Covid travel restrictions: where can I go on holiday in 2021?

Since the UK government began to ease international travel restrictions in May, all eyes have been on the small list of destinations on the “green list”. Hopes have been pinned on future additions, and were dashed when the biggest-hitter, Portugal, was relegated to amber. With the second update at the end of June, a slightly clearer picture began to emerge: islands are moving faster up the list, many of them in the Caribbean, but also some favourites closer to home.

A spot on the green list means travellers returning to the UK need not quarantine — although they will still need to take an approved Covid-19 test before they travel, and on the second day after their return to the UK. Although England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can make different rules regarding travellers returning from abroad, for the time being the green, amber and red lists are the same for all four nations.

Of course, just because British authorities are happy for someone to enter the UK from a green-list country, the reverse isn’t always true. Many dream destinations on the UK green list, such as Australia and New Zealand, are likely to remain the stuff of travel fantasies for the rest of 2021 at least.

Main photo: Getty Images

GREEN LIST DESTINATIONS

Below, you’ll find a list of all destinations on the green list that are accepting leisure travellers on direct flights from the UK (and the steps you’ll have to follow to enter each place), as well as a round-up of the rest of the green list. An asterisk(*) after the name means that the destination is on the more precarious “green watchlist”; see the FAQs below for an explanation of what this means.

We will update this list regularly, although be aware that UK and other nations’ regulations are changing all the time. Always check the latest green list status and Foreign Office travel advice, and if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, whether any changes in the rules have diverged from England’s.

Getting clear information on what entry requirements a green list destination has can sometimes be tricky. You’ll find an overview of each country or territory’s policies below. To simplify matters, we’ve assumed you don’t have residency rights in these places and have not travelled outside the UK in the previous 21 days. If it’s been at least a fortnight since your second Covid-19 vaccination, that should smooth the path to travel considerably, but check if your destination is accepting the NHS app as proof, or whether you need to show a letter.

Playa de ses Illetes, Formentera (Getty Images)

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BALEARIC ISLANDS*

Variety and accessibility are just two of the big selling points of this enduringly popular Spanish archipelago. The coastal mountain chain of Mallorca invites hiking and biking, while inland are less-visited villages and fincas (traditional rural estates). Although smaller, party-loving Ibiza also has its uncrowded corners and Menorca some of the most enticing beaches. Relatively untouched Formentera is the quietest, offering a chance to shift down the gears and turn back the clock. As things stand, of all the UK’s green listers, the Balearics involve the least flying time to some guaranteed sunshine.

Requirements As of July 2, Spain required travellers from the UK aged 12 or over to show a negative Covid-19 test result from the previous 48 hours or proof of a full vaccination programme completed at least 14 days before arrival. All inbound travellers also need to complete the Spanish Health Control Form (‘FCS’) and receive a QR code to show at the destination airport. You can move between the Balearic Islands without further checks. For more, see here.

In destination Spain-wide requirements to wear masks outdoors in public ended on June 26. While restaurants, bars and other indoor settings are generally open, limits on numbers remain, and it’s still too early for club dance floors to reopen. The Balearics have been at the lower end of Spanish regional case rates since March 2021. Check specific guidance here.

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Valletta Malta

Valletta (Getty Images)

MALTA

With its middle-of-the-Mediterranean location, Malta has always been a reliable remedy for the sun-starved. A rugged landscape gives way to a coast riddled with blue grottoes, secluded coves and harbours filled with colourful fishing boats, while these small islands’ epic history has bestowed them with proud palaces, churches and fortresses, not to mention a culture that has Arabic, Italian and British quirks. As well as Malta proper, you’ll want to take the ferry over to neighbouring Gozo to get a fuller feel of the country.

Requirements Travellers from the UK (counted by Malta as an “amber list” country) need to be fully vaccinated, with the certificate to prove it. Malta has recognised British vaccination certificates since June 30, 2021. Families with children aged 12 or over may face a problem since they too need to be fully vaccinated. Children aged 5-11 can travel with vaccinated adults if they present a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. Children under 5 do not need a test. For more, see here.

In destination Restrictions on mixing and opening hours have been gradually removed since May 2021, but some remain, notably a limit of six people seated at restaurants. Masks are still expected in many settings and bars are open to seated customers only — no dance floors. Covid-19 cases per capita dropped below the UK rate in mid-May, and have stayed very low since. The vaccination rate is among the world’s highest. Find information on Covid-19 regulations in Malta here.

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Iceland

In a hot spring in Iceland (Getty Images)

ICELAND

The land of fire and ice is all about wide-open spaces — unless your aim is the notorious Reykjavík rúntur, or bar crawl. For maximum ambition, go beyond the headline sights of the Golden Circle within day-trip distance of the capital and embark on an 820-mile self-drive loop around the country on Route 1, taking in volcanic springs, calving glaciers and a lifetime’s worth of waterfalls.

Requirements British travellers who do not also hold citizenship in an EEA/EFTA country are counted as “third-country citizens”. They can enter if they provide proof of vaccination against Covid-19 or a previous Covid-19 infection. The certificate will be valid 14 days after a full vaccination course is completed. British passport-holders do not need a visa. There is a Covid-19 test on arrival and inbound travellers with valid certificates must quarantine until a negative test result is returned (usually in 24 hours). For more, see here.

In destination All Covid-19 restrictions on gatherings, mask-wearing and facility openings were lifted at the end of June 2021. Iceland has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 vaccination rates, and achieved zero cases at the end of May. Find full details here.

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Madeira

Ponta Do Rosto, Madeira (Getty Images)

MADEIRA*

Lush greenery and terracotta-tiled houses jostle for space on the slopes of this island, 500 miles out in the Atlantic from motherland Portugal. Inland, the geography wins out, with deeply riven valleys reached only — if at all — by hikes along mossy water channels. Madeira’s peculiarities mean that sandy beaches don’t come naturally here (for those, head over to the neighbouring island of Porto Santo), but it’s an exotic escape in all other ways.

Requirements Madeira’s entry requirements are different from those in mainland Portugal (or the Azores). Everyone must fill in the passenger locator form between 48 and 12 hours before boarding for a QR code to present on arrival. Travellers aged 12 or over should present evidence of a negative PCR test from the previous 72 hours or be tested on arrival and isolate until a negative result is returned. Those with an appropriate vaccination certificate or proof of recovery from Covid-19 do not need to do the PCR test. For more, see here.

In destination Restaurants and bars are open up to two thirds’ capacity with tables of up to six indoors or ten outdoors. Requirements on mask-wearing and two-metre social distancing remain. Check full conditions here.

Save £50 on Tui breaks to Madeira using the code SUMMER. Check the full T&Cs before booking

Barbados

Paynes Bay, Barbados (Getty Images)

BARBADOS*

A gateway to the Caribbean and a favourite tropical island destination in itself, Barbados has beaches to suit all tastes. The west side is where you’ll find the gentlest seas, and — as the coast road heads north out of the historic capital Bridgetown — the most luxurious hotels. Head east for big waves in a region not usually known as a surf hotspot. One sign of a return to normality will be to join crowds of Bajans to watch a match at their beloved Kensington Oval.

Requirements All inbound travellers need to present proof of a recognised PCR test taken three days before arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers will be tested again on arrival and — if negative — are free to leave quarantine within a day or two. Unvaccinated or partly vaccinated travellers must take a test after five days of post-arrival quarantine. There is a large list of approved quarantine accommodation to choose from. For more, see here.

In destination Local curfews were lifted on June 30, although restrictions on very large events such as carnival remain, as do requirements to wear facemasks in public and maintain 6ft of social distance. Covid-19 cases have been low in Barbados since April 2021, although the vaccination rate is still relatively pedestrian. More details.

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Seven-night stay including direct flights

Gibraltar

The Rock of Gibraltar (Getty Images)

GIBRALTAR

The Rock may be no more than three miles by one, but it makes the most of limited space, with three sand beaches and a seaside lido, and historic sites that come from being a frequently besieged stronghold at the mouth of the Mediterranean. Its population has been multicultural since long before the term existed. As for the top tourist sight here, step forward, Europe’s only free-living monkey population. Watch out for your bags.

Requirements The UK is on Gibraltar’s green list of countries. Fully vaccinated travellers to Gibraltar from a green-list country do not need to undergo a pre-departure Covid-19 test, although unvaccinated travellers aged 12 or over arriving by air will need a negative test result taken within 48 hours of their flight. Everyone must fill in a passenger locator form before flying (upload any vaccination certificates here), and must have a Covid-19 rapid test on arrival — and again on day five if staying for more than seven days. You should book these tests here. For more, see here.

In destination Almost the entire adult population of Gib has been fully vaccinated since April 2021 and most local restrictions have been lifted. Facemasks are no longer required in restaurants and bars, although you should still wear them in shops, on public transport and at the airport. Be aware that although Gibraltar considers Spain to be a green-list country, the UK doesn’t, which complicates trips across the border. More details.

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ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA*

The closest Caribbean islands to the UK, Antigua and Barbuda lie at the curve point of that magical chain. Antigua is modestly sized, but with its coast folded into an almost-fractal series of small bays and palm-fringed promontories, it may indeed have the 365 beaches of which its tourism literature boasts. It’s not all about white-sand resorts and water-based activities: the World Heritage-listed Nelson’s Dockyard is an 18th-century time capsule, with south-coast hikes around it. Barbuda is the smaller and quieter of the two main islands, with tourism still recovering from Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Requirements Passengers aged 12 or over flying in to Antigua must have a negative PCR test conducted within the previous seven days. A health declaration form will be handed out on the flight. You may be asked to undergo (and pay for) an extra test on arrival, with results normally returned within 48 hours, but sometimes 96 hours. For more, see here.

In destination Facemasks must be worn in all public spaces, and restaurants and bars are open subject to social-distancing requirements. Curfew hours are 11pm to 5am. Visitors must not only stay in approved accommodation, but also pick from a list of certified restaurants and excursions — find full details here. Vaccination rates are middling. After a moderate spike in Covid-19 cases in February and March 2021, numbers fell to low or zero again. Check the latest information on Antigua here.

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BERMUDA*

It’s easy to feel removed from the wider world in Bermuda: more than 600 miles from the nearest landfall; not quite Caribbean, but rather a subtropical haven in the North Atlantic. Although tourism here comes a distant second to financial services, there’s much to see and do in this tight group of islands, from the pink-sand beaches to wreck-diving sites and caves festooned with stalactites, as well as the World Heritage-listed town of St George, founded in 1612 as one of the earliest English colonial settlements.

Requirements Travellers need to be fully vaccinated, otherwise there is a 14-day hotel quarantine period. Special conditions apply to unvaccinated children under 18 travelling with vaccinated adults, but they should be able to leave quarantine within a day or two. All visitors aged two or over must apply for a Bermuda Covid-19 Travel Authorisation between one and three days before arrival and have a negative test from the previous four days. Visitors must further test on arrival (and quarantine for generally a day to await the results) and again on days four, eight and 14 of a stay in Bermuda. For more, see here.

In destination Since late June there is no curfew and facemasks have not been required outdoors, but are generally needed indoors. The territory has a high level of vaccinations. Find more information here.

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Grenada

St. George’s, Grenada (Alamy)

GRENADA*

One of the smallest Caribbean states, Grenada concentrates so many of the region’s distinctive flavours into a punchy cocktail: a dinky capital full of heritage buildings, thick rainforest in the central mountains, yacht-filled bays, nutmeg groves and fish-fry stalls on a Friday night. Most hotels on the main island are by the beaches at the southern tip and beyond here development is low-scale, including on the country’s second-largest island, Carriacou.

Requirements Regardless of vaccination status, since May all travellers to Grenada must apply for a Pure Safe Travel Certificate and get tested 72 hours before travel. Fully vaccinated visitors need only book approved quarantine accommodation for a minimum of two nights, not seven days, and will have a second test on arrival with results in 48 hours rather than a test on day five for possible release on day seven. For more, see here.

In destination A “state of emergency” is in effect until November that includes mandatory facemasks in public, 10pm closure for businesses, a midnight curfew and a maximum of 20 people at social gatherings. Although most residents are unvaccinated, Grenada has had low-to-zero rates of Covid-19 throughout the pandemic with only one death officially recorded. More details.

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Turks and Caicos

Governor’s Beach, Grand Turk (Alamy)

TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS*

The place to find powdery white-sand beaches slipping imperceptibly into clear turquoise waters. Out of this group of about 100 islands and cays between the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, nine are inhabited. Providenciales is home to the main airport and where you’ll find most beach hotels. Short flights from here reach the sleepy capital of Cockburn Town on Grand Turk, and smaller exclusive island resorts.

Requirements To board a flight to the islands you will need TCI Assured, with information uploaded 24 hours before travel. For this you’ll need to provide a negative PCR test result conducted in the five days before travel, insurance to cover possible medical costs, and a health questionnaire. For more, see here.

In destination Restaurants and bars are open at reduced capacity, and a requirement to wear masks in all public places that was due to expire on June 30 has been extended. Travel between islands is permitted. Vaccination rates in this British Overseas Territory are reasonably high. More details.

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WHERE ELSE IS ON THE GREEN LIST?

Several smaller Caribbean island states and territories are open to tourists, subject to various entry procedures, but do not have direct flights from the UK — these include Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica (note, not the Dominican Republic) and Montserrat. They can be reached via other green-list islands in the region such as Barbados and Antigua, although you’ll have to follow additional entry requirements for the places you transit through.

To visit the Faroe Islands, which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, travellers from countries on the Danish orange or red lists (including the UK) need to prove for their visit a “worthy purpose” in addition to other health protocols. Tourism is not on the list of worthy purposes.

Although Israel has achieved one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, a planned reopening to vaccinated tourists has been put off until at least August. Those wanting to travel from Britain need to enquire first at the Israeli Embassy in London.

Pre-Covid, visitors to remote St Helena usually had to fly via South Africa, which is now on the red list. A limited number of charter flights are serving the island from London via Ascension Island, but there’s a ten-day quarantine on arrival.

Cayman Islands

A stingray off Grand Cayman (Alamy)

Several other countries and territories are on the UK green list, but are more or less closed to visitors for the time being. These include Australia (until mid-2022 by present estimates), Brunei, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, New Zealand and Singapore.

And finally, there’s a smattering of destinations that were ambitious trips or almost impossible to visit even before Covid, such as the British Antarctic Territory, Pitcairn Island, South Georgia and Tristan da Cunha.

FAQs

What’s the ‘green watchlist’?

The green watchlist indicates countries on the green list that are thought to have more risk of being moved to the amber list at short notice. Provided a country stays on the green watchlist, travellers returning from there to the UK will not be treated differently to others returning from regular green list countries.

Can I visit an amber-list country?

Official UK government advice is not to travel to countries on the amber and red lists. This often (but not always) overlaps with a pre-Covid-style Foreign Office warning to avoid “all but essential travel” to a particular country. In other words, foreign travel beyond the green list is discouraged, but not illegal. Anybody arriving in the UK from an amber country needs to self-isolate at home or another approved location for ten days. In England only, the optional Test to Release scheme may allow you to leave quarantine after a privately paid test on the fifth day.

Can I get travel insurance to visit an amber country?

There’s a great deal of uncertainty in the travel insurance market. If you decide to visit an amber-list country, there are companies that will offer travel insurance, but the details are important, such as whether the country also has a Foreign Office advisory against non-essential travel. Some policies may still cover you while undertaking “essential travel” to an amber list country (for example, to see family, but not simply for a holiday) or cover medical expenses where Covid-19 is not a factor.

I’m double-vaccinated — where can I travel to?

On the homeward-bound side, vaccination status doesn’t affect what you have to do when you return to the UK from a green, amber or red-list country, although the government may soon drop the quarantine requirement (for returnees from amber destinations) for fully vaccinated travellers. In terms of outbound travel, the default position for most countries that are accepting visitors is that being fully vaccinated helps (especially if the alternative is a quarantine period that defeats the purpose of a holiday), but is not an absolute requirement. Malta is one notable exception to this, and insists on vaccination.

Ireland

Ireland: travellers from England, Scotland or Wales need to quarantine (Getty Images)

Can I visit Ireland?

The Republic of Ireland is part of the Common Travel Area (along with the Channel Islands and Isle of Man) and so stands outside the UK’s traffic-light system. Although the UK does not require Covid-19 tests or quarantine for arrivals from Ireland, travellers to Ireland from England, Scotland or Wales need to quarantine for 14 days, with an option for test to release after five days. This self-isolation requirement may be dropped for fully vaccinated travellers after July 19, 2021.

What are the rules for red-list countries?

For a start, only British and Irish nationals (or those with UK residence rights) can enter the UK if they have been in a red-list country in the previous ten days. Even then, you’ll have to quarantine for ten days in a managed quarantine hotel with no option of test to release or self-isolation at home. The cost is £1,750 for one person, plus £650 for an extra adult or child over 11, or £325 for a child aged five to 11.

What about America?

Regardless of where the US sits on the UK traffic-light system (presently amber), most categories of traveller other than American citizens are banned from entering the US if they have been in the UK, Ireland or Schengen Area in the previous 14 days. Talks on setting up a UK–US travel corridor are going slowly at present.

What about other countries?

The UK government’s decisions about which places to add to (or remove from) the green list are based on a combination of factors including how well vaccinated a destination is, what share of the population has recently tested positive for Covid-19, and how much reliable data there is. You can check which way the trends on cases and vaccination are going country-by-country here. The spread of variants of concern in the UK means that many soon-to-be green list countries might hold off for now on welcoming British tourists.

When is the next travel update?

Reviews are expected every three weeks. After the June 24 review (which took effect on June 30), the next announcements are likely to be made on July 15.

Can we get our money back if we can’t go on holiday?

The fullest protection comes with contracts that “due to no fault of the parties” cannot go ahead because of a change in lockdown laws. Remember, though, that a country moving from one list to another does not make it illegal for you to travel there, from a British point of view. If your forthcoming flights and hotel bookings have not been cancelled by their provider after a sudden move from green to amber, but you choose not to take them up because you don’t wish to quarantine on return, it may not be possible to get a refund.

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