EXPLAINED: The European countries on England’s ‘amber’ travel list and what that means

EXPLAINED: The European countries on England's 'amber' travel list and what that means
Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP
In preparation for reopening travel, the UK government has published a "traffic light" system assigning a level of red, amber or green to every country in the world. Here's the situation for the nine countries covered by The Local.

At present the UK rules prohibit travel out of the country for non-essential purposes, meaning holidays and visits to family members in other countries are not possible, although there is an exemption in the rules for second-home owners – full details here.

However, this will be lifted from May 17th, and at that stage the “traffic light” system will kick in.

This involves giving each country a designation – red, amber or green – based on data including case numbers and vaccination rates in the country.

The list was published on Friday and most European countries were on the amber list. Portugal was one of those countries on the green list as was Gibraltar.

The list as published applies to England only.

The devolved nations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have not announced when they will lift travel restrictions but have not so far indicated that they intend to impose different rules to England’s.

This essentially means that travel to England is possible – but with strict rules around testing and quarantine.

On the amber list are all the countries The Local covers; Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain (including the Balearics and Canary islands), Sweden and Switzerland.

The majority of France’s overseas territories are also on the amber list but French Guiana, which borders Brazil, is on the red list, which means travel is barred to everyone apart from British or Irish nationals or those with residency in the UK, and all arrivals need to pay for a quarantine hotel.

You can find the full list here.

People can travel from amber list countries for any reason – there is no need to prove that your trip is essential and entry is not limited to UK nationals or residents.

However, there are rules on testing and quarantine in place.

Arrivals must;

  • Have a negative Covid test to show at the border
  • Complete the passenger locator form – find that HERE
  • Quarantine for 10 days – this can be done in a location of their choice including the home of a friend or family member and there is no need to pay for a “quarantine hotel”.
  • Arrivals also have to pay for travel-testing kits which cost around £200 per person.
  • Essentially this the regime currently in place for most arrivals.

It should also be noted that the UK government advises against travel to amber list countries for leisure or tourism reasons. This isn’t a travel ban, but this kind of official advice can invalidate travel insurance, so check your policy before you travel.

There are some exemptions to the quarantine for compassionate reasons or for people in certain professions – find out more here.

Most countries require a negative Covid test for arrivals from the UK and some have quarantine in place, so check carefully the rules of the country you are travelling to or from.

Vaccine passports

The UK has not so far come to any agreements on recognition of vaccine passports with European countries and the EU’s vaccine passport scheme will not launch until June so, for the moment, even fully vaccinated people will still need to comply with testing rules.

The EU’s ‘digital health pass’ is set to launch in mid June, while France has set a date of June 6th for its own health pass, however countries need to agree to mutually recognise each other’s vaccine passports.


The government says the ratings will be revised every three weeks from May 17th, and some countries can also be put on a ‘watchlist’ if they are set to change to a different rating.

Member comments

  1. Is anyone actually considering going to the UK for holiday if you have to quarantine for 10 days before your vacation even starts? Even if your vaccinated? I’m for sure not. My British family won’t risk coming to visit us either because they can’t quarantine upon their return to England? What good is vaccination if they still treat you like you are sick? What good is vaccinated most of the people if you still think they can get sick and die? It’s not logical. Who knows when we’ll ever see our UK family again.

  2. Does anyone know whether we can use an NHS lateral flow test as the rapid antigenic test for entry into Italy? These are now provided free of charge to all in the UK and we are being actively encouraged to test twice a week so I can’t see why they couldn’t be used. A negative result is evidenced by a text or email from the NHS with one’s name, date of birth and date of test so would seem to fulfil requirements?

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