What to do if you've booked an 'amber list' holiday

·5-min read
 Cala Salada lagoon in Ibiza, Spain (Getty)
Spain is on the government's amber list (Getty)

It’s the news many of us have been waiting for: international travel will officially resume from 17 May.

However, as transport secretary Grant Shapps announced on Friday, only a select few countries - 12 in total - feature on the green list of the government's new traffic light system.

They include Iceland, Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel. Summer favourites like Greece, Spain and Italy remain on the amber list and it was also announced that Turkey and the Maldives will be moved to the red list from 17 May.

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So what should you do if you’ve booked a holiday to one of the amber-listed countries? Here's everything you need to know.

What are the travel 'traffic light' rules?

The traffic light system will categorise countries based on risk, with the government looking at key factors including the percentage of the country’s population that has been vaccinated, the rate of infection, the prevalence of variants and other scientific data. Countries will then be categorised into green, amber and red lists.

Portugal is one of the countries on the government's green list (Getty)
Portugal is one of the countries on the government's green list (Getty)

Green: Those heading back to England and Wales from green-listed countries will need to take a pre-departure test before returning, as well as a PCR test on day two after arrival back in the UK. They will not need to quarantine unless they receive a positive COVID result.

Amber: Arrivals from amber countries will need to take a pre-departure test before returning to England and Wales, then quarantine for 10 days. They will also need to take a PCR test on days two and day eight of quarantine with an option to test to release on day five.

Red: Arrivals from red-listed countries will need to stay in a government-regulated quarantine hotel for 10 days after arriving back in the UK. This stay is at a personal cost (£1,750 for a single adult) and pre-departure tests and PCR tests on day two and eight are also required.

Bear in mind that while some countries may be on our green list, they may have different restrictions for British travellers on arrival. At present, only four out of the 12 countries on our green list are accepting UK travellers without quarantine.

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Countries could also move between lists. Shapps said at the press conference on Friday that this will be reviewed every three weeks.

What countries are on the amber list?

The amber list is the most populous of the traffic light lists and includes holiday favourites like Greece, Spain, Italy, Croatia and Malta as well as Caribbean nations like Barbados and the Bahamas.

You can view the full list at gov.uk

Can I still go on holiday to an amber-listed country?

While, technically, you are allowed to go to amber-listed countries, Shapps tweeted on Friday following the announcement that the government advises against it. He said: “To protect public health we DO NOT recommend travel for leisure to countries outside of the Green List.”

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However, travel firms like Tui are offering holidays to amber-listed countries like the Canary Islands, the Caribbean and some Greek islands from 17 May.

New research from travel tech company, Impala has found that only 42% of Brits are planning to travel this year with 22% of these people saying they will pick destinations with the highest vaccination rates.

If you do go on holiday to an amber-listed country, you’ll need to follow the stringent rules detailed below.

What are the rules for returning to the UK from an amber-listed country?

Those arriving back to the UK from an amber-listed country need to take a pre-departure test before returning.

They will then need to quarantine for 10 days at their home and take a PCR test on day two and day eight of quarantine with an option to test to release on day five.

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Can I get a refund if I’ve booked a holiday to an amber-listed country?

All amber countries currently have a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) warning which means if you’ve booked a package holiday, most tour operators will offer a destination or date change or a refund.

If you are hesitant about heading off on your package holiday, it may be worth contacting your tour operator to discuss your options.

Loggos village in Paxos (Getty)
Greece and its islands have been placed on the amber list (Getty)

If you have booked your flights and accommodation separately it may be trickier to change the date or request a refund as airlines generally only issue refunds if the flight is cancelled. Your best bet in this situation, if you want to alter the dates of your holiday, is to contact the airline and try to postpone the flight.

Separately-booked accommodation should be a little easier to move or refund as most hospitality businesses have increased their flexibility to allow guests to change the dates or cancel the trip at short notice.

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