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What is the red, amber, and green list?

an image of a traveller watching a plane take off in the airport before boarding their flight
As of 19 July, fully vaccinated travellers can now go on holiday to amber list countries from the UK without needing to self-isolate or quarantine on return. Make sure you check the FCDO’s travel advice before you set off and while you’re away.

Now that holidays to countries on the green and amber lists have been given the thumbs up by the government, you might be wondering what you need to know before you go away.

For a breakdown of the red, amber, and green lists themselves, and what they actually mean for travel, keep reading.

The red, amber, and green lists

Used to categorise destinations based on their Covid-related risks, the red, amber, and green lists also show what testing and quarantine measures visitors need to follow when they get back to the UK.

There are also the watchlists. The ‘green watchlist’ is for countries that are currently on the green list but at risk of moving to amber. The ‘amber watchlist’ is countries that are currently amber but could move to red at short notice.

Depending on where you’ve been in the last 10 days and which list they’re on, this is what you need to know:

Green list:

  • Take a test within 72 hours before travelling back
  • Take another test on your second day back
  • No self-isolation (unless you test positive)

Amber list:

  • Take a test within 72 hours before travelling back
  • Self-isolate at home for 10 days (extended with a positive test)
  • Take a test on day two and day eight of self-isolation
  • The Test to Release scheme is available from day five of self-isolation, and could end your self-isolation early
  • From 19 July, if you’re fully vaccinated** you no longer have to self-isolate when you get back from amber list countries (unless you test positive)

Red list:

  • Take a test within 72 hours before travelling back
  • Stay in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days (extended with a positive test)
  • Take a test on day two and day eight of quarantine

an image showing the requirements for each travel traffic light list

Does green mean go?

Just because a country is on the green list, doesn’t give you a ‘green light’ to travel there – despite what ‘traffic light system’ might suggest. You’ll still need to look at the FCDO travel advice and entry requirements for any destination you want to go on holiday to.

Will the lists change?

The green list is in constant review, with formal reviews completed every three weeks. The government has also said they ‘won’t hesitate to act immediately’ and move countries between lists if the data shows risks have changed.

Keep an eye on the ‘green watchlist’ and the ‘amber watchlist’ as these are countries that are at risk of moving to the next tier down (from green to amber, or amber to red).

Changes when you’re away

If the government needs to change the list your destination is on while you’re away, you’ll have to follow the latest guidelines when you get back to the UK – unless you return home before they take effect.

Before you go away, check with your travel provider(s) to find out what would happen to your holiday in the event of such changes.

Your travel insurance with us, for example, isn’t affected by the ‘traffic light system’, so you wouldn’t be covered if you choose to cancel or cut your trip short after a change in the traffic light lists. But you may still be covered for Covid-related claims, as shown on our Covid Cover page.

What you need to know

The red, amber, and green lists are part of the cautious reopening of travel as the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing worldwide. This means there are still risks involved with international travel, even if the country you go to is on the green list.

Although you’re now allowed to travel internationally for non-essential reasons, the government is still advising against holidays in countries on the red list.

If the situation changes, and the country you’re in goes from green to amber or even amber to red, it could have a big impact on you. For example, moving to the red list will mean paying for 10 days in a hotel quarantine at considerable cost.

So, it’s important that you book your next holiday carefully. Choose travel providers who have flexible booking policies and look out for ATOL-protection just in case the country you’re in changes list.

Travel insurance is also there to lend a helping hand – even with the uncertainty of coronavirus, we offer a level of protection for your next trip. Find out what you need to know on our Covid Cover page.

*Amber list rules may differ or change for certain countries at short notice, even if you are fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated travellers are required to have their final vaccination dose at least 14 whole days before arriving back in the UK. Keep up to date with the latest FCDO travel advice before and during your trip.

** You need to have had your second vaccination at least 14 days before travelling for this to apply.

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