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The government is due to update the green, amber and red lists as part of the review of the travel traffic light system which takes place every three weeks.
In the last update, Portugal was removed from the green list – without being put on the green watchlist – and made amber.
What does it mean if your green list destination is suddenly placed on the amber list for quarantine, insurance cover and refunds?
Destinations on the green list are the only places where you can visit and avoid self-isolation on your return to England, but you still need to take Covid tests before flying home and on day two after your return.
If you travel to a country on the amber list, you face a 10-day quarantine when you return home. You’ll also have to fork out for Covid tests before flying home as well as tests on day two and eight, after you return.
If you’ve already booked and your destination changes to amber, it doesn’t mean your insurance will automatically be invalidated. You need to take note of whether the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against travelling to your holiday destination. This would likely void insurance. The amber list and FCDO advice don’t always marry up as they are assessing different risks.
To make travelling abroad easier this summer, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about amber destination holidays below.
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Can I visit an amber list country?
The government has said it does not want English residents taking holidays to amber list countries. Travel to anywhere on this list should be for essential reasons only. If you do travel for an essential reason, you must quarantine on return. If you do not quarantine on your return, there is a risk of a fine of up to £10,000.
Due to the government and the FCDO assessing different risk factors for travel, sometimes the FCDO will rate a destination as safe while the government places it on the amber list. The government still doesn’t want people to go to amber list destinations for leisure purposes, even if FCDO advises that travel is safe.
The Scottish government says that ‘you should think carefully before booking travel to a country or area on the amber list for holidays or for any other leisure purpose. Travelling abroad carries a risk of bringing new cases and variants of Covid-19 into Scotland.’
Residents of Wales are advised to stay at home and take a holiday in Wales instead.
People living in Northern Ireland are advised not to ‘avoid travelling as much as possible’.
If you do travel to an amber list country, you must quarantine at home when you return for 10 days. You also need to take a pre-departure test, book and pay for day two and day eight Covid-19 tests and fill in a passenger locator form.
You need to check requirements of the country you’re travelling to. Check to see if it’s allowing UK residents to travel there and if you need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test and quarantine on arrival.
Can I get insured if I visit an amber list country?
It depends. If you book a holiday to an amber list country somewhere that the FCDO advises against travelling to, you will not be able to get travel insurance. If you have insurance but your holiday destination changes to amber before departure, your insurance will no longer be valid. It means you won’t be covered if you have an accident abroad, for example, which could be costly.
Most holiday providers will refund or allow you to move your holiday if FCDO advises against travel, but not all. If they refuse, you also won’t have valid insurance, so you are faced with either travelling without insurance, or losing the holiday.
Similarly, if a travel agent won’t refund you for an amber list destination and you don’t want to or can’t quarantine when you get home, you could lose the cost of your holiday. This is why it’s important to book with a provider that is flexible if a destination changes from green to amber.
If you find insurance for a holiday to a country where the FCDO says it’s safe to travel to, be aware it may not offer complete Covid-19 cover. Most companies do not offer financial cover for all scenarios. For example, the company might pay out if you fall ill with coronavirus while abroad, but not if you’re told to isolate by NHS Test and Trace at the time of travel. Check what the insurance actually provides.
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If you book a holiday and it changes to amber when you’re due to fly, can you get a refund?
You aren’t legally entitled to a refund if you’re cancelling. Check the terms and conditions or ask your travel agent where you stand.
Plenty of holiday providers are still taking people on holiday to amber list destinations. However, many will allow you at least a date or destination change if the country changes to amber from green, but not all.
If you’ve booked a flight only, it’s likely that flight will still run even if a country’s rating changes to amber. So you will need to fly or lose the cost of the flight, unless the company’s terms say otherwise.
If you are yet to book, book a package holiday from a flexible provider. Many holiday companies are more flexible than airlines.
When booking a holiday, make sure you are willing to quarantine if a country’s traffic light rating changes. As demonstrated with Portugal being changed to amber in the most recent update, countries ratings can and will likely change.
If you cannot quarantine and still choose to book check you can rebook for free if your destination is on the amber or red list at the time of departure.Make sure you can transfer the full value of your trip, without unrecoverable costs being deducted.
Sometimes companies say you can move it for free apart from unrecoverable costs. This is often the cost of the flight, or a pre-booked trip so it could be a big financial hit.
You’ll also need assurance that you’ll be refunded if the FCDO adds a warning to the country you’re travelling to.
If I’m already abroad and the destination changes to amber, what should I do?
If you can quarantine at home for 10 days on your return, it’s probably best to stay put. Some holiday companies may try and bring people home early, but are under no obligation
Just be prepared to pay for an extra test when you land back in the UK. You will need to be tested on day two and eight.
If you cannot quarantine, you will likely need to book your own flight home at a cost to yourself, unless your insurance covers this scenario – which is unlikely. Be prepared for inflated flight prices with the demand for flights likely to rise so that people can rush back to the UK to avoid quarantine.
Will Tui refund me if my holiday destination is added to the amber list?
No, unless FCDO advises against travelling there. For holidays to amber list countries where FCDO says it’s OK to travel, if you’re unwilling or unable to self-isolate, you can amend your booking without penalty. You’ll need to pay more if the holiday is more expensive, but will be refunded for the difference if it’s cheaper. See more on Tui’s rebooking policies.
Will British Airways Holidays refund me if my holiday destination is added to the amber list?
A refund will be offered only if the amber list country is also somewhere the FCDO doesn’t advise travelling to.
You can change your destination or date with no change fees or supplier costs if the country turns amber. Just be aware you will have to pay the difference if the new holiday is more expensive. You must inform British Airways Holidays of any changes within seven days of the government announcement. If it’s less than seven days to go until your holiday and a country turns amber, you can change the holiday right up until check-in closes. You can also get a voucher. See British Airways’ booking policies.
Be aware that if you chose a package holiday that included a non-refundable hotel, this will not be changable. This should have been made clear when booking.
Will easyJet Holidays refund me if my holiday destination is added to the amber list?
You will only be refunded for an amber list country if the FCDO also advises against travelling there. Other trips on the amber list can be amended or you can gain credit without charge right up until 24 hours before departure. See easyJet’s refund and rebooking policies.
Will Loveholidays refund me if my holiday destination is added to the amber list?
No. It also says that if you move to a different destination or date then while Loveholidays will not charge you, supplier charges could apply. If FCDO advises against travel to any destination, it will refund the hotel. Look at Loveholidays’ refund policies and FAQs.
Will Jet2holidays refund me if my holiday destination is added to the amber list?
Jet2 has currently cancelled all holidays up to 30 June and will restart holidays from 1 July.
The company hasn’t yet decided its policy on amber destinations. See Jet2holidays’ refund and rebooking policy.
Will On The Beach refund me if my holiday destination is added to the amber list?
No. You can amend the holiday without paying a fee, but you may lose airline costs, regardless of whether FCDO advises against travel. Seven days notice is required for hotel and transfer amendments.
On The Beach has actually now paused holiday sales and will not be selling any more holidays until September. See On The Beach’s rebooking and refund policy for your holiday if you’ve already booked.
Will Trailfinders refund me if my holiday destination is added to the amber list?
Yes. Trailfinders is more flexible than most, offering a refund in this instance. See Trailfinders’ rebooking and refund policy.