With the last update of the government’s travel traffic light system, it quickly became clear that holiday options were in short supply.
Most of the world’s countries ended up on the amber list instead, prompting harsher restrictions for returning travellers. Those travelling to amber countries for leisure purposes aren’t breaking any laws, but they are contravening the prime minister’s current guidance that “you should not be going to an ‘amber list’ country except for some extreme circumstance, such as the serious illness of a family member. You should not be going to an ‘amber list’ country on holiday.”
But even if you were to ignore this warning, would 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 is advising against holidaying in any country not on the green list of 11 destinations, recreational international travel is no longer illegal in England. Guidance is not the same as law. The Department for Transport has advised travellers that they “should not be travelling to ‘amber’ and ‘red’ countries for leisure”, but there are no fines or penalties issued for going against this advice.
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?
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.
Which amber countries will let in British tourists?
As the amber list comprises all but 61 of the world’s countries (50 are on the red list, 11 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).
Spain is currently flying the banner for no-restrictions entry to British holidaymakers. As of 24 May, Brits can visit with no need to test, quarantine or be fully vaccinated in advance, provided they have not visited a “high-risk” country in the previous 14 days.
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.
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; or proof of two Covid-19 vaccinations completed at least 14 days before travel. Travellers with one of the above are exempted from the need to self-isolate on arrival to Greece.
Portugal was originally on the UK’s hallowed green list but got knocked off at the last review in early June. Brits are welcome in; however, with the exception of children up to the age of 12, you must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test to travel to or through Portugal. The test can be a PCR taken within 72 hours of travel, or a rapid antigen taken within 48 hours of travel.
UK nationals travelling to Croatia must carry evidence of a negative Covid-19 antigen or PCR test result taken up to 48 hours before arrival in Croatia; proof of vaccination; or a certificate of recovery following a positive test result between 11 and 180 days prior. Those travelling for tourism purposes are required to hold a valid accommodation booking or proof of property ownership in Croatia.
The UK entered Cyprus’ Amber category on 29 April – passengers coming from Amber Category countries are required to undergo a PCR test within 72 hours prior to departure and provide proof of a negative result, or proof of two Covid-19 vaccinations completed within a specified timeframe before travel. However, for those travelling to the north of Cyprus, if you have been in the UK within 14 days before travel, you will be required to quarantine for 10 days at authority-designated accommodation - unless you can prove you’ve been double-jabbed and/or previously had Covid.
On 27 April, the Government of Malta announced that, with immediate effect, the UK would be rated Amber. All passengers travelling from the UK are required to have evidence of a negative PCR test, dated within 72 hours prior to arrival, before boarding flights to Malta.
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.”
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 need not have an essential reason for travel or self-isolate, but they 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.
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.
Poland is introducing a seven-day quarantine for British travellers. Coming into effect on 23 June, the move requires all passengers arriving from the UK to self-isolate for a week, even if they have presented a negative Covid PCR test upon arrival.
Won’t let Brits in
Germany and Austria have both announced that Brits are banned from entering due to rising concerns over the Delta variant of the virus. You may only enter Germany from the UK if you are a German citizen, a resident or their spouse/partner/child under 18, or if you can invoke an urgent humanitarian reason such as an immediate family bereavement. Austria’s list of permitted entrants 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.