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Amber list holidays and ‘amber plus’ category: Quarantine and testing rules for travellers

Double-jabbed travellers will no longer need to quarantine on return from holidays in amber-list destinations, except France which has separate rules

Amber list holidays and ‘amber plus’ category: Quarantine and testing rules for travellers

UK residents who have had both Covid-19 vaccinations will be able to holiday in amber list countries without having to quarantine on their return. But the arrival of the ‘amber plus’ list complicates the rules.

From 19 July,  leisure travel is allowed to popular holiday destinations such as mainland Spain, Greece and Italy currently rated amber, bringing renewed hope  of a summer break for millions of vaccinated travellers.

Although there is no need to quarantine under the new rules, holidaymakers who are double-jabbed must still take two Covid tests. One lateral flow test will be required before you depart your destination and one PCR test on or before day two when you are back in the UK. The extra cost of this will vary but could add at least £120 to your holiday per person.

The new rules do not however apply to France who now sits in a category of its own, unofficially known as ‘amber plus’. Despite its amber status, double-jabbed residents of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales returning from France will still have to quarantine and take three tests.

Holidaymakers should still check the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice for individual destinations. This is distinct from the traffic light system. The FCDO continues to advise against non essential travel to most amber list countries, although this advice has been lifted for Spain, Greece and several other popular holiday destinations. When the FCDO advises against non-essential travel, almost all travel insurance policies are invalid.

Below, we cover amber list rules, including whether you can travel on one dose or with a child who hasn’t been vaccinated and what happens if you book a holiday and are told by NHS Test and Trace to isolate before you go. Additionally, we look at what your refund rights are if you’re not vaccinated or choose a green-list holiday destination and it changes to red before you travel.

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Can I visit an amber list country?airport passenger sitting with case

The government has now said residents of the UK can take holidays to amber list countries. Previously leisure travel to these countries was not advised. 

If you do travel to a country on the amber list and you aren’t doubly vaccinated, you face a 10-day quarantine when you return home. You’ll also have to fork out for a Covid test before flying home as well as tests on day two and eight, after you return.

Can I visit an amber list country if I’ve had both vaccines?

Yes. The government has said that those who are double-jabbed do not need to quarantine on return from amber list countries from 19 July. However, you do still need to take two tests. One lateral flow before you depart home from your destination, and a PCR test on day two after landing home.

The exception to this new rule is France. Even if you are double-jabbed, you must quarantine at home on return to the UK and take three tests.

Regardless of the new amber-list rules, you still need to assess the 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, a negative test, and/or quarantine on arrival.

Before booking a holiday, check that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) says it’s safe to travel there. If FCDO says not to travel, you will find it difficult to get insurance.

You also need to allow time for your jab to take effect. The UK government says that you are fully vaccinated two weeks after you’ve had your second dose of a Coronavirus vaccine. 

If being vaccinated is a condition of entry to another country though, you must check what they class as fully vaccinated. France for example says you must wait four weeks after your second dose to count as fully vaccinated.

What are the rules on amber list holidays if I’m double-vaccinated but my children aren’t?

No child (who is a UK resident) under the age of 18 returning from an amber list country will have to isolate. Children aged five and over will need to take a PCR test on day two. Children four and under will not need to take any tests.

What is the ‘amber plus’ category and what does it mean for holiays?

While new rules mean UK residents no longer need to quarantine when they return from amber-rated countries, you must still quarantine when arriving in in the UK from France.

This new rule for France brings it into a category of its own, known unofficially as ‘amber plus’. Those returning from ‘amber plus’ countries must quarantine at home and take three tests – one pre-departure test, plus a PCR test on day two and eight after arriving back in the UK.

What are the rules for UK residents who live abroad?

Only UK residents who have been vaccinated by the NHS are eligible to skip quarantine when arriving into the UK. UK passport holders vaccinated abroad will need to quarantine for ten days, as well as taking a pre-departure test and tests on day two and eight. 

Can I get insured if I visit an amber list country?

It depends on whether the FCDO advises against non-essential travel or not. 

If you have insurance but the FCDO advice changes before departure, most types of insurance will no longer be valid. If you don’t have insurance you won’t be covered should you have a costly medical emergency abroad.

However, Which? is aware of one type of insurance, available through Biba’s 1,800 member brokers, that’ll insure you even if you travel against FCDO advice. It has not been assessed by Which? though as to whether it offers complete Covid cover. 

Any insurance 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.

Find the best travel insurance policy for your needs

If you book a holiday and the country changes from green to amber can you get a refund?

Woman on the phone distressed

You aren’t legally entitled to a refund if you’re cancelling a trip because the country has turned amber. Check the terms and conditions or ask your travel agent where you stand.

Be aware that plenty of holiday providers are still taking people on holiday to amber list destinations. Many will allow you at least a date or destination change if the country changes to amber from green, but not all. These changes are advertised as ‘free’,  but you will still need to pay the price difference for the date change – which can be significant. If the FCDO advises against travel to an amber list country though, most package holiday companies should offer a refund.

Airlines may still operate flights. If you made a flight-only booking and don’t want to travel, you’ll need to use the flexible booking policy of the airline to change dates. It won’t be possible to get a refund unless the airline cancels the flight. 

If I’m already abroad and the destination changes to amber, what should I do?

If you have been fully vaccinated and are from England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, you will need to take a lateral flow test before you depart for home and you’ll need a PCR test on day two after you land. You will not need to quarantine unless you test positive for Covid-19.

If you’ve not been doubly inoculated, and you can quarantine at home for 10 days on your return, it’s probably best to stay put on your trip. Some holiday companies may try and bring people home early, but are under no obligation

Just be prepared to pay for an extra PCR 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.

If you book a holiday and the country changes from amber to red can you get a refund?

It depends. All red list countries also have an FCDO warning against non-essential travel. That means package holiday operators will cancel and offer a full refund.

Airlines don’t follow FCDO advice. You will be due a refund if the airline cancels the flight, but the carrier may continue to operate. In this instance, you will only be able to rebook under the terms of the airlines flexible booking policy.

How to book a holiday safely to protect yourself against traffic light changes

Make sure you book a package holiday from a flexible provider. Many holiday companies are more flexible than airlines.

When committing to a holiday, make sure you are willing to quarantine if a country’s traffic light rating changes. As we saw with Portugal being changed to amber suddenly in an update earlier in June, traffic lights do 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.

Find out everything you should ask your holiday provider before booking

Will Tui refund me if my holiday destination is added to the amber list?

No, unless the FCDO advises against travelling there.

For holidays to amber list countries where the 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 advises against non-essential travel.

You can change your destination or date with no change fees or supplier costs if the country turns amber. Be aware that 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 plane

The company has cancelled holidays to amber list destinations up to and including 18 July. 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 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.

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