Summer holidays abroad: Everything you need to know from tests to the most likely destinations


Overseas trips are to be permitted under a ‘traffic light’ country classification scheme with different requirements. But which countries will be classed ‘green’?

This is a watershed moment. Transport secretary Grant Shapps has come to his senses at last, with travel abroad possible from as early as May 17.

‘I’m not advising against booking summer holidays,’ he said yesterday, cautiously encouraging people to start planning trips as he laid out new travel rules.

Overseas trips are to be permitted under a ‘traffic light’ country classification scheme with different requirements:

  • Green countries will not require a return quarantine, although pre-departure Covid tests will be necessary and a further test when back.
  • Amber nations will need a ten-day return quarantine, a pre-departure Covid test and two tests on return.
  • Red-listed countries will require you to pay for ten days in a ‘quarantine hotel’ on return (£1,750), plus a pre-departure test and two others on return.

But which countries will be classed ‘green’? 

That is the big question and the answer will only be known in ‘two or three weeks’ when the list is announced, says Shapps. 

However, on the evidence of current Covid cases as well as vaccine take-up, it is probable that favourite countries such as Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Croatia and Turkey may not be on the initial ‘green list’. 

Here are our predictions of which nations might squeeze on…

MALTA MANIA 

Malta is the second most vaccinated country in Europe after the UK, with nearly 40 per cent of adults having had the first dose. Pictured is the capital Valletta

Malta is the second most vaccinated country in Europe after the UK, with nearly 40 per cent of adults having had the first dose. Pictured is the capital Valletta

At the moment, Malta has its own ‘traffic light’ system in place and no outside nations are deemed ‘green’. The UK does not even make it onto the ‘amber’ list requiring Covid tests before arrival.

But this will change from June 1 when Britons who show proof of full vaccination (both jabs) received at least ten days before arrival will be allowed to enjoy the country’s cities and beaches.

Malta is the second most vaccinated country in Europe after the UK, with nearly 40 per cent of adults having had the first dose. A ‘Sunny and Safe’ campaign to introduce social distancing and hygiene protocols at restaurants, hotels and bars has been put in place.

PROPORTION OF POPULATION RECEIVED FIRST VACCINE: 37 per cent.

WHAT THEY SAY: Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo says that with the continued rollout of the vaccine in Malta the country will be able ‘to slowly and safely reopen tourism to fully vaccinated Britons’ by the summer.

TEMPERATURE IN JULY: 27c.

CHEAPEST FLIGHT THIS SUMMER: From £70 return (Malta Air, Luton).

FLIGHT TIME: 3h 15m.

HOW TO DO IT: Luxury: A week at Gremzul, a three-bedroom villa in Gozo, from £1,087pp with flights in July (ba.com). Budget: Seven nights B&B at Maritim Antonine Hotel and Spa in Mellieha Bay from £582pp with flights in July (tui.co.uk).

GREEN LIST CHANCE: 8/10.

ISRAEL OPENS UP

Wizz Air flights are now available from Luton to Tel Aviv, pictured, from as little as £93 return in late May

Wizz Air flights are now available from Luton to Tel Aviv, pictured, from as little as £93 return in late May

In February, Israel suspended all international flights to allow time for its citizens and potential visitors to receive vaccinations. These resumed in March and Wizz Air flights are now available from Luton to Tel Aviv from as little as £93 return in late May. EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways also offer flights.

Israel currently is restricting entry to its own citizens or those with close family connections, but this is expected to change soon. Gatherings are restricted to 20 people indoors and 50 outdoors. Restaurants at hotels have a 50 per cent maximum capacity with no buffets. Swimmers in pools must maintain two-metre social distancing.

PROPORTION OF POPULATION RECEIVED FIRST VACCINE: 61 per cent.

WHAT THEY SAY: The tourist board says Israel is in consultation with ‘governments of certain ‘green’ countries’, which could well include Britain. Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen says she expects to approve a roadmap for a tourism restart in the next week with fully vaccinated foreign visitors (with both jabs) allowed first.

CHEAPEST FLIGHT THIS SUMMER: From £131 return (Wizz Air, Luton).

FLIGHT TIME: 4h 50m.

TEMPERATURE IN JULY: 29c.

HOW TO DO IT: Luxury: Seven nights B&B at The Jaffa in Tel Aviv from £1,702pp with flights in August (virginholidays.co.uk). Budget: A week B&B at Prima Palace in Jerusalem from £635pp with flights in July (easyjet.com).

GREEN LIST CHANCE: 9/10.

AMERICAN DREAM

A source in the Biden administration has said the president is 'looking toward the middle of May' to lift travel bans on Britons and those from the EU

A source in the Biden administration has said the president is ‘looking toward the middle of May’ to lift travel bans on Britons and those from the EU

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TESTING 

Holidaymakers travelling to a green-list country will need to take a PCR test on or before day two of their return to the UK. The test must be booked with a government-approved private provider (see list at gov.uk).

The tests, which cost between £100 and £150, have to be pre-booked before the return flight and confirmed on the passenger locator form. Travellers will not need to quarantine on return while waiting for their test results.

Holidaymakers must also take a rapid lateral flow test up to 72 hours before their return flight. The Government hopes to provide these for free for holidaymakers to take abroad.

The PCR test requirement could be replaced with cheaper lateral flow tests, which cost between £5 and £50, during the formal review on June 28.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said yesterday that he would work to ‘drive down’ the cost of PCR tests, which are markedly more expensive than those in Europe, so they were ‘as cheap and convenient as possible’. 

He said he wouldn’t ‘spare those companies that seem to be profiteering’, and would potentially remove them from the Government’s recommended list.

Travellers also need to consider the requirements in the country they are visiting. In Malta, for example, you must show proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival.

President Biden has signed an executive order requiring facemasks to be worn on aircraft and at airports. Most British nationals have been barred from entering the U.S. since March 20 last year.

But with a massive mass vaccination rollout in the past 100 days that has seen 104 million people (more than 30 per cent of the adult population) vaccinated, the new president has been making positive sounds about re-opening the U.S. border to Britain, Europe, Mexico and Canada.

President Biden also says that enough vaccination doses will be available for the entire population by April 19.

PROPORTION OF POPULATION RECEIVED FIRST VACCINE: 34 per cent.

WHAT THEY SAY: A source in the Biden administration has said the president is ‘looking toward the middle of May’ to lift travel bans on Britons and those from the EU.

TEMPERATURE IN JULY: 28c (in Florida).

CHEAPEST FLIGHT THIS SUMMER: From £447 return to Orlando (Gatwick, Tui).

FLIGHT TIME: 9h (to Orlando).

HOW TO DO IT: Luxury: A 12-night B&B tour of the Deep South, including New Orleans and Nashville is from £2,135pp. Flights not included but can be arranged (trailfinders.com). Budget: A week room-only at Disney’s All-star Movies Resort in Orlando from £1,108pp (saving £569pp) with flights in July. (firstchoice.co.uk).

GREEN LIST CHANCE: 7/10

SUNNY SEYCHELLES

Visitors need to show proof of a negative PCR test taken a minimum of 72 hours before departure. They must also have proof of travel health insurance to cover Covid (including potential costs of self-isolation if you fall ill in the country). It is also required to complete a Health Travel Authorisation form (at seychelles.govtas.com). 

This is essential for travel and will be required at check-in. Visitors will not be allowed to board a flight otherwise. Facemasks are mandatory in public places and visitors are ‘advised to avoid prolonged interactions with the local community’, says the tourist board.

Public restaurants and bars are closed but hotel restaurants are open. As of Thursday, there have been a total of 4,395 infections here since the pandemic began, with 24 deaths.

PROPORTION OF POPULATION RECEIVED FIRST VACCINE: 66 per cent.

WHAT THEY SAY: Tourism Minister Sylvestre Radegonde wants visitors back to reverse the ‘bashing’ to tourist numbers last year, which fell 70 per cent.

TEMPERATURE IN JULY: 26c.

CHEAPEST FLIGHT THIS SUMMER: From £604 return (Qatar Airways, via Doha).

FLIGHT TIME: 13h.

HOW TO DO IT: Luxury: A week half-board at Constance Ephelia from £2,055pp (saving up to 35 per cent) with flights in July. (kuoni.co.uk). Budget: Seven nights B&B at Coco de Mer Hotel from £1,393pp with flights in July (destinology.co.uk).

GREEN LIST CHANCE: 9/10.

CARIBBEAN CHARM

In Barbados, pictured, 22 per cent of its population has received a first vaccine. It looks a likely candidate for 'green country' status

In Barbados, pictured, 22 per cent of its population has received a first vaccine. It looks a likely candidate for ‘green country’ status 

WHEN WILL WE KNOW THE GREEN LIST COUNTRIES— AND SHOULD WE BOOK NOW? 

Q. What is the earliest date that I can go overseas?

A. Ministers are hoping to introduce a ‘traffic light’ system. Travel to a ‘green’ country should be allowed from May 17.

Q. When will we know which countries are on the green list?

A The Government has said it will announce this by ‘early May’. Only a handful of places are expected to be on the list initially. These could include Israel, Gibraltar, Malta and a number of Caribbean islands.

Q. How will they decide which countries are on the green list?

A. Those in which 50 per cent of adults have had at least one vaccine are likely to be prioritised. Other factors to be considered include infection rates, the prevalence of ‘variants of concern’ and their capacity for genomic testing.

Q. I’ve heard the U.S. is doing well. Will we be able to go in May?

A. The U.S. is rolling out its vaccination programme rapidly, making it a strong contender for the UK’s green list. But there is still a travel ban in place for visitors from the UK due to the Kent mutant strain, so this will need to be lifted first.

Q. And what about Spain and Italy — can I catch some sun?

A. There is hope that Spain and Italy could have restrictions eased in time for summer. However, this will depend on whether they can get surging infection rates under control and how their vaccination programmes progress. Spain, the country most visited by Britons, has a vaccination rate below 15 per cent, while Italy’s rate is just 13.8 per cent.

Q. I’ve booked a trip to Greece in June. Will I be able to go?

A. Potentially. Despite a recent rise in cases, sources have said Greece could be on the green list.

Q. When will more countries be added to the list?

A. A review will take place on June 28, which should see extra countries added to the list. Extra reviews will occur on July 31 and October 1.

Q. Is it safe for me to book a holiday now?

A. It’s a good time to bag a bargain. Book with a reputable package holiday firm and you’ll be entitled to a refund within 14 days if the trip is cancelled.

Q. Will I still need to take the tests if I’ve had the vaccine?

A Yes. The testing requirements will be the same for those who are vaccinated, whether they have received one or two jabs.

Q. What about testing for children who go abroad?

A. Currently children under 11 are exempt and are therefore unlikely to be required to take tests under this new system.

Q. Will this traffic light scheme be in place all summer?

A. It’s highly likely. However, restrictions on testing and quarantine could be eased.

Q. And what will be happening in the cruising industry?

A. Cruising in British waters is allowed from May 17 at the earliest. Overseas cruising will restart under the new traffic light system.

Q. Has anything else changed when it comes to travel?

A. The passenger locator form will be digitised for faster use through airport e-gates by the autumn.  A ‘Green Watchlist’ is also being introduced to highlight countries at risk of moving from the low-risk green category to amber.

 

Barbados, which began its vaccination programme last month using AstraZeneca jabs, looks a likely candidate for ‘green country’ status.

Meanwhile, St Lucia also began an AstraZeneca vaccination rollout last month, as has Grenada — both via shipments arranged as a gift by the government of India.

Social distancing is in place on each island with roadmap to ending lockdowns in various stages. But Caribbean island insiders say these three countries are most likely to be first to go ‘green’.

PROPORTION OF POPULATION RECEIVED FIRST VACCINE: Barbados, 22 per cent, St Lucia, 11 per cent, Grenada, no data.

WHAT THEY SAY: Jeffrey Bostic, Health Minister in Barbados, said: ‘Vaccines represent a significant step forward… to return to as close as possible to the quality of life that we are accustomed to living.’ St Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said he has been ‘encouraged’ by the vaccination take-up. In Grenada, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell is pushing for tourist sector employees to get jabs.

TEMPERATURE IN JULY: 27c.

CHEAPEST FLIGHT THIS SUMMER: From £373 (Virgin Atlantic, Heathrow).

FLIGHT TIME: 8h 50m (to Barbados).

HOW TO DO IT: Barbadosluxury: A week B&B at South Beach Hotel from £2,964pp with flights in July (kuoni.co.uk); budget: Seven nights all-inclusive at Mango Bay from £1,169pp (saving £600pp) with flights in August (tropicalsky.co.uk).

St Lucialuxury: A week all-inclusive at BodyHoliday from £2,655pp (saving 25 per cent) with flights in June (dialaflight.com); budget: Seven nights all-inclusive at adults-only Bel Jou Hotel from £1,084pp with flights in August (onthebeach.co.uk).

Grenadaluxury: A week all-inclusive at Calabash Boutique Hotel from £2,255pp with flights in August (carrier.co.uk); budget: Seven nights room-only at Blue Horizons Garden Resort from £1,132pp with flights in July (bestattravel.co.uk)

GREEN LIST CHANCE: 8/10.

MALDIVES MAYBE

The current rules for British visitors to the Maldives are that you must have proof of a negative PCR test taken 96 hours before arrival. This has only been relevant to British nationals living in other countries.

The signs are that when travel is allowed from the UK from May 17, the Indian Ocean islands will be ready to welcome vaccinated holidaymakers. In a normal year, more than 115,000 Britons visit, making an important contribution to the local economy.

Social distancing is required in restaurants and at hotels. There have been a total of 25,304 Covid cases since the pandemic began with 67 deaths.

PROPORTION OF POPULATION RECEIVED FIRST VACCINE: 49 per cent.

WHAT THEY SAY: The Tourism Ministry is giving priority for jabs to tourism sector employees, with 14,898 so far having received vaccinations. Tourism Minister Dr Abdulla Mausoom says that Britons are welcome with tests and it wants to ‘surpass’ expectations with visitor numbers this summer.

TEMPERATURE IN JULY: 28c.

CHEAPEST FLIGHT THIS SUMMER: From £610 (Heathrow, BA).

FLIGHT TIME: 12h 25m.

HOW TO DO IT: Luxury: A week full-board at Atmosphere Kanifushi from £2,741pp with flights in July (sovereign.com). Budget: Seven nights full-board at Kuredu Island Resort and Spa from £1,028pp with flights in July. (travelbag.co.uk).

GREEN LIST CHANCE: 9/10.

ALL GO IN GIB

Last month Gibraltar became the ‘first nation in the world’ to vaccinate its entire adult population. Vaccines were delivered from the UK by the RAF to the 33,701 inhabitants.

This makes the tiny British Overseas Territory one of the safest places to go and it is highly likely to be on a future ‘green list’.

The lockdown ended on February 1 with hotels and non-essential shops reopening; restaurants and bars are open for takeaways. Hotel restaurants are fully open. Masks must be worn in enclosed spaces, however.

PROPORTION OF POPULATION RECEIVED FIRST VACCINE: 98 per cent.

WHAT THEY SAY: ‘The overwhelming view I think everybody in Gibraltar feels is ‘thank God we’re British’ at this time,’ says Fabian Picardo, the territory’s chief minister.

TEMPERATURE IN JULY: 26c.

CHEAPEST FLIGHT THIS SUMMER: From £72 (Wizz Air, Luton).

FLIGHT TIME: 2h 55m.

HOW TO DO IT: Luxury: Seven nights B&B at Sunborn Gibraltar from £587pp with flights in June. (ba.com). Budget: A week B&B at The Bristol Hotel from £343pp with flights in August. (travel republic.co.uk)

GREEN LIST CHANCE: 9/10.

PERHAPS MOROCCO?

Morocco's borders are currently open, with travellers required to show proof of a hotel booking and a negative test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. Pictured is the old city of Essaouira

Morocco’s borders are currently open, with travellers required to show proof of a hotel booking and a negative test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. Pictured is the old city of Essaouira

Restaurants and bars are buzzing in Morocco, despite social distancing, and schools, shops and hotels have long been open. The country is rolling out its vaccination programme at a rapid rate and hopes the whole adult population will have been vaccinated by the summer.

Morocco’s borders are currently open, with travellers required to show proof of a hotel booking and a negative test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. A 9pm curfew was reintroduced after the British variant was discovered in regions across the country and flights from the UK are suspended. Public beaches and most cultural sights are closed.

PROPORTION OF POPULATION RECEIVED FIRST VACCINE: 12 per cent.

WHAT THEY SAY: The government is preparing to reopen to tourists, says Tourism Minister Nadia Fettah Alaoui.

TEMPERATURE IN JULY: 34c.

CHEAPEST FLIGHT THIS SUMMER: From £34 return (Ryanair, Stansted).

FLIGHT TIME: 3h 45m.

HOW TO DO IT: Luxury: A nine-night B&B tour of Morocco, including Marrakech, the Sahara and Atlas Mountains, from £1,958pp. Flights not included but can be arranged (trailfinders.com). Budget: An eight-day tour of Marrakech and the Sahara from £999pp with flights in August (responsibletravel.com).

GREEN LIST CHANCE: 6/10.



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