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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.

International travel officially started up again on 17 May, as planned, in England, Scotland and Wales after the conditions for moving to the next stage of lockdown easing were met.

But what is the so-called ‘traffic light system’? For a breakdown of the lists themselves, and what it actually means 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.

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 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

Red list:

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

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?

There are 12 destinations on the green list to begin with, but this will be 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.

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 would 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 are still advising against holidays in countries on the amber and red lists.

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 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. You can even get a discount of 10% on PCR tests when you take out a travel insurance policy with us.

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