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Portugal axed from travel 'green list' after traffic light scheme review – your rights

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Portugal has been taken off the UK-wide 'green list' of quarantine-free travel destinations, in a blow to holidaymakers which will leave many scrambling to rearrange trips or get a refund. We've full info below on what's changing, plus your rights if you've a holiday booked and the latest on what travel firms are doing.

Portugal was the most high-profile holiday destination on the 'green list', with the classification meaning travellers returning to the UK do not have to self-isolate on their return. But that changed at 4am on Tuesday 8 June, when Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira, moved to the 'amber list'.

It means anyone arriving in the UK from Portugal is now required to self-isolate for 10 days and take two Covid-19 tests. Crucially though, the Foreign Office hasn't yet changed its advice and so isn't warning against travel.

The change comes after a review of the traffic-light lists for international travel, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps citing rising coronavirus infection rates in Portugal and concern over a new mutation of a variant as the basis for the Government's decision. See more below on other changes to the traffic-light lists, and for further help, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide.

Got a trip to Portugal booked? Your cancellation and refund rights

Thousands of holidaymakers have booked trips to Portugal in recent weeks, after it was added to the green list. Yet the prospect of having to pay for an extra Covid test and undergo 10 days' self-isolation on return will leave many scrambling to rearrange their plans.

Of course, there's nothing to stop you still travelling to Portugal while it's on the amber list (while official Government guidance is now that "you should not travel to red or amber list countries", that's not a legal restriction and you can still travel as long as you pay for the necessary tests and self-isolate on your return). But if you don't want to travel, here are the need-to-knows about your rights:

  • If your trip is cancelled by the travel firm, you should get a full refund. The rules on this are clear – even if some companies have dragged their feet on implementing them previously in the pandemic. If your flight's cancelled, you're due a full refund within seven days. If your package holiday's cancelled, you're due a full refund within 14 days.

    It remains to be seen if travel firms will cancel trips in light of Portugal moving to the amber list – Tui, for example, has said it will continue to run trips where borders are open and Foreign Office advice allows travel, while Jet2 has cancelled flights and holidays until Thursday 1 July. See the table below for more info on what travel firms are doing

  • If your trip's not cancelled, you may struggle to get a refund – but if you can't, check if you can rebook. Sadly in this situation, trying to get a refund on the sole basis of Portugal moving to the amber list may prove difficult. 

    As your trip is still running, the travel firm's under no automatic obligation to refund you. And travel insurance is unlikely to cover you – cancelling simply because you don't want to self-isolate on your return would likely be deemed 'disinclination to travel', something insurance never covers. (The Association of British Insurers does say you should check with your insurer to be certain though, as some may consider exemptions if you'll be disproportionately affected, eg, if having to quarantine on your return would affect your employment.)

    Of course, if your original booking had flexibility and allows you to cancel penalty-free, you can do that (and many more bookings offer flexibility these days as a result of the pandemic). Even if not though, many firms will allow customers to rebook fee-free, as a general policy or specifically due to the Portugal announcement. So you may be able to rearrange your trip fee-free or get a voucher or partial refund.

    This table shows what some of the big travel firms have told us regarding what they're offering customers with bookings to Portugal – we're continuing to chase answers and will update the table when we get more info.

Travel firms' cancellation & rebooking policies for Portugal trips

Travel firm Is it cancelling bookings? Trip not cancelled? Flexibility offered (1)
Booking.com No Only if allowed by original booking
British Airways (flights) Reviewing position Rebook or claim voucher up to check-in closing (2)
British Airways Holidays Reviewing position Rebook or claim voucher up to three weeks before travel (2) (3)
Easyjet (flights) Reviewing position Rebook up to two hours before departure
Easyjet Holidays Reviewing position Rebook or cancel for credit up to 24 hours before departure if destination on amber list
Jet2 Yes – cancelled flights & hols till Thu 1 Jul Rebook up to day before departure if destination on amber list, for trips from 1 Jul to 21 Jul
Ryanair TBC Rebook up to seven days before departure (4)
Tui Not immediately Rebook up to seven days before travel if departing up to 21 Jun, up to 14 days if 22 Jun-31 Aug, up to 28 days if 1 Sep-31 Oct
Vrbo (previously HomeAway) No Depends on booking terms & host's cancellation policy

Info applies to existing bookings – correct as of Mon 7 Jun. (1) All rebooking options listed are fee-free, but you must pay the difference if the new booking costs more. (2) For bookings made since 3 Mar 2020. (3) Non-changeable hotel/'experience' bookings only covered if holiday can't go ahead due to Govt advice, entry restrictions at destination or BA cancelling flights. (4) For bookings made since 11 Jun 2020. 

  • The Foreign Office ISN'T warning against travel to Portugal – which affects refund rights and also travel insurance cover. As things stand the Foreign Office hasn't changed its advice on Portugal and ISN'T warning against non-essential travel. This means two things:

    1) You've no special refund rights for package holidays. If there's a Foreign Office warning against travel when you're due to depart, package holiday firms should refund you under the Package Travel Regulations, even if you cancel your trip yourself – see more on how Foreign Office warnings affect refunds. As there's no warning at the moment though, this doesn't currently apply. 

    2) You CAN travel to Portugal without invalidating your travel insurance. If there's a Foreign Office warning against travel, most travel insurance becomes invalid – but for now, you don't need to worry about this.

  • Remember traffic-light rules are reviewed every three weeks – so if you've booked a holiday for later this summer, don't panic. While many who were hoping for quarantine-free trips may be dismayed at the news, travel restrictions are currently changing all the time, as Portugal's brief appearance on the green list shows. They may yet change again.

    So if you've a holiday booked for July or August, your best bet for now may be to do nothing and wait and see what happens. But if you have any flexibility in your booking (for example, being able to cancel penalty-free before travel), make sure you weigh up whether to act before any deadlines kick in.

For much more help on your refund rights in lots of different scenarios, see our Coronavirus Travel Rights guide. 

Seven destinations have also been added to the red list

In addition to Portugal being removed from the green list, seven destinations – Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago – were moved from the amber list to the red list on Tuesday 8 June, meaning anyone arriving from these countries will need to enter managed hotel quarantine, at a cost of £1,750 for a single traveller.

The Government had previously said it would "not hesitate to act immediately" should data show that countries' risk ratings have changed, so huge uncertainty remains over international travel. 

How the traffic-light lists work

Following the easing of restrictions last month, it's no longer illegal to leave the UK to go on a holiday abroad. But as part of the 'traffic light' system of rules on international travel, countries are placed into one of three categories. This table sets out the current position now that the latest changes have come into effect.

Traffic-light system – summary of rules in place from 4am on Tue 8 Jun

Category Destinations on list Rules on returning to UK

Green
11, incl Australia, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand & Singapore. See full Eng list / NI list / Scot list / Wal list

• Must take pre-departure test before return

• Must take PCR test on or before day two of arrival

• DON'T need to quarantine on return, unless test positive

 


Amber
170+, incl much of Europe (eg, France, Greece, Portugal & Spain) & the USA. See full Eng list / Scot list / Wal list (no separate NI list)  • Must take pre-departure test before return
• Must take PCR test on day two AND day eight after arrival
• Must self-isolate for 10 days – can be at home
• Can end self-isolation early on day five by taking extra test (Eng only)

Red

50, incl Brazil, Egypt, India, Maldives, South Africa & United Arab Emirates. See full Eng list / NI list / Scot list / Wal list

• Must take pre-departure test before return
• Must take PCR test on day two AND day eight after arrival

• Must undergo 10 days of managed quarantine in hotel (currently single adult travellers charged £1,750)

Day two/eight tests & managed quarantine packages must be booked before departure. If booking tests, see our Covid-test cost-cutting tips, though in Scot and Wal tests must be booked via the Corporate Travel Management portal and in NI must be booked from Govt-approved provider.

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