Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel are among just twelve countries that have been added to the government’s ‘green list’ of countries that it says are safe to visit when holiday travel starts again from 17 May.
Destinations around the world, including specific islands rather than just countries – have been assigned a green, amber or red status based on a range of Covid-19 health metrics, including vaccination numbers, infection rates and variants.
The other nine countries are Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Iceland, Falkland Islands, Faro Islands, South Georgia and Sandwich Islands, St Helena, Tristan de Cuna and Ascension Island.
For holidaymakers wishing to travel abroad this summer without the need for quarantine on return, a ‘green’ country is your best bet. You will still need to take a pre-departure test before leaving the country to return to the UK, as well as on or before day two, after landing.
However, before rushing into booking a holiday in a destination on the green list you still need to consider the country’s entry requirements.
Is it safe to book a holiday to a green list country?
Yes, as long as you book a holiday to a green list destination with caution. Just because a country is on the green list, doesn’t necessarily mean you can travel there. For example, Australia and New Zealand’s borders are closed to most international arrivals until 2022. Check before booking.
Other countries might be open to UK travellers, but may require you to provide proof of a negative PCR test on arrival (or proof of two vaccines). Tests are an additional cost to the holiday and each country will have different requirements, so it’s best to check this criteria and add up the additional costs of testing to see whether it’s affordable. See where to get cheap Covid-19 tests for travel.
You should also consider the advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) before booking. If the FCDO advises against travel to a country, you will find it difficult to get insurance. However, if you book through a good package holiday company, you will be entitled to a refund, date change or new destination should the FCDO advise against travel after you’ve made the booking.
Remember that flights may still operate to countries even if the FCDO advises against leisure travel, so it’s usually better to book a package holiday, unless an airline or hotel is offering free changes or free cancellations.
Some companies, such as Loveholidays and On The Beach, no longer follow the rules on FCDO advice. Last year they said they wouldn’t offer refunds for packages if flights were still operating to a destination. So be careful who you book with. Read our reviews on holiday companies.
What happens if I book a holiday to a green list country and it’s changed to amber?
There is always a chance that a green list country could be changed to amber or red by the government, which could cause disruption to your trip. The government plans to review countries every three weeks this year, instead of weekly like last year. This will minimise disruption, but could still impact holidays.
The government has said it will produce a green watch list to identify countries that are at risk of moving from the green to amber. Holidaymakers should therefore know that their chosen destination is under review before it gets downgraded.
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Can I take a holiday to countries on the amber list?
You can, but the government doesn’t advise it. You will need to quarantine for a period of 10 days at home on your return to the UK. You will also need to take a pre-departure test, a PCR test on day two and day eight. Alternately, you can pay for an additional Test to Release test on day five to end self-isolation early.
Can I take a holiday to countries on the red list?
The government strongly advises against it except in ‘extreme circumstances’, although it’s not actually illegal. You will need to pay for a 10-day stay at a government-managed quarantine hotel – that currently costs £1,750 for a single person. You will also have to pay for pre-departure testing and PCR testing on day two and eight.
If you’re abroad when the country is added to the red list, you may need to pay for a flight to get home before the change takes place (with airfares likely to be very high) or return as planned and pay for hotel quarantine. A good package holiday provider however should offer to bring you home early – but check the terms and conditions when booking.
Should a country’s status change to red before you go and you’ve booked through a flexible company, you will likely be allowed to change the date or location or get a refund.