Amber list countries and who can visit them quarantine-free

Millions of British holidaymakers have seen their holiday horizons expand following the Government announcement that quarantine will be waived for fully vaccinated Britons returning from amber list destinations. 

To count as fully vaccinated you must have completed your second dose as least 14 days before departure.

The new rules will come into effect from July 19, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed to MPs in the House of Commons.

The Government is also lifting its blanket recommendation that people should not travel to amber countries although the Foreign Office may still advise against non-essential trips to some of the 140-plus destinations on the amber list.

Some testing costs will remain for immunised amber list holidaymakers: the mandatory day two PCR test on return to the UK will still be required, regardless of vaccination status, for example.

Unvaccinated children will be allowed to travel with their fully jabbed parents without having to quarantine, although they too will be expected to take tests on their arrival back in the UK.

Overseas breaks resumed on May 17 when the UK’s blanket ban on non-essential was replaced with a ‘traffic light’ system, with countries rated ‘green’, ‘amber’ or ‘red’. Countries on the amber list currently include Spain, mainland Portugal, Greece and France.  On July 14, the Government announced that the Balearic Islands and the British Virgin Islands would join the amber list.

Here we answer the key questions on the amber list.

What is the ‘traffic light’ system? 

A country’s vaccination rates, infection rates, the prevalence of variants of concern and its genomic sequencing capacity – or access to genomic sequencing – help to inform its ranking in the traffic light system. All people travelling to England must complete a passenger locator form before departure.

The ratings work thus: 

  1. Green countries: no quarantine, but a pre-departure test before returning to England and post-arrival PCR test
  2. Amber countries: pre-departure test before returning to England, two post-arrival tests and self-isolation on for up to ten days on arrival back in England (with the option to use ‘Test to Release’, which into cut the time in self-isolation). From July 19, fully vaccinated arrivals will no longer have to quarantine on return. However, they must still take a  pre-departure test before returning to England and pay for a PCR test on day two of their return. 
  3. Red countries: non-residents banned entirely, compulsory hotel quarantine on return (and testing) for returning residents (direct flights are banned from some red-listed destinations)

The lists will be reviewed regularly, with updates so far issued every three weeks.

What does ‘amber’ mean?

Currently, arrivals from amber list countries have to pay for at least two PCR tests (on days two and eight of their return), and can opt to pay for a third after five days of self-isolation under the ‘Test to Release’ scheme. They can cut their quarantine time short if this test comes back negative (although they are still required to take the day eight test). 

After July 19, the quarantine requirement will be scrapped for the fully vaccinated. However, they must still take a pre-departure test before returning to England and pay for a PCR test on day two of their return. 

The rules will remain the same for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated UK travellers. To count as fully vaccinated you must have completed your second dose as least 14 days before departure.

When will these ratings be reviewed?

The lists are to be reviewed every three weeks following the end of the travel ban. The first review took place on June 3, the second on June 24, and the most recent on July 14. The next update is expected on August 5. Any changes that are announced tend to come into effect early the following week.

Should I book a holiday to an ‘amber’ destination?

There’s no doubt that the scrapping of the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travellers has opened up travel to certain amber destinations. 

Crucially, the FCDO no longer advises against all but essential travel to amber list countries such as France, Spain and Greece, meaning that travel insurance is much easier to secure.

However, it is worth remembering that amber countries might, without warning, impose their own restrictions on British holidaymakers and if you’re not fully vaccinated you will still need to quarantine on your return to the UK.

It is also conceivable amber countries could also be moved to UK Government’s red list with little warning.

Which countries are amber?

These countries are among those rated amber (see the full list below): 

Spain*

Cases per 100k over the previous seven days: 287.61 (all figures and information correct as of July 14)

Adult population who’ve received a second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine: 54.18%

Spain began to welcome back British holidaymakers from May 24; pre-arrival testing is required for all travellers who have not been fully vaccinated. Read the latest travel advice for Spain here. *The Balearic Islands will move to the amber list on July 19.

Portugal*

Cases per 100k: 192.85

Population with second dose: 48.13%

Mainland Portugal has imposed quarantine restrictions on unvaccinated British travellers as Europe tightens its borders against the threat of the Delta variant which has taken hold in the UK. Since June 28, any Briton who has not received both vaccination doses will have to isolate for 14 days on arrival in Portugal, the country has said. The rule does not apply to the island of Madeira, which has also confirmed it will allow entry to ‘Indian vaccine’ Britons, unlike the mainland and other EU nations. *The autonomous region of Madeira moved to the green watchlist on June 30; the Azores remain amber as of July 13.

Greece

Cases per 100k: 150.04

Population with second dose: 46.95%

UK travellers must provide evidence of a negative result from a PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival in Greece or proof of two Covid-19 vaccinations completed at least 14 days before travel. Those who can provide proof of either will be exempted from the need to self-isolate. Read the latest travel advice for Greece here.

France

Cases per 100k: 46.49

Population with second dose: 45.07%

There is fresh hope France could be promoted to the green list at the next update, however the UK is currently on the French amber list as the country continues to tighten rules at the border. If travelling to France from a country on the amber list, those who are not fully vaccinated will only be permitted to travel for essential reasons. 

Travellers who are fully vaccinated do not need an essential reason to travel to France and do not need to self-isolate on arrival. Read the latest travel advice for France here.

Italy

Cases per 100k: 14.87

Population with second dose: 44.95%

From 21 June to 30 July, on arrival in Italy travellers who have been in the UK in the previous 14 days must self-isolate for 5 days, at the end of which they must take a rapid antigenic or molecular swab test for Covid-19 and test negative for release. Read the latest travel advice for Italy here.

Cyprus

Cases per 100k: 542.58

Population with second dose: 40.85%

The UK entered Cyprus’ amber category on 29 April. Passengers coming from amber category countries are required to undergo a PCR test within 72 hours prior to departure and provide proof of a negative result. 

Germany

Cases per 100k: 6.85

Population with second dose: 49.92%

In a positive step Germany has lifted its travel ban on passengers arriving from Britain from July 7. The UK will now move into the second-highest category of “high-incidence area”, meaning arrivals can avoid quarantine if they can prove that they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19.  Read the latest travel advice for Germany here.

Austria

Cases per 100k: 12.45

Population with second dose: 49.03%

Entry to Austria from the UK is currently prohibited by Austrian law, with some exceptions. 

Belgium

Cases per 100k: 79.61

Population with second dose: 52.1%

British nationals who are not resident in Belgium or another EU or Schengen country will only be permitted entry to Belgium for essential reasons. Those travelling will need to carry evidence of their reason for travel.