Covid Travel Restrictions: Your Ultimate Guide To The Latest Rules

From where to get a PCR test to quarantine changes, your holiday questions answered.

You are reading Anywhere But Here, our summer-long series on travel at home and abroad, serving up the information and inspiration you need.

Going on holiday this summer just got a little bit easier, because the government has relaxed some of the quarantine rules on international travel.

From July 19, those who have had both doses of the coronavirus vaccine will no longer have to quarantine upon return from amber list destinations.

In addition, children under the age of 18 will not have to quarantine on their return to England from amber list destinations, transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed.

The long awaited announcement will be music to the ears of Brits dreaming of sunshine, particularly those who’ve already got holidays booked to destinations such as Portugal, which moved from the green to amber list last month.

But there’s still a lot to consider before you jet off. Here are the essentials you need to know.

Plaza de Espana, Seville, Spain
Plaza de Espana, Seville, Spain

There’s still a traffic light system to contend with:

The traffic light system is still in place and while the quarantine rules may have softened a little, you’ll still need to take a number of coronavirus tests before and after travel. Here’s a reminder:

Green countries

People returning from green destinations must take a test before they depart, then another test on or before the second day of their return. You do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive.

Amber countries

People returning from amber destinations, such as France, mainland Spain, and Portugal, will still be required to take a Covid-19 test before returning to the UK.

They will also have to take a test on or before the second day of their return, but will be exempted from the day eight test from July 19.

While double jabbed and under 18s are exempt from quarantine, adults who have only received one coronavirus vaccine (or none at all) will still need to self-isolate at home for 10 days after returning from an amber country. You need to have had your second vaccine at least 14 days before travel in order for it to kick and for you to be exempt.

Red countries

People returning from red destinations must take a test before they return to the UK. They’ll then be required to book a quarantine package in a government-approved quarantine hotel, plus two more tests, on or before day two and on or after day eight of quarantining.

You’ll need to find the correct test

There’s been a lot of confusion about which tests you can take for travel. The Department for Transport confirmed to HuffPost UK that lateral flow tests are allowed for pre-departure tests, as long as they abide by the sensitivity required (performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml). The jargon is complicated, but do check your test to make sure it meets this requirement

You cannot take an NHS test abroad with you to use on yourself before you return. Instead, the government says you must buy a test from a reputable private company. It’s your responsibility to ensure the test meets the minimum standards for sensitivity, specificity and viral load details.

Once you’ve arrived back in the UK, tests taken on day two and day eight must be PCR tests, the Department for Transport confirmed. Again, you must use a test that meets the government’s minimum standards.

You’re required to book a “test pack” before you travel and leave enough time for tests to be delivered to your address in England.

If you’re struggling to find a test that meets the government’s standards, the government’s website has a list of providers that meet the threshold.

Remember: the traffic light system is not reciprocal

Just because a country is on the UK’s green or amber list, it does not necessarily mean Brits are able to travel there quarantine-free. Every country sets its own entry requirements.

Take Portugal, which is currently on the UK’s amber list, as an example. Portugal recently updated its rules to say all adults and children over the age of 12 must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test to travel to or through Portugal.

If you’ve travelled from the UK to mainland Portugal, you must also quarantine for 14 days in the place you’re staying – or at a place indicated by the Portuguese health authority – unless you can prove you’ve been double jabbed with an EU approved Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to travel.

The Portuguese tourist board confirmed to HuffPost UK “children under the age of 12 do not need to quarantine or show a negative test or proof of vaccination”. It means that those travelling with teens – who are not exempt from quarantine but can not yet get a vaccine in the UK – can’t now holiday in Portugal.

Malta, on the UK’s green list, also has strict rules. You can only enter Malta if you’re double-vaccinated. Children under 12 will be permitted to enter the country if they’re holidaying with parents who have been double jabbed. Although exempt from quarantine, those aged between five and 11 must also show evidence of a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours before arrival.

The Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza are other popular options for families this summer, as they recently moved to the UK’s green list. However, all visitors to the Spanish islands must present evidence of double vaccination or a negative coronavirus test.

Children under 12 are “not required to present these certificates or supporting documents”. If you’re travelling with kids aged 13-18 years old, they can enter the country as long as they can demonstrate a negative test.

It’s vital to check the entry requirements of a country before you book flights or accommodation. You can search your holiday destination on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office website to see the latest guidance. And remember, all the rules are subject to change if Covid cases go up or down.

Travel is the story of our summer. The rules (and traffic lights) are always changing, but one thing’s clear, we dream of being Anywhere But Here. This seasonal series offers you clear-headed travel advice, ideas-packed staycation guides, clever swaps and hacks, and a healthy dose of wanderlust.