Can I go on holiday to an amber list country right now?

Jul 19, 2021

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.


The U.K. government’s long-awaited unveiling of its traffic light system was great news for travel-starved Brits as the government also ended its worldwide ban on non-essential travel. But with the traffic light system, only a limited list of destinations fell on the green list, while currently, 60 are on the red list.

In other words, the majority of foreign destinations are on the amber list.

If you travel to an amber list, on your return to the U.K., you must undergo a 10-day quarantine at home or at a place of your choosing such as your own hotel/Airbnb. You will also be required to pre-book and undergo two tests during your quarantine: one on day two and one on day eight.

Note that from 19 July, if you are fully vaccinated, you will not need to self-isolate on your return from an amber country, or take the Day 8 test, or participate in the Test To Release program. This essentially turns amber countries green, if you are fully jabbed.

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So, provided you are willing to undertake these measures on your return to the U.K., does this mean you are free to travel to an amber country right now for a holiday?

Related: Italy reopens to British tourists with a negative COVID-19 test result

Let’s look specifically at the official, written Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice.

From January 2021 to 16 May 2021, the U.K. government’s FCDO advice on travel was as follows:

“You must not travel, including abroad, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so. It is illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes.”

This wording was crystal clear — it was illegal to travel for a holiday. This wording has now changed and advice against

“To prevent new COVID variants from entering the UK, you should not travel to red list countries.”

Playa de Las Teresitas, Spain. (Photo by Westend61/Getty Images)

What does this mean for amber list countries? Some amber list countries, such as Greece have removed advice against non-essential travel, with the following wording:

The FCDO no longer advises against all but essential travel to the whole of Greece, including all the Greek Islands, based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.

Other amber countries, such as Slovenia, have the following more restrictive travel advice:

The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to the whole of Slovenia based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.

The decision on travelling to an amber country is yours to make. It is not illegal, and you will not be stopped from doing so, whether the destination you choose has the relaxed Greece advice, or the stricter Slovenia advice wording above.

Where the wording is important is in relation to your travel insurance.

Related: Will my travel insurance cover a holiday to an amber country this summer?

Most regular travel insurance policies will be invalid where you choose to travel to a destination against FCDO advice, such as “you should avoid non-essential travel to.” Insurance giant AXA, for example, states the following: “A number of our policies no longer cover cancellation or curtailment if the FCDO or another regulatory body advises against travel due to a pandemic.”

This means for Slovenia, as an example, an AXA travel insurance policy is unlikely to cover travel, while for Greece, you would be covered.

If you do want to travel to an amber destination where there is FCDO advice against doing so and still want to be covered with travel insurance, some specialist providers have launched COVID-19 travel insurance for these situations, where traditional travel insurance policies may be invalid. These COVID-19 policies may be more expensive and have different exclusions to traditional policies, so you should carefully read the fine print before selecting a policy to understand what is covered and what is not.

Some airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic, are offering free travel insurance for any destination you book with it regardless of government advice. However, for Spain, airlines like EasyJet offer normal travel insurance for an additional fee but state the policy will not cover you if you travel against government advice, even if the flight still operates.

Bottom line

The current government advice for some amber list destinations is to avoid non-essential travel. Note that this is just a recommendation, not an order or law. It is no longer illegal to travel to an amber list country right now — it is up to each individual to decide whether they wish to travel, where to and how and they will not be stopped from travelling provided they follow entry requirements such as negative COVID-19 tests.

The advice is changing constantly, as the FCDO continues to relax advice against travelling to amber list countries. You should check the latest advice regularly here.

What is crystal clear is that you should check your travel insurance wording very carefully if you wish to travel to an amber country to ensure you are covered for travel during this very uncertain time.

Photo by Sergio Amiti/Getty

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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