International travel from the UK has been back on the cards since May 17th this year (2021) but not without some rules and regulations that we have to follow. In this guide, we will break down the British Embassy travel advice, including the traffic light system – and what it might mean for your travel plans.
First things first: Let’s go back to basics
What is the UK’s traffic light system and how does it work?
As you have probably heard by now, the traffic light system introduced on May 17th divides all foreign countries (and territories) up into three lists: red, amber and green – like traffic lights.
The higher COVID risk a country is believed to pose, the more restrictions apply – with the red list having the most restrictions and the green list having the least.
Each list has its own set of rules for those who want to travel back into the UK – however, these rules and regulations are not always that easy to follow.
Here is a complete run-through, then, of each list and its current requirements.
The Red List
If a country is on the red list, then it is somewhere the UK government believe you should not be travelling to – except in extreme circumstances or for work-related exemptions. The full list of red countries (as of 16th August) is:
- Cape Verde
- Congo (Democratic Replublic)
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- French Guina
- Georgia (moved to the red list on August 8th)
- Mayotte (moved to the red list on August 8th)
- Mexico (moved to the red list on August 8th)
- Reunion (moved to the red list on August 8th)
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad and Tobego
If you have been into a country on the red list in the 10 days before you arrive in the UK – even if it is just for a flight connection – then you will not be allowed to enter the UK unless you are:
- A British or Irish National
- Or you have residence rights in the UK
Even then, you must
- Take a COVID test and produce proof of a negative result from this test no more than three days before your departure flight to the UK. Before boarding your boat, flight or train back to the UK you will be asked to show proof of a negative test results taken in the country you visited – and it you are unable to do that, you may not be allowed to board.
- Quarantine in a managed quarantine hotel and take to COVID tests. On your return from a red list country you must quarantine in a government-approved managed quarantine hotel for ten full days – which you must book within 14 days of your planned return to the UK using the government’s online booking portal. You must also book and pay for two private COVID tests – one to take on or before day 2 of your quarantine and one to take on or after day 8. These tests must be taken in your quarantine hotel. Here at Fit2FlyTest we offer the Day 2 and Day 8 tests seperately or as part of a package (Day 2 and Day 8 Testing Kits package). If either of these tests return a positive result then your quarantine will be extended. If they return a negative result you must still continue your qurantine until the end of day ten. The Test to Release scheme i snot available to passengers arriving from red list countries.
- You must also fill in a passenger locator form at least 48 hours before you arrive in the UK, and you will be asked to provide your quarantine hotel package invoice number, as well as the booking refrerences of the Day 2 and Day 8 COVID tests you will be taking (which Fit2FlyTest will provide you with). You will be asked to show your Passenger Locator Form when you are boarding your flight to the UK.
The Amber List
In a similar way to Red List countries, you should only travel to amber list countries for essential reasons as these countries still pose a COVID risk.
The full list of amber counties (as of August 16th) is:
- Akrotiri and Dhekella
- The Bahamas
- Bahrain (moved to the amber list on 8th August)
- Bonaire, Sint Eustiatius and Saba
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- British Virgin Islands
- Burkino Faso
- Central African Republic
- Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue
- Cote d’Ivorie
- Czech Republic
- El Salvador
- Equitorial Guinea
- French Polynesia
- The Gambia
- Greece (including the Islands)
- India (moved to the amber list on August 8th)
- Marshall Islands
- New Caledonia
- North Korea
- North Macedonia
- The Occupied Palestinian Territories
- Papua New Guinea
- Portugal (including the Azores)
- Qatar (moved to the amber list on 8th August)
- San Marino
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Saudi Arabia
- Solomon Islands
- South Korea
- South Sudan
- Spain (including the Balaeric and Canary Islands)
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Maartan
- St Martin and St Barthelemy
- St Pierre and Miquelon
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- United Arab Emirates
- United States
- Wallis and Futuna
- Western Sahara
What’s the difference between red and amber countries?
If you are returning to the UK from an amber country then you do not need to book a stay at a managed quarantine hotel – instead, you must quarantine at home.
You must also:
- Take a private COVID test in the three days before you travel back to the UK
- Book and pay for two COVID tests to be taken during you quarantine
- Complete your passenger locator form including details of where you will be quarantining
- Begin your 10 day home quarantine as soon as you arrive back into the UK
- Take a COVID test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of your quarantine
Travellers from amber list countries can also make use of the Test to Release scheme which provides them with the opportunity to leave quarantine on day 5 instead of day 10.
The Green List
Ok, now it’s time for some good news!
If a country is on the green list then you can travel there for non-essential reasons without the need to quarantine when you return to the UK. This means if you want to take a holiday in 2021 you can do so in a country on the green list – as long as their national regulations let you in!
The full list of green list countries, which is a LOT shorter than either the red or amber list, is:
- Anguilla (Green Watchlist)
- Antartica / British Antarctic Territory (Green Watchlist)
- Antigua and Barbuda (Green Watchlist)
- Austria (moved to green list on 8th August)
- Barbados (Green Watchlist)
- Bermuda (Green Watchlist)
- British Indian Ocean Territory (Green Watchlist)
- Cayman Islands (Green Watchlist)
- Croatia (Green Watchlist)
- Dominica (Green Watchlist)
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- Germany (moved to green list on 8th August)
- Grenada (Green Watchlist)
- Hong Kong
- Israel and Jerusalem (Green Watchlist)
- Latvia (moved to green list on 8th August)
- Madeira (moved to green list on 8th August)
- Montserrat (Green Watchlist)
- New Zealand
- Norway (moved to green list on 8th August)
- Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands (Green Watchlist)
- South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
- St Helena, Ascension and Tristan de Cunha
- Taiwan (Green Watchlist)
- Turks and Caicos (Green Watchlist)
Despite no quarantine restrictions being in place when you are travelling back from a green country, there are some other restrictions you must follow:
- Take a private COVID test in the three days before boarding your flight to the UK
- Booka nd pay for an additional test to be taken when you are home – be prepared to self-isolate if this test comes back as positive
- Complete a passenger locator form
What else to consider when travelling back to the UK from abroad
The traffic light system is not just about testing and quarantining. You will also need to think about other things, such as:
- Unpredicatabilty. COVID is always changing and so the traffic light system will be always changing too. The UK government has said it will review the lists every three weeks and potentially move countries from one list to another – which means your travel plans may have to change at the last minute. You may also test positive for COVID at stage of your journey, which could prevent you from returning to the UK as planned
- Other countries restrictions. Just because a country is on the green list for the UK it does not mean you can actually travel there. For example, Australia is on the green list for the UK but their border is not open for UK travellers (unless you have an exemption visa).
- Delays. Travelling during the pandemic is likely to involved delays and queuing thanks to the amount of regulations that need to be followed and the paperwork that needs to be checked.
Can you book a free NHS COVID test for travel?
No. NHS tests are not suitable for travel purposes. You will need a ‘Fit to Fly Certificate‘ which is only available from private testing services such as Fit2Fly.
Where can I get COVID tests for international travel?
Fit2FlyTest is a reputable private test provider that can provide you with tests for each phase of your trip, including:
- A pre-departure Fit to Fly COVID test
- PCR tests for when you are back in the UK
- Day 2 and Day 8 PCR tests
- A Test to Release COVID test
Each one of our tests is the gold standard, accurate and fully approved.
Book your PCR Fit to Fly tests with us today, and let’s get you cleared for takeoff!