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8 June 2021

Holiday checklist: Everything you need to know before travelling abroad in 2021

Holidaying overseas has become increasingly complicated with changing Covid guidelines, vaccine passports and post-Brexit rules to unpick, but we can help you plan your next trip
Lauren Bell

At last, holidaymakers can legally travel abroad – but there are still some hurdles to overcome before you can board that flight. 

While each country’s entry requirements will differ, you’ll also need to take into account whether it is on the green, amber or red list of the government's travel traffic light system, and what your rights are if its status changes after you book. 

From Covid-19 tests and passenger-locator forms to proof of vaccination and health insurance, we’ve outlined the key considerations to check when booking your next trip and the essential paperwork to organise before you go.

We are yet to find out what date travel will be permitted for  Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland residents.

Is your holiday destination on the green, amber or red list?

Green, amber, red or the watchlist: find out what traffic light colours mean for your chosen destination, what tests you’ll need to take to travel and whether you’ll need to go into quarantine on your return.

The green list has been announced  and will continue to be updated, with just a few countries that offer your best bet for a quarantine-free holiday, but do check they'll permit you entry before making a booking. Just because they're assigned to the 'green' list doesn't mean they will allow you in for leisure travel.

There is also a risk that a green list country could later be changed to amber or red status as lists will be re-assessed every three weeks. Therefore, book your trip with a company that is clear about refunds if a country moves from green to amber or red. 

Check quarantine requirements

Some destinations may ask you to quarantine if you’re arriving from a country that’s considered high risk in terms of coronavirus. Others will allow you to skip quarantine if you’ve been vaccinated, can prove you’ve recently recovered from Covid-19 or can provide a negative test. Check the entry requirements on the government website before setting off. Preferably, locate the government website of the country you’re due to fly too, as this may be more up to date.

Additionally, it’s important to check whether the UK expects you to quarantine on your return and whether this can take place at home (amber list) or at your expense in a hotel (red list). Hotel quarantine costs a whopping £1,750 for a single person, so don’t get caught out. England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will likely all have their own rules, so check the relevant government websites for information.

And if, before travelling, you find out you’re expected to quarantine at either end, a good package holiday provider will allow you to move your holiday to a new destination or date, or refund you, check the details before booking. Alternatively, check to see whether this scenario is covered by your insurance policy.

Choose a good package holiday provider - read our travel agent reviews. 

Check Covid-19 test requirements

Some countries will expect you to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test to allow you entry. In most cases this needs to be taken 72 hours before departure, but it could be 72 hours before you land. You must check this carefully in the weeks leading up your holiday and book a test to ensure it’s within the required window. Find out where to get a cheap Covid test.

Try to book with a package holiday company that will allow you to move your holiday if your test result doesn't come back in time. See more advice in our dos and don'ts of booking in 2021.

Some destinations may not insist on a test as long as you’ve had both vaccinations, or you’ve recently recovered from Covid-19. Each country has its own rules for entry and it’s up to you to check these carefully. However, if a country will allow you to travel there if you're fully vaccinated, you can use the NHS app to prove this, or request a letter by calling up the NHS 119 helpline, if you are an English resident. Information on travel for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland's residents has not been released yet.

Additionally, you need to provide a negative Covid-19 test before you return to the UK. The test must have been taken in the three days before your departure. The proof must be in English, French or Spanish. 

Check vaccine passport or proof of immunity requirements

In some countries, proof of previous infection from Covid-19 (via an antibody test), or vaccination (both doses) will be enough to allow you to fly there without the need for tests or quarantines.

You’ll need to have your paperwork ready to show to your airline and at border control. The NHS app in England is now ready to use as proof of vaccination status and you can create a QR code on there to prove you've had both vaccines. However, not all countries will necessarily accept it, so you need to check the government website before travelling. Plus, some countries might ask you to still show a negative test, even if you've had the jab.

 Read more on using the NHS app for travel.

Check Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advice 

If the FCDO advises against travel to a country, this could invalidate your insurance. If you’ve booked a package holiday, you will likely be offered a refund, which makes it easy to cancel or rebook for a time when your insurance will be valid. However, this isn’t always the case. Holiday companies that are Abta members are expected to offer an alternative holiday or a refund. 

 For flight or hotel-only booking you won’t be entitled to a refund, unless you paid for a refundable room or ticket. 

Your Holiday Paperwork Checklist


It might be an obvious one, but it should be first on any traveller’s checklist especially as the rules have changed due to Brexit. 

To travel to Schengen Area countries (which is most of Europe) you need to have at least six months left on your passport – but there’s an important caveat.

Passports are usually given 10 years’ validity, but some are issued with more if you renewed your current passport before the previous one expired. Any remaining validity (up to nine months) on the old one would likely have been added to the new passport’s expiry date.

But Schengen Area countries also require passports to be less than 10 years old on the day of travel. This means that you could have up to 15 months left on your passport and you’d still be refused entry to some countries. 

Read more on post-Brexit passports.

Passenger locator forms

The UK currently requires people entering the country to present a passenger locator form. It must be completed before you arrive and submitted within a 48-hour window of disembarking. You will likely be asked to show this when you board your plane, train or ferry.

You must fill out your passport and travel details, as well as the address where you’ll be staying. You’ll also need the reference numbers for the two Covid tests that you must take on day two and eight after arriving in the UK.

If you’re coming from a country on the red list that requires hotel quarantine upon landing, you will also need to provide the invoice number for the hotel you’re due to stay in. 

Some countries require an entry form

For Greece, for example, you need to complete a passenger locator form. Grenada requests a Pure Safe travel certificate and the Balearic islands require a health control form. Find out what additional paperwork your destination requires before travelling.

Global Health Insurance Card

Double check the expiry date on your Ehic (European Health Insurance Card), if it hasn’t run out yet it will continue to work as it always has. But if it has expired, replace it with a new Ghic (Global Health Insurance Card) which is free from the NHS. The card allows UK residents access to free or reduced cost healthcare in most European countries when travelling. 

You still need to take out a decent travel insurance policy – Ghic and Ehic aren’t a replacement. Everything you need to know about Ghic


Take out travel insurance at the same time as booking a trip.

From getting sick abroad to having to cancel your flights because of self-isolation, the coronavirus pandemic could wreck your holiday, even if you’ve been vaccinated. Read more about Coronavirus travel insurance

New documents required for driving holidays

Post Brexit you don’t need an International Driving Permit, but you will need a Green Card from your insurer and a GB sticker if you’re planning to drive your own card abroad.

If you’re hiring, you’ll need a VE103 certificate to prove you’re allowed to drive abroad. This can be acquired through either RAC Motoring Services or the BVRLA. 

For full details read our Q&A on driving in the EU after Brexit.