July 19th Update: changes to how UK residents with proof of full vaccination are treated after amber or green list arrivals have now changed. In short, it’s easier to travel to either. Read up for all the latest…

If you think Netflix is full of drama, you need to pay more attention to the news. The UK Government became the washing machine of solutions to safely resume travel in the last year, with new ideas tossed and overturned by the minute.

Now, there’s new hope with a ‘green list’ and ‘amber list’ of travel destinations, and a ‘red list’ which the UK Gov says is to be avoided.

Here’s how each ‘stoplight’ category works, and what it means for any potential travel to, or from the UK, for visitors and returning residents. In short, things are a lot easier from green or orange list countries.

UK Orange List Arrivals

Orange list countries make up most of the world, and require a series of costly tests and 10 days home quarantine for visitors, or 5 days of quarantine with a test to release package.

The UK just updated guidance on the system for fully vaccinated UK residents who received their shots from the NHS, and all fully vaccinated UK residents who fit the bill can now enter the UK from ‘amber list’ countries without quarantine. They’ll just need to take a PCR test on arrival, and a rapid test before departure.

UK Orange List testing packages must be booked before travel and a passenger locator form must also be filled out. Expect testing costs to venture north of £150 per person. If you’re a fully vaccinated UK resident, you only need one test, not two like all other amber arrivals.

UK Red List Arrivals

Arrivals from red list countries into the UK will continue to require a fully supervised 11 day hotel quarantine, at great cost, totaling £1750 ($2400), per person. Travel to and from ‘red list’ countries is greatly discouraged by UK officials.

And yes, we’ve also got all the answers to all the questions you may inevitably have, like travel insurance and if the travel list is subject to change. Surprise, it is – often.

Image by Alfred Derks from Pixabay

Official: Latest UK “Green List” For Travel

The UK has once again unveiled its “green list” of approved countries for quarantine free travel, upon return to, or arrival to, the UK. The ‘green list’ is typically updated every three weeks.

Entry protocols with this list apply for travel in England, but exemptions and other travel restrictions may exist in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

Here’s the “green list” of countries, areas of territories for arrival into the UK, which includes…

Green list
Antarctica/British Antarctic Territory
Antigua and Barbuda
Balearic islands (Formentera, Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca)
British Indian Ocean Territory
British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
Falkland Islands
Faroe Islands
Israel and Jerusalem
New Zealand
Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
Turks and Caicos Islands

*do note, many of these countries are not currently accepting visitors from the UK, including Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, so it’s more of a one way street than an invitation to travel, for now.

The newly unveiled green list is extremely significant, because from May 17th, 2021, “non essential” international travel to or from the UK was no longer deemed illegal. After many months where a blanket ban applied to leaving the country, including the threat of fines or jail time, those measures have been dropped.

Visitors were still able to enter Britain the entire time, provided they followed the specific protocols for orange list, or red list arrivals. GSTP followed the protocols for “orange list” travel after a return from the USA, and faced exorbitant testing costs and no checking of quarantine compliance after arrival, on two separate occasions.

What’s Required for Green List Arrivals Into UK?

If you’re arriving into the UK from a Green List country, and have been only in that country or the UK in the last 10 days, you’ll once again be able to use e-gates to speed up the airport experience, and enter the UK without quarantine.

The only main requirement for green list countries entering the UK is a negative covid-19 test prior to departure, and another, of the PCR variety after arrival.

Who does this apply to? Anyone entering the UK, including citizens, visitors, returning residents, family members and so forth. Unlike most of Europe, the UK is still accepting visitors from the United States, but anyone coming from the USA would be required to quarantine, since the country isn’t on the approved “green” ‘quarantine free’ list below.

UK Red List Countries

All red list arrivals must still pre-book a quarantine hotel package for £1750 per adult, before travel to the UK, and arrivals are not allowed to leave the quarantine hotel under any circumstances.

How do you know if you’re coming to the UK from a red list country? Here’s the list.

Transiting via these countries also makes you “red list”. So yes, a connection via Dubai would make you a red list arrival, as the list currently sits. If your country isn’t green or red, you’re on the orange list for entering the UK, which means tests and quarantine at home.

Explained: Stoplight System For Travel

The UK has a stoplight system for travel with green, orange and red countries. Those in the “green” or “orange” will be able to enter the United Kingdom without a mandatory hotel quarantine, but only green has no quarantine period attached at all.

The newly published list of countries exempt from essential travel, meaning countries where leisure travel is ok, and travel insurance will once again mostly be valid has also been published. The next published list is expected on July 15th, 2021.

Green List: What About Connections Through Other Countries?

It’s worth noting that if you’ve had to transit in a country on the red list, or the orange list, in the 10 days before arrival to the UK, you’re still expected to isolate – even if you came from a ‘green list’ country.

Yes, it’s about anywhere you’ve been, even if that just means the airport in a red or orange list country.

In other words, if you flew from a country on the green list, like Portugal, but had an airline stop in a country not currently on the green list, like France, and changed planes in an orange list country, you’d need to follow the protocols for “orange list” arrivals, or red list arrivals, if your transit country is red listed.

Be sure to factor this into any travel plans.

What about all the other countries?

If a country isn’t green or red, it’s orange. The UK green list is incredibly small, and the red list is relatively small as well, which means most arrivals into the UK will be coming from orange list countries.

For all these arrivals, a covid-19 testing package from an official government approved provider must be booked prior to travel, and confirmation needs to be included on the passenger locator form you fill out before arrival.

When Is It OK For Brits To Travel Again, And Visitors To Arrive in GB?

Travel to, or from the UK is no longer explicitly banned. This means it’s ok to enter the UK for leisure travel from places abroad, or to go on holiday again, so long as testing or quarantine protocols are followed.

Arrivals have poured in the entire time, subject to red and orange list restrictions.

However, countries on each green, orange or red list can be added or taken off their respective lists, based on a variety of factors, so it’s good to keep up with the latest travel news.

Basically, with the exception of “red list” countries, you can travel to the UK at any time, but where you go or come from, and where you transit will determine what it will take to enter, or reenter the country from that date.

Virtually all airlines are requiring passengers to wear a mask for the duration of flight, and GSTP has a variety of safety tips if you do plan on flying, including boarding late.

What About Travel Insurance For The UK ” Green” Approved Country List?

Crucially, the new coincides with eases on government advice for travel to mostly “green list” destinations, where ‘essential travel only’ no longer applies. Basically, that should make your travel insurance valid again in most cases.

The Foreign Travel Office no longer states essential travel only to certain destinations, which will make travel insurance valid again for places on the approved “green” list, or specified separately as no longer essential only, thus allowing leisure travel to return. They may not always match up.

Keep Up To Date With UK Travel Changes

Despite warnings that traffic light systems are ineffective, and instead having a more simplified system with rapid testing for all arrivals would be better served, the UK has once again gone with a traffic light system, unlike counterparts including the USA.

Ministers have promised that countries won’t change “color” on the green, orange and red list as rapidly as last year, but as situations change, so too can the countries from which quarantine will not apply. Be sure to bookmark the government page with the latest information on country changes, to keep up.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Join the Conversation


  1. I have to go to US , I’m American citizen , on august 7th ( businesses), I will be returning to England on august 18th. ( My family and myself are permanent residents in UK), should I find any problem at all, when I come back?? If so , I will to stay at home ( quarantine ), for how long?? Thank you.

    1. It’s unlikely that the USA will ever be on a red list. So the worst that can happen is you quarantine at home for 10 days and pay for two tests. But August is a long way off. These guys have no idea what they’re doing next week. Unimpressed. Falklands in the winter? I’ll pass.

  2. Isn’t this government led by the man who promised the Great British Public with a dazzling future beyond Brexit? The dear leader who does not like or understand criticism?

    Quod Erat Demonstrandum (in keeping with his desire to quote in Latin and Greek to the very same great public)!

  3. Majority rules remember, If you are not happy with the way the government are handling the situation, then surely the Opposition should’ve tried harder and maybe People would have voted with their pencils, they clearly they would have done everything perfectly. Those in glass houses should not throw stones. We are trying to work around this Horrendous situation and save lives. If you could do better pay your £500.00 and see how far your ideas get.

    80% of people 80% of the time.

  4. What about US passport holders who have permanent residence in the U.K. will they be able to travel to the EU countries?

  5. I work in UK and my whole family lives in Minnesota in USA. when can I go and visit them? and if I went, will I be able to come back to UK and will I need quarantine.

  6. Just a small point but this is the quarantine for people entering England, not the UK. Scotland has different requirements (still need to quarantine from Spain and Serbia). Arriving via an English airport doesn’t change the requirement for those looking for a loophole! I understand Wales and NI will also have their own requirements.

  7. Canada should be on the list. There have been very low numbers of C-19 victims here. Please don’t lump us together with the USA. We have even closed our borders to American visitors.

  8. Hi Gilbert, I’m trying to book a holiday in the Seychelles, but I have put it off when I read that we must provide a COVID-19 clean test on arrival, that was done 48 hours before the flight in order to be able to board. How are we supposed to do this ? or get it all coordinated ?
    Thank for your info

  9. I’m due to arrive at Heathrow at 8 am on a day in late June, and depart again at 6 pm. They are separate tickets, but same airline (Virgin Atlantic). Would I be eligible for sterile transit, or subject to the testing package (even tho I don’t need it because I will not be staying in the UK)

  10. Where can I find the international travel requirements for Scotland? I have a golf trip planned for late June, 2021. It is hard for me to believe none of these travel decisions even consider vaccination status thus ignoring any scientific evidence.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *