While the latest update of the UK’s travel traffic light system added a few holiday options to the mix, with Croatia and Bulgaria upgraded to the green list, the majority of the world’s countries remain stuck on amber.
Although recreational international travel became legal again on 17 May, holidays were previously only enticing to destinations the government designated as “green” – a scant collection of just 29 countries and territories, which came with the lightest restrictions for travellers arriving back in the UK.
Most places are on the amber list, prompting harsher restrictions for returning travellers. However, from 19 July, fully vaccinated Brits and those under 18 can swerve quarantine when returning from amber countries.
But now that travel is opening up further, will an amber country let you in? Here’s what we know so far.
Am I legally allowed to travel to an amber country on holiday?
Yes – at least, from the British side of things. While the government previously advised against holidaying in any country not on the green list, recreational international travel is no longer illegal in the UK. And, from 19 July, the government is lifting its advisory not to holiday in amber list countries.
However, the destination you’re planning on travelling to will have its own rules regarding who can enter the country. The “amber list” only refers to the restrictions travellers face when they’re entering the UK – the classification has no bearing on the outbound travel requirements. Your destination might need proof that your trip is “essential”, or may only be letting in its own citizens or residents at present: check the latest entry regulations on the Foreign Office (FCDO) destination pages.
What restrictions do I face when I come back?
Until 19 July, all those coming to the UK from an amber list country face three tests and a stint in quarantine. First up, before travellers are allowed to depart for the UK, they must show a negative Covid test result. This can be a lateral flow or rapid antigen test, as well as a PCR.
They must have pre-booked a package of two PCR tests to be taken upon their return, scheduled for day two and day eight from the day they arrive into the UK. Travellers are required to quarantine at home for 10 days, although in England they have the option to pay for an extra test on day five which, if negative, allows them to cut short their self-isolation under the government’s test to release scheme.
However, transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced that fully vaccinated British adults who have had their second dose 14 days prior and children under 18 can avoid the quarantine requirement from 19 July. Instead, they will face the same lighter restrictions as green list arrivals – one pre-departure test, and a PCR within two days of entering Britain. Northern Ireland is introducing the same rules on 26 July.
Which amber countries will let in British tourists?
As the amber list comprises all but 89 of the world’s countries (60 are on the red list, 29 on the green list), it would be tricky to look at them all; we’ll focus instead on key amber tourist destinations.
Even if a country’s borders are open to British holidaymakers, the levels of restriction still vary wildly: they might require proof of vaccination or a negative test, or a period of quarantine (not ideal for tourists).
Testing or proof of vaccine
Many European amber destinations will let in Brits so long as they can show they’ve had both jabs or have taken a Covid test with a negative result within a certain timeframe before arrival, often 72 hours. However, the type of Covid test required (and the timeframe) varies from country to country.
Spain was formerly flying the banner for no-restrictions entry to British holidaymakers. However, following a surge in cases of the Delta virus variant, as of 2 July it has stipulated that UK travellers must present a negative Covid-19 test or proof of vaccination.
Greece’s current rules state that arrivals from the UK must provide one of the following: proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test taken within the 72-hour period before arrival into Greece; proof of a negative Covid-19 rapid antigen test taken within the 48-hour period before arrival into Greece; proof of two Covid-19 vaccinations completed at least 14 days before travel; or proof of recovery from Covid-19. Travellers with one of the above are exempted from the need to self-isolate on arrival to Greece.
The UK has been moved to Cyprus’ Red category, effective 8 July. The move means that, while British travellers are still permitted to enter the country quarantine-free, they must submit to another PCR test on arrival, in addition to one 72 hours prior to departure. The second test must be paid for by the traveller; it costs €30 at Larnaca airport and €32 at Paphos airport, and the results are available within three hours on the digital platform covid-testcyprus.com. Children under 12 are exempt from testing, as are Britons who can prove they’ve had two jabs of the Covid vaccine.
On 15 June, direct flights between the UK and Morocco resumed. You will need to provide proof that you have been fully vaccinated against Covid, with the second dose administered at least two weeks prior to travel, or a negative PCR test result before boarding your flight or ferry to Morocco. The result must show that the PCR test was undertaken no more than 48 hours before arrival. For travel by ferry, you will also need to take a test during the journey. Children under the age of 11 years old are exempt from the PCR testing requirement for entry into Morocco. However, it’s worth noting that the FCDO advice states: “Demonstrating your vaccination status from the UK is not formalised for entry into Morocco, so you should follow alternative advice for entry.”
Must be fully vaccinated
Portugal was originally on the UK’s hallowed green list but got knocked off at the last review in early June. Only Brits who are fully vaccinated are welcome in without being subject to a 14-day quarantine; however, children under 18 are exempt from quarantine if they are travelling with a fully vaccinated adult. All travellers, apart from children under 12, must have proof of a negative Covid test to travel to or through mainland Portugal. The test can be: a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT), including RT-PCR, taken within 72 hours of travel; or an Antigen tesa that meets the performance standards set out in the EU common list of Rapid Antigen Tests, taken within 48 hours of travel.
As of 30 June, Malta requires all arrivals from the UK to present proof of full vaccination. This must show that you received a full course of vaccination at least 14 days prior to your arrival. Children aged 5-11 can travel if they are accompanying their vaccinated parents/legal guardian and must show evidence of a negative PCR test dated within 72 hours before arrival. Children under 5 do not need a test. Children aged 12-18 will only be able to travel if they have proof of full vaccination.
Arrivals to France from the UK must justify an essential reason to enter the country unless they are fully vaccinated. All unvaccinated travellers from the UK, including children aged 11 and above, will need to present a negative PCR Covid-19 test result, carried out less than 72 hours before departure. They’ll also be required to self-isolate for seven days on arrival, before taking another PCR test. Exit from this self-isolation period is subject to a negative test result. Double jabbed visitors and accompanying minors under 18 need not have an essential reason for travel or self-isolate, but those aged 11 or over still need evidence of a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of departure, or a negative antigen test result taken within 48 hours of departure.
Poland introduced a seven-day quarantine for British travellers, even if they have presented a negative Covid PCR test upon arrival. However, if you are fully vaccinated, you are exempt from quarantine on arrival in Poland, but must present evidence of your vaccination at the border and 14 days must have passed since your final dose.
From 7 July, the UK was downgraded to a “high-incidence area” in Germany, meaning you can enter Germany from the UK if you are fully vaccinated for any travel purpose. Otherwise, you can only visit from the UK if you are a German citizen, resident, or their spouse/partner/child under 18; serve in an important role; or have an urgent need to travel. Unvaccinated children under 12â¯years of age are allowed to enter Germany if they present proof of a negative test result and travel with at least one fully vaccinated parent.
From 7 April, entry to Italy from the UK was no longer restricted to Italian residents and those with absolute necessity. However, new restrictions were introduced on 21 June due to the rise in the Delta virus variant: those travelling from the UK must self-isolate for five days upon arrival, at the end of which they must take a rapid antigen or molecular swab test and test negative for release. In addition, if you wish to fly, you must present the airline with a negative Covid-19 rapid antigenic or molecular swab test taken no more than 48 hours before travel. Children under the age of 6 do not need to test or self-isolate.
Won’t let Brits in
Austria announced that Brits are banned from entering due to rising concerns over the Delta variant of the virus. Austria’s list of permitted entrants from the UK is limited to residents, EU/EEA citizens, Swiss citizens and others with an essential reason, such as work or education.
The US still isn’t admitting British travellers after a ban was originally introduced at the beginning of this year. It remains unclear when this might lift.
The Canadian authorities are barring entry to Canada, including at its border with the US, to most foreign nationals, including British nationals.