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Holidays abroad and the new traffic light list

Posted on May 18, 2021 by Vicky Smith
an image of a beach where visitors are practicing social distancing

Foreign holidays from the UK resume from 17 May. But what is the new traffic light list for international travel and where can you go without needing to quarantine?

The pandemic has led to a pent up demand for travel so the announcement that holidays are back on has spurred eager travellers into action.

There was a 3,000% surge in Portugal holiday searches after it was revealed the nation is one of just 12 on the green list for travel.

While the initial green list is limited, there’s confidence in the travel industry that more will be added as we hit the summer months.

If you’re looking to go on holiday abroad and wonder how the traffic light system affects travel, then this guide to the new red, amber and green list rules may help.

When can you go on holiday?

The order preventing people in England, Scotland, and Wales from travelling abroad for essential reasons only will end on 17 May. This means foreign holidays are back on!

The government in Northern Ireland has not yet formally confirmed when travel abroad for non-essential reasons can resume.

But the transport secretary Grant Shapps has said all the administrations agree on how the traffic light list should work. This gives us an indication that at some point, all four nations will have similar arrangements for travel abroad.

How does the travel traffic light system work?

Every destination falls under one of three traffic lights. Here’s what the rules and requirements will be for arrivals from those countries:

Green list

  • Proof of negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before your return journey
  • COVID-19 test on day two, after you arrive home (you will need to show proof you have booked this test at the border)

Amber list

  • Proof of negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before your return journey
  • COVID-19 tests on days two and eight after you arrive home (you will need to show proof you have booked these tests before you are allowed to cross the border)
  • Self-isolate at home or the place you are staying for 10 days (you may be able to end self-isolation early if you pay for an additional test on day five via ‘Test to Release’)

Red list

  • Proof of negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before your return journey
  • Book a 10-day quarantine hotel package (including two COVID-19 tests)

Arrivals from all countries must complete a passenger locator form, which sets out where you have travelled to and where you are staying in the UK.

Your new travel insurance policy with us comes with 10% off PCR test packages tailored to where you’re travelling according to the traffic light system.

Where can you go on holiday without quarantining?

From 17 May there will be 12 destinations on the government’s green list for quarantine-free travel.

Not all of these countries are accepting visitors from the UK, so it’s important you check the entry rules for your destination country. Being on the green list simply indicates the UK’s approach to that country.

As of 17 May, the nations on the government’s green list are:

  • Australia
  • Brunei
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Iceland
  • Israel
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Singapore
  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
  • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

The government has pledged to review the lists for travel every three weeks, with the next review expected in the first week of June.

As nations vaccinate more of their population and virus rates come under control it is likely more countries will be added to the green list in the coming months.

Countries could also move from the green list to amber or red. But the government has said it will place countries on a “watchlist” to alert travellers to a potential impending change in status. But if there is a sudden change in conditions, a country may be moved between lists without warning.

What countries are on the amber list?

Travel providers such as Tui are still offering bookings to a wide range of amber list destinations, such as the Canary Islands and Barbados.

But the government does not recommend travel to countries on the amber or red lists for leisure purposes. This is different to a formal advisory against travel from the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

Returning from an amber list country means you have to quarantine at home, or wherever you are staying, for 10 days. It’s possible to end self-isolation early via ‘Test to Release’.

What countries are on the red list and what does this mean?

Countries on the red list include India, the Maldives, Qatar and Turkey.

Many holiday providers, such as Tui, are choosing not to travel to countries on the red list.

Returning from a red list country requires you to quarantine in a government-managed hotel for 10 days. This stay costs £1,750 for the first person, plus additional costs for extra members of your party.

Do transit stops affect quarantine rules?

You need to follow the rules for the highest risk country you have visited within the last 10 days.

This includes any stop where you get off the plane, train or ship on which you are travelling.

It also includes a situation where new passengers from an amber or red country board during your transit stop are able to mix with you.

The only time making a transit stop does not impact quarantine rules on arrival is when no new passengers were allowed to board or you did not get off the transport during the stop.

If you are driving through amber or red list countries in a private vehicle then you must follow the quarantine rules for that country. This applies even if you did not stop the car during your journey.

How do I avoid delays at the airport?

It will be the responsibility of the traveller to have all of their paperwork in order when crossing the border.

So double check the requirements for where you are travelling to and the arrival rules. Be sure you have everything you need such as, proof of negative test results, pre-paid COVID-19 tests or quarantine hotel bookings. You’ll also need to fill out the passenger locator form.

The UK Border Force has warned there will be delays at the border because staff have additional paperwork to check for every traveller due to the new rules.

This means processing arrivals takes 12 to 14 times longer than usual.

Vicky Smith

by Vicky Smith

Vicky Smith is a journalist and freelance content creator. She loves to travel with her family. Her favourite place in the world is a sandy beach in Cornwall.