The government has set out its plans to allow non-essential foreign travel to resume. Starting from 17 May, foreign leisure travel will start again, and new international travel regulations will go into effect in England.
The new system will include three different lists identified as ‘green’, ‘amber’ and ‘red’. Countries and territories will be sorted into one of these three lists. These classifications establish the restrictions that people will face when returning from these countries and will be reviewed every three weeks.
The Green List
People can visit destinations on England’s green list without having to quarantine upon their return. There are 12 countries currently on the green list, including:
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- Israel and Jerusalem
- New Zealand
- Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira)
- South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
- St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
Although quarantine will no longer be required, travellers will still have to take COVID-19 tests, both before returning to England and within two days afterwards. Even when arriving from a country or territory on the green list, anyone who has been in a country on the amber or red lists within the previous 10 days must follow the corresponding restrictions (eg quarantine).
The Amber List
People are advised to avoid leisure travel to destinations on the amber and red lists. In the event that travel is essential, additional restrictions will continue to apply when arriving in England.
When arriving from a country or territory on the amber list, travellers must quarantine for ten days and take three COVID-19 tests, even if they have already had their COVID-19 vaccinations. These tests must be completed:
- Before departure from a foreign country or territory
- Within two days of arrival in England
- Eight days after arrival in England (although there is an option to take another test after day five to secure an early release)
For a complete list of countries and territories on the amber list, click here.
The Red List
No one travelling from a country or territory on the red list will be allowed entry into England unless they are British, an Irish national or have residency rights in the UK. Anyone arriving from a red list country or territory must adhere to the same testing requirements as those arriving from amber list areas. In addition, a 10-day quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel (costing £1750) will also be required.
For a list of countries and territories currently on the red list, click here.
Where can I get a COVID-19 test?
International travellers will need to get a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) swab test to see if they are infected with genetic material from the virus. The government has published alphabetical lists of PCR test providers but has said travellers must do their own research and none of the providers are recommended.
The tests are very expensive aren’t they?
Following widespread reports of firms overcharging and delivering inadequate service, the government is now planning a more sophisticated online system with filters to help travellers choose the most affordable firms and plans to remove companies that perform badly. Booking through the airlines or as a holiday package is an alternative option: Tui, the UK’s biggest tour operator, has said that it plans to offer test packages for travel for £20, rising to £50 if two PCR tests are needed on return to Britain. Many companies on the government lists charge four times this. Passengers with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Easyjet can use discount codes for £60 PCR home-testing kits. Boots charges £65 for pre-flight PCR tests at home, or £99 in store. You can also get tested at the airport: Heathrow currently charges £80 and Gatwick £60.*
*Prices current at 13.05.21
What about insurance?
Travellers should pay close attention to what their insurers do and don’t cover. Cover for Covid-related claims varies enormously, and your insurance broker can advise you on the most appropriate policies for you to consider.