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The UK's new Covid-19 travel rules: what you need to know from October 2021

The traffic light system for travel and its numerous updates dominated the summer but it has now been streamlined into two lists: red and rest of the world. But what does this mean and where can you actually travel to from England right now?

Traditional windmills on the island of Mykonos, Greece.

Photograph by Getty Images
By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 4 Oct 2021, 19:00 BST, Updated 3 Jan 2022, 15:48 GMT

The traffic light system has been replaced with a new streamlined system. From 04:00 on 4 October, the amber and green lists became one single ‘rest of the world’ category. The red list will remain for countries considered high risk. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s the rest of the world (ROW) list?

The rest of the world list encompasses any country that’s not on the red list, formerly the green and amber lists. These are the countries you can travel to right now, in theory. Though, there are different entry requirements for countries around the world. Many, for example, are not accepting international travellers right now. The Skyscanner Covid-19 map is a useful resource. 

What do I have to do when returning to England from a country on the ROW list?

There are two options: one for fully vaccinated travellers and one for unvaccinated travellers.

Fully vaccinated travellers will no longer have to prove a negative PCR test result before re-entering the UK. To be deemed fully vaccinated, you must have been vaccinated in the UK, EU, US or one of 18 other recognised countries and have completed your course 14 days before arrival. You will, however, have to have a day two test back in England.

For the full list of rules for vaccinated travellers, check out the government guidelines.

Unvaccinated travellers will have to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test before returning to England, complete a passenger locator form and book and pay for a day two and a day eight test to be taken after arrival in England. In addition to this, the 10-day quarantine at home remains in place for unvaccinated travellers. Test to Release is still an option for unvaccinated passengers who wish to shorten their isolation period.

What is the red list and what does it mean?

The Department for Travel has published the full red list on its website — please check before travelling. Red list rules apply to all travellers, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated. There are currently 54 countries on the red list. It will be reviewed every three weeks. On Monday 11 October, 47 countries will be removed from the red list, leaving just seven on this list. The seven countries will be: Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Venezuela. All other countries fall into the rest of the world list. 

What are the red list rules?

Before arriving in England, travellers must take a pre-departure Covid-19 test, book a quarantine hotel package and complete the passenger locator form. All rules are detailed on the government travel advice website

Is anything else due to change?

Later in October, the day two PCR test requirement will be eased. This will be replaced with a cheaper lateral flow test.

Please note: this is England-specific. Other parts of the UK has their own rules/systems in place. Check out rules for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales

For the latest updates, visit the government’s travel advice website

For more pandemic-related information, see our Covid travel hub

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