traveling abroad is in the cards soon. But first, there are new rules to be aware of, among which is the requirement to stay in a quarantine hotel before freely traveling around certain countries.

Since this isn’t a requirement in the United States, you may be wondering: what are quarantine hotels, where are they mandatory and what can you expect from staying in one? We’ll provide a quick overview to all your burning questions.

Here’s what we cover in this article:

Hotel quarantine: what is it?

Countries around the world have taken different approaches to requiring visitors to go into hotel quarantine. In the United Kingdom, hotel quarantine rules came into force from February 15, 2021, stipulating that all travelers coming into the UK from a red-list country from where travel is banned must spend 10 days in a specifically designated hotel and adhere to strict rules. This rule aims to curb the increase in cases of COVID-19 and its new variants. It is important to note that rules are different within the UK: check England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland requirements separately. For example, arrivals in Scotland are all subject to hotel quarantine.

Other countries, such as Australia, began imposing hotel quarantine to all foreign arrivals much earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic. Various durations of hotel quarantine exist and the rules around who has to quarantine, as well as the conditions, vary by country.

Typically, only citizens of the country or those with legal residence can arrive and undergo quarantine in hotels. They are tested for COVID-19 at specific points during their stay and will be allowed out of quarantine once they have tested negative, at the end of the required duration in each country. Generally, during your stay, you will not be able to mingle with others or go outside, while your meals will be delivered to your room daily.

Quarantine hotel illustration showing a customer service representative handing a credit card to a guest

Which countries are imposing hotel quarantine for foreign travelers?

An increasing number of countries have adopted the requirement for incoming travelers to quarantine in a hotel before being allowed to travel onward. As of the time of writing, these include:

  • The United Kingdom (with different rules for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Israel
  • China
  • Singapore
  • India
  • Qatar
  • South Korea
  • The Philippines

Rules about who can go into hotel quarantine and then visit the country vary as well. For instance, only British and Irish citizens or legal residents can enter England via hotel quarantine at this time. In Qatar, if citizens or residents return from green-listed countries, they can go into home quarantine.

How many rooms are typically available?

The availability of quarantine hotels is limited because only specific properties have been designated to accommodate incoming travelers in each country. There are no official published numbers of rooms, but you can only arrive in a country through specific airports. Official quarantine hotels are located in their immediate vicinity.

For example, in England, you can arrive at one of the following airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Birmingham and Farnborough. Hotels close to these airports are being used for quarantine passengers, with visitors touching down being escorted directly to them through arrangements made by the airport. These hotels are referred to as “managed quarantine hotels” and are booked in advance of arriving in the country.

How do you book a quarantine hotel?

People arriving into the countries imposing hotel quarantine cannot expect to book their stay in the typical way you would reserve accommodations. Instead, you will have to follow country-specific guidelines to book your stay. If arriving in Scotland, for example, you can book a Managed Quarantine Package following the links from the government guidelines page. Those living in Scotland who plan to travel abroad and then return home must book their package before setting off.

If you’re traveling into China, you will be booked into a centralized government hotel as part of your arrival process. You will first need to submit a Health Declaration Form to the Chinese Embassy or consulate nearest to you, which is issued by the Chinese authorities after you provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before taking any further steps.

Quarantine hotel illustration showing mobile devices with a green check mark and a location icon.

Who needs to quarantine in a hotel?

Hotel quarantine is generally available to citizens or legal residents of the country imposing these rules, if they are arriving from a list of countries designated as high-risk by the authorities. For example, in England, hotel quarantine applies if you arrive from anywhere in the world, including one of the “red-list” countries where there is currently a travel ban in place. The government updates this list on a regular basis.

Arrivals in New Zealand or Scotland, on the other hand, are all mandated to quarantine or go through managed isolation in hotels, regardless of the country they are traveling from.

Are there exemptions to hotel quarantine rules?

There are very few exemptions from these rules. In New Zealand, exemptions from the managed isolation scheme include people in transit, those who are joining unaccompanied minors or individuals whose medical needs require them to go into the hospital. Otherwise, they would need to isolate in a designated hotel upon arrival in the country. The authorities review these applications on a case-by-case basis.

For those arriving in England, exemptions only apply to specific jobs and a combination of circumstances.

How much does it cost?

The cost of quarantining in government-approved hotels is quite high because of the logistics involved. The rate for 10 days in quarantine for one adult arriving in England, for example, is currently £1,750 (approximately US$2,424). In Australia, if you arrive in New South Wales, you must quarantine for 14 days for a total cost of A$3,000 per adult (approximately US$2,323).

In all countries, costs for families or accompanying adults can vary, so be sure to check for your specific case.

What services are available to you in a quarantine hotel?

Hotel quarantine is generally very strict, with not much else allowed other than staying in your room. In countries like New Zealand, managed isolation rooms welcome residents with some basic facilities like unlimited WiFi and TV access, laundry services and some free toiletries and refreshments as you would expect in regular hotels. They also provide three meals a day and some snacks throughout the 14 days that people must remain in quarantine.

You cannot interact with other people while in hotel quarantine in New Zealand, except in cases where the individuals are part of “your bubble.” Unlike in the UK, you are allowed to go out of your room, but under strict controls, primarily for exercise and fresh air.

In English quarantine hotels, you will also be provided with three meals a day. You can also receive an outside visit in exceptional cases, such as if the visitor is providing emergency assistance or medical or veterinary care.

Illustration showing COVID testing supplies.

How is COVID testing carried out in quarantine hotels?

While staying in managed quarantine, travelers must take COVID-19 tests, usually twice during their stay. Both of these tests will need to be negative to allow you to move onward.

In England, testing is done on days 2 and 8 of quarantine. The tests are at the traveler’s expense and arranged before the stay. After the test on day 2, visitors cannot leave quarantine even if they test negative, as this phase is mostly focused on identifying any potential variants of COVID-19 as early as possible. It is still entirely possible for someone to develop COVID-19 after two days.

If you’ve tested negative on day 2, you will be tested again on day 8 of your stay. A positive test at this stage will make your quarantine period longer—up to 19 days.

A final thought

It might look quite complex to plan a trip while also taking account of dealing with quarantine hotels. This guide will hopefully have given you some of the crucial information you need to remember when considering your next trip. Even if you’re not ready to book a flight yet, you’ll now have the latest information on getting into some of your top vacation destinations. When you are ready to book, Skyscanner can help with flexible travel options for flights, accommodations and car rentals.

Remember: whenever you’re getting ready for your next vacation, check the local government guidelines to find out all the latest COVID-19 restrictions and measures in the US or abroad. You’ll be up to speed and ready to make the most of your next trip, wherever you are.

Disclaimer: This page was last updated on March 19, 2021. To our knowledge, the information on this page was correct at the time of publication. For further, up-to-date information, please visit WHO, CDC or State Department sites.

Where can I travel now?

To make sure you know exactly where you’re able to travel now, check out Skyscanner’s interactive travel restrictions map. It makes it easy to identify each country’s requirements, including whether they ask visitors to check into a quarantine hotel upon landing.

COVID-19 travel info graphic for Skyscanner's interactive global map

Frequently asked questions about quarantine hotels

How long will quarantine hotel rules last?

It is not clear how long people returning to the countries imposing quarantine will be asked to go into managed isolation because of where they have traveled from. In England, the red list of countries from where travel is banned is changing on an almost weekly basis, so it’s always recommended to check all official sources of information to ensure you are well informed ahead of traveling.

What is hotel quarantine really like?

People who have gone through hotel quarantine report various experiences, from being bored to experiencing anxiety. Ultimately, hotel quarantine is severely restrictive, but some countries deem it necessary for ensuring that travelers are not carrying COVID-19 and additional variants of the virus into the country they are entering. It is most definitely not a vacation!

Is hotel quarantine free anywhere in the world?

As of the time of writing, there doesn’t appear to be a free hotel quarantine option anywhere in the world. Governments have asked travelers returning to their countries to stay in these facilities at their own cost, which usually covers the stay, transport to and from the hotel and meals and services during one’s stay. Costs apply on a sliding scale depending on how many people are traveling together and whether they can be grouped in one room (e.g. couples).

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