UK travel rules: Where can Brits travel to after Portugal lost its green list status?

19 May 2021, 09:24 | Updated: 3 June 2021, 22:13

Comments from government ministers have led to confusion about holidays abroad to amber list countries.
Comments from government ministers have led to confusion about holidays abroad to amber list countries. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Government ministers have removed Portugal from the travel green list, putting it under amber and forcing tourists to quarantine on return.

Boris Johnson has said amber countries are "not somewhere where you should be going on holiday", but trips are permitted provided quarantine rules are followed.

Portugal's removal from the green list is a bitter blow to tourists who booked a summer holiday to the country, which spent a matter of weeks in the designation.

So what are the rules on foreign travel restrictions? Can I go on holiday abroad? Where can I travel to from the UK? And can I travel to amber list countries?

What are the rules on foreign travel restrictions?

The rules on foreign travel, introduced on 17 May, were meant to be clear, using a new "traffic light" system that designates countries as green, amber or red.

In green destinations, arrivals will have to take a pre-departure test and another PCR test on or before day two of their return to the UK. No quarantine or additional tests will be needed unless a positive result comes back.

In amber countries, arrivals must quarantine for 10 days, take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on day two and day eight after their return, with the option of a "test to release" on day five to end self-isolation early.

For red destinations, travel to these countries will be restricted along the same lines as the government's current "red list", meaning returning travellers must stay for 10 days in a quarantine hotel, as well as take a pre-departure test and a further PCR test on day two and day eight after returning.

Read more: Portugal moved to UK's amber travel list forcing tourists to quarantine on return

Where can I go on holiday abroad?

From 17 May, leisure travel was permitted from the UK.

Green list countries include: Gibraltar, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, plus several small remote islands which are British Overseas Territories.

Thousands of Brits had already flooded into Portugal, the main holiday destination on the list, including football fans at the Champions League final on Saturday before it was moved to the amber list.

However, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei and the Faroe Islands have all severely restricted entry criteria, which has effectively ruled out holidays abroad for Brits there.

Why was Portugal moved from green to amber?

The Department for Transport said Portugal's Covid case rate has nearly doubled since the Government last reviewed travel arrangements and 68 cases of the Indian, or Delta, variant have been found there.

Madeira and the Azores have also been put on the amber list.

Seven countries including Sri Lanka and Egypt were added to the red list.

Can I travel to amber list countries like Portugal?

The Government's guidance stated that "the public are recommended against travel to amber and red countries".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and the prime minister have all been clear that travel to amber or red countries should be avoided.

Brits should not visit amber countries "unless it's absolutely necessary, and certainly not for holiday purposes," Mr Hancock has said.

It is not illegal to travel to amber list countries for a holiday, but those who ignore the guidance will be required to take two post-arrival tests and self-isolate for 10 days. This can be reduced if they take an additional negative test on day five.

Are countries accepting tourists from the UK?

There are a very limited number of countries that Brits can travel to from the UK if it is for holiday purposes.

Of the green list countries, Gibraltar and Israel are the main destinations accepting or preparing to accept Brits.

Read more: UK firm On the Beach pulls summer holiday sales due to travel uncertainty

Portugal has welcomed UK tourists who have had a recent negative test, have recovered from the virus and therefore have antibodies, or had both doses of a vaccine.

However a sharp rise in the case rate and the Indian, or Delta, variant has caused ministers to move it on to the amber ist, having spent just weeks as a green country.

Meanwhile, Gibraltar has not required UK visitors to be tested or vaccinated.

Israel initially reopened its border on 23 May only to groups of foreign tourists who have had both jabs.

The lists will be amended every three weeks, but Boris Johnson warned he did not expect new countries to be added to the green tier "very rapidly".