British holidaymakers can visit 18 European countries on the ‘amber list’ without having to quarantine upon their arrival, it emerged today – as tourists faced fresh confusion after Spain welcomed Britons despite being on the UK Government’s ‘amber list’, while France prepares to impose tougher restrictions on travellers.
All passengers returning to Britain from amber list countries must stay at home for ten days and take a PCR test on days two and eight – as well as a lateral flow test before the return flight. They can also pay for ‘Test to Release’ on day five to end self-isolation early.
However, the rules vary when arriving in amber list countries – and the restrictions back in the UK were not deterring tourists from travelling to Spain this morning after the country starting letting them in without any requirement for quarantine upon arrival.
However, ministers have again urged sunseekers not to head to Spain – even though it is now legal to do so.
Meanwhile, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has suggested his country will go the other way and impose tighter controls on visitors from the UK due to fears over the Indian variant.
Mr Le Drian also swiped at Britain’s past ‘failures’ to control the virus in the latest barb as EU leaders face criticism over their lockdowns and vaccine rollout.
The confusing picture will leave would-be travellers scratching their heads over whether and where to go on foreign holidays this summer.
It came as British travellers arrived at Malaga Airport today on a Ryanair flight from London Luton, while back in the UK there were queues at check-in at Heathrow Airport as Britons prepared to go abroad.
Portugal is currently the only major tourist destination on England’s ‘green list’, meaning people can go without the need to quarantine on return.
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has hinted the roster could be expanded imminently amid pressure for France, Spain, Italy and Greece to be added.
And after fines for non-essential travel were scrapped, thousands of people have been defying the UK’s advice and heading for ‘amber list’ countries anyway.
Today, the first British holidaymakers to jet to the Costa del Sol spoke of their joy at Spain’s long-awaited decision to lift its UK tourist ban.
Families and couples who had gone months without a foreign holiday touched down to shorts and T-shirt weather at Malaga Airport with temperatures nearing 75F (24C).
What are the rules in the 18 European ‘amber list’ countries with no quarantine requirement?
Albania: Travellers will require a negative PCR test less than 72 hours old
Armenia: You can enter with a negative PCR test certificate issued a maximum of 72 hours prior to arrival
Bulgaria: Travellers need a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours before entry into Bulgaria or a rapid antigen test performed up to 48 hours before entry
Croatia: Travellers must have a negative antigen or PCR test result taken up to 48 hours before arrival, proof of a vaccination, or a certificate of recovery following a positive test result between 11 and 180 days prior
Cyprus: Passengers are required to undergo a PCR test within 72 hours prior to departure and provide proof of a negative result
Estonia: Travellers from the UK are not required to produce a negative PCR test or self-isolate for 10 days
Greece: Arrivals from the UK must provide either proof of a negative PCR test, undertaken within the 72 hour period before arrival into Greece, or proof of two Covid-19 vaccinations completed at least 14 days before travel
Italy: You must present the airline with a negative Covid-19 rapid antigenic or molecular swab test taken no more than 48 hours before travel
Kosovo: If you are a British national travelling to Kosovo from Albania, you will be required to self-isolate for 14 days
Malta: Travellers are required to present a negative PCR Covid-19 test performed no more than 72 hours prior to arrival in Malta
Moldova: Exemption to quarantine is granted to visitors who can demonstrate a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel or proof of vaccination
Montenegro: Visitors require a negative PCR test from a registered lab, taken within 72 hours of travel to enter Montenegro, or a positive serology test on IgG antibodies issued by a registered lab not older than 30 days.
North Macedonia: There is no requirement for passengers arriving from the UK to self-isolate. No PCR test is required
San Marino: No listed entry requirements on UK Government website
Serbia: All visitors are required to have with them a negative PCR test taken in the 48 hours before arrival
Slovenia: PCR tests conducted in the UK are accepted as a means to avoid quarantine on arrival
Spain: From today, arrivals from the UK are no longer subject to testing requirements
Ukraine: Foreign nationals with a valid negative PCR test do not have to self-isolate on arrival in Ukraine
Please check the advice from each country before you book or travel, with the situation changing regularly
People sunbathing on the beach at Fuengirola in Spain today as British tourists start arriving in the country
Fuengirola beach near Malaga is pictured today as UK holidaymakers set their sights on a trip to Spain
Three women talk to each other while sunbathing on the beach at Fuengirola near Malaga in Spain today
At Malaga Airport today, Janean Holbrook, 50, from Norwich, travelling with husband Rory, 58, said: ‘We’ve been desperate to come because we’ve got a holiday place in Fuengirola that suffered flood damage’
Covid-19 cases in a selection of the ‘amber list’ European countries where Britons don’t have to quarantine upon arrival
Several passengers on Ryanair flight FR7784 from London Luton, which arrived ten minutes after schedule at just before 11am, had been refused permission to board earlier planes due to reach Malaga before Spain’s near five-month-long Covid veto on British tourists was removed at midnight.
But any worries they had about a new setback were eased as they sailed through customs and walked into bright sunshine outside the arrivals terminal.
What are France’s rules for travelling Britons?
France currently has some of the toughest Covid restrictions in the world, with leisure travel only set to restart from June 9.
But travellers from Britain and all EU countries can enter with a negative PCR test carried out less than 72 hours before departure. Arrivals from the UK do not need to justify an essential reason to enter France, whether they are travelling by air, car, ferry or train.
However they do need to complete a ‘sworn statement’ (déclaration sur l’honneur) form saying they are not suffering from Covid-19 symptoms and have not been in contact with confirmed cases in the past fortnight.
Once arriving in France, Britons will also then have to self-isolate for seven days on arrival, before taking another PCR test which must be negative for them to end this quarantine period. The French government strongly advises limiting international travel.
France is broadly following the EU’s template for welcoming tourists, which are in the process of being updated. A ‘traffic light system’ should be fleshed out soon for what the restrictions for each category will be.
A present the EU’s ‘white list’ only includes a small number of countries, including New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Thailand and Israel. The UK had looked likely to be added to the safe group, but decisions have been put off amid concerns over the Indian variant.
What about Portugal and Spain?
As for Portugal, there are no restrictions on travelling from England, but all arrivals must show a negative PCR Covid-19 test result taken within 72 hours of departure. You do not have to quarantine upon arrival or return.
When arriving in Spain, you do not need to have proof of a negative test, but you do need to complete a Covid-19 questionnaire form no more than 48 hours prior to travel. You also do not need to quarantine upon arrival – however, given Spain is on the UK’s ‘amber list’, you must quarantine for ten days when returning to Britain.
Passengers returning to Britain from amber list countries must stay at home for ten days and take a PCR test on days two and eight – as well as a lateral flow test before the return flight. They can also pay for ‘Test to Release’ on day five to end self-isolation early.
Vicky Ashton, 52, who had travelled to Malaga from her home in Derby with husband Tony, 61, and her parents, said: ‘It feels fantastic to be here.
‘I’m staying for 10 days. I’d rather not have to quarantine obviously when I get back home but it’s a price I’m willing to pay. We’re so happy to be able to be travelling again. I’ve got a holiday home in Marbella and am looking to buy another with relatives.
‘I think Boris Johnson should put Spain on the green list as soon as possible. I wasn’t worried about the British government advising against travel to Spain because it’s an amber list country at the moment.
‘We knew we were going to feel totally safe here because of the outdoor life and the fact the rules during lockdown have been very strict in Spain and people have respected them.
‘We were refused permission to board a Ryanair flight on Friday from the East Midlands even though we had a solicitor’s letter saying that we had a valid reason to come to Spain because I was looking to buy another property here.
‘There were other people on this morning’s flight who had been stopped from getting on the same plane.’
Vicky’s developer father John Blount, 77, travelling with wife Elaine, 75, added: ‘I’ve been coming to Spain for 40 years and this is my first trip here since last October. It’s been a long eight months.
‘We tried to get on two Ryanair flights on Friday, one from East Midlands airport and another from Birmingham but were turned away even thought the second one would have seen us landing in Portugal and having to drive across the border.
‘We booked today’s flight hours after the Spanish announced they were opening up to British holidaymakers. It feels wonderful being back.’
Sarah Dickinson, 22, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, travelling with her 28-year-old boyfriend Jake Dougherty, said: ‘Jake’s got a friend who lives in Puerto Banus and he’s got a one-way ticket because he wants to stay around and look for work but I’m here on holiday for a week and am then going back home.
‘This is my first foreign holiday for eight months. I want to soak up the sunshine, hit the beach and generally have a good time. I’ll deal with the quarantine when I get back to the UK. It wasn’t going to stop me coming here and enjoying myself.’
Mother-of-two Jenna Davies, 35, from Loughborough, Leicestershire, who jetted to Spain with mother-in-law Lynne Brooks, 68, added: ‘I’ve got a place in Marbella I haven’t been able to visit for months.
‘I had to quarantine after my last visit here at Christmas and I’m only here till Friday so I’ll have to self-isolate again. But I’ve got two young daughters I look after at home so it doesn’t affect me too much.
‘Being able to get here today has been a godsend. I tried to fly last Friday before I heard Spain was lifting its ban on UK holidaymakers and got turned back at the airport even though I had a solicitor’s appointment.
People sitting in a restaurant on the beach in Fuengirola near Malaga in Spain this afternoon
At Malaga Airport today, John Blount, 77, travelling with wife Elaine, 75, added: ‘I’ve been coming to Spain for 40 years and this is my first trip here since last October. It’s been a long eight months’
The first flights from Britain arrive at Malaga Airport today after Spain has lifted the travel restriction from the UK
Mother-of-two Jenna Davies, 35, from Loughborough, Leicestershire, who jetted to Malaga Airport today, said: ‘I’ve got a place in Marbella I haven’t been able to visit for months’
‘I was told I couldn’t get on the plane because I didn’t have an official government form. I’ve got some tidying up to do why I’m here but I’m going to make sure I enjoy the sun as much as I can.
‘The flight here was a lot busier than I thought it would be so it just goes to show how much people want to travel abroad. I hope the British government puts Spain on the green list soon.
‘I wasn’t concerned I’d be more at risk here by coming. At least the green light will remove the obligation to quarantine when people get back.
‘I have to get tested tomorrow or Wednesday which is going to be €56 (£44) and the day two and day eight tests I have to take when I get back will set me back about £160 so there’s a cost to coming.
‘But putting Spain on green instead of amber is obviously going to help.’
Janean Holbrook, 50, from Norwich, travelling with husband Rory, 58, said: ‘We’ve been desperate to come because we’ve got a holiday place in Fuengirola that suffered flood damage.
‘We’ve had to entrust people with keys we don’t really know and haven’t been able to supervise the repair work. We’ve got a new kitchen and new walls we haven’t properly seen yet.
‘We tried to come out last night but they wouldn’t let us on because the flight was touching down before midnight so we ended up having to rebook and get a taxi to Luton Airport. Luckily there were no problems on this one.’
Which ‘amber list’ European countries can Britons visit without having to quarantine?
All these European countries are on the UK’s amber list, meaning passengers returning to Britain must stay at home for ten days and take a PCR test on days two and eight – as well as a lateral flow test before the return flight. They can also pay for ‘Test to Release’ on day five to end self-isolation early.
But that is proving no deterrent to people flying to Spain today – with all the amber list countries below allowing entry to UK citizens with no quarantine requirement:
Stacy Edwards, 35, who owns Scubies bar in Fuengirola Marina a short drive along the coast, said: ‘We’re hoping things are going to pick up now they’re letting British holidaymakers in.
‘It’s not going to be the flood of people there’d be if Spain gets on the green list but anything that makes it possible for tourists to come back if they want to has got to be positive.
‘It’s been a nightmare year for business. Our clientele was traditionally mostly British but with the holidaymakers gone, we’ve been serving more Spaniards as well as Scandinavians.
Stacy’s mother Jayne Williams, from Wrexham, north Wales, who had popped into the bar for a coffee, added: ‘Spain is safe and I want Boris Johnson to put it on the UK’s green list now.
‘It’s what’s going to make the real difference to the number of Brits who come here because all the tests they have to do pushes up the price of their holiday.
‘The talk among the bars here is that it won’t happen till July but I’m crossing my fingers it’s sooner.’
Sue Charlton, the Doncaster-born manageress of The Magpie Bar which is also in Fuengirola Marina, said: ‘Some days have been better than others over the past year but there’s been more bad days than good.
‘It used to be mostly Brit customers here but now we get a mix of nationalities. Spain opening up to holidaymakers is positive. All we need now is for the UK to drop the quarantine requirements for returning tourists and they’ll come flooding back.
‘My boss is getting messages from Brit holiday home owners saying they’re booking flights in the next few days. We’ll be waiting for them with a cold pint and good homemade food.’
Retired insurance broker Nigel Wilson, travelling with common-law wife Wendy Bartlett on the second flight of the day from the UK to Malaga – easyJet flight EZY8607 from Gatwick – said: ‘We have a holiday home near Marbella.
‘We went back to the UK on February 14 and were planning on coming back in April but couldn’t. We tried to fly out last Thursday but were stopped from boarding the plane even though we had paperwork showing the purchase of another property.
‘There were no problems today. We’re here for five weeks and we’ve factored in the possibility of quarantine when we get back. If Spain is put on the UK’s green list in the meantime which hopefully it will then we may stay a bit longer.’
British tourists arrive at Malaga Airport today after Spain lifted the travel ban on holidaymakers arriving from the UK
Scoobies Bar owner Stacy Edwards and his mother Jayne Williams outside the bar in Fuengilrola Marina on the Costa Del Sol today. Mr Edwards, 35, said: ‘We’re hoping things are going to pick up now they’re letting British holidaymakers in’
Sue Charlton, the Doncaster-born manageress of The Magpie Bar which is also in Fuengirola Marina, said today: ‘Some days have been better than others over the past year but there’s been more bad days than good’
The 67-year-old from Poole in Dorset added: ‘I used to own a bar-restaurant here in Puerto Banus which employed singers and artists and if I had kept it on I don’t think we’d have survived.
‘I sold three years ago which looking back on it now, couldn’t have been a better time. We’re going to have some fun and spend some money which the local economy will need after such a long time without British tourists.’
Ms Bartlett, 61, added: ‘It feels great to be back. The flight was pretty busy. The only thing I’m not so sure about is the fact you don’t have to have any sort of testing to enter Spain if you’re coming from the UK.
‘We’re both fully vaccinated but there would have been people on our plane who wouldn’t have been vaccinated and wouldn’t obviously have had negative PCR tests because they’re not needed now.
‘I just hope that it’s not something that’s going to cause problems and regrets in a few weeks’ time.’
Joanna Chrzanowska, 68, from Billingshurst, West Sussex, added: ‘I’ve flown in to see my Singaporean husband Ian. We’ve been apart for three months with him being stuck here and me in the UK. Today couldn’t have come sooner.’
Passengers arrive at Malaga Airport this morning on a flight from London as they walk through the arrivals area
Passengers coming from a flight from London are seen outside Malaga Airport in Spain this morning
Amid scenes of long queues at Heathrow today, travel expert Paul Charles told MailOnline: ‘People are voting with their feet. They are seeing that they can go responsibly. Many people can self-isolate when they come back.’
Among those leaving Heathrow was the 10-strong British surfing team, heading to El Salvador via Madrid to compete for a place in the Tokyo Olympics.
Team manager Hugh John said planning for such a qualifier would usually take 18 months but the team had to be assembled and flights booked in the last month.
He said: ‘The qualifying event in South America has been postponed twice and we weren’t sure the Olympics would go ahead for a long time.
‘We have had to go with the minimum number of competitors and could not take reserves. It has been a lot of work but we had no intention of calling it off.’
The team had to have Covid tests costing £2,000 before travelling, will be tested on landing, have tests every three days while they are in El Salvador and have to quarantine for 10 days and have two more PCR tests on their return.
There will be 257 surfers from 52 countries – considerably less than the usual 85 – competing for 12 places in the Olympics at the championships.
Mr John said: ‘We had no intention of calling it off but we could have been stopped. These people are used to travelling the world surfing but they have all been stuck at home for more than a year.
‘The fact this is happening means the world is turning again.
‘But we don’t know what we might come back to as the legislation could have changed again. El Salvador is currently on the amber list but it might have changed by the time we get back.’
Spain’s tourism minister Fernando Valdes said this morning he is expecting the country to be added to the green list at the next review early next month.
He told Sky News: ‘What I can say is that right now Spain is doing a great effort not only in terms of vaccination, we have at least one third of our whole population with at least one dose… but also, we do have some holiday destinations which are very loved by British tourists such as the Balearic islands, Costa Blanca or Malaga, with our notification rates which are pretty low and by the same notification range of the UK, so I have to suspect that on the next review that the UK Government can provide… Spain is going to change on its notification.’
Spanish PM Pedro Sanchez said on Friday that visitors from the UK and other ‘safe’ countries such as New Zealand, South Korea and China would be exempted from restrictions on travel.
‘I can therefore announce that from next Monday the 24th of May we will be delighted to welcome all UK tourists,’ he said.
‘They are welcome to enter our country without restrictions and without health requirements.’
However, business minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan stressed that Spain remains on the ‘amber list’.
People queue up at check-in at the check-in desk at the departures area of London Heathrow Airport this morning
Passengers arrive at London Heathrow Airport this morning as people make the most of being able to go on holiday abroad
Portugal is currently the only major tourist destination on Britain’s ‘green list’, meaning people can go without the need to quarantine on return
She told Sky News: ‘The Prime Minister has been clear that, for now, amber means ‘please don’t go unless there is an urgent family reason and so on’ because we are still trying to slowly move through our road map to being able to open up on June 21 and we want to do that in a steady and careful way.’
She added that ‘we hope very much that, obviously, the amber numbers will become more green in due course’ but ‘at the moment, today, that means amber countries really aren’t safe to go to’.
Mr Le Drian raised the possibility of tighter restrictions for British tourists yesterday.
He suggested the UK could be put in a health category of its own, somewhere in between the strictest measures that France is imposing on visitors from India and 15 other countries, and more relaxed requirements being readied for visitors from the EU and some other countries.
Without giving specifics, Mr Le Drian said there was potential for ‘health measures that are a bit stronger’ but Paris is watching the progress of the Indian variant before making final decisions.
A waiter serves guests outside a cafe near the Eiffel Tower in Paris last week after restaurants reopened in the French capital
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has suggested it will impose tighter controls on visitors from the UK due to fears over the Indian variant
‘We hope that the variant can be controlled in a country which experienced real failures during the pandemic,’ he said.
‘However, the arrival of the Indian variant and the increase of cases of Indian variant in the United Kingdom pose a problem and so we are vigilant about this (and) in contact with the British authorities,’ he added.
‘It won’t be the red treatment if we have to do it. It will be an intermediate treatment,’ the minister said.
‘But it is not excluded – this springs to mind because of British tourists – that we have health measures that are a bit stronger.’
As of yesterday Germany is requiring people arriving from the UK to go into quarantine for 14 days on arrival.