Here’s the latest on travel to and from the UK, including quarantine requirements, testing, and changes to the government’s traffic light system for overseas destinations. We’ll update this page with news and information as we get it, so please scroll down for further details of what’s been happening across the travel sector in recent weeks.
Check here for a comprehensive explanation of the rules for those entering the UK
Red List Reduced To Seven Countries/Territories, Vax Recognition Extended
Grant Shapps MP, transport secretary, has announced that the UK government’s Covid-19 red list of countries and territories will be cut by 47 from Monday 11 October. South Africa, Brazil and Mexico are among those being removed from the list.
The move will leave seven locations – Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Haiti and the Dominican Republic – on the red list. All others will fall into the ‘rest of the world’ classification. Travellers returning to England from red list countries are required to spend 10 days/11 nights in a government-sanctioned quarantine hotel.
For details of the costs and associated testing requirements, see story below. The UK government rules apply to England. We’ll update with any changes affecting Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland when they are announced.
Mr Shapps also tweeted: “I’m also making changes so travellers visiting England have fewer entry requirements, by recognising those with fully-vax status from 37 new countries and territories including India, Turkey and Ghana, treating them the same as UK fully vax passengers.”
Yesterday (Wednesday 6 October), the Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office announced that it has lifted its advice against all but essential travel for 32 countries and territories.
The FCDO says it will no longer advise against travel to non-red list countries on COVID-19 grounds, except in exceptional circumstances such as if the local healthcare system is overwhelmed.
This is being viewed as another positive step because most travel insurance policies are invalid in countries where FCDO advice against travel is in place. It will also eliminate any conflicts between the red list and the FCDO advice list. For example, when the Maldives was removed from the red list last month, it temporarily remained on the FCDO list.
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New UK Travel Regime Takes Effect
From 4am today (Monday 4 October 2021), the UK’s new travel system comes into force, with countries and territories categorised as either ‘red’ or ‘rest of the world’.
The previous traffic light system of red, amber and green as been removed. At present there are over 50 countries on the UK government red list, but this number is expected to fall sharply later this week when a revised list is published.
There has been speculation in the media that the number could fall below 10 when an announcement is made, possibly on Thursday.
Travel restrictions and requirements on those entering the UK from non red list countries will now largely be determined by the individual’s vaccination status.
For travellers to England, the new regime enables eligible fully vaccinated passengers (those with NHS vaccines and vaccines from countries with approved vaccination programmes) and eligible under-18s to return from non red list countries without needing to complete a pre-departure test (PDT) or a Day 8 test, or to enter a 10-day self-isolation period.
From later in October, eligible fully vaccinated passengers with an approved vaccine and recognised certificate from a country not on the red list will also be able to replace their Day 2 test with a cheaper lateral flow test, reducing the cost of tests on arrival into England.
The government says it wants to have this in place for when people return from school half-term breaks.
Anyone testing positive will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test, at no additional cost, which would be genomically sequenced to help identify new variants.
Travellers returning from a non red list country who are not fully vaccinated must take a pre-departure Covid-19 test in the three days before travelling to England.
They must also self isolate for 10 days (with the option to Test to Release on Day 5) and take Covid-19 tests on Day 2 and Day 8.
Red list country requirements
As far as red list countries are concerned, only UK or Irish nationals, or those with residency rights in the UK, will be able to enter the UK. They will be required, regardless of vaccination status, to:
- take a pre-departure Covid-19 test – to be taken in the three days before travel
- after arrival, quarantine in a managed hotel and take the required two Covid-19 tests on Day 2 and Day 8.
All arrivals from any overseas destination will still need to fill in a passenger locator form ahead of travel to the UK.
You can find any variations to the above rules issued by the UK government here, for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Grant Shapps MP, transport secretary, said the UK is expanding its recognised vaccination policy to a further 18 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Canada. The recognised vaccines are Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca (including Covidshield), Moderna and Janssen (J&J).
This brings the total number of countries in scope of the policy to over 50. The government says more countries and territories will be added in the coming weeks.
Fully vaccinated residents in other countries not yet part of the inbound policy, as well as those partially vaccinated, will still have to take a pre-departure test, PCR tests for day 2 and day 8 after arrival, and self-isolate for 10 days, with the option to test to release after 5 days.
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22 September: Eight Countries Come Off Red List Of High-Risk Nations
Today (Weds 22 September) sees eight countries removed from the UK’s red list of destinations deemed high risk because of their Covid-19 status. These countries will now be on the amber list.
The move, announced last Friday by Grant Shapps MP, transport secretary, means travellers returning to England from Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya will no longer need to stay in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days (11 nights).
The change took effect this morning at 4am.
Previously, returning travellers from these countries faced huge bills for a hotel package, which includes two Covid-19 tests on Day 2 and Day 8. The cost for an adult is £2,285 with additional adult (or child over 11) paying £1,430 and children aged 5 – 11 costing £325.
This was an effective deterrent for travel to popular holiday destinations such as Egypt and Turkey, and the change may result in an increase in trips this autumn, particular during half-term in October.
Travellers returning from amber list countries do not need to self-isolate at home if they have been fully vaccinated, although they must take a Covid test prior to departure and on day two of their return.
In addition to self-isolating for 10 days non-vaccinated travellers returning from an amber list country must take the above tests and a test on Day 8 of their return.
Anyone booking a foreign holiday should arrange their travel insurance as soon as possible to benefit from the cancellation element of their policy.
There are still over 50 countries on the UK government red list, and the requirement for quarantine in a managed facility remains in force for those returning to the UK from these destinations.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) maintains a separate list of countries where it advises against travel to particular destinations. As of 22 September, it is still advising against travel to the Maldives. This is significant because travelling against FCDO advice will usually invalidate travel insurance – even if the country concerned is not on the Department of Transport’s red list.
We await any further clarification on this apparent contradiction in the positions of the two departments.
Mr Shapps has also announced an overhaul of the government’s traffic light system, due to take effect on 4 October. See story below.
Additionally, he has tweeted today that the UK will be accepting UAE vaccination certificates from 4 October following updates to its vaccination app. He said: “As a major transport hub which is home to many British expats, this is great news for reopening international travel, boosting business & reuniting families.”
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20 September 2011: Families Give Thanks As US Reopens For International Travel In November
The United States will welcome UK and other foreign nationals who fly into the country from ‘early November’ – provided they have been fully vaccinated.
Restrictions will remain across the country’s land borders with Mexico and Canada.
The US has restricted entry to most foreign travellers since early 2020, but the latest move opens the prospect of family reunions in time for Thanksgiving on 25 November, as well as the holiday season in December.
Speaking in the House of Commons earlier today, Grants Shapps MP, transport secretary, said: “I can announce to the House today that vaccinated Brits will be allowed into the US from early November, reciprocating the policy we introduced this summer”
This included a pilot scheme whereby passengers who were fully vaccinated in the UK, in Europe and the US were allowed to travel to the UK from amber list countries (including the US) without the need to self-isolate or take a day 8 test after entry to the UK.
Mr Shapps added: “This is a testament to the hard work and progress made by the Expert Working Group, set up after the G7 summit, to restart transatlantic travel, the flagship route of international aviation.”
Anyone planning a trip to the US can get prices for travel insurance here.
The US Centers for Disease Control is expected to confirm shortly which vaccines will be recognised, as well as the precise date on which foreign visitors who have been satisfactorily vaccinated will be able to travel to the US. More details to follow when we have them.
20 September 2021: Govt Travel Rules Overhaul Sees Traffic Light System End On 4 October
In a series of tweets on Friday, Grant Shapps MP, transport secretary, announced changes to the rules governing international travel into the England for British citizens. These will see an end to pre-departure tests for fully-vaccinated travellers.
Those arriving in other UK nations will need to follow the rules issued by the respective devolved authorities (details will follow when we have them).
From 4 October, the government will maintain a red list of high-risk countries and move the rest of the world onto a single footing.
Mr Shapps tweeted: “From Monday 4 October, if you’re fully vaccinated, you won’t need a pre-departure test before arrival into England from a non-red country and, from later in October, you will be able to replace the PCR test taken on Day 2 of your return with a cheaper lateral flow test.”
PCR tests can cost upwards of £70, while lateral flow tests cost around £30 per person – a still-significant amount, especially for families.
The government wants to have this system in place in time for holidaymakers returning after the upcoming school half-term break.
All passengers will still need to fill in a passenger locator form ahead of travel. Visit here to see the current requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers from green, amber and red countries.
Unvaccinated passengers returning from non-red countries from 4 October will still need to take pre-departure tests, Day 2 and Day 8 PCR tests during a 10-day period of self-isolation. Test to release on Day 5 remains an option to reduce the self-isolation period.
Mr Shapps also announced changes to the current red list, removing eight countries (Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya). The changes will take effect on Wednesday (22 September) at 4am.
A greater number of countries had been expected by some to come off the red list, but the removal from it of popular holiday destinations such as Turkey, the Maldives and Egypt will be welcomed ahead of school half-term.
Anyone with plans to travel in the coming weeks should make sure they have appropriate travel insurance for their chosen destination.
Signalling the dismantling of the often-controversial traffic light system of grading countries according to their perceived Covid risk, Mr Shapps tweeted: “We’ll also be introducing a new simplified system for international travel from Monday 4 October, replacing the current approach with a single red list and simplified measures for the rest of the world – striking the right balance to manage the public health risk as No.1 priority.”
From 4 October, the government is also extending the list of countries whose vaccination programmes will be seen as being on a par with that of the UK, meaning vaccinated travellers will not need a pre-departure test or a Day 8 test once in England, and they will not be required to self-isolate.
The 17 countries and territories include Japan and Singapore. See here for the full list of countries.
Wales to introduce vaccine passports in October
People in Wales will have to prove they’re either double vaccinated or don’t have Covid-19 in order to visit nightclubs and events from next month.
Mark Drakeford, Wales’ First Minister, made the announcement today, 17 September, citing rising Covid-19 case numbers over the summer. The new measures come into force from 1 October 1.
From that point, admission to the following events will require either a negative lateral flow test result from a test taken 48 hours prior to the event, or an NHS Covid Pass to prove you’ve had two doses of the vaccine:
- Indoor standing events for more than 500 people
- Outdoor standing events for more than 4,000 people
- Any event with more than 10,000 people
Double-vaccinated people can get an NHS Covid Pass via its dedicated app, or by visiting the Covid status website.
Govt to announce travel rules changes today
The government will set out changes to the coronavirus travel regime later today, it has been confirmed.
Grants Shapps MP, transport secretary, has tweeted: “I’ll set out measures to simplify international travel later today in order to reduce costs, take advantage of higher levels of vaccination, and keep us all safe.”
There is speculation that the amber level of the traffic light traffic regime might be removed, with countries designated either green or red. This may mean we see an end to the need for fully vaccinated travellers to take Covid-19 tests before departure for the UK and after arrival from a wider range of countries.
We’ll update with more information when we get it.
UPDATE 10 SEPTEMBER 2021 – Speculation mounts over future of traffic light scheme
According to media reports, the government may announce structural changes to its travel traffic light system as early as the middle of next week.
The system, which ranks countries as green, amber or red based on their incidence of Covid-19, has always been scheduled for review by 1 October. Assessing its continued merits ahead of this date would hopefully provide clarity about international travel opportunities, particularly testing and quarantine requirements.
Under the current regime, travellers returning to the UK from green list countries, and fully vaccinated travellers returning from amber list countries, are not required to enter quarantine, although they are required to take Covid-19 tests before setting off for the UK and on day two of their return. If a test returns a positive result, self-isolation is required.
Travel industry leaders say the cost of tests is deterring many people from booking holidays abroad. They hope any overhaul of the traffic light system would remove the need for testing if the destination country had a vaccination record on a par with that of the UK.
According to the BBC, the red list of countries where the government advises against travel in all but the most extreme circumstances, will be retained.
The government has commented to the effect that the system will be reviewed by 1 October, as planned.
UPDATE 26 AUGUST 2021 – Canada Among Seven Countries To Join Green List, Thailand to Red
At 4am on Monday 30 August 2021, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Switzerland and the Azores were added to the UK government’s green traffic-light travel list.
This means travellers returning to the UK from these locations will not need to quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status, unless they return a positive coronavirus test result on day 2 of their return. They will also need to take a test before their return flight and complete a passenger locater form.
If they test positive while still abroad, the government says they should not travel and should instead follow local protocols.
As of the same time and date, Thailand and Montenegro were added to the official red list. Passengers arriving in the UK from red list destinations need to isolate for 10 days in a managed quarantine facility and follow the necessary testing requirements.
The costs of staying in a quarantine ‘hotel’ can be found below, along with details of other requirements for traveller from various destinations.
UPDATE 8 AUGUST 2021 – Quarantine Rules Eased For France, European Countries Move to Green List
- Changes open up France for summer holidays
- Cost of quarantine hotels hiked from 12 August
France has moved from amber plus to amber status on the government’s traffic light list for international travel, following changes that came into force at 4am. This means travellers who have received both doses of the NHS Covid vaccine returning to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from France will no longer need to self-isolate for 10 days.
The authorities in Wales have yet to announce their decision on the matter.
Related: Travel Insurance For Amber Countries: What You Need To Know
Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway have also moved from amber to the green list.
India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have moved from the red to the amber list, removing the need for double NHS-jabbed travellers to enter a government quarantine hotel for 10 days. Georgia, Mexico, La Reunion and Mayotte have been added to the red list.
Travellers from the UK to all destinations across the traffic light list are being urged to check the conditions and restrictions that may apply to those entering the country they are planning to visit.
The government is advising travellers returning from Spain, which is on the amber list, to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible. At the moment, the requirement allows returning travellers to take a lateral flow test, which is less expensive and returns faster results.
Hotel quarantine costs to increase
The government has also announced steep increases to the cost of staying in a quarantine hotel from 12 August onwards. This will affect those returning from red list countries.
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UPDATE 28 July 2021 – EU & US Double-Jabbed Travellers Get Green Light To Visit England
- Government eases restrictions to remove self-isolation requirement
- UK residents still face restrictions on entering US
- Travellers to certain European countries from UK may need to quarantine on arrival
The government has announced that travellers arriving in England from amber countries who have been fully vaccinated in the USA and Europe (EU Member States except France*, European Free Trade Association countries** and the European microstate countries of Andorra, Monaco and Vatican City) will not have to quarantine when entering England.
* Travellers who have been in France in the 10 days before arrival in England must still quarantine for 10 days after they arrive and take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8, even if you are fully vaccinated.
** Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland
The change will take effect from 4am on Monday 2 August.
Travellers will still be required to take PCR Covid tests before setting off and on the second day after they arrive – the requirement to take a test on day 8 has been removed.
Those vaccinated in the US will also need to provide proof of US residency. Passengers from all countries travelling to the UK will be denied entry unless they have completed a passenger locator form.
We are awaiting announcements from the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland regarding their rules for inbound travellers from the EU and US.
Earlier this month, the US State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both advised against travel to the UK and said that those who insisted on travelling should only do so if double-vaccinated. The stated reason for this guidance was the rising number of cases in the UK.
With the number of cases in the UK now falling, it remains unclear whether the advice to US travellers will change.
At the moment, the US border is closed to travellers from the UK except for US citizens. Again, there is no indication that this is going to change in the immediate future, although the two governments are thought to be mulling the introduction of a travel corridor across the Atlantic.
Cruise controls lifted
The government has also confirmed that international cruise sailings are to restart from England from 2 August 2021, in line with Public Health England guidance. International cruise travel advice will be amended to encourage travellers to understand the risks associated with cruise travel and take personal responsibility for their own safety abroad.
The move follows the close monitoring of epidemiological evidence, gained through the restart of the domestic cruise industry earlier this year.
Some operators are insisting that passengers will only be able to take a cruise if they have received both doses of the NHS Covid-19 vaccination. For example, Saga says: “Our guidance is that all guests should be fully inoculated, which means you must have received both doses and waited for full immunity to take effect. Therefore, we will require all of our guests to have received both doses of the vaccine no later than 14 days prior to departure.”
Find out more about specialist cruise travel insurance.