With the new Omnicron variant worrying scientists, six countries have now been readded to the red list – but there are still many popular destinations still open for travel from the UK.
It took less than a month for the red list to return. After the last country – South America – was given the all-clear by the UK government on the 1st of November, the travel restrictions were back less than four weeks later, this time for most of South Africa. With the new variant, Omnicron, worrying scientists the big question now is: how many more countries will join Namibia, South Africa, and the other countries on the red list? And with many people in Europe concerned about a fourth wave of the virus, what does this mean for travel abroad this winter?
The last few months have seen travel become a lot simpler for those destinations that have managed to stay off the red list – as long as travellers are fully vaccinated. Pre-departure tests were scrapped for those returning to the UK, and day 2 PCR tests could be replaced by lateral flow tests instead.
In this article, we will look at the rules of the most viable destinations for a holiday now, and answer your key questions around restrictions, testing and vaccinations.
What you need to know before you go
Six countries are now back on the red list, from November 26th, and they are:
- Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)
- South Africa
There may be other countries in the region added at short notice, but for the moment there are no great barriers in place to travel to any other countries.
There are some countries that have banned travellers from the UK, and a full list of those can be found here. Access is still an issue in much of the Asia-Pacific region as this is where most of the countries that have banned visitors are located. It is also important to remember that you will need to be fully vaccinated to get into many destinations – and potentially have had your booster jab as well.
Below you will find some of the most popular destinations that are not on the red list at the moment, and that are accepting leisure travellers from the UK – plus the steps you will have to follow if you want to holiday in these destinations.
Again, it is important to remember that other nations’ regulations are changing all the time, in a similar way to the UK. This is why it is so important to check the latest Foreign Office travel advice as well as the Department for Transports lists.
This tropical island is considered to be the gateway to the Caribbean and has plenty of beaches to suit all needs. The west side has the gentlest seas and the most luxurious hotels, while the east side of the island is where the surfers head to catch the big waves.
All inbound travellers to Barbados need to present proof of a recognised PCR test taken three days before arrival on the island – and the results of this test need to be uploaded to the BIMSafe app and you should carry a copy of your test results as well. Fully vaccinated travellers will be tested again on arrival and should be allowed to leave quarantine within a day or two once a negative result has been received.
Unvaccinated travellers to Barbados, or those who have not had both doses of the vaccine, are required to quarantine on arrival and take a test after five days.
Once you are in Barbados, there is a requirement to wear face masks in public spaces and maintain a social distance of 6ft. There are also intermittent local curfews that you need to make yourself aware of.
Greece has been very vocal about wanting to get tourists back asap, as many of its 3000 islands rely on tourism – not to mention the mainland as well.
You can enter Greece for leisure purposes if you are aged 12 or over and have one of the following three things:
- Proof of a negative test result – a PCR test in the 72 hours before arriving or rapid antingen in the 48 hours
- Proof of a full vaccination counrse completed at least 14 days before you land
- Proof of a positive COVID test from the past 30 to 180 days
You must also fill in a passenger locator form at least one day before travelling.
Face masks are still expected in Greece in most indoor settings, and you may also be asked to show proof of vaccination to get into bars, museums, restaurants and other crowded spots.
The Maldives has long been a popular winter destination, and so their removal from the red list recently came at a great time for their December to March high season – as the country is pretty much dependent on tourism.
In order to take a holiday in the Maldives this year, you will need to have had your second vaccine jab at least 14 days before arrival. You will also need to have taken a PCR test 96 hours before departure, and fill in a health declaration form.
Vaccination coverage in the Maldives is at a pretty similar level to Europe. COVID-19 protocols will vary between resorts, so it is best to check on arrival.
Portugal was the most popular destination on the original green list back in May 2021, but unfortunately, it was moved to the amber list not long after. However, it has been easier to holiday there since the summer – whether you are heading to the beaches of the Algarve or the vineyards of Porto.
Portugal recently announced that it was reimposing restrictions from the 1st of December in response to a surge in COVID cases. All travellers aged 11 and over must show proof of a negative PCR test or rapid antigen test on arrival. They are also accepting the NHS COVID pass as proof of vaccination.
If you are fully vaccinated you must also present proof of a negative test to enter bars, nightclubs or other indoor venues. You are required to have the EU digital certificate if you wish to eat inside restaurants, go to the gym or stay in a hotel. Face mask use remains common.
The removal of Turkey from the red list came at the end of the traditional holiday season for them, but tourists are exploring the country still and finding there is much more to it than just beaches – Istanbul is a popular destination for those wanting to explore mosaics and mosques, and indulge in a mezze platter or two.
If you are travelling to Turkey from the UK, you will need to be able to show one of the following:
- proof of a full course of vaccination
- evidence of having recently recovered from COVID, or
- a nagative PCR test wihtin 72 hours of arrival or a negative lateral flow test within 48 hours of arrival
You may also face random PCR testing on arrival as well.
United Arab Emirates
There are few airports in the world that can have seen such a dramatic change in travel patterns since the COVID pandemic started, than those in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Their status as long-haul connection hubs has diminished thanks to Australia and Thailand closing their borders to travellers, but thankfully people are travelling to the United Arab Emirates to explore what they themselves have to offer – the worlds tallest skyscraper for one.
The rules around COVID differ depending on the emirate – Abu Dhabi is allowing in travellers without the need to quarantine as long as they are fully vaccinated, whilst Dubai does not have vaccination status as a condition of entry.
For AbuDhabi you will need a negative PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before departure, whereas for Dubai it should be no more than 72 hours before departure.
America is a land packed full of more diverse climates and landscapes than any other – from Alaska’s glaciers on one side to Hawaii’s coconut palms on the other.
With the reopening of the US borders on the 8th of November, fully vaccinated travellers from the UK can now enter the US without needing to quarantine on arrival. The US does recognise the AstraZeneca vaccine as valid – although they are not using it themselves – and so having the NHS app as proof of vaccination is accepted.
If you are travelling to the US then you must take a PCR test no more than three days before boarding your flight. This must be a viral test as opposed to an antibody test – so either a PCR or an antigen test. Fully vaccinated travellers are also “recommended” to take a viral test within three to five days of arriving in the US.
Unvaccinated children under the age of 18 can enter the US without quarantine, but then the post-arrival test becomes compulsory.
COVID measures can vary within states as well as between them, and you will most likely be asked to wear face masks in the larger cities. At the moment there is no national vaccination pass in place, but it may be useful to carry a printout of your NHS COVID pass letter just in case.
Restaurants, shops and visitor attractions are mostly open – although there are mask requirements and social distancing in place.
Fit2FlyTest offers many COVID tests to help make your international travel easier, including:
- Day 2 PCR testing kit
- PCR Fit to Fly Test
- Test to Release Test
- Lateral Flow Test – Pre and post departure