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August 5th Update: Countries including the UAE have been removed from the “red list” and more have been added to the “green list”. The “amber plus” list was also finally dropped.

If you think Netflix is full of drama, you need to pay more attention to the news. The British Government became the washing machine of solutions to safely resume travel in the last year, with new ideas tossed and overturned by the minute. Not all better than the previous, either.

Now, there’s new hope with ‘green list’ and ‘amber list’ of travel destinations, which allow Brits and many fully vaccinated people to travel without quarantine, 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.

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First Things First: Pre-Departure Testing & Forms

Regardless of which ‘color coded’ country you’re arriving from, every passenger bound for the UK must have a pre-departure covid-19 test, taken within 3 days of departure. Lab verified antigen and PCR tests are valid, which allows the use of some home kits.

In addition to pre-departure testing, every arrival needs to book their post arrival tests before departure too, and declare them on the “passenger locator form” which must be filled in within 48 hours of travel. This applies to every color category.

UK Orange List Arrivals

Orange list countries make up most of the world, and if you’re fully vaccinated in the UK, USA or EU, you can enter the UK without quarantine, and with just one test after arrival (as well as the pre-departure test). That is, as long as you haven’t been in a “red list” country, within 10 days of arrival.

If you are not fully vaccinated, arrivals from orange list areas require a series of costly tests and 10 days home quarantine for visitors, or 5 days of quarantine with the extra expense of a “test to release” package.

The UK recently updated guidance on the system for fully vaccinated Brits, as well as those vaccinated in the EU or USA, which greatly reduces hassle and cost for visitors who have proof of full vaccination from one of these areas. If you’ve only been in an amber or green country in the last 10 days, fully vaccinated visitors can enjoy England right away.

Even for fully vaccinated visitors, UK Orange List testing packages must be booked before travel and a passenger locator form must also be filled out. Expect testing costs around £50 per person, or much more for unvaccinated arrivals, who need multiple tests.

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, hence the prison like confinement in a hotel.

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.

double decker buses on a street in front of a large building
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. Unlike the “amber list” arrivals from these countries do not need to show proof of vaccination to avoid quarantine, and only require one test after arrival.

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 upcoming “green list” of countries, areas of territories for arrival into the UK, which from August 9th includes…

Green list
Antarctica/British Antarctic Territory
Antigua and Barbuda
British Indian Ocean Territory
Cayman Islands
Falkland Islands
Faroe Islands
Hong Kong
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
The list becomes effective August 9th.

*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.

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 do these ‘green list’ rules apply to? Anyone entering the UK, including citizens, visitors, returning residents, family members and so forth. If you’ve been in the green list country for 10 days, entry is very simple.

How do you know if you’re coming to the UK from a “red list” country?

Here’s the official UK GOV “red list”.

Transiting via these countries also makes you “red list”. So yes, a connection via Afghanistan 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.

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.

a bridge with a city in the background

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. The British Government has pledged in recent weeks not to tinker with the list as often, to stop detrimental confidence shakes.

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, whether it’s quarantine free, and so forth.

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 most 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 three tier traffic light system, unlike counterparts including the USA, where it’s either “go, or no go”.

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...

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  1. Any idea whether a US citizen traveling from one of those 75 approved countries would be allowed to enter the UK without quarantine?

  2. 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.

  3. 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)!

  4. 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.

  5. Confused about Singapore as it doesn’t appear on the gov.uk list but seen elsewhere.

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

    1. If you reside in the UK, the answer is yes for most spots. Most countries, with few exceptions are basing on residency, so as long as you’re prepared to show your long term residency permit, visa etc it shouldn’t be an issue.

  7. 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.

    1. Hey Maha, it all depends on your citizenship and residency, and that of your family. Immediate family of US citizens and permanent residents can visit, but you’d definitely need to quarantine on return to the UK at present, regardless of your citizenship for flights from the USA to UK.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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)

    1. On the hope that T3 would be open by then, it should be possible. Any need to cross the border would trigger the testing package, but if you’re happy to stay airside, they should have that all figured out by then. Fingers crossed for you.

  12. 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.

  13. What about children? Has any mention been made about unvaccinated 16-18 year olds. If not when do you think they are likely to update us?

  14. I will be travelling from Canada to Germany (willbe in Germany for 5 days) and then travelling to UK.
    What do you my requirement is?
    Thank you in advance.

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