In more ‘normal’ times, hopping between Ireland and the UK didn’t even require so much as a passport.
As pandemic travel restrictions took over, PCR tests and quarantine all became hurdles.
Now you can now travel to the UK and return to Ireland without the need to quarantine. We spoke to people in Ireland who are set to breeze over the pond now that the restriction has been lifted – or is it really that easy?
Warren Brooks (24) moved to Ireland in September to be with his partner, because travel restrictions made it impossible to see each other during the pandemic. He is now looking forward to travelling back home to see his family in the midlands and in Cornwall at the weekend, although he too says getting there isn’t quite as simple as it seems.
“The website regarding travel information, especially on the Irish side, is just all over the place, it’s not straightforward.
"All we want to be told is, ‘Yes, you can go if you have these things’, but it’s not like that at all,” he said.
For Warren, the real trouble has been trying to ensure he will be able to get back into Ireland on August 8. He was vaccinated here on July 10, but never received his Digital Covid Certificate.
“I rang the helpline at 9 in the morning, and I only got through at 5.40pm. I was all day calling, and when I got through they said they had no record of my vaccine,” he said.
While that issue is being looked into, he has to hope his vaccination card will be enough to get him home.
“I’m coming back on August 8. Hopefully I get back into Ireland, and hopefully by then I might even get my Digital Covid Cert, but I’m not holding my breath,” he said.
Looking to the UK, Warren says it is great that restrictions on travel and life in general are lifted.
“It’s about time. Covid is going to be here forever, and people are going to have it, so we need to just be looking at hospitalisation and deaths, and if they go up then maybe introduce restrictions. Covid’s not going away, we have to live with it,” he said.
Louie Dean Valencia (30s) is a history professor at Texas State University, and has been travelling around Europe all summer researching a different pandemic – the HIV/Aids crisis of the 80s and 90s.
He is currently in Dublin, having arrived with the first wave of international travellers from Madrid on July 19, and had planned to complete the last leg of his research trip in the UK.
Despite the fact that he is fully vaccinated, and government information sites say that it is acceptable to travel from Ireland to the UK without any restrictions, Louie cancelled his flights for last weekend.
“I was originally planning on leaving to the UK on August 2, but as the date was getting closer there was no really good answer for whether or not somebody who is not Irish and not British could cross over,” he said.
“The Border in theory is supposed to be open, and supposedly there’s nobody checking, so from what I could tell, it was a question of, ‘you could probably get away with it’.
“Looking at the British side, the potential repercussions if you do it incorrectly were too great of a risk. It was going to be thousands of pounds of fines, it could be weeks of quarantine – all these things were totally unclear to me. I decide that it was better to play it a bit more safe, and I ended up cancelling the British trip altogether,” he said.
Louie says it “isn’t a terrible thing” having to spend some extra time in Dublin, as from all the places he has been on his nine-week research trip, he says Ireland has handled the pandemic best.
“Over this entire summer I’ve been in Texas, South Carolina, Rome, Florence, Madrid, Dublin and Cork, and overall I would say that Ireland has just been the best at being safe about it but also (giving the opportunity) to go do things in public spaces,” he said.
Stuart Hamilton (46) is from Kent originally, and now lives with his wife in Blackrock, Dublin. He hasn’t seen his family since March 2020, and now he is looking forward to travelling home.
“I was there on my own just before we locked down, but we didn’t go home for Christmas in 2019 so my wife hasn’t been home in even longer. We haven’t seen her niece, and she’s grown up two years in the meantime,” he said.
Stuart says that although everything is booked now for their trip home to Kent, guidance online “is not as clear as it might be”.
He has been closely following updates from the UK government and Aer Lingus, which “don’t quite tally” at times, and is “hoping to understand what’s going on at the airport” through other friends who are travelling in the coming days.
Switching gears on the journey back to Ireland is also confusing, as travel restrictions are still in place. Passenger locator forms, and either proof of vaccination or testing and quarantine, are required to get back into Ireland.
“It’s weird to go one way and not have to do it all, and then come back and do it on the other end,” said Stuart.
He said that it will also be a “little weird” to be able to go to a pub without a mask during his visit.
“I suspect that we’ll still be looking to spend most of our time in outdoor settings, and we’ll be a little wary, but hopefully it’s the direction that Ireland is going in too,” he said.
This article was amended on August 3, 2021.