The latest update of the UK’s travel traffic light system on 26 August saw the Azores, Finland, Canada and Switzerland 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 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, since 19 July, fully vaccinated Brits and those under 18 have been able to swerve quarantine when returning from amber countries. Double-vaccinated travellers from the US and EU can also follow green list rules instead.
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. On 19 July the government also lifted 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?
Unvaccinated travellers aged 18 and over entering 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 an antigen test (most commonly a lateral flow) or 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, fully vaccinated British adults who have had their second dose 14 days prior and children under 18 can avoid the quarantine requirement, as can double-jabbed visitors from the EU and US. Instead, they will face the same lighter restrictions as green list arrivals - one pre-departure test, and a PCR within two days of entering the UK.
Which amber countries will let in British tourists?
As the amber list comprises all but 105 of the world’s countries (62 are on the red list, 43 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 48 or 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 all UK travellers must present a pre-travel declaration form, proof of full vaccination at least 14 days prior to arrival, or a negative Covid-19 test. The test must be a Covid-19 nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT - e.g. PCR, TMA, LAMP or NEAR) taken within 72 hours prior to arrival in Spain and negative. Antigen tests can only be used in certain limited circumstances 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. All travellers must complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) before arrival into the country.
The UK was moved to Cyprus’ red category on 8 July. British travellers are permitted to enter the country quarantine-free if they can show proof of having received two Covid vaccinations. Fully vaccinated travellers must still obtain a Cyprus Flight Pass, available online here. Unvaccinated travellers must complete a PCR test up to 72 hours prior to departure and submit to another on arrival. The second test must be paid for by the traveller; it costs €15 at Larnaca airport and €19 at Paphos airport, and the results are available within three hours (Larnaca) or six hours (Paphos) on the digital platform covid-testcyprus.com. Travellers can continue to their destination while waiting for results. Children under 12 are exempt from testing.
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 72 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: “Morocco has not yet confirmed that it will accept the UK solutions for demonstrating your COVID vaccination status. You should follow guidance for alternative entry requirements. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination.”
Must be fully vaccinated
Portugal was originally on the UK’s hallowed green list but got knocked off in early June. It’s currently on the government’s amber list. Mainland Portugal does not yet accept the NHS Covid pass as proof of vaccination. Anyone travelling to the country aged 12 or over, regardless of vaccination status, must show a negative result from a PCR test taken less than 72 hours before you arrive in Portugal, or a lateral flow test within 48 hours. All travellers must all complete a passenger locator form and should be prepared for health screening, such as temperature checks, upon arrival in the country.
Unvaccinated travellers are not currently allowed to enter France unless they have an “essential reason” (this does not include leisure travel). Unvaccinated travellers who fulfil this requirement will also need to a) present a completed International Travel Certificate stating their essential reason for travel; b) present a completed ‘sworn statement’ (déclaration sur l’honneur) form self-certifying they are not suffering from symptoms associated with coronavirus and have not been in contact with confirmed cases in the preceding fortnight, and that they will self-isolate for seven days after arrival, and; c) provide evidence of a negative test (PCR or antigen) taken with 24 hours of departure. Self-administered tests are not accepted.
Travellers who are not fully vaccinated will need to self-isolate for seven days after arrival, then take another PCR test following this period of self-isolation.Children aged 12 years old or over who are not fully vaccinated and travelling with a fully vaccinated adult are required to present a negative test result (PCR or antigen). However, they do not need to provide an essential reason for travel, nor do they need to self-isolate on arrival. Children aged 12 years old or over who are unvaccinated and travelling alone are subject to the same conditions adults who are not fully vaccinated. Children aged 11 years old or younger do not need to present a negative test result to travel.
Double vaccinated travellers do not need an essential reason to travel to France and do not need to self-isolate on arrival. From 18 July, fully vaccinated travellers no longer need to present evidence of a negative test result before travel. Fully vaccinated travellers do need to complete a ‘sworn statement’ (déclaration sur l’honneur) form self-certifying they are not suffering from symptoms associated with coronavirus and have not been in contact with confirmed cases in the preceding fortnight, plus proof of their vaccination status.
Fully vaccinated travellers who have an NHS Covid Pass to prove it can now enter Belgium, as long as they complete a passenger locator form and take a Covid test on day one or two after arrival. It’s worth noting that if you test positive while in Belgium you will have to stay where you are and self-isolate for 10 days. Unvaccinated travellers are only able to travel to Belgium for a “very limited set of reasons”, such as the funeral of a “first or second degree family member”, or work - and that’s only for certain professions, such as healthcare, diplomats and military personnel, so you can kiss that gourmet chocolate experience goodbye unless you’ve had both vaccine injections.
If you have been fully vaccinated under the UK government’s vaccination programme at least 14 days prior to travel, you can enter the Czech Republic for any reason, including tourism, without needing to isolate or take a pre-departure PCR test. This has been the case since 23 August. Unvaccinated travellers, however, are still only allowed to enter the Czech Republic for essential reasons “such as for medical treatment or to attend a funeral”. If you are the spouse or long-term partner of a Czech or EU national, you may be able to enter under certain conditions - find out more on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Travellers entering Poland directly from the United Kingdom must undergo mandatory quarantine. You can leave quarantine after seven days if you receive a negative antigen or PCR COVID test result, or after 10 days without taking a test. Compulsory quarantine does not apply if you are fully vaccinated with a vaccination approved for use in the EU and 14 days have passed since your final dose. You must present evidence of your Covid-19 vaccination at the border. All visitors to Poland must also complete a passenger locator form.
Won’t let Brits in
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.
Japan is not currently admitting foreign nationals without resident status who have visited the UK within the last 14 days.
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