Travel is top of people’s minds as restrictions continue to ease. What do you want to know? Ask your Covid travel questions here.
HuffPost UK reader Matthew asked: “Can I go on holiday to an amber destination? There seems to be conflicting information.”
May 17 marks a big step in lockdown easing with people allowed to mix indoors once more and some types of travel back on the cards.
The UK government has revealed its traffic light system for gradually easing travel restrictions, which will see destinations designated either green, amber or red depending on how many cases of Covid are circulating in a place and what the picture is looking like in terms of variants, among other things.
If you’ve got a holiday booked to amber destinations like Spain and Greece in June, you’ll understandably be wondering whether it’s still ok to go.
The advice so far has been a little confusing, as reader Matthew points out: “There seems to be conflicting information.”
So can you go on holiday to an amber country?
The official line: the public are advised against travel to amber countries from May 17 for leisure purposes (aka holidays). However there may be essential or unavoidable reasons to travel and, in these contexts, people can do so.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “We have a green list where it’s okay to go and that’s why we’ve brought the green list in. But what I would say is that people should not travel to amber or red list countries unless it’s absolutely necessary. And certainly not for holiday purposes.”
It is no longer illegal to travel to these countries, as it was prior to May 17 – it is now simply advised against. Hypothetically you could still choose to travel to an amber destination for your holiday, but you would be going against government advice and it may end up being more trouble than it’s worth.
Which countries are on the amber list?
There are dozens of countries on the amber travel list, which you can read in full here. Current destinations include:
Greece and surrounding islands
Spain (including the Balearics and Canary Islands)
What measures will you need to take before and after travelling?
This is where things start to get complicated. You will need to check the entry requirements of the country you are visiting before you travel.
There are also significant testing procedures you’ll need to follow returning to England from an amber destination – the aim of this is to stop the spread of Covid on home soil if you do catch it while you’re abroad.
Before coming back to England you must take a Covid-19 test (even if you’re vaccinated) that will act as proof you haven’t got Covid and are fit to travel.
There are penalties for not doing this. If you don’t present proof that you tested negative, you may not be able to board your transport to England and if you arrive in England without proof, you could be fined £500.
When you return to England, you’ll need to quarantine for 10 days either at home or the place you’re staying. Ahead of travelling, you should book and pay for a couple of travel tests which you’ll need to take on day two and eight of your return to England (so when you’re in quarantine).
There is a get-out-of-quarantine early card you can play – but it’ll cost you extra. People may be able to end quarantine a few days earlier if they pay for a third Covid-19 test through the government’s ‘Test to Release’ scheme – this involves taking a test after day five of being back in England and, if the test is negative, you can come out of quarantine.
You will still need to take tests on day two and eight of your return to England in addition to this third test. Anyone who breaks the quarantine rules can face penalties of up to £10,000.
How does the amber list affect travel insurance?
It’s always a worry that you’ll go abroad only to discover your travel insurance is void. The Association of British Insurers advises people to keep up to date and always follow overseas travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), as travelling against FCDO advice is likely to invalidate your travel insurance.
A spokesperson tells HuffPost UK: “When the restrictions on overseas travel are eased, it will be important for travellers to take out travel insurance, primarily to cover potentially very expensive overseas emergency medical treatment bills.
“Travellers should always be aware of and follow government advice. If you travel against FCDO advice, then your travel policy will likely be invalidated. Make sure to read your policy so you are aware of the scope of cover, as policies bought after the pandemic was declared are unlikely to cover cancellation as a result of coronavirus as it is a known risk.”
Can you reschedule a holiday on the amber list?
It’s tricky. Some companies and airlines are offering more flexible bookings giving customers the option to postpone their travels. However in certain circumstances, this may not be possible.
According to ABTA, the leading association of travel agents and tour operators, travel providers are under no obligation to offer a postponement if the FCDO is not advising against travel to your destination. Its advice is to speak to your travel provider to discuss what your options may be.