Summer holidays 2021: Which countries will be on the green traffic light system list?

Sophie Rainbow and Jake Helm
·7-min read
<p>What does the traffic light system mean for summer holidays this year?</p> (Great2Travel/Pixabay)

What does the traffic light system mean for summer holidays this year?


It’s hard to keep track. One day the message is: summer holidays are highly unlikely; the next, it’s: hurrah, it’s looking promising.

As it stands, right now, things are looking more hopeful. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has told Sky News: “My advice today would be moving on from where we were before. I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t book summer holidays and that’s the first time I’ve been able to say that for many months.”

He went on to say that there has been “tentative progress.”

“I think everybody doing it understands there are risks with coronavirus and of course actually I think people would want to be clear about which countries are going to be in the different traffic light system and people predominantly will be looking to book in a green country,” he continued. “So there’s only two or three weeks to wait before we publish that list itself.

“But yes, tentative progress. For the first time people can start to think about visiting loved ones abroad or perhaps a summer holiday. But we are doing it very cautiously as we don’t want to see any return of coronavirus in this country.”

Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also offered us a glimmer of hope by announcing he wanted to “get the country flying again”. Adding he was “hopeful” that getaways would be possible to a limited number of destinations from May 17.

International travel will be organised by a risk-based “traffic light” system with red, amber and green ratings for countries around the world.

That means some of our favourite destinations with high case numbers could remain restricted, and the PM warned that some of the places that “people might want to go” won’t be possible.

Here we take you through everything we know about the traffic light system, so you can start planning those long-awaited summer getaways. Note that each country has its own border policies, so be sure to check Foreign Office advice before travelling, and that international travel from the UK will only be permitted at the earliest from May 17.

What is the traffic light country list system?

The government published the Global Task Force’s initial findings of how foreign travel could be resumed in time for our summer vacations.

They’ve proposed that every country will either be rated green, amber or red depending on vaccination rollout, infection rates, and concerns about coronavirus variants.

Here’s what we know so far:


Travellers jetting off to low-risk green countries will not need to self-isolate when they return to the UK. They will need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on day two of their arrival in the UK.


Anyone heading to an amber country will have to self-isolate for 10 days, unless they receive a negative result from a test taken at least five days after arrival. They will have to take a pre-departure test and PCR tests on day two and day eight of their arrival in the UK.


Holidaymakers travelling to a red list country will have to isolate in a quarantine hotel for 11 days at a cost of around £1,750 and will need to take COVID tests before and after they arrive.

What countries might be green?

The Government is expected to release a list of ‘green countries’ in early May. Decisions will be driven by the data and evidence nearer the time which is difficult to predict at the moment.

A “Green Watchlist” will also be introduced to identify countries most at risk of moving from “green” to “amber”.

The situation will be reviewed on June 28, with further reviews taking place no later than July 31 and October 1.

Here are the countries most likely to appear on the green list...

A summer trip to Israel could be on the cardsAP
A summer trip to Israel could be on the cardsAP


The success of Israel’s vaccine rollout is no secret, so the country has already set about creating a “vaccine bubble” with Greece, allowing visitors to travel between the two countries without quarantining.

Israel has also been in talks with the UK about a potential travel corridor, with the Tourism Ministry claiming that they expect to open borders to international travellers “in the middle of 2021.”


Known for its stunningly clear azure waters and white sand, around 500,000 Britons head to Malta every year. And it’s likely it will be on the green list. The country has announced that UK vacationers who have had both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are welcome to enjoy the Mediterranean Sea from June 1.

Travellers will need to show their vaccination card before boarding flights, according to the Malta Tourism Authority. Currently, the UK is on Malta’s red list, which means non-vaccinated travellers are banned from entering.

It looks possible that Portugal will be added to the green listPixabay
It looks possible that Portugal will be added to the green listPixabay


With the announcement last week that Portugal will be removed from the travel ban red list, summer holidays to the country look increasingly likely and it may be on the green list.

Insisting that the situation in the country was now “stable,” Rita Marques, Portugal’s Secretary of State for Tourism, said last week: “I do believe that Portugal will soon allow restriction-free travel, not only for vaccinated people, but those who are immune or who test negative. We hope to welcome British tourists from 17 May.”


Gibraltar has become the first country in the world to vaccinate its entire population for coronavirus, and now it looks likely to be one of the few European countries on the green list.

With active cases as low as seven in Gibraltar, the country is preparing to welcome more Britons than ever before.


With over 70 miles of stunning beaches, Barbados is a popular destination for water sports and deep-sea diving. It also looks likely to be on the green list with daily coronavirus cases at single figures. In the last 14 days, there’s been 120 cases on the island.

At the moment, Barbados designates the UK as a high-risk country and the current guidelines state that travellers from the UK must arrive with a negative PCR test taken by a certified or accredited laboratory within three days of arrival.


Last week, it emerged that more than 5,000 Britons visited the Maldives at the height of lockdown. But now it looks likely it will be on the green list and there’s no need to break the rules to visit the popular destination.

UK arrivals into the Maldives must present a negative Covid-19 test taken less than 96 hours before departure.

The USA’s vaccine roll-out has been one of the fastest in the worldAFP via Getty Images
The USA’s vaccine roll-out has been one of the fastest in the worldAFP via Getty Images


With Joe Biden’s promise to offer vaccines to all US adults by end of May, America looks like a destination that may be on the green list. 1.74 million doses are being administered in the States every day, and Britons may be able to visit the country so long as travellers take a test before and after they get home.

What about other countries?

Although nothing is confirmed yet, travel to some of our favourite destinations may be banned.

Three popular destinations, Spain, Greece and Turkey, will likely be on the amber list, which means travellers will need to self-isolate at home for at least five days. Cyprus and Croatia also look like they’ll be on the amber list, and Seychelles, although currently on the red list, may be on it too.

Last week France entered its third national lockdown after it recorded 46,677 new cases and 304 deaths on Friday, which means it is very likely that the country will be off-limits and sit on the red list.

Likewise, Italy is battling spiralling COVID cases and deaths so that looks like it will be initially on the red list. The country entered a three-day lockdown on Saturday after registering 23,634 new cases and 501 deaths on April 1.

That being said, Italy has recently updated its travel advice to allow tourists (visits were previously restricted to Italian nationals and those travelling for essential reasons). Visitors are required to spend just five days in quarantine, but will need a negative test 48 hours before arrival.

A trip to the Greek islands may require a two-week quarantineAFP via Getty Images
A trip to the Greek islands may require a two-week quarantineAFP via Getty Images

Which countries are on the red list?

Unless you fancy an 11-day stay at a quarantine hotel, countries on the red list are not a great place to visit. Last Friday the government announced that the Philippines, Pakistan, Kenya, and Bangladesh would join 35 other countries on the red list of countries banned from entering the UK.

Here’s the list as it stands:

Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Guyana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

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