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England's 'green list' of quarantine-free holiday destinations unveiled - including Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel

England's 'green list' of quarantine-free holiday destinations unveiled - including Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel

From 17 May, holidaymakers in England will be able to visit countries including Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel without needing to quarantine on their return, as international travel restrictions are relaxed. But if you're considering booking, remember each destination may also have its own entry restrictions - and right now, nearly all of the 'green list' countries are currently refusing entry to British tourists. 

At the moment, overseas travel to and from the UK remains largely banned unless you have a reasonable excuse, such as work or medical reasons. From 17 May, that blanket restriction will be lifted for those in England, although Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are able to set their own rules and we don't yet know when restrictions will be lifted there.

Announcing the changes today, transport secretary Grant Shapps also said that holidaymakers would be able to use the existing NHS health app to show their vaccination status when travelling abroad, or could alternatively request paper validation.

With huge uncertainty over overseas travel remaining, and the Government's new traffic-light lists subject to change, flexibility is key if you are considering booking. For more on what to consider, the latest rules and your refund rights, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

A traffic light system will be used for holidaymakers returning to England

When international holidays are allowed again, destinations will be categorised for holidaymakers in England according to a traffic light system – though again, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are able to set their own rules and we don't yet know what they're planning. Here's how the traffic light system will work: 

Traffic light system - a summary of the rules

Category Destinations on list Rules on returning to England

Green
Australia, Brunei, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel and Jerusalem, New Zealand, Portugal (incl the Azores and Madeira), Singapore, South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands, St Helena, Ascension & Tristan da Cunha

• Must take pre-departure test when returning

• Must take polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on or before day two of your arrival back to England

• You WON'T need to quarantine on return, unless you get a positive result

• Test packages must be booked before departure from one of the Government's approved list of providers


Amber
All other destinations not on green or red lists - incl much of Europe • Must take pre-departure test when returning
• Must take PCR test on day two AND day eight after arriving
• Must self-isolate for 10 days after arrival - can be at home
• You can end self-isolation early on day five by taking an additional test
• Test packages must be booked before departure from one of the Government's approved list of providers

Red
Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Congo (Democratic Republic), Ecuador, Eswatini, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Guyana, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Maldives (from 12 May), Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal (from 12 May), Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, Turkey (from 12 May), United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe • Must take pre-departure test when returning
• Must take PCR test on day two AND day eight after arriving
• Must undergo 10 days of managed quarantine in a hotel, which could be pricey (currently in England single adult travellers are charged £1,750 for their stay). This must be booked before departure.

The Government has said its traffic light lists are based on factors including the percentage of the country's population which has been vaccinated, the rate of infection, the prevalence of variants of concern, and the country’s access to reliable scientific data. A 'green watchlist' will also be introduced to help identify countries most at risk of moving from green to amber.

Most 'green list' countries currently refuse entry to British tourists

It's important to note the traffic light rules detailed above only dictate what you have to do on returning to England – so even if a country is on the green list, you still need to check your destination's entry requirements and the UK Foreign Office advice for travelling there (if the Foreign Office has advised against travel to your destination and you decide to go anyway, it could invalidate your travel insurance).

Of the countries on England's green list, nearly all currently refuse entry to British tourists, or require them to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. Here's a full list of the current entry requirements for UK tourists - though of course, these may well have changed by 17 May:

Green list destination Entry/quarantine requirements for British tourists
Ascension Entry allowed but must self-isolate for 14 days
Australia No entry allowed
Brunei Entry severely restricted - must seek permission from the PM’s office to enter, have negative PCR 72hrs before departure, be subject to border screening and testing and quarantine at Govt facility for 14 days
Falkland Islands No entry allowed
Faroe Islands UK residents only allowed to enter if they have a "special worthy purpose". If permitted then tests required on days 1 and 6 during which you will need to self-isolate.
Gibraltar No entry allowed
Iceland No entry allowed unless you can show a vaccine certificate or certificate of previous infection
Israel No entry allowed for foreign nationals in most cases (with some limited exemptions). All arrivals must quarantine for 14 days. Tourists with vaccine certificates will be able to enter from 23 May
New Zealand No entry allowed
Portugal (Azores) No entry allowed (travel only allowed for essential purposes and if a returning resident, in which case a PCR test is required 72hrs before departure)
Portugal (Madeira) Entry allowed. PCR test required before departure. Anyone who has recovered from Covid in the previous 90 days, or has had both doses of the vaccine at least 15 days prior to travel, will be exempt from showing a PCR test on arrival
Portugal (mainland) No entry allowed (travel only allowed for essential purposes and if a returning resident, in which case a PCR test is required 72hrs before departure)
Singapore No entry allowed for short-term visitors unless they have pre-travel permission from the Singapore government. Negative PCR test required 72hrs before and all arrivals must quarantine for 21 days
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands Entry only allowed with a visitor permit
St Helena Entry allowed but must have negative test 72hrs before departure and undergo 14 day quarantine
Tristan da Cunha No entry allowed

Source: UK Department for Transport

The traffic light list will be reviewed every three weeks

The traffic light list will be subject to change. It's due to be reviewed every three weeks, and the Government's also said it will "not hesitate to act immediately" should the data show that countries' risk ratings have changed. So even if a country is on the green list from 17 May, it's possible it could be moved to the amber or even red list if coronavirus cases were to take off.

The traffic light system itself will also be formally reviewed by 28 June and then again no later than 31 July and 1 October.

If a country moves off the green list, you may struggle to get a refund

If a country moves from the green list to the amber or red lists in the new traffic light system, it's unlikely you'll be able to claim a refund from travel firms or your travel insurer, as the change wouldn't impact the delivery of your holiday – only what happens when you get back. You're also unlikely to be able to claim a refund simply because you changed your mind about going away based on which list a destination is on. 

However, if your destination is reclassified, it's possible your travel provider may choose to cancel your booking itself – in the event this happens, the normal rules on cancellations would apply.

As mentioned above, the Government has said it will maintain a 'green watchlist' as part of the traffic light system to help identify countries most at risk of moving from green to amber, which could provide an added bit of certainty when booking – though it remains to be seen how this will work in practice, particularly as it's also said it "will not hesitate" to act immediately if a country's risk rating changes.

Maldives, Nepal and Turkey will be added to the 'red list' from next week

Separately, the Government announced today that from 4am on Wednesday 12 May, the Maldives, Nepal and Turkey will be added to the 'red list' - meaning that UK citizens returning from these countries must quarantine in Government-provided accommodation, such as hotels, for 10 days. For more info on how managed quarantine works, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

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