Editor’s note: this week’s content has been updated with the latest information.
Although some countries are opening their borders to British travellers, going abroad for holidays is still currently illegal. International travel restrictions will be in place until at least 17 May.
On 29 March the UK government introduced a £5,000 fine for anyone going overseas from England for non-essential purposes. The reason for leaving must be announced on the ‘Declaration to Travel’ form, introduced on 8 March. If you don’t fill it in, you could face a fine of over £200.
Travel news updates – 7th May
Government travel announcement: traffic light system unveiled
Travel Secretary Grant Shapps has outlined which countries will have green, amber, and red status under the new traffic light system for travel. Green list countries, of which there are 12, have the least restrictions while red list destinations have the most. Currently, these rules apply only to England with the leaders of the devolved nations (Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) still to confirm whether they will be following the same process. Shapps did note that the system was created in collaboration with the devolved administrations. Referencing today’s elections, he states “we look forward to there being governments in place in Wales and Scotland and to having a joined-up picture as soon as possible.”
Which countries are on the travel green list?
12 destinations have been added to the travel green list for travel to and from the UK. Travellers won’t have to quarantine upon return, but may need to take a PCR test before departure and again before the second day after they return. Note that the agreements aren’t reciprocal. While destinations are on the UK’s green list, travellers from the UK may not be admitted. The list will be reviewed every three weeks.
While non-essential travel is still banned throughout most of the EU, the bloc has outlined plans to welcome vaccinated travellers from the end of May.
|Portugal||Travel is currently restricted to residents and those travelling for essential purposes. This is expected to change at the end of May.|
|Israel||Open to vaccinated UK tourists from May 23, but only as part of an organised tour group. Individual tourists may be welcomed back from July.|
|Singapore||Travel from the UK is limited to Singapore citizens and permanent residents.|
|Australia||All international travel on hold until 2022.|
|New Zealand||Border closed to UK travellers.|
|Brunei||Travel is severely restricted, and visitors need special permission from Brunei’s Prime Minister’s Office.|
|Iceland||All visitors must provide proof of a full COVID-19 vaccination or documentation of prior COVID-19 infection. Additionally, all visitors are required to complete a pre-registration form prior to visiting Iceland.|
|Gibraltar||Entry is restricted to residents of Gibraltar, registered Gibraltians, Spanish residents and nationals transiting to Spain, and people traveling to Gibraltar for work.|
|Falkland Islands||Tourists are currently not allowed to visit.|
|Faroe Islands||The UK is currently on Denmark’s Orange (Amber) list, and non-essential travel is not recommended.|
|South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands||Access is restricted and visitors require a permit.|
|St Helena, Tristan da Cunha, Ascension Island||St Helena: foreign nationals can visit providing they have had a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of departure. A 14 day quarantine is compulsory.|
Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island: tourists are not currently allowed to visit.
Popular summer sun destination Portugal is on the green list, and two airports in the country – Faro and Lisbon – are among Skyscanner’s top searched destinations this year. Gibraltar, which also has a glorious sunny climate, and Iceland with its incredible natural attractions have also made the list. According to Skyscanner data, flight prices for the summer months are much lower than historical average.
Government traffic light system for travel: easily explained
Green, red or amber – what does it mean for travellers? Our table below shows what you need to organise before and after your trip.
|Passenger locator form||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Test before departure||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Hotel quarantine||No||No||11 nights|
|Self isolation||No||10 days||N/A|
|Test to release||N/A||Day 5||No|
|PCR test required||On/before day 2||On/before day 2||On/before day 2|
|Additional PCR test||No||Day 8||Day 8|
Which countries have been added to the travel red list?
Turkey, the Maldives, and Nepal join countries like Brazil, South Africa, and India on the UK’s red list for travel. Anyone returning from these countries will need to spend 11 nights in hotel quarantine at their own expense. Notably, Istanbul in Turkey is hosting this year’s Champions’ League Final between Manchester City and Chelsea on 29th May. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has warned fans against attending, stating “we would be open to hosting the match. It is a decision for UEFA to make.”
Find out more about hotel quarantines
Travel news updates – 6th May
Madeira offering a free PCR test to all visitors
The Portuguese island of Madeira has announced that it will offer every tourist one PCR test free of charge. This can either be taken on arrival or departure, with results received within 24 hours. This is an update to their previous offer, which only provided the tests upon arrival. People who are fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from COVID-19 don’t require testing. There are also discounts in place for later tests, with PCR tests available from €90 and antigen tests starting at €18.
Not planning on flying until later this year? Find out why Madeira is one of our top winter sun destinations for UK travellers.
Australia closed to tourists until 2022 – bubble with New Zealand partially suspended
The Australian government has announced that it will remain closed to the majority of international arrivals until the start of next year at the earliest. It was originally planning to open borders by October 2021, however a delay in the vaccine drive has slowed things down. This comes as two new cases of COVID-19 were discovered in Sydney, prompting New Zealand to put a 48 hour halt on quarantine-free travel from New South Wales. Trade Minister Dan Tehan says that, when international travel to Australia resumes, it will start with travel bubbles to countries like Singapore, Japan and Vietnam.
Learn more about travel bubbles and corridors.
Italy to welcome tourists from mid-May
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has announced that people will be allowed to holiday in Italy from the second-half of May. This applies to non-EU tourists from countries like the UK and USA as well as European travellers. Draghi also announced that the country will introduce its own immunisation pass, and that tourists who can prove that they are vaccinated, immune, or COVID-negative won’t have to quarantine.
Sign up to our newsletter to find out when the UK government’s traffic light system for international travel is announced, and which countries will be rated green, amber, or red.
Travel news updates – 5th May
UK Government expected to make a travel update later this week
Will flights start on May 17? What will international travel in May 2021 look like? Can we go to France or Spain? There are still a lot of questions which need answered. The UK government is slated to make an announcement about travel in the coming days. In the meantime, we’ll be here to keep you informed about the latest travel news.
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Foreign office downgrades travel restrictions for a number of countries
The FCDO has quietly updated its travel advice, and is no longer advising against non-essential travel to destinations including Israel, Malta, Portugal (excluding the Azores), the US Virgin Islands, the Canary Islands, the Greek Islands of Rhodes, Kos, Zante, Corfu and Crete. Although non-essential overseas travel is still illegal, carrying the penalty of a £5000 fine, there’s speculation that this update may indicate which countries will make it onto the travel ‘Green List’. Ministers are still putting the finishing touches on the traffic light system, which is set to be announced later this week.
As things change, we will be providing all the latest travel news, updates and announcements. Sign up for our newsletter and stay in the loop.
EU planning to reopen its borders
The European Union has recommended removing its blanket ban on non-essential travel in order to welcome fully vaccinated tourists and those coming from countries with relatively low infection rates. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen took to Twitter to say that it’s “time to revive the EU tourism industry and for cross-border friendships to rekindle – safely.” The proposals need to be signed off by the majority of the 27 member states. If approved, they could be in place by late May. The new rules will include an “emergency brake”, allowing the bloc to close borders to any country experiencing infection spikes or new COVID variants.
If you’re considering a trip to Europe this summer, find out how the new Brexit passport rules may affect your plans.
When will hotels open in the UK?
If you’re wondering “are hotels reopening on May 17th?” the answer is a provisional yes – for England and Wales. Northern Ireland isn’t planning to reopen hotels and B&Bs until 24th May, while all tourist accommodation has been open in Scotland since 26th April. Self-contained accommodation, such as self-catering lets and campsites, are already open across the UK.
You can see more about reopening dates within the four nations in the table below:
|Nation||Provisional reopening dates|
|England||12 April (self-contained)|
17 May (hotels, B&Bs)
|Wales||12 April (self-contained)|
17 May (hotels, B&Bs)
|Northern Ireland||30 April (self-contained)|
24 May (hotels, B&Bs)
Travel news updates – week commencing 26 April 2021
- Tourist accommodation is open throughout the UK, and travel between the four nations is now permitted. Hire a car for day trips and staycations.
- Spain is set to welcome travellers back from June, using the EU’s Digital Green Certificate programme. Spain will be piloting this process at its 46 airports in May. Visit these gorgeous spots in the Balearic Islands once it’s possible to go.
- The NHS app will be updated with a section to show vaccine and test data for Britons who need evidence of their COVID status to travel abroad. Read more about travel technologies you can expect to see post-lockdown.
- A plan to facilitate transatlantic travel between the EU and USA is currently in advanced levels of discussion. If implemented, this would allow fully vaccinated Americans to visit Europe this summer, and vice versa. The U.K. is also holding its own negotiations about whether Britons can travel to the U.S. this summer.
- Autumn holiday booking have surged for 2021, with Skyscanner data showing more Britons are searching for departures in September, October, and November compared with 2019. Book flights for autumn.
- Lockdown restrictions eased in Scotland on April 26, with tourist accommodation permitted to open and visitors from the rest of the UK allowed to cross the border. Discover the best places to visit in Scotland.
- Quarantine-free travel will be permitted between Singapore and Hong Kong from May 26. This will be the second major air route in the APAC region to go ahead, following on from the Australia–New Zealand bubble which opened on 19th April. Find out more about travel bubbles and corridors.
Travel news updates – week commencing 19th April
- France set to ease domestic travel restrictions around 3rd May. Domestic travel in the UK has already started to ease, so find inspiration with our top 10 spring holiday destinations.
- Japan has announced a “short and powerful” state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo from April 25th to May 11th. You can still enjoy Japan and the world’s major sights from home.
- The US State Department added the UK and 115 other countries including Canada, Mexico and France to its list of places citizens shouldn’t travel to, citing a “very high level of COVID-19”. Keep up to date with constantly changing border regulations using the Where Can I Go? map.
- Seven of the world’s 10 busiest airports for 2020 were in China – including the top spot, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. This is due to a drop in global air traffic, plus the fact that China has few restrictions on domestic travel while international travel is still highly restricted. Domestic travel is likely to continue as a trend for 2021. Check out our favourite cities in the UK for a post-lockdown break.
- Swiss ski resorts celebrate a “safe and successful” 2020/21 season. Simon Wiget, director of Verbier Tourism, explained “everyone was just so happy and grateful to ski, they stuck to the rules.” Plan ahead for next year with our pick of 10 of the best, cheap ski resorts in the world.
- India was added to the UK’s travel ‘red list’ from 4am on Friday 23 April. British or Irish passport holders and those with UK residence rights will be allowed in, but must undergo mandatory quarantine in a government-approved hotel. Find out more about hotel quarantine on return from red list countries.
- The Maldives tourism board has announced plans to make COVID-19 vaccines available to foreign holidaymakers, once all local residents have been offered their shot. Find out more about why The Maldives is ideal for a social distanced holiday.
Travel news updates – week commencing 12th April
- Malta’s tourism authority has announced it will pay foreign visitors up to €100 per person when they book a stay of three nights or more, starting from June. The amount paid out depends on the hotel’s star-rating, with €100 for 5 star hotels, €75 for four-star hotels and €50 for those staying at three star hotels. Browse hotels in Malta.
- Israel is opening its borders to vaccinated tourists visiting as part of a tour group from May 23. Individual travellers will be welcomed back at a later date – provisionally July. See flights to Israel.
- Greece lifted quarantine for vaccinated and COVID-19 negative travellers from the 27 European Union member states plus the USA, UAE, UK, Serbia and Israel. Browse flights to Greece.
- American low-cost carrier JetBlue has announced its first-ever transatlantic flight routes, while British Airways has expressed a desire to restart flights between the UK and USA. Explore fights to the USA.
- Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon lifted Stay Local restrictions on April 16, allowing people to travel outside of their local authority area and meet outdoors in groups of six from up to six households. Check out 6 of the best places to visit in Scotland.
- Some firms have halved the costs of PCR testing from £120 to £60 for those flying with their partner airlines. Find out more about COVID tests for travel.
- Non-essential travel between England and Wales became possible on 12th April. Book car hire for a British break.
Travel news updates – week commencing 5th April
- The UK government’s Global Travel Taskforce has outlined its framework to safely reopen international travel. Recommendations include a traffic light system with countries rated as ‘green’, ‘amber’ or ‘red’. Find out how to set up price alerts for the best deals on flights when non-essential travel is again possible.
- Australia and New Zealand announced a quarantine-free travel bubble, as did Germany with Mallorca. Read more about travel bubbles and corridors.
- Skyscanner trends find increased demand for holidays in Greece, Dubai, Spain, Turkey, and Orlando. Once corridors do open, here is some guidance on how to find a last-minute flight.
- As temporary working-from-home situations become more permanent, the United Arab Emirates is looking to attract digital nomads by expanding its remote working visa program. Read all about workcations: 2020’s big remote working trend.
- The Italian government backed a ban on large passenger and cargo ships approaching the historic centre of Venice. Find fights to Venice
Travel news updates – 1st April
- Boris Johnson suggested that an announcement about summer travel was forthcoming on April 5. Start planning with our post-lockdown dream holidays.
- Cyprus has announced plans to reopen to tourists from the UK who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from May. Find flights to Cyprus.
- Ministers from the UK and USA governments are reportedly in talks about starting a pilot scheme to facilitate a safe travel corridor between the two countries. Plan a trip to the Big Apple with our New York travel guide.
- Thailand plans to open the island of Phuket for vaccinated tourists from July 1st. Find flights from the UK to Phuket.
- Malta’s tourism authority has confirmed plans to welcome British travellers back from 1st June, as long as they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Read all about how to embrace freedom in Malta.
- The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) is calling for Britons to get an extra day off in September to make up for the loss of Easter and the first May bank holiday, both of which took place under lockdown. Bank holidays mean day trips, and these English castles are perfect for a historic day out
- Planning your summer staycation? Try these UK hidden gems for a long weekend
- Your questions around cancellations and compensation are answered in our guide to flexible travel and Coronavirus travel advice article.
Travel news updates – March 2021
- Spain to lift UK travel ban from March 30, allowing Brits to visit without quarantine. However, non-essential travel is still illegal, until May 17 at the earliest. Find flights to Spain for later this year.
- Aer Lingus has announces its first ever transatlantic services from Manchester Airport with flights to New York JFK and Orlando launching on July 29, Barbados from October 20, and Boston from summer 2022. Read our top 5 tips for safe flights during the pandemic.
- £5,000 fine introduced for people going on overseas “without fair reason”. Non-essential travel may resume on 17 May. Read our flexible travel guide for tips on booking transferrable tickets.
- Traffic light system is being considered for international travel, indicating risk levels and restrictions, Find out what the current UK hotel quarantine rules are for arrivals from red list countries.
- Foreign governments and cruise lines consider admitting tourists based on COVID vaccine certificates and infection status. For more in-depth information, read about COVID vaccine certificates and health passes for travel.
- We asked the experts about COVID testing for travel.
- EasyJet has announced two new flight routes to Newquay, with non-stop flights from Manchester launching on 21 June and Glasgow on June 29. The latter will be the airline’s first-ever flight route from Scotland to Cornwall. Get inspired by 15 of the best places to visit in Cornwall
- Never mind the Caribbean – discover Scotland’s beaches this summer
Find out which borders are currently open
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