Yesterday’s announcement by the UK Government of the countries on its long-awaited ‘green list’ has finally made a quarantine-free summer holiday possible.
From Israel to Iceland, Portugal to Gibraltar — the holiday ‘traffic lights’ have turned green, opening up a host of tantalising destinations that seemed out of the question during the depths of the winter lockdown. Under UK Government rules, holidaymakers to these ‘green list’ countries will still have to arrange pre-departure lateral test and on their return Covid PCR tests.
Crucially, however, no quarantine will be required on your return to the UK as the Government is satisfied that Covid infection rates are so low in these nations that there is no increased risk of spreading the disease when you come back. Here is our guide to each country’s rules and how, at last, to plan an overseas trip that will actually happen (fingers crossed).
Go, go, go! Wizz Air has bargain flights from Luton to Madeira, pictured, from £81 return later this month
GET SET FOR TESTING TIMES
Foreign countries may want proof of negative PCR Covid tests on arrival, but how do you arrange one and how much do they cost?
Then there is the British rule — part of the ‘green list’ arrangements — to be tested (with a ‘lateral’ or ‘antigen’ test) before departing home, plus a separate PCR test before day two on your return.
It’s confusing, but how does testing work in practice?
- Most countries will want proof, on arrival, of a negative PCR test taken 72 hours before departure — even if you have proof of being fully vaccinated. Check entry requirements at gov.uk.
- The cost of a PCR test is about £100. At some private clinics it’s nearer £200.
- Find government-accredited testing firms on the ‘List of providers: general testing’ page of gov.uk.
- Boots (£99, boots.com) and Superdrug (£119, superdrug.com) can arrange such tests by appointment.
- Tui this week launched holiday packages with all ‘green list’ tests from £60 pp. For countries that no longer need a negative PCR test before you go, it’s from £20 pp (tui.co.uk).
- The Government is considering providing free lateral flow tests for departure abroad and prior to arrival home. Look out for details.
- It is hoped an internationally-accepted ‘digital health passport’ will be created so fully vaccinated travellers will need no tests at all.
- See the official ‘traffic light’ rules on ‘Global Travel Taskforce sets out framework to safely reopen international travel’ page at gov.uk.
- Visit ‘Traffic light system: red, amber and green list countries’ at which.co.uk.
WHEN CAN WE GO? Currently, you can only visit for ‘essential purposes’ or if you are a citizen. However, Rita Marques, Portugal’s tourism minister, said this week that it is ‘pushing hard to open up to third countries like the UK. The British market is really important. We are ready to welcome you when you are ready to come.’ So tourism should, subject to a new government decree, be possible from May 17.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Tourists will probably need to prove they have had both jabs or are immunised from having previously had the virus. Alternatively, a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure is likely to be accepted. These details, including the documentation required, are still being fine-tuned.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Last weekend, Portugal opened restaurants, cafes and pastry shops to groups of six inside and ten on terraces until 10.30pm as part of ‘phase four’ of its lifting of lockdown restrictions. Museums, attractions, swimming pools and concert halls have already reopened. On May 16, the country’s official ‘Situation of Calamity’ (full lockdown) is due to end with further easings of movement.
The Portuguese North Atlantic islands of Madeira and the Azores are also on the ‘green list’.
On Madeira there is currently a curfew between 11pm and 5am, while restaurants and bars must close at 10pm and are limited to 50 per cent capacity. It is against rules to have a drink at the counter of a bar or while standing, and groups are limited to five people. Face masks must be worn in public, with an exception for beaches (see Madeira Safe To Discover at visitmadeira.pt).
In the Azores, masks must be worn in public. Restaurants, cafes and bars are open until midnight, with a limit of ten people per table. However, ‘establishments with dance spaces’ are closed (see visitazores.com).
GETTING THERE: LUXURY: A week from £775 pp based on four sharing at Villa Esteval Dos Mouros in Alte, with East Midlands Airport flights (tui.co.uk).
BUDGET: Seven nights from £392pp at Vilamoura Golf Apartments in the Algarve, with flights from (jet2holidays.com).
CHEAPEST FLIGHTS: Luton to Madeira from £81 return later this month (wizzair.com).
FURTHER INFORMATION: visitportugal.com
ISRAEL SAYS ‘WELCOME’
WHEN CAN WE GO? Israel says it will permit vaccinated or ‘Covid-recovered’ tourists from 14 countries, including the UK, from May 23. To start with, only tourist groups booked with vaccinated guides/drivers will be allowed, but from July this should be extended to individuals. Tourism minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen says Israel wants to boost tourism by ‘taking advantage of the fact that Israel is a safe country’.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: On top of proof of being fully vaccinated (both jabs) or being ‘Covid-recovered’ (electronic or paper proof such as a Covid infection certificate showing that you have got over it or your paper vaccine card possibly accepted, although this has not been finalised), all visitors must have proof of a negative PCR test 72 hours before boarding their plane. On arrival, they must take another PCR test, as well as a serological test, which proves existence of antibodies — both, it is understood, arranged by airport authorities.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Restaurants, shopping malls and museums are open with social distancing, with one person allowed every seven square metres. Face masks are required in indoor public places.
Israel says it will permit vaccinated or ‘Covid-recovered’ tourists from 14 countries, including the UK, from May 23
GETTING THERE: LUXURY: Eight-night guided tours in July from £4,999 pp with flights (abercrombiekent.co.uk).
BUDGET: 14 nights at Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv from £2,005 pp, with flights from Luton in August (easyjet.com).
CHEAPEST FLIGHTS: Luton to Tel Aviv from £111 return in July (wizzair.com).
FURTHER INFORMATION: info.goisrael.com
ICELAND ALL OK
We should be able to travel to Iceland from May 17. Currently, face masks must be worn in public places where it is not possible to maintain a two-metre gap
The green list is based on factors that include a country’s vaccination programme
WHEN CAN WE GO? The Icelandic government wants tourism back up and running as soon as possible, so we should be able to go from May 17.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Those who have been fully vaccinated or have had a prior Covid infection will be able to visit without requiring a negative PCR before travel. The paper vaccine card or a Covid infection certificate may well be accepted as proof. However, this is not clear yet.
Even if you have been vaccinated, you will be tested on arrival with a result coming in about six hours while you wait in your first accommodation.
From June 1, it is possible that Britain will be put on Iceland’s ‘blue list’ of countries with no border restrictions at all (Iceland has four colours on its unique Covid traffic light system).
WHAT TO EXPECT: Currently, face masks must be worn in public places where it is not possible to maintain a two-metre gap. Bars and restaurants are open until 9pm with a maximum of 30 people.
GETTING THERE: LUXURY: A Highlands And Lowlands 14-night fly-drive from £2,632, with flights from about £100 return extra (discover-the-world.com).
BUDGET: Seven nights at Room With A View hotel, Reykjavik, from £1,212pp with flights from Stansted (easyjet.com).
CHEAPEST FLIGHTS: Luton to Reykjavik from £53 return in July (easyjet.com).
FURTHER INFORMATION: visiticeland.com
GEAR UP FOR GIBRALTAR
WHEN CAN WE GO? Chief minister Fabian Picardo wants British tourists back immediately and is thankful that Gibraltar has received vaccine shipments from Britain: ‘It’s thanks to the [UK] Government that Gibraltar can proudly say all of our adult population is now vaccinated.’ Officials announced that there were ‘no Covid cases’ at all on the tiny British Overseas Territory earlier this week.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: There will be no requirement to take a PCR test before travel. Mr Picardo said: ‘When you’re coming to Gibraltar you’re coming to a part of Britain, and therefore you’re going to be very welcome here without the need for a PCR test.’
WHAT TO EXPECT: Masks must be worn in enclosed spaces including public transport and shops, where numbers are being limited. The Upper Rock is partially open to traffic and ramblers. All businesses including restaurants reopened last month.
Officials announced that there were ‘no Covid cases’ at all on the tiny British Overseas Territory earlier this week. Pictured is the Rock of Gibraltar
GETTING THERE: LUXURY: Ten nights at the Eliott Hotel from £949 pp B&B in July, with Heathrow flights; book by May 12 (ba.com/Gibraltar).
BUDGET: Seven nights at the Holiday Inn Express from £551 pp B&B from Gatwick (thomascook.com).
CHEAPEST FLIGHTS: Luton to Gibraltar from £61 return in July (wizzair.com).
FURTHER INFORMATION: visitgibraltar.gi
Escape Q&A: The new lowdown on summer travel
The world of summer travel has finally opened. Sort of.
Here the Daily Mail’s travel team answers readers’ questions about Covid testing for green-list countries, when travel will open up to France and Italy, and more.
Q. I’m hoping to book a holiday to a green-list country. What tests will I need?
Holidaymakers to ‘green list’ countries will still have to arrange pre-departure lateral test and on their return Covid PCR tests
A. You will be required to take a lateral flow test within 72 hours of your return flight to England, followed by a PCR test on or before the second day of your return. You will not be required to self-isolate during this time.
The UK Government has said that it is considering providing free lateral flow testing kits for holidaymakers to take abroad. You are also likely to need proof of a negative PCR taken within 72 hours of your outbound flight, depending on the destination’s requirements. See gov.uk.
Q. Can I holiday in a country on the amber list?
A. Technically, yes, but it could be tricky. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said yesterday that Britons should not be travelling to amber countries. You will be required either to quarantine at home for ten days on your return and take a PCR test on days two and eight (as well as a lateral flow test before the return flight).
Or you can pay for an additional ‘Test to Release’ on day five to end self-isolation early. You could be in an amber country that turns red, meaning you would need to quarantine at a government-approved hotel on your return at a cost of £1,750.
Q. Can I travel to all the countries mentioned on the green list?
A. No, borders in many green-list countries remain closed, including Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
Q. How often will the green list be reviewed?
A. Every three weeks, with the prospect of more ‘greens’ being added after the first review on June 7. Mr Shapps hopes ‘the more traditional tourist destinations will be unlocked’ over the summer.
Australia and New Zealand have been added to the Government’s green list despite their borders being closed
Q. How will the Government decide whether a country should turn green?
A. The list is based on factors including a country’s vaccination programme, rates of infection, emerging new variants and access to reliable scientific data.
Q. Could a country suddenly be removed from the green list?
A. The Government is introducing a ‘green watchlist’, which will help identify the countries at risk of moving from green to amber. If a country reports a surge in ‘variants of concern’, it could be removed from the green list with little warning. To avoid losing your money, book with a reputable package holiday provider.
Q. When can we expect Spain and Greece to be added to the green list?
A. Spain, our favourite holiday destination, has vaccinated almost 30 per cent of its population with the first dose, making it a strong contender to be added on June 7. Greece is slightly further behind, having vaccinated 22 per cent.
Q. And what about France and Italy?
A. France, Western Europe’s most vaccine-hesitant country, has inoculated just 25 per cent of its population with a first dose. Italy is slightly ahead at 26 per cent. Both are likely to hit 40 per cent by early June, meaning they could be added to the green list.
Q. There are rumours of a UK-U.S. travel corridor. Is that likely to happen?
A. The U.S. government upgraded its warning against UK travel last month, increasing the risk to ‘Level 4: Do Not Travel’ — its highest. This was a blow to airlines. President Biden is planning to reopen its borders to some countries in time for Independence Day on July 4, when a UK-U.S. travel corridor could be introduced.
Q. What are the rules around children needing Covid tests?
A. The UK’s ‘green list’ testing requirements only apply to those aged over 11. However, each country has different rules for testing children on arrival. These can be checked either on gov.uk.
Summer holiday hotspots like Spain, France and Italy could be added to the Government’s green list in the coming months
Q. Where can I find the cheapest tests?
A. The Government has been working to reduce the price of testing, with PCR tests previously costing around £120-160. Prices have been slashed significantly in recent weeks, with one government-approved provider, Eurofins, now charging £45. TUI, meanwhile, has said it will subsidise the cost of Covid testing for its customers, offering packages for between £20 and £90.
Q. I’ve booked a holiday to Turkey in July. Will I be able to go?
A. Unlikely. The country went into an 18-day lockdown last week following a record surge in cases and was added to the UK’s red list last night.
Q. What about the Greek and Spanish islands?
A. Islands are being assessed as part of the mainland but this is likely to change at the next review on June 7, when the Canaries, Balearics and Greek islands could go green, even if the mainlands remain amber.
Q. How do I show proof that I have had both jabs?
A. Mr Shapps said the NHS app would be ready for travellers to show vaccination status in time for May 17. Travellers who do not own a smartphone can request a letter to verify vaccination status.
Meanwhile, the EU is separately creating a ‘Digital Green Certificate’ as a form of vaccine passport for members of the EU, aiming to have it ready for mid-June. The hope is that the two will be widely accepted and compatible.
Q. I live in Wales. Does the green list apply to me?
A. No. The devolved nations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) have not set dates for the restart of foreign holidays.
By Harriet Sime