From 17 May, the blanket ban on recreational foreign travel is being lifted in England. It has been a long wait to find out where we can go on holiday, and so far, there are just 12 countries on the list, with only one of them being a traditional holiday hotspot – Portugal.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted at the Downing Street Conference today that proceeding cautiously is vital. He said:

“Our success in combatting Covid here is not yet replicated abroad. Most notably in India. Nobody wants to go back into lockdown, not ever”.

The Traffic Light system

The Global Travel Taskforce has come up with a traffic light system to indicate which countries are safe to visit. Everyone will need to take a test within 72 hours of departure for the UK – even if they have been vaccinated. This is to ensure that new variants to enter the UK.

Travellers from:

Green list countries won’t have to quarantine on returning to the UK but will need to take a PCR test on or before day two of their arrival in the UK.

Amber list countries will need self-isolation at home and take PCR tests on days two and eight; they can end self-isolation early under the “Test to Release” scheme if they take an additional PCR test on day five.

Red list country means undergoing 11 days of quarantine in an approved hotel at their own cost of around £1750 plus taking PCR tests on days two and five.

Consequently, mass tourism has been stifled to avoid the risk of variants turning up in the UK in the immediate future.

Green List: 12 countries and territories

Countries on the green list, and there are a precious few, have the most relaxed travel restrictions with no need to quarantine when returning to the UK.

Naturally, this makes these countries the most attractive for holidaymakers, assuming that their borders are open to British visitors. For example, Australia has no intention of opening its borders until next year, and the USA may not do so for a few months yet.

Countries on the green list are:

  • Portugal, Gibraltar, Malta, Israel, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Singapore  Barbados, and Sri Lanka, Faroe Islands, Falklands, South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands, St Helena,,Ascension Island & Tristan de Cunha.

Surprising ommissions

Spain, France, and Greece have been placed on the amber list and will remain there until the next review in three weeks.

Red list

Countries on the red list should not be visited under any circumstances. British nationals and residents will be able to enter the UK when travelling from a red list country. All others are banned from entering the UK, even if they have only visited in the last 10 days.

Turkey, India, Nepal, and the idyllic Maldives have been added to the red list along with 39 others:

  • Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Guyana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, Uruguay, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Are there any Green List restrictions?

While travellers will not need to quarantine when they return to the UK, they will still have to show a negative Covid test result taken before departing for the UK taken within 72 hours of arriving into the UK. This could be a lateral flow and rapid antigen test as well as a PCR test.

How are green list countries vetted?

This green list is a coveted list, and many countries will be vying to get on to it.

To do so, they will have to show a low rate of coronavirus infections, a high rate of vaccinations, and no prevalence of virus variants of concern such as the UK’s own variant, named B.1.1.7,  South Africa variant (1.351), and Brazil (P.1). According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the latter “contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognised by antibodies,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).