THE keenly awaited list of countries we can visit without restrictions from May 17 was finally released on Friday . . . but it proved more of a damp squib than a big bang.
Just 12 countries were on the list and, as of today, only one of these will actually let tourists enter.
🔵 Read our coronavirus and green list announcement live blog for the latest updates
Iceland does welcome vaccinated British tourists – and it is hoped our Med favourites of Portugal and Gibraltar will open up to us from mid-May, either with proof of vaccine, a negative PCR test or proof of recovery from Covid.
Israel is planning a pilot scheme for fully vaccinated tourists on group tours from May 23 but will not be opening up fully until July.
Lisa Minot explains the latest rules.
Q: So when can I travel abroad?
A: From Monday week, May 17, travel for non-essential reasons such as holidays will no longer be illegal.
But there will be strict rules in place on how you travel and what you will need to do on your return, based on the Government’s new traffic light system.
While it is not illegal, the Government says you should not travel for leisure purposes to amber and red countries.
Q: What does the new traffic light system mean?
A: For countries on the GREEN list, you won’t need to quarantine on return. But you will need a negative lateral flow test to get back into the country and will have to take a PCR test on day two after your return.
For AMBER countries, you must quarantine for ten days at home on return.
As well as a negative lateral flow test to come back to this country, you must take PCR tests on days two and eight. You can pay extra for a Test to Release on day five to cut quarantine.
For RED list destinations, you will have to quarantine for ten days on your return in a hotel, at a cost of £1,750.
Q: Does this just apply in England? What about Scotland and Wales?
A: The traffic light system currently only applies to England.
At the moment, Scotland requires all travellers to provide a negative PCR test before travel and to isolate for ten days on return in a quarantine hotel.
Travellers going back to Wales must provide a negative test 72 hours before their flight and then take PCR tests on days two and eight on their return.
Q: What else will we need to do?
A: All passengers travelling back into the UK from abroad — whether green, amber or red list countries — will need to fill in a passenger locator form and show it to Border Force staff on their return.
All passengers will need to provide passport details, travel information including the time and dates, the address they will be staying in the UK and a booking reference for PCR tests arranged for their return to the UK.
Those returning from red countries will need to prove that they have booked and paid for their hotel quarantine.
Q: How is the Government deciding which list countries are on?
A: The exact details are not yet revealed but factors taken into account include the number of people vaccinated and Covid infection rates.
Variants are of concern and the ability of the country to identify them will also be taken into account.
Q: How will countries move from one part of the traffic light system to another?
A: The Government will review the list every three weeks, with specific dates already in the diary for June 28, July 31 and October 1 as major review days.
There will also be a “green watchlist”. This will feature countries that are green but due to worsening situations, could go to amber.
The Government has indicated it will give at least two weeks’ notice if a country will be moving from green to amber but has said it will not hesitate to act more quickly if there is a worrying spike or serious situation.
Q: What if my destination will only accept vaccinated tourists?
A: The Government has confirmed the NHS app will be ready from May 17 to provide evidence of vaccinations.
Q: Can I use the NHS tests for my travels?
A: No, right now the Government is insisting you book a private test, whether it is a lateral flow for arrival back in the UK or a PCR from one of its approved list of providers.
Many airlines and tour operators are offering discounted tests with approved testing centres if you book with them. The system is fraught with difficulties.
Q: Do my kids have to get tested?
A: Under-11s do not need to take the test pre-departure back to the UK but all children over five will need to take the PCR test on day two or two and eight from amber countries. They may also require a test to enter a country. Check at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Q: Is my travel insurance valid if I travel to an amber country?
A: Most travel insurance policies are invalid if the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against all but essential travel to a particular country.
Right now, it is advising against all but essential travel to many amber holiday destinations such as Spain (excluding the Canary Islands), France, Italy, Cyprus, Greece (excluding Rhodes, Kos, Zakynthos, Corfu and Crete) and the US.
If you do book a holiday to an amber country, check at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice as your insurance may be invalid.
TIME TO DEAL YOURSELF IN
£349pp: Three nights’ room-only at the 4star Rock Hotel including flights from Gatwick on June 19, 22kg luggage and transfers. See easyjet.com/en/holidays.
£290pp: Three nights’ B&B at the 3star Bristol Hotel including flights from Gatwick on June 6, 22kg luggage and transfers. See easyjet.com/en/holidays.
£409pp: Four nights’ B&B at 4star The Eliott Hotel including British Airways flights from Heathrow on selected dates in June with 23kg luggage. Visit britishairways.com/en-gb/destinations/gibraltar or call 0344 493 0125.
£536pp: Seven nights’ B&B at the 3star Bristol Hotel including flights from Gatwick on May 21. For more details, see thomascook.com.
£134pp: Seven nights’ self-catering at the 3star Caminho Do Lago in Vilamoura including flights from Stansted on June 4. Based on two adults and two children sharing. See thomascook.com.
£221pp: Seven nights’ self-catering in four-bedroom Villa Magali in Albufeira with heated pool, terrace and gardens, arriving May 22. Price is from £1,764 in total or £221pp, based on eight sharing. Flights are extra. For further details, see splvillas.com.
£295pp: Seven nights’ self-catering at the 5star Grand Muthu Forte da Oura on the Algarve including flights on selected dates up to October 31 from Luton. Book by May 31 at travelrepublic.co.uk.
£315pp: Seven nights’ self-catering at the 4star Oceanus Aparthotel in Olhos D’Agua including flights from Luton on June 22 and transfers. See easyjet.com/en/holidays.
£419pp: Seven nights’ self-catering at the 4star Ourabay resort in Albufeira including flights from Stansted on June 24, 22kg luggage and transfers. For more information, see jet2holidays.com.
£747pp: Seven nights’ self-catering at the Vale do Lobo resort including flights from Stansted on July 1. See loveholidays.co.uk for more details.
£789pp: Seven nights’ half-board at the 4star Tui Blue Falesia in Olhos De Agua including flights from Gatwick on May 27 and transfers. For more information, see tui.co.uk.