Summer holidays: The countries most likely to be on UK’s green list that will let Britons visit

Helen Coffey and Cathy Adams
·8-min read
<p>Santorini might be open to Brits this summer</p> (Getty/iStock)

Santorini might be open to Brits this summer

(Getty/iStock)

With the news that international leisure travel may well be legal again from 17 May, plenty of itchy-footed UK holidaymakers are already making plans for their next trip abroad.

The government has announced a travel traffic light system, with countries categorised as red, amber or green depending on their Covid-19 infection rates, vaccine rollouts and prevalence of new virus variants.

Each category has its own requirements for travellers entering the UK, with green countries having the lightest restrictions: passengers need not quarantine, but must take a rapid antigen or lateral flow test before departing for the UK, and take a PCR test within two days of arrival.

Watch: COVID-19 - What will travel to a 'green list' country look like? This is how the new traffic light system will work

However, the UK rules are only one piece of a complex puzzle – the country you’re travelling to must be prepared to accept foreign visitors again, preferably minus a lengthy quarantine requirement that would make most holidays obsolete.

There’s also the issue of vaccine passports. The European Commission has published plans for a “digital green pass” to facilitate travel around the EU this summer. More countries and airlines have said they would be happy to accept vaccinated travellers.

Certain countries have already announced they will let in Brits this summer, with differing restrictions depending on whether or not tourists are fully vaccinated. The list of green countries has yet to be confirmed by the UK government, but here’s our best guess of the destinations that will both make the cut, and have pledged they’ll let us holiday there.

Iceland

Iceland’s volcano recently attracted more touristsMarco Di Marco
Iceland’s volcano recently attracted more touristsMarco Di Marco

Iceland has announced it will welcome back visitors who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

In a bid to boost tourism, the government confirmed that those who’ve had both doses of a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency can enter the country without needing to get tested for coronavirus or undergo quarantine.

“The Icelandic government has announced that all those who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to travel to Iceland without being subject to border measures, such as testing and quarantine,” the government said in a statement on 16 March.

It could well be on the green list, with just seven new cases daily as of 13 April.

Israel

Jerusalem in IsraelGetty
Jerusalem in IsraelGetty

Israel’s wildly successful vaccine programme has seen it give both jabs to more than half the population already, thus making it an excellent candidate for the green list.

And the country recently announced that fully vaccinated travellers would soon be welcome back: certain groups will be permitted entry from 23 May.

Individuals will be permitted in the second stage of the timeline, with further details to be released over the coming days.

However, Israel is opening up more cautiously than other nations: even fully vaccinated travellers who are eligible for entry must still test negative for coronavirus via a PCR test before they can board a flight, and will undergo a serological test to prove they’ve been vaccinated upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport.

Officials have said that discussions about mutual recognition of vaccination certification will continue with various countries, hopefully enabling travellers to forgo the serological test in future.

Gibraltar

Sunbathers in GibraltarSimon Calder
Sunbathers in GibraltarSimon Calder

Thanks to its petite population, Gibraltar has vaccinated the highest percentage of its people of anywhere in the world - all of its adult residents are vaccinated.

If green list status does therefore await, will they let us in? Not currently - but as a British Overseas Territory, it’s likely this stance will change in due course, particularly since the UK’s own vaccine rollout is well underway.

Malta

Valletta, the Maltese capitalGetty/iStock
Valletta, the Maltese capitalGetty/iStock

Malta has declared that British holidaymakers will be welcome this summer, so long as they have been fully vaccinated.

From 1 June, tourists from the UK who can show proof that they have had both coronavirus jabs at least 10 days prior to arrival are no longer required to present a negative Covid PCR test.

Passengers will need to show a vaccination card when boarding to travel to Malta.

Malta is second only to the UK in Europe (barring destinations with under 200,000 residents) when it comes to the proportion of adults who have received their first dose of the vaccine – currently 40 per cent.

This puts it in a good position to join the green list.

Seychelles

Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Seychelles was so keen to welcome back tourists that the archipelago off the coast of east Africa has already thrown its doors open to visitors who have had both jabs.

Fully-vaccinated visitors from anywhere in the world are permitted entry without the need to quarantine, although they must still present a negative Covid PCR test result taken with 72 hours of travel.

Visitors must have received both doses of any of the four main vaccines – Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen – and waited two weeks after the second dose for the inoculation to take effect.

And unvaccinated travellers can also enter the country without needing to self-isolate as of 25 March. 

Minister for foreign affairs and tourism, Sylvestre Radegonde, said that the decision to relax the entry protocols was made based on the country’s successful vaccine rollout.

Visitors will still have to present a negative coronavirus test upon arrival, plus adhere to other public health measures, including wearing masks, social distancing and regular hand washing or sanitising.

Although the Seychelles is currently on the government’s “red list”, it has had one of the most comprehensive vaccine rollout programmes so far - with 44 per cent of the population already fully vaccinated - making it a good candidate for transitioning to the green list soon.

Portugal 

Porto, Portugal’s second citySimon Calder
Porto, Portugal’s second citySimon Calder

Portugal’s borders are closed to most British travellers right now, but the Portuguese government has indicated that it expects to open up to tourists at around the same time as the easing of restrictions in the UK – mid-May.

Rita Marques, secretary of state for tourism, told the BBC: “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.

“Everything will be ready by mid-May.”

With coronavirus rates low and continuing to fall, Portugal could well be on the green list.

Dubai 

Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Although the United Arab Emirates is currently sitting on the government’s “red list”, triggering hotel quarantine on return to the UK, its glossiest city, Dubai, is hopeful to welcome back British visitors sooner rather than later.

The tourism-dependent city hasn’t mandated the need for a vaccine passport for visitors, but its airline, Emirates, is one of the first airlines to sign up for Iata’s Travel Pass, a digital app that would specify whether a traveller has a Covid vaccination or a negative test.

The city has developed a “Dubai Assured” stamp, awarded to hotels, hospitality and attractions across the emirate that meet stringent health guidelines, which is reviewed every two weeks.

For entry into Dubai currently, British travellers need to present a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before departure.

It’s hoped it could make its way onto the green list thanks to an impressive vaccine rollout, which has seen it dish out 92.5 doses per 100 residents.

Thailand

Simon Calder
Simon Calder

Thailand will begin to remove quarantine requirements and open its borders to fully vaccinated travellers from 1 July 2021, when the popular tourist island of Phuket will be the country’s first destination to welcome international travellers.

From October, Phuket, Krabi, Phangnga, Koh Samui, Chonburi (Pattaya) and Chiang Mai will all be accessible, quarantine free, for vaccinated travellers. Travellers are required to stay for at least seven days in the point of entry and should plan their itinerary accordingly.

The country has been one of the most successful in keeping virus rates down, with fewer than 100 deaths from Covid during the course of the pandemic.

Cyprus

Getty/iStock
Getty/iStock

The island’s deputy tourism minister told the Cyprus News Agency that people from the UK who have had both doses the vaccine will not need to undergo tests or quarantine this summer.

Savvas Perdios told the island’s news agency: “We have informed the British government that as of 1 May we shall facilitate the arrival in Cyprus of those British nationals who have been inoculated with vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency, so that they can come here without needing a negative test and without needing to quarantine.”

The UK is on Cyprus’s red list as of 1 April, meaning that non-vaccinated travellers must pay for a pre-departure PCR test and another on arrival, plus self-isolate until the they receive the result of the second test. It is hoped the UK will move into a lower-risk band with lighter restrictions over the coming months.

Cyprus had previously managed to squash infection rates but has seen an uptick in cases over the past few weeks due to the British variant, which could affect its chance of making it onto the green list.

Watch: Should I book a holiday in 2021?

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