Travel Traffic Light System Colours – What Do They All Mean?

If you’ve considered a holiday in the last few months, you will have no doubt come across the somewhat vague, often changeable travel traffic light system, and potentially been put off your holiday by the seemingly endless list of rules and regulations that go alongside the system.

Our aim in this blog is to simplify the traffic light system for travel, so that you know exactly what each colour means, how often it may change, and whether you can feasibly holiday in countries of each colour.

Red List Countries

mexico city at sunset

Red list countries are those where you can’t avoid quarantine, no matter how many vaccinations or tests you take.

If you’re travelling to a red list country, you can only re-enter the UK if you are a British or Irish national with UK residency.

Before you return from the red list country, let’s say you had been on an activity holiday in Mexico when the country went on to the red list, then these are the steps you have to take, even if you are double vaccinated:

  1. You must take a COVID-19 test in the red list country, and it must return negative.
  2. Book a quarantine hotel package and 2 more COVID-19 tests to be taken on your return.
  3. Fill in a passenger locator form, which can be found on this link here.

Once you arrive back in the UK, then these are your next steps:

  1. Stay for 10 days in your quarantine hotel.
  2. Take a COVID-19 test on day 2 of your stay.
  3. Take a COVID-19 test on day 8 of your stay.
  4. If both results return negative, then you can leave the quarantine hotel.

Amber List Countries

eiffel tower at sunset

The big one that everyone has the questions about. With popular holiday destinations such as France, Greece, Spain and Portugal all on the amber list, it’s well worth knowing what travelling to amber countries is like in a COVID-19 world.

The best thing about travelling to an amber list country at the minute is that if you’re double vaccinated, you can avoid quarantine if you follow the right rules in preparation for your return.

So, when you’re getting ready to return home from your holiday in France or Spain, these are the steps you need to take:

  1. Take a COVID-19 test in the 3 days before you return to the UK, this test must return negative.
  2. Tip – although the official advice is to buy tests from the UK and take them with you, many hosts/hotels will be able to provide you with COVID-19 tests when you arrive in the country, so it is worth ringing ahead to check whether you can source tests in destination to save the headache of picking them up at home.
  3. Book and pay for COVID-19 tests for your return in the UK.
  4. Complete your passenger locator form.

Once you return to the UK, these are the next steps you need to take:

  1. If you have had both of your vaccines (at least 14 days before your return date) then you need to take a COVID-19 test on day 2 of your return, and you DO NOT have to quarantine.
  2. If you are not fully-vaccinated, then you must quarantine for 10 days, and take COVID-19 tests on day 2 and 8 of your quarantine.
  3. If your tests are negative, you a free to leave quarantine after day 10 – for any more information on quarantining after returning from an amber country, click here.

Green List Countries

mountains and coast in iceland

If you’re returning from a country on the green list, then just have a few rules to follow, even if you have been fully-vaccinated before you return to the UK:

  1. Take a COVID-19 test in the 3 days before your return.
  2. Book and pay for a COVID-19 test to be taken on day 2 of your return to the UK.
  3. Complete a passenger locator form.

Once you arrive back in the UK, you do not need to quarantine as long as your day 2 COVID-19 test does not return positive.

When will countries change colour?

One major sticking point for many holiday seekers is that countries can change list, and therefore requirements for return can change.

The lists are reviewed every 3 weeks with the next review due on the 29th August, so plan ahead and ensure you aren’t caught out by any rule changes whilst you are in your destination country.

All information in this article is correct at the time of writing (10-08-2021), but with the ever-changing nature of COVID-19, it is possible for some details to be out of date.

For any more information visit the dedicated government website for COVID-19 travel advice.

You might also be interested in...

Join our community

Get off the beaten track and support local communities that you visit.

Sign up for inspiriation for your itinerary, new experiences and special offers.