Can I visit Wales? Latest advice as country goes under 'firebreak' lockdown

Emma Featherstone
·7 mins read
snowdonia - Getty
snowdonia - Getty

It has now been confirmed that Wales will go into a national 'firebreak' lockdown from this Friday October 23 until Monday November 9. The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, made the announcement at midday today.

Under the new rules everyone in Wales will be told to stay at home, while pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will be forced to shut. Gatherings indoors and outdoors with people not in a single household will also be banned.

The news hasn't come as a shock to many, after details of the lockdown were made public via a leaked letter from a regional director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport to its members in Wales..

The news follows the barring of travellers from Covid hotspots in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, which came into effect on October 16. Since October 1, two thirds of the Welsh population have also been living under local lockdown, with tensions mounting as those from the rest of the UK remained able to holiday in the country while many Welsh locals could not. 

The ban applied to Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas of England. Those in Tier 3 locations are already barred from leaving their area, but the news meant those in Tier 2 areas, who are able to travel, also needed to remove Wales from any holiday plans they had. Now, no one in the wider UK will be able to visit Wales until at least November 9.

Currently, 17 of Wales' 22 local authorities are subject to local restriction measures. People living in those areas are not able to travel beyond their county boundary without a reasonable excuse. It is unclear if they will remain in local lockdown after the national lockdown is lifted – this will be subject to infection rates.

The news will be a blow to Mid-Wales, which boasts one of the lowest Covid rates in the UK. Currently not under lockdown and open to visitors from the wider UK, as long as they are not from a Tier 2 or Tier 3 area, it will have to go back under lockdown with the rest of the country. Those hoping for a last minute trip to Wales will be able to do so in Mid-Wales until this Friday.

Current Covid advice from the Welsh government includes face coverings on public transport, in shops and enclosed public spaces, and a 10pm curfew for hospitality businesses.

However, Wales differs on the rule of six. In England, the advice is as follows: “When meeting friends and family you do not live with (or have formed a support bubble with) you must not meet in a group of more than six, indoors or outdoors.” In England, this number includes children.

In Wales, people can only meet socially indoors with people who they live with or who are part of their extended “bubble”. The Welsh Government advice states: “Meetings or gatherings indoors are limited to six people from the same extended household, not including any children under 11.”

So what does this all mean for Britons (whether from Wales or elsewhere) who have booked holidays in Wales, or who are planning day trips in the country? Here we detail the latest rules.

What are the current restrictions in Wales, and can I visit?

Until Friday October 23, those from the UK in 'low-risk' areas are able to travel to areas in Wales not under local lockdown. After October 23, however, all travel will be banned until November 9, and you will be unable to visit.

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Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically

There are currently local lockdowns in place in the following areas:

  • Bangor

  • Blaenau Gwent

  • Bridgend

  • Caerphilly

  • Cardiff

  • Conwy

  • Denbighshire

  • Flintshire

  • Llanelli

  • Merthyr Tydfil

  • Neath Port Talbot

  • Newport

  • Rhondda Cynon Taf

  • Swansea

  • Torfaen

  • Vale of Glamorgan

  • Wrexham

A Welsh Government spokesperson told Telegraph Travel: “Travel in and out of these areas is limited to essential travel only – unfortunately, this would not include travelling for a holiday.”

With a lockdown coming into force on October 23, all travel will be off limits until November 9. 

What are the rules of a 'firebreak' lockdown?.

Under the new lockdown, all non-essential workers must stay home. Pubs and restaurants will close, as will tourist attractions – it will largely be a return to March lockdown rules. Some beaches may remain open. Overnight stays are effectively banned, with hotels to close.

Under local lockdown, no one is allowed to enter or leave the areas without a “reasonable excuse”. The borders are effectively closed, with travel only permitted under certain exceptions, such as travelling to work if you are not able to work from home, to school and to buy food or medical supplies. Under the nationwide lockdown, these rules will extend to all parts of Wales. 

One thing the first minister has made clear however, is that the lockdown will be short and sharp - he emphasised that the lockdown will end after two weeks, regardless of Covid case numbers.

Will I be able to travel to Wales after the lockdown?

Yes, you should be. Welsh tourism and hospitality businesses, including museums and galleries, were allowed to reopen under a phased return this summer –  they will be allowed to reopen again from November 9.

Local lockdowns may remain in place after the 'firebreak' lockdown, however, so not all of Wales may be accessible again. It is likely the border will also remain closed to those from Tier 2 and 3 areas in the rest of the UK.

Otherwise, post-lockdown, accommodation providers, visitor attractions and hospitality businesses should be able to reopen while following the current rules on face coverings, group gatherings, table service and 10pm closures. Off licences and supermarkets can also not sell alcohol after 10pm – this will likely continue too.

Yet, given the lockdown, it may be all but impossible for many businesses to continue as normal.

"It's going to be a really difficult time and I can see a lot of business going to the wall," David Chapman, executive director for Wales at industry body UK Hospitality, told BBC Radio Wales.

"I can see jobs being shed as furlough is coming to an end. We need full support, if we don't get support now we are going to lose people in large numbers. We could lose up to 40,000 jobs which will be a massive impact in many rural and coastal communities.”

Ashford Price, co-chair of the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions (WAVA) and chairman of the National Showcaves Centre for Wales that 63 per cent of WAVA members have needed financial help to survive to Easter 2021 and 88 per cent were planning redundancies.

Can I stay overnight in Wales?

Only until October 23, provided it is in an area not under local lockdown and you follow coronavirus restrictions, such as the rule of six. All accommodation will be shut for the two week lockdown – the will hopefully reopen after November 9.

Post-lockdown, the national rule of six restrictions will most likely add caveats to overnight stays, particularly in self-catering accommodation. Groups of more than six are not permitted to meet indoors and so groups of family or friends larger than this cannot congregate in the same accomodation. This also means parties and get-togethers over this number are in breach of the law.

If a group of more than six people were to stay in the same hotel room, this would also be illegal. Camping is also affected where it breaks the rules on socialising.

Should I cancel my holiday?

If your holiday falls between October 23 and November 9, yes you should cancel it. You should also cancel your holiday if it is in a local lockdown area. If your holiday in Wales falls after November 9, you may want to speak to your hotel or travel agent about what your options are.

Can I get a refund for my holiday?

If your holiday has been cancelled, see our guide on how to obtain a refund or a travel voucher. If you wish to cancel your holiday, you should be able to do so, though some hotels may ask you rebook for a later date, rather than issue a full refund. Find out more about your consumer rights here.