The Travel Traffic Light System Explained

The Travel Traffic Light System Explained

The Travel Traffic Light System Explained

As the ‘Stay in the UK’ restriction is lifted, we look to the future with a renewed sense of hope!  The launch of a traffic light system on the 17th May 2021 means that travellers no longer require a ‘reasonable’ excuse to travel, such as work, education and volunteering. The system, however, involves a three-tier structure which comes with varying levels of protocols and it’s not all plain sailing for international travel just yet.

We’ve put together a guide to help our customers make sense of it all, but of course things are changing rapidly, so if you’re reading this, please do check for the latest updates prior to making travel arrangements and booking Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests.

Travel Insurance on the other hand is dictated to by the guidance of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and not the Travel Traffic Light System, so it’s really important to check FCDO advice before travelling so not to invalidate your travel insurance policy.

How does the travel traffic light system work?

A colour grouping method has been adopted by the Department of Transport which ranks countries according to their respective Covid-19 risks. The higher the risk, the more stringent the measures. The following criteria is used to place countries as green, amber or red:

  • The percentage of vaccinated people;
  • The rate of infection.
  • The prevalence of variants; and
  • Their access to up-to-date scientific data and genome sequencing

Green Status

There are a number of countries on the green list, however, it’s worth noting that some still have domestic restrictions in place for incoming travellers.  At the time of writing this guide, the four green-listed countries that are open to tourists who are exempt from quarantine are:


The population of Gibraltar became fully vaccinated back in March 2021 and as part of the British Union Territory, welcomes those coming from the UK without the requirement of a PCR test.


Travellers are welcome providing they can present a certificate of being fully vaccinated or show proof of having a previous Covid infection. The Icelandic Government will accept the UK NHS vaccination card as evidence. Holidaymakers will need to pre-register their visit at and undergo at least one Covid-19 screening (free of charge) on arrival. Visitors will have to wait at their accommodation for a test to arrive, typically within 24 hours.


As of the 23rd May 2021, vaccinated tourists can visit Israel. A PCR test is required prior to travel with a negative test result presented within 72 hours. You’ll be required to take another PCR test upon arrival.

UPDATE 4th JUNE 2021:

Amber Status

Any country not listed as green or red should be assumed as amber. Popular holiday hotspots such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece are on the amber list with Portugal to be added on the 8th June 2021. Despite these countries opening their borders to arrivals from the UK, The UK Government advises against all but essential family and business travel to amber rated countries.

Passengers who have visited or transited through an amber country on their way to England, must:

  • Complete a passenger locator form
  • Provide a valid negative covid-19 test result prior to travel
  • Quarantine / self-isolate at home for 10 days
  • Take a private PCR sequencing test on day 2 and day 8 after arrival

Passengers will be given the option to reduce their isolation period with an optional PCR test on day 5 under the Test Release Scheme.

Red Status

This list of countries that are red rated can be found on the UK Government website here:

It will come as no surprise that the UK Government advises against all travel to red rated countries, and to protect against the virus and importation of variant strains, those who have visited or transited through a red country in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England with the exception of British and Irish citizens with residents’ rights, who must stay in pre-booked government approved accommodation for 10 days.  The estimated costs to individuals to quarantine, including transfer from the airport, food and two PCR tests, is around £1,750.

Helpful links:

Guidance for British people travelling abroad during the Covid pandemic:

Green, Amber and Red list rules for entering England:

Red listed countries:

Amber listed countries:

Green listed countries:

FDCO travel advice during Covid:

Countries and territories can move between lists and the UK Government intends to update lists every three weeks. You can sign up to receive alerts by email when visiting

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