Covid travel restrictions: answers to the most common travel questions - from PCR tests to Covid passports and insurance

Travel rules are continuously changing, with different countries placed on the UK’s green, amber and red lists every three weeks, and overseas destinations also having their own rules in place for visitors.

Matt Clayden, from luxury wellness travel company Intrigue Travel, gives his expert advice (Photo: Shutterstock)
Matt Clayden, from luxury wellness travel company Intrigue Travel, gives his expert advice (Photo: Shutterstock)
Matt Clayden, from luxury wellness travel company Intrigue Travel, gives his expert advice (Photo: Shutterstock)

With a multitude of things to consider when planning a trip abroad in the current Covid climate - including travel insurance and vaccination requirements - we asked a travel expert the questions you may want the answer to before jetting off abroad.

Here, Matt Clayden, from luxury wellness travel company Intrigue Travel, gives his expert advice.

Which countries are on the green list - and what are the travel rules?

As of 15 July 2021 the countries that are on the green list are: Australia, Brunei, Falklands Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Malta, New Zealand and Singapore.

Some destinations are currently green but will be moved to the amber list from Monday 19 July 2021, including the Balearics and the British Virgin Islands.

Those returning to England from green list countries are required to take a Covid-19 test on or before day 2 after arriving back, and only need to quarantine if that test result is positive.

Before booking a trip to any destination it is very important to check the entry requirements of the country you are visiting. For example, Australia and New Zealand are both closed for international tourists. If you did want to travel to these countries you will have to quarantine on arrival.

What does the amber list mean?

The amber list is a list of countries where there are travel restrictions in place. Currently anyone returning to England from an amber country will have to quarantine at home for 10 days and take a Covid-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8.

From Monday 19 July 2021 anyone returning to England from an amber country will not need to quarantine or take a day 8 COVID-19 test as long as they:

- have been fully vaccinated under the UK vaccination programme

- have not been in a red list country in the 10 days before arriving back into England.

Fully vaccinated means that you have had your final dose of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before the date you arrive in England.

However, travellers will still need to:

- declare that they have been fully vaccinated on a passenger locator form

- show proof of their vaccination status to their carrier (ferry, airline or train) when you travel.

How do travel rules differ for single vaccinated and double vaccinated people?

If you have only received your first vaccine then you will have to follow guidance as if you have not been fully vaccinated by the UK vaccination programme.

Only two weeks after receiving your second dose of an approved vaccine can you travel to a green or amber listed destination without the need of quarantine on arrival back into England.

Does travel insurance cover amber list countries?

Most travel insurance policies will not offer cover if you are travelling to a country or territory that is classified as ‘advice against all travel’ or ‘advice against all but essential travel’ by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

If someone did want to travel against the advice of the FCDO you may require a specialist travel insurance that may be able to offer this.

What are green ‘watchlist’ countries - and what are the rules for travel to them?

The green watchlist means that if a country or territory on the green list is at risk of moving to amber it will also be listed on the green watchlist.

If there is a sudden change in conditions, a country or territory may be moved between lists without warning.

As of 15 July 2021, the countries on the green watchlist are: Anguilla, Antarctica/British Antarctic Territory, Antigua & Barbuda, Balearic Islands, Barbados, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Israel and Jerusalem, Madeira, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, and Turks & Caicos Islands.

The Balearic and British Virgin Islands will move to the amber list on Monday 19 July.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Hong Kong and Taiwan will move from the amber list to the green watchlist on Monday 19 July.

The current rules for green watchlist countries are that you must:

- take a Covid-19 test on or before day 2 after arriving back into England

- you do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive

What is a PCR test, where do I get one and how long do results take?

PCR Covid-19 tests are sent away to a lab to determine whether or not someone has the virus or not, the PCR tests are a lot more accurate than the lateral flow Covid tests.

There are lots of companies offering PCR tests at different costs and at different speeds.

Prices normally start from £70 per person, the different options are normally offered by how long the results take. Available options are: 3 hour result, 12 hour result, 24 hour result or 36 hour result.

How do I get a Covid passport?

The NHS Covid pass shows your coronavirus vaccination details or test results. You may be asked to show your pass to travel abroad, but the most important advice comes from the FCDO on entry requirements into the country you are looking to visit and the entry requirements when returning to England.

There are two ways you can get a NHS Covid pass if you live in England:

- get a digital version by downloading the NHS app or using the online NHS COVID pass service.

- get a paper version by requesting a Covid pass letter online or by calling 119 within 4 weeks of wanting to travel.

Covid passes are only valid if you have:

- 2 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine (or a single-dose Janssen vaccine). Your pass will last for 28 days and then automatically renews (for the digital option).

- a negative PCR test will be valid for 48 hours after a negative result

If you live in Scotland, your vaccination status is a record of the coronavirus vaccinations you have received. It includes your name, date of birth, and any coronavirus vaccinations you have received in Scotland.

Your vaccination status can be used to confirm that you have received a dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Covid vaccination status can be accessed by anyone who has had a dose of the coronavirus vaccine. This includes those aged 16 and 17 who have had the vaccine.

You can request a printed copy of your vaccination status online or by phoning the Covid-19 Status Helpline.

In Wales, the NHS Covid Pass allows you to show others that you’ve received a Covid-19 vaccine when travelling abroad.

You can get a digital NHS COVID Pass if:

- you were vaccinated in Wales

- you are aged 16 or over

In Northern Ireland, interim arrangements have been introduced to allow people to travel before official Covid-19 vaccine certification comes into place later in July.

Written confirmation of proof of vaccination is only available to people who have received two doses of the Covid vaccine in Northern Ireland and who can provide proof of holiday or flight bookings (up to and including 19 July 2021) to only countries abroad that require verification

This document will only be valid until 11.59pm on 31 July 2021. If you meet this criteria you can apply for your document.

You can access your NHS Covid Pass for international travel online and download or print the Pass as a PDF document.

To access the service, you’ll need to register for an NHS login if you do not have one already.

To register for an NHS login you will need to upload a photo of your ID (passport, full UK driving licence, full European driving licence).

People in Wales cannot currently use the NHS app to access their NHS Covid Pass and vaccination status.

You can also get your vaccination status in paper format if two weeks have passed since you completed a full course of the Covid vaccine.

When is the next travel update - and which countries will change next?

We can hopefully expect the next travel update around 4 or 5 August 2021, but at the moment there is no speculation as to what countries may be added to the green list.

Can I travel to Spain?

Yes you can, but the Spanish government requires all arrivals to Spain from the UK to present on entry one of the following:

- a negative COVID-19 test

- proof of vaccination

All passengers entering Spain are still required to complete a pre-travel declaration form.