New travel rules explained: How changes to testing and red list affect your holiday plans

17 September 2021, 18:30 | Updated: 29 November 2021, 21:34

Here's how the travel rules changes affect holidaymakers
Here's how the travel rules changes affect holidaymakers. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

The widely-criticised traffic light system has been overhauled and the Covid testing process for holidaymakers has been made cheaper.

This article is now out of date - please refer to this article for the latest rules.

In a much anticipated announcement, transport secretary Grant Shapps said tourism will be "made easier" by the changes.

After months of confusion for holidaymakers - as countries hopped between categories at short notice and led to desperate scrambles to get home to avoid quarantining - the Government has dramatically simplified the green, amber and red list system.

The cost of getting tests for coronavirus will also get cheaper.

Here is everything that has changed, and how it will affect your holiday.

What has changed?

The amber and green lists have been binned, and replaced with just the red list and a rest of world list. Travel to any country not on the red list - which would have been amber and green previously - will now operate under simplified rules, Mr Shapps said on Friday.

Those who are fully vaccinated will no longer need a Covid test before arrival into England from a non-red list country after October 4. They will still need to take a test on day two after they arrive.

Unvaccinated passengers from non-red list countries will still have to take pre-departure tests and day-two and day-eight PCR tests.

Red list rules remain as they were before.

From later in October, rules requiring costly PCR Covid tests after returning home have also been overhauled, with people arriving back in England now allowed to use cheaper lateral flow tests.

The rest of the UK has tended to follow England's lead and Wales said it would evaluate its own rules in light of the changes.

Why has the list system been scrapped?

Calls for a simplification of the traffic light system have been made for months.

On the surface, there were meant to be three lists, each with different quarantine requirements for when you returned to the UK.

Read more: Half-term holidays back on as PCR tests scrapped and traffic light system dropped

Green was for the safest countries which didn't require quarantine upon return – unless you tested positive for Covid.

Amber required a home quarantine upon return, but was later tweaked to allow double-jabbed people to come back without isolating if they tested negative.

Red list visits required an expensive stay in a Government-approved hotel.

But the system was ridiculed as countries moved between lists quickly. Portugal was green for a matter of weeks before moving back into amber, leaving tourists having to alter plans at the last minute.

Some already out there had to race to get home ahead of their planned return to dodge quarantine rules.

Tweaks to the lists didn't help either, with the Government introducing a green watchlist, for countries that could go amber, an "amber-plus" list which focused just on France, and it was forced to u-turn on a proposed amber watchlist for countries that could go red.

Read more: Government issues warnings to travel testing providers over misleading prices

What has happened to the testing rules, and why will it be cheaper?

Previously, people coming back to the UK had to take PCR tests after arrival in a bid to root out anyone who might've come back with a coronavirus infection.

PCR tests are very reliable but costly. Instead, cheaper lateral flow tests can now be used on day two of a traveller's return.

What has changed on the red list?

The red list stays – but eight countries including Turkey, Pakistan and the Maldives will be taken off from 4am on September 22.

Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya join them in doing so.

What did the Government say?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Twitter: "TRAVEL UPDATE: we're making testing easier for travel From Mon 4 Oct, if you're fully vax you won't need a pre-departure test before arrival into England from a non-red country and from later in Oct, will be able to replace the day 2 PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow.

"In addition, EIGHT countries and territories will come off the red list from Weds 22 Sept at 4am, incl. TURKEY, PAKISTAN and MALDIVES.

"We'll also be introducing a new simplified system for international travel from Mon 4 Oct , replacing the current approach with a single red list and simplified measures for the rest of the world - striking the right balance to manage the public health risk as No.1 priority."