Updated: new UK travel system and red list explained

Updated: new UK travel system and red list explained

Last updated: 19 Sept 2021

The UK Government has just announced the biggest change to travel rules since Covid-related restrictions began. In short, the traffic light system is dead and is being replaced with a simpler go-no go system. Vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers will be treated differently on return to the UK.

Note: at the time of writing Scotland and Wales had yet to announce if they will follow these rules so for now they apply to England only.

From October 4th 2021 the newly announced rules will come into effect. In summary:

  • There will only be two categories: Red List and Rest of the World
  • Arrivals from Red list countries will still require hotel quarantine (see below)
  • Fully-vaccinated travellers: For all countries not on the red list you:
    • will no longer require a pre-departure test to return to the UK
    • only have to provide a (cheaper) lateral flow test on day two, rather than the PCR test
  • Unvaccinated travellers: For all countries not on the red list you:
    • will require a pre-departure test to return to the UK
    • will have to isolate for 10 days and take PCR tests on days 2 and 8
    • may pay extra for the test-to-release on day 5

Which vaccines are accepted?

Visitors and UK citizens will be be considered fully vaccinated 14 days after completing a course of a vaccine in the UK, the EU, the US or one of: Andorra, Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and the Vatican City.

This recognises any combination of Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen (J&J).

If you have been vaccinated in any country not on the list above, or with vaccines not listed above, you will have to follow the protocol for non-vaccinated visitors.

Any red list changes?

Finally the following countries will removed from the UK’s Red List from 4am Wednesday 22 September: Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya.

What about other countries rules?

Remember, this is only for your return to the UK and each destination will have their own rules, including testing to arrive and leave and vaccine and quarantine requirements. Thankfully Unlocked Travel has you covered with our simple search function.

 

However, until October 4th the rules outlined below still apply.

….

Confused by the traffic light system? Here is a quick explainer on what the traffic light system actually means:

Green

  • One test required within 72 hours of flight to the UK (proof of a negative nucleic acid, such as a PCR, LAMP, or antigen test, must be provided on departure)
  • A PCR test taken on or before Day 2 back in the UK
  • You must complete an online public health passenger locator form

Amber

  • Fully vaccinated adults from the UK do not need to quarantine upon return from Amber List destinations. However you will still need to test upon return and have a PCR test on Day 2 of your return. Children under 18 are also excluded.
  • The quarantine rules outlined below still apply to all travellers that have not been fully vaccinated.
  • Quarantine for 10 days at home (unless you’re fully vaccinated or under 18)
  • One test required within 72 hours of flight to the UK (proof of a negative nucleic acid, such as a PCR, LAMP, or antigen test, must be provided on departure from the location you’re travelling from)
  • PCR tests on Days 2 and 8, with the option to pay for an extra test on Day 5 to be released from isolation early
  • You must complete an online public health passenger locator form

* The Scottish and Welsh Governments are keeping in place guidance against travel to Amber countries. While this doesn’t impact your ability to travel it does affect insurance.

Red

  • Upon return to the UK, hotel quarantine required, at a cost of up to £1,750 per person for 10 days, including tests on Days 2 and 8
  • One test required within 72 hours of flight to the UK (proof of a negative nucleic acid, such as a PCR, LAMP, or antigen test, must be provided on departure)
  • Not eligible for Test to Release (i.e. you can not do an extra test to be released early)
  • Only UK nationals and residents permitted to travel (no visitors)
  • Direct flights from the red-listed nations are officially banned

Looking for the full list of  Green, Amber and Red Countries? Click here

If you are confused by where to start when booking your international trip, we recommend checking out our travel checklist.

If I’m not vaccinated, where can I travel from the UK without quarantining upon arrival at the destination OR when I get back to the UK?

If you aren’t vaccinated, you are reliant on the Green List. Thankfully this has expanded and includes European destination like Malta, Gibraltar, Israel as well as island paradises in the Caribbean like Barbados.

However, Green does not mean go! Currently, UK holidaymakers are banned from entering ‘Green List’ countries including Australia, New Zealand and Singapore altogether.

If I’m vaccinated, where can I travel from the England without quarantining upon arrival at the destination OR when I get back to England?

As noted, for now quarantine-free returns are limited to English travellers only. For vaccinated holidaymakers, some of our favourites including Spain, Greece, Portugal and Croatia don’t require quarantine upon arrival and now no longer need you to quarantine upon return to the UK. There are now many more options and this is changing daily so check out our search function for your favourite.

Don’t be caught out! Countries including the Netherlands and Italy still require self isolation/quarantine upon arrival for Brits, even if fully vaccinated and with a negative test, as they are considered “high risk” due to the Delta variant of Covid-19.

Will the traffic light list change?

Yes, the government has been reviewing and updating the list every three weeks. In the first review Portugal was removed from the list, taking off the only major holiday destination, and showing the continued uncertainty facing holidaymakers this summer. The recent additions are welcome but with the majority being added to the “Green watch list” we would continue to urge everyone to book flexible tickets and make sure your insurance will cover any last-minute changes based on government changes.

Be sure to sign up to our newsletter if you haven’t already to get all these updates direct to your inbox – we trawl the news so you don’t have to!

Happy searching and let us know where you’re hoping to travel to in the comments below…

Joe x

 

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