Coronavirus: where can I go on holiday?

The Covid-19 pandemic has made knowing where you can travel to and what's expected of you when you go more complicated in the last couple of years. Even as overseas travel opens up, it's always possible the situation could change again at short notice.

So where can you go on holiday? Do you need to take a Covid-19 test? And, if so, what kind of test and when should you take it? And is there anything else to know or do before you go or return home?

Woman wearing hat and backpack at airport looking a departure board at the airport

In this article we’ve summarised the government’s guidance on international travel and linked to the most up to date official sources to check regularly before you book or take a trip.

It focuses on what you need to know about returning to the UK from wherever you choose to travel to. But it’s also important to check local entry requirements and restrictions in your destination, to make sure you’re able to visit it in the first place.

You should also read about what travel insurance covers for coronavirus, and remember that travelling against official advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) can invalidate your cover.

Travel red and green lists and what they mean

As of 4 October 2021, the UK government’s travel restrictions have been simplified to make it easier to know where you can travel to and where to avoid.

The UK government now maintains a red list of countries considered highest risk, which it says shouldn’t be visited except in the most extreme of circumstances.

If you do visit a red list destination you should expect the strictest restrictions, including having to take multiple Covid-19 tests and pay in advance for a period of self-isolation in a quarantine hotel when you return to the UK.

Also from 4 October, the previous amber and green lists have now been merged into a single ‘rest of the word’ category of low-risk destinations. We’ve called it the ‘green’ list here.

If you visit one of these green list destinations, the number of Covid-19 tests you’ll need to take and whether you need to self-isolate when you get home will differ depending on whether you’ve been fully vaccinated against the virus.

Let’s look at the requirements in more detail.

Returning from a ‘green’ list country

If you’re returning from any destination that’s not on the UK’s red list, the rules vary depending on your vaccination status.

If you’ve already been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and your second jab was two or more weeks prior to travel, you no longer need to take a test before your journey home. There’s also no need to self-isolate when you get back to the UK unless you develop symptoms and test positive for the virus.

If you’ve yet to be vaccinated or have only received one dose, you’ll need to take a Covid-19 test before your return departure. This will usually be a lateral flow test but may vary by country. You’ll also need to self-isolate at home for 10 days. You may be able to reduce this period through the Test to Release programme.

All UK travellers need to complete a passenger locator form and take a Covid test on day 2 back in the UK (except for the under-5s). This must be a PCR test. Those not fully vaccinated also need to take a PCR test on or after day 8. If your test result is positive, you’ll need to follow the government’s guidance for self-isolation.

See the full UK green list of destinations

Returning from a red list country

If you’re returning to the UK having visited a red list destination in the last 10 days you’ll need to complete a passenger locator form and take a pre-departure Covid-19 test.

This may be either a lateral flow or PCR test depending on the country you’re visiting. Check the FCDO guidance for specific destinations.

You’ll also need to pay in advance to self-isolate in a quarantine hotel for 10 days when back in the UK. The price you pay for this will include the cost of PCR tests taken on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of your return.

Always check the latest before you book in case you’re planning to visit a destination that’s at risk of moving to the red list. You may need to postpone or cancel your trip.  

See the full UK red list of destinations

Protect what matters when you go with good travel insurance

Check the rules for your part of the UK

Although the devolved governments of Scotland and Northern Ireland have said they’ll mirror the UK government’s travel guidance for England, Wales is yet to confirm its approach. And it’s always important to check the specific travel rules for your part of the UK in case they differ.

Local entry requirements

You also need to check and follow any local laws, entry requirements, restrictions and guidelines that apply when you get to your destination – including any regional differences.

Some countries require a certificate from an officially recognised testing centre that confirms you have tested negative for coronavirus. Others may not if you've been double vaccinated for more than two weeks.

It’s your responsibility to know and follow these requirements, so check the latest for your destination early. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development (FCDO) provides up-to-date, country-specific guidance for all international destinations on its travel advice page.

If you’re planning activities or to visit attractions while you’re away, remember that social distancing measures and local restrictions may mean it’s no longer possible. Other attractions and activities, as well as restaurants and bars, may be open and operating at reduced capacity, and you might need to book a time slot in advance.

Tips on testing

The time limits that apply around testing may also vary by country, and the type of test also affects the time needed to process and receive results.

Make sure you research and plan for the test or tests you’ll need well in advance of travel. You don’t want getting tested or waiting for results to delay or prevent your plans.

As well as checking the latest FCDO advice, it’s also worth checking with your airline, tour operator and accommodation to be sure which type of tests you’ll need and any of their own other travel requirements before you go. 

What will travel insurance cover?

It’s more important than ever to get travel insurance that will sufficiently cover your trip when the FCDO says it’s safe to visit your destination. 

Cover for different destinations

It’s important to remember your travel insurance is unlikely to be valid if you travel to a destination the FCDO advises against all or all but essential travel to. This advice may be in place for Covid-19 reasons but it might equally be due to other factors, such as local unrest or a natural catastrophe. 

It’s this FCDO advice, not the colour list a destination is placed on, that will usually determine if your policy will cover the trip. So check the latest FCDO advice instead of searching for travel insurance for green or red list countries (or for amber list countries, as there’s now no such thing). 

If you do plan to travel against this advice, check your travel insurance policy closely. It may be possible to buy add-on cover for an additional premium if the FCDO’s advice against travel relates to something other than Covid-19. If you’re in any doubt, don’t travel.

Cover for coronavirus

Make sure you’re getting the Covid-19 cover you need from your policy too, as not all insurers provide it. 

You may need to safeguard against cancellation, delayed or missed departure due to the virus before you travel, or cutting short (curtailment) of your holiday because of it when you’re there. It’s also important to ensure emergency medical treatment, repatriation (getting you home) and other expenses will be covered if you fall ill while you’re away.

Check what coronavirus cover is included in travel insurance. Compare providers and read the policy documents and terms and conditions before you buy. 

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