I have a flight ticket from the UK, to Costa Rica, with a connecting flight in Germany (in March). The airline is Lufthansa.

Costa Rica is allowing international travellers in, however, the UK is currently in lockdown and has put out restrictions on leaving your home. The current rules the that UK Government has put out are not very clear:

You can only travel internationally – or within the UK – where you first have a legally permitted reason to leave home. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting.

If you do need to travel overseas (and are legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work), even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice.

Additionally, the travel info page specific to Costa Rica says:

Commercial flights are not running normally. United Airlines, Iberia, Air France and Lufthansa are operating some flights and other airlines are resuming operations on certain dates. Check with the airlines or a travel agent.

Supposing that these rules are still in place in March, can I travel to Costa Rica for tourism purposes? I cannot find a list of the "legally permitted reasons" anywhere on the GOV website.

  • 4
    A list of permitted reasons to leave home is here legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/1200/part/2/made Travel solely for tourism is not included, as far as I can see.
    – Traveller
    Jan 22, 2021 at 12:17
  • 3
    Unless I'm missing something, the legally permitted reasons are the same as the ones for travel within the UK, stated elsewhere on the page you link to - they're just not repeated in that subsection. The section afterwards also states that "holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed", which seems pretty clear. Jan 22, 2021 at 20:32
  • How can the UK enforce any restrictions on leaving without exit immigration? Jan 27, 2021 at 0:30
  • 1
    @lambshaanxy Police checks - the pandemic has turned the UK into a DDR-esque police state, though obviously it's not systematic and I myself (being a frequent visitor) have never had problems thus far, even during full-fledged lockdowns
    – Crazydre
    Jan 27, 2021 at 13:49
  • 2
    New announcement today - departing travellers will be explicitly asked for the purpose of their journey and prevented from travelling for tourism. Jan 27, 2021 at 15:18

2 Answers 2


On the UK side of things, you can't leave home but for the reasons outlined at https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/1200/part/2/made. Doesn't include tourism I'm afraid.

Unless the flights are cancelled and/or restrictions lifted, the only legal option is to forfeit your ticket with only a tax refund or possibly a full-value voucher (which becomes smoke if the airline goes bust).

Wait and see if the restrictions are lifted and/or the flights cancelled. If neither happens by March, like I said, you have limited recourse unless prepared to break the law.

  • @JonathanReez Edited. Is it better now?
    – Crazydre
    Jan 23, 2021 at 10:01
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. The comments series was based on the unedited answer, the post is now rather different. If you want to continue on the old comment series you are welcome to go to the chatroom.
    – Willeke
    Jan 23, 2021 at 18:12
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    @Crazydre The Linked statutory instrument only applies to England, not the full UK, For Scotland: legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2020/103/regulation/8/made is the relevant SI, For Wales: legislation.gov.uk/wsi/2020/1609/schedule/4/part/1/paragraph/1/…, For Northern Ireland: legislation.gov.uk/nisr/2020/150/regulation/6C None of these allow tourism at this time, but understanding the differences is important as rules change. Jan 23, 2021 at 21:49
  • 1
    According to the UK Civil Aviation Authority, you might be entitled to a refund even if your flight operates, if you are prevented from travelling by lockdown restrictions - see caa.co.uk/Our-work/Newsroom/COVID-19-guidance-for-passengers
    – Hedgehog
    Jan 24, 2021 at 10:36
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    @Hedgehog They're referring to a recommendation by the Competition and Markets Authority. Having consulted various airlines on the issue (including Lufthansa, the one of concern to OP), I can confirm every single one of them wipes their bottom with it - if the flight's running, no full refund, period! In fact, even when they do cancel, they frequently defraud customers saying they're exempt from any liability due to force majeure, only offering vouchers as goodwill (had this happen, and getting re-routed and granted EC261 compensation was a tiring procedure)
    – Crazydre
    Jan 24, 2021 at 13:05

All the below applies to England only, which I have assumed is your location based on the reference to the gov.uk guidance for England. Answers for Scotland, Wales and NI will all vary.

On the gov.uk website, the legally permitted reasons for travel are the same as those for leaving your home, which is why they are not repeated.

You can find these near the top of the page you linked at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home#summary-what-you-can-and-cannot-do-during-the-national-lockdown

Leaving home

You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:

  • shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
  • go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
  • exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person (in which case you should stay 2m apart). Exercise should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
  • meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
  • seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • attend education or childcare - for those eligible

This is the UK government interpretation of the regulation, as mentioned by other answers the actual legal instrument can be found here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/1200/part/2/made

In addition, the part of the gov.uk site that you have quoted from specifically states:

This means you must not go on holiday.

Which seems fairly unambiguous.

It's not clear to me that this is being enforced at all in practice however.

  • 2
    There can be spot checks at and near airports (e.g. when exiting airport train stations), but if you behave normally chances are slim. One can also claim to be residing abroad, as non-UK residents are usually allowed to both exit and enter the country. So one could say non-UK residents have greater flexibility then UK residents
    – Crazydre
    Jan 25, 2021 at 18:30
  • 1
    @CMaster Theres is a lot of confusion here, even among official guidance between UK rules and English rules. It would be helpful not to continue to spread the confusion that The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 is the law outside of England. Instead see my comment on the other answer for the relevant statutory instruments for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Jan 25, 2021 at 22:33
  • @user1937198 Good point, have edited to note that.
    – CMaster
    Jan 26, 2021 at 9:09
  • Can someone tell me if this applies to an international traveler (Sri Lanka) transiting through UK (Heathrow)?
    – zwdev2
    Jan 27, 2021 at 13:02
  • 1
    @zwdev2 THat's a different question, ask it seperatley.
    – CMaster
    Jan 27, 2021 at 14:30

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