The Government’s travel traffic light system has been topsy-turvy for so long that it’s no wonder many of us doubted whether we would enjoy a holiday abroad this year.
So this week’s announcement that those who are double-jabbed may visit ‘amber’ listed countries without having to quarantine on return to the UK from July 19 is hugely welcome. Suddenly, popular ‘amber’ holiday spots such as Spain, France and Greece have effectively turned ‘green’.
All you need to do is show your Covid pass on the main NHS app or an NHS letter showing that you are fully vaccinated.
The announcement that those who are double-jabbed may visit ‘amber’ listed countries without having to quarantine on return to the UK from July 19 has provided hope for holidaymakers
The main caveat, as far as British rules are concerned, is that an antigen test is required 72 hours before returning home and a ‘day two’ PCR test is required on return to the UK. This applies to both adults and children.
It is also essential to keep an eye on foreign entry rules as well as the Foreign Office advice on whether ‘non-essential’ travel is permitted — listed at gov.uk — as this is important for travel insurance validity. However, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, did tell the House of Commons on Thursday that the Foreign Office ban on non-essential travel to amber countries would be lifted by July 19.
So here’s our guide to some of our most popular ‘amber’ countries . . .
Glorious Greece: Return flights are available to Santorini, Rhodes, Corfu and Athens from less than £75 in August. Pictured is Paleokastritsa Bay in Corfu
WHAT IF I FALL ILL ABROAD?
Inform the authorities if you become unwell and stay in your accommodation for the required quarantine period.
Most travel insurance policies cover Covid-related medical expenses including accommodation costs as well as repatriation, but make sure before purchasing a policy.
Check your European Health Insurance Card. If still in date, it can be used to receive treatment in the EU. If it has expired, apply for a Global Health Insurance Card at nhs.uk.
Restaurants, bars and beaches are operating as normal, although masks are required indoors — as they are on public transport such as ferries between the islands.
A four-metre social distancing rule is in place on beaches. Archaeological sites are open, including the Acropolis. Live events are happening with strict safety protocols observed. Meanwhile, a Blue Freedom scheme to vaccinate citizens over 18 on islands by the summer has met its targets — and Greece is ‘delighted to be welcoming tourists again’, says the tourist board. See discovergreece.com.
In 2019, 3.4 million Britons went to Greece, making it our seventh most popular destination. Return flights are available to Santorini, Rhodes, Corfu and Athens from less than £75 in August on Skyscanner.net.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Those with proof of double-vaccinations taken 14 days before travel do not have to self-isolate when travelling into Greece.
You can also visit without a Greek quarantine if you are not double-vaccinated but have taken a PCR Covid test with a negative result within 72 hours before travel or an antigen test with a negative result within 48 hours prior to travel. This rule applies to children aged over 12. All visitors must fill in a Passenger Locator Form by at least the day before travel (travel.gov.gr).
Budget: 14 nights at the Liakoto Apartments in Kardamill in the Peloponnese from £1,425pp self-catering on August 14 from Gatwick (sunvil.co.uk).
Mid-range: Seven nights at the Marpunta Resort on the island of Alonnisos in the Aegean Sea from £1,209pp B&B on August 25 from Gatwick (olympicholidays.com).
Luxury: A week at Angeliki villa on Corfu from £3,460 sleeping eight, flights extra (cvvillas.com).
ITALY IN BALANCE
Italy currently has a five-day quarantine requirement for all UK arrivals. Pictured is Rome’s Trevi Fountain
WHAT COVID TESTS MUST WE TAKE?
- Some countries require travellers aged over 12 to show proof of a negative PCR test. These are usually taken up to 72 hours of arrival and can be ordered online and returned by post, or taken at a High Street store or clinic.
- All travellers aged over 11 returning to the UK must show proof of a negative ‘pre-departure’ lateral flow test, which is taken while on holiday (within 72 hours of their return to the UK). These tests can be ordered online and packed in a suitcase. Qured offers ‘pre-departure’ tests from £39 which are taken during a short video call with a nurse, with results within an hour (qured.com).
- Travellers aged five and over returning from an amber-list country must then show proof of a negative ‘day two’ PCR test taken within 48 hours of arrival back in the UK. These can be ordered online, taken at home and returned in the post, or administered at the airport on arrival through companies such as ExpressTest, which has units at Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham airports (£69, expresstest.co.uk). They can also be administered at a High Street store. Boots offers ‘day two’ tests from £99 (boots.com).
- Some companies offer ‘testing packages’ for travel to amber-list countries. Randox, for example, offers the above three tests for £129 (randoxhealth.com).
- All tests must be carried out by a government-approved company (list available at gov.uk).
Attractions such as the Colosseum in Rome require you to wear face masks and to take a temperature check. You must also book online at least a day in advance for this and other museums. Meanwhile, face masks are mandatory in public outdoor places where social distancing (of one metre) is not possible and while indoors in public places. Restaurants are open but ‘dance clubs’ are closed.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: As England fans who wanted to watch the quarter-final game against Ukraine held in Rome discovered, it is tough to visit Italy now. Due to concerns there about the Delta variant in the UK, measures are in place that require all British citizens to produce proof of a negative Covid antigen test taken in the 48 hours prior to entering Italy (children under six exempt).
A Digital Passenger Locator Form must also be completed. Then, on arrival, you must go into self-isolation for five days, at the end of which another antigen test is required. These rules could be relaxed later in the summer. More information at salute.gov.it on the ‘Covid, travellers’ page.
Budget: Seven nights at Hotel La Perla by Lake Garda from £895pp half-board on August 21 from Manchester (tui.co.uk).
Mid-range: A fortnight at Orca villa in Scopello on Sicily from £4,039 sleeping eight on August 28, flights excluded (jamesvillas.co.uk).
Luxury: Seven nights at Casa alla Scala on Sicily from £4,271 sleeping six in August, flights extra (thethinkingtraveller.com).
With more than 1,000 islands and scores of tucked-away beaches and secluded coves on 3,750 miles of coastline, Croatia is an enticing prospect for a summer holiday in the Med with plenty of social distancing guaranteed. It’s good value, too. Face masks are required to be worn outdoors in public places when you cannot maintain a distance of 1.5 metres. Cafes, bars, restaurants and casinos are open with a closing time of midnight.
Nicola Brnjac, the country’s tourism minister, wants to save the summer for the nation’s tourist industry . ‘It is our duty to provide all the prerequisites for a safe and comfortable trip,’ she says.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Proof of a double-vaccination or of a negative PCR test taken 72 hours prior to arrival or a negative antigen test 48 hours prior to arrival — or a doctor’s certificate that you have recovered from Covid between 11 and 180 days before going. Children under the age of 12 do not need to take a test before travel if accompanied by an adult who passes the entry requirements. It is also necessary to have proof of your booked accommodation. See the government’s tourist board website for more information: croatia.hr.
Budget: Seven nights at Villa Plava in Sibenik on the Dalmatian Coast from £1,940 sleeping six in August, flights excluded (oliverstravels.com)
Endless possibilities: You could soon be wandering around a fishing village on Croatia’s Brac Island
Mid-range: Seven nights at the Hotel Park Plaza Histria in Pula on the Istrian Riviera from £1,005pp all-inclusive on August 15 from Birmingham (firstchoice.co.uk).
Luxury: A week at Villa Ivette in the Split region in August from £10,485 sleeping eight, flights extra (croatianvillaholidays.com).
CAN I STILL GET A GOOD DEAL?
Q. How do I prove I am double-jabbed?
A. The majority of amber countries will accept evidence from the NHS app showing you have had both jabs.
Alternatively, call 119 to request a letter of proof, which will be posted to the address registered with your GP in five days. These will also be accepted.
Q. Will I need to queue for six hours at passport control coming home this summer?
A. Transport secretary Grant Shapps doesn’t rule it out. Peak-time delays are now one to two hours and a union official has warned that queues could be three times as long because of the influx. The e-gates are due to be upgraded in the coming weeks.
Q. Are there any good deals out there?
A. Yes, but be quick as easyJet alone reported a 400 per cent increase in sales on Thursday. Return flights to Athens, pictured, were as cheap as £77 for mid-August on skyscanner.net yesterday.
Q. What about the rules for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?
A. The devolved administrations had yet to approve the same plans for ‘amber’ countries.
Q. Is travelling with children possible? Obviously, they have not been vaccinated.
A. Yes, but entry requirements vary by country. See our guide and visit gov.uk.
Q. If I have only just had my second jab a few days before travel is that OK?
A. No, you are ‘fully vaccinated’ only when the second jab has been given 14 days previously.
WE’RE HERE TO HELP
If you need advice, the Holiday Guru can answer your questions. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SLIP TO CYPRUS
Cyprus requires a test on arrival — see below — so that may put a lot of people off. But those who are determined will find the island quieter than ever, with clear roads making it perfect for a day trips and exploring the interior.
Face masks must be worn both inside and outdoors in public places, with a £260 fine for transgressions. A requirement for a SafePass has been put in place for entering certain shopping malls and catering establishments (see gov.uk).
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: UK visitors must take a PCR test with a negative result within 72 hours of arrival. They must then take a PCR test on landing in Cyprus and self-isolate until the result is emailed, which usually takes three hours. Under-12s exempt.
Budget: Seven nights from £650 half-board at Hotel Atlantica in Paphos on August 11 from Stansted (tui.co.uk).
Mid-range: Seven nights at Olympic Lagoon Resort Paphos from £1,412pp all-inclusive on August 8 from Manchester (jet2holidays.com).
Luxury: A week at Villa Anissa from £3,544 sleeping six in August, flights extra (oliverstravels.com).
Expect bargain prices for packages to Black Sea resorts when tourism gets up and running properly again in Bulgaria. Also expect fines of up to £450 for those who break the current ‘strictly enforced’ Covid rules.
Masks must be worn at all times in indoor public spaces and outdoors when not 1.5 metres apart from others, with careful checks that proper masks are being used, not scarves tied around the face. Plastic face shields are also not permitted.
However, if you are sitting in a restaurant, café or bar (open at 50 per cent capacity) it is fine not to wear a mask. Also, joggers and others exercising do not have to wear masks. Children under six do not have to wear them either. An official Emergency Epidemic Situation is in place until the end of this month.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Since the beginning of this month, Bulgaria has operated a travel traffic-light system of its own — and the UK is on its ‘orange’ list. This means that you can travel if you are double-vaccinated and have been so for 14 days before visiting. If you have a doctor’s certificate showing that you tested positive for Covid between 11 and 180 days before travel, this is accepted too. So is proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of travel or a negative antigen test taken 48 hours before. Under 12s are exempt.
Budget: Seven nights at the Hilton Sofia from £485pp on August 29 from Stansted (thomascook.com).
Mid-range: Seven nights at the Riu Palace Sunny Beach from £812pp all-inclusive on August 9 from Glasgow (tui.co.uk).
Luxury: Seven nights at Wave Resort in Pomorie near Bourgas from £920pp all-inclusive on August 6 from Manchester (jet2holidays.com).
Tourism accounts for 12 per cent of Spain’s GDP and regions are desperate to attract us back. Pictured is the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
SO WILL WE BE COVERED?
The most vital consideration for insurance is that you should only visit a country to which the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advises it is fine to go for non-essential reasons.
If the country is not on this list, policies from the vast majority of insurers will be invalidated (battleface.com is one of the few exceptions).
To check, go to the page for the country you wish to visit at gov.uk, where this travel advice is given. Currently, for example, it is fine to go to Spain, Greece or France on holiday — and Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said this week that FCDO advice against visiting all ‘amber’ destinations would be lifted by July 19.
But he also said advice could change at short notice — so checking is essential.
Remember that insurance companies generally will not cover against a holiday cancellation caused by the pandemic.
The consumer group Which? (which.co.uk) has a useful ‘Travel Insurance’ advice page, as does the Association of British Insurers (abi.org.uk).
Spain is our No.1 holiday destination, attracting more than 18 million visitors in 2019.
Currently, it is not mandatory to wear face masks in outdoor public spaces where 1.5 metres social distancing can be maintained, but they must be worn indoors and on public transport. Tourism accounts for 12 per cent of Spain’s GDP and regions are desperate to attract us back. Some regions have even begun offering free travel insurance covering foreign visitors in the event of a Covid infection, including Andalucía, the Balearic Islands and the Costa Cálida.
These policies cover visitors from overseas who stay in official tourist accommodation for medical expenses, repatriation and the accommodation costs of extending a stay should you fall ill. See andalucia.org/en/travel-assistance-insurance; safetourism.illesbalears.travel/en/health-tourism and murciaturisticaes/en/covid_travel_insurance.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Double-vaccinated visitors must have proof of having had two jabs at least 14 days before travel. Those not double-vaccinated can also go to Spain if they have evidence of having taken a negative Covid PCR (or equivalent) test within 48 hours of travel (lateral flow antigen tests are not accepted). Children under 12 are free to travel without having been tested.
All visitors must complete a Health Control Form (Spain’s equivalent of the Passenger Locator Form) within 48 hours of departing for Spain. See travelsafe.spain.info.
The Balearic and Canary Islands are both on the UK Government’s ‘green’ list, so anyone can go and not have to quarantine on return to the UK. However, travellers must meet the Spanish Government’s entry requirements.
Budget: Seven nights at the Riu Costa del Sol in Torremolinos from £895pp all-inclusive, including flights, on August 18 from Gatwick (tui.co.uk).
Midrange: Seven nights at the Iberostar Selection Marbella Coral Beach resort from £1,343pp B&B on July 31 from Gatwick (sovereign.com).
Luxury: Seven nights in Villa Roca, overlooking the sea in the Costa Blanca, from £5,128 per week in August, sleeping six, flights extra (oliverstravels.com).
A spike in Covid cases in the past week has seen an 11pm curfew being imposed in some areas including Lisbon, Porto and Albufeira — which may put off some. However, restaurants, cafes and bars are open with social distancing — the only difference from a usual summer being the requirement to wear masks at all times in public places, plus the 11pm cut-off in some spots. A rigorous Clean and Safe nationwide hotel policy is in place to maintain hygiene standards. More information at visitportugal.com.
Entry requirements: To avoid a 14-day quarantine on arrival you must show that you have been double-vaccinated at least 14 days before arrival. Children under 12 are exempt if they are travelling with a fully vaccinated adult. All travellers, even those double-vaccinated, must also have taken a PCR test 72 hours prior to travel or an EU-approved antigen test 48 hours before travel.
All should complete a Passenger Locator Card before arrival as well (portugalcleanandsafe.pt).
The Portuguese Atlantic island of Madeira is on the UK Government’s ‘green’ list, so anyone may go without facing a UK quarantine on return.
However, all visitors must have proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel.
Budget: Seven nights at Tui Blue Falesia in Olhos d’Agua in the Algarve from £732pp half-board on August 29 from Gatwick (tui.co.uk).
Mid-range: Seven nights at Albufeira Sol Hotel and Spa in the Algarve from £976pp all-inclusive on August 1 from Manchester (jet2.com).
Luxury: 14 nights at Villa Camilla in the Algarve from £32,226 in August, sleeping ten, flights extra (akvillas.com).
MAKE IT MOROCCO
Mask-wearing is obligatory in all public places including parks and while walking on streets in Morocco. Pictured are two camels near Marrakesh
Colourful: Spices in a Moroccan souk
International flights to Morocco resumed on June 15. On entry to cafes and restaurants your temperature should be taken, you will be asked to disinfect your hands and you will be required to wear a face mask when not sitting at tables. One-way systems are in operation. Mask-wearing is obligatory in all public places including parks and while walking on streets.
Although Covid rates are stable, Morocco has tough rules in place including a curfew from 11pm to 4am. A failure to observe restrictions could lead to a three-month prison sentence or a fine of £105.
Morocco was becoming an increasingly important Mediterranean destination for Britons before the pandemic with as many as 95 flights a week in 2019, most people visiting its colourful and lively capital, Marrakesh, as well as the Atlas Mountains. Further information: visitmorocco.com.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Double-vaccinated travellers who had their last jab at least 14 days prior to travel can enter without taking a Covid test. Other travellers must have proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of boarding planes. Those entering by ferry must take a Covid test during the journey. Children under 11 are exempt from tests. All visitors must complete a Public Health Passenger Form before arrival (onda.ma/form.php).
Budget: Seven nights at Riu Tikida Palmeraie in Marrakesh from £724pp all-inclusive on August 9 from Manchester (firstchoice.co.uk).
Mid-range: Seven nights at Riad Africa in Marrakesh from £1,197pp B&B on August 14 from Gatwick (easyjet.com).
Luxury: Seven nights at Dar Tigamino near Marrakesh from £4,377 sleeping nine, flights extra (cvvillas.com).
Nice in Nice: View over the French resort. Only adult holidaymakers who are fully vaccinated are permitted to enter France
French Covid rules come with a Gallic twist — as well as advising you to use antibacterial hand gels regularly, avoid touching your face and not shake hands, further advice includes: ‘Do not greet people with kisses on the cheek.’ Masks must be worn indoors in public places, on public transport, in taxis and when attending open-air markets or railway stations.
Restaurants and bars have been open with social distancing since June 9, allowing groups of up to six. Yesterday, nightclubs were allowed to open their doors, too. Further information at gouvernement.fr/en/coronavirus -covid-19.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Only adult holidaymakers who are fully vaccinated are permitted to enter France. If they are travelling with children, those under the age of 11 do not need any documentation.
Children aged 11 and over, however, will need proof of either a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel or a negative antigen test taken within 48 hours of going. Visitors must also sign a ‘declaration sur l’honneur’ (sworn statement) that you do not have Covid symptoms and have not been in contact with anyone who has Covid within 14 days of departure.
Budget: Seven nights at La Villa Tosca hotel in Cannes on the French Riviera from £626pp on August 21 from Gatwick (easyjet.com).
Mid-range: Seven nights at the Crowne Plaza Toulouse from £898.50pp on July 25 from Heathrow (britishairways.com).
Luxury: Seven nights on a Tailor-Made Normandy trip, staying at luxury hotels in Cherbourg and Deauville, from £1,380pp B&B with ferry crossing (kirkerholidays.com).
There may be no current direct flights from the UK to Montenegro but that is due to change in the next few weeks. Pictured is Kotor Old Town
With its pretty coves featuring tucked-away beaches, its excellent seafood restaurants and historic castles, Montenegro makes a great choice — and this summer, without the crowds, it should be lovelier than ever.
There may be no current direct flights from the UK but that is due to change in the next few weeks. Face mask-wearing indoors in public places is a must, as is wearing them outdoors where you cannot keep two metres distancing; the fine for transgression is as much as £1,715.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Fully vaccinated travellers who got their last jab more than 14 days ago may enter. So can those with a PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel, or those with an antigen test taken within 48 hours of travel. Under-fives are exempt.
Budget: 14 nights at the Iberostar Herceg Novi near Tivat from £1,216pp all-inclusive on August 19 from Gatwick (easyjet.com).
Mid-range: Seven nights at the Iberostar Bellvue in Budvar from £770pp all-inclusive on August 18 from Gatwick (easyjet.com).
Luxury: 14 nights at On The Rocks villa in Tivat from £6,089 in August sleeping six, flights extra (jamesvillas.co.uk).