Government announces traffic light system for foreign travel

From 17 May, holidaymakers will be able to travel to ‘green list’ countries

family walking through airport

The government has announced a new traffic light system for international travel, with people returning from countries on the green list not needing to quarantine from 17 May.

The new rules mean leisure travel from England will no longer be illegal, although strict border control measures will remain in place. 

Green list countries

The green list currently contains 12 countries and territories.

These include Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira), Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, and Israel and Jerusalem.  

Travellers to these destinations will still need to take a pre-departure COVID test up to 72 hours before they return, and a single PCR test on or before day two of arrival into England. This can be booked through private test providers.

Check FCDO advice before you book

Despite the opening up of international travel, holidaymakers should check all requirements and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice before they book any trips.

Many green list countries will continue to place restrictions on UK travellers, including quarantine measures, as well as deciding whether they require proof of COVID vaccination for entry. 

Given that the virus is still spreading in many parts of the world, people should not be travelling to amber and red countries for leisure, the government says.

Popular holiday destinations on the amber list currently include France, Italy and Spain. While from 4am Wednesday 12 May, the Maldives, Nepal and Turkey will be added to the red list.

‘Cautious return to international travel’

According to the government, the lists will be reviewed every three weeks. And, as the situation improves worldwide, a greater number of destinations could be given the green light.

Announcing the new system, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said, “Today (7 May) marks the first step in our cautious return to international travel, with measures designed above all else to protect public health and ensure we don’t throw away the hard-fought gains we’ve all strived to earn this year.

“This is a new way of doing things, and people should expect travel to be different this summer – with longer checks at the borders, as part of tough measures to prevent new strains of the virus entering the country.”

If needed, people in England who have had both vaccine doses will be able to demonstrate their COVID vaccination status via the NHS app from 17 May. Those without access to the app can request a letter from the NHS proving their vaccination status by calling 119. 

When returning to England, passengers from any destination will still be required to fill out a passenger locator form (PLF) and show proof of a pre-departure test negative result. 

To understand the latest entry requirements and COVID rules, you can check and subscribe to FCDO travel advice updates.