Check all the links provided and with the government website of the country you intend to visit before making any travel arrangements.

Guidance on where you can go on holiday overseas is changing constantly. And now there’s the traffic light system, as well as advice from the Foreign Office. Are they the same thing? Is one better than the other? There’s a lot to think about, and you shouldn’t book any trips abroad without doing some research. But once you’ve got your head around what to look out for, it should be plain sailing.

Travel BC – before covid – and now

The Foreign Office has always been the first port of call for finding out if the country you are planning to visit is safe. This government department is now called the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and it still maintains its detailed reports for every country in the world. If an area had an erupting volcano, civil unrest or other problem that would put visitors in danger, the FCDO would advise against travelling there, or only in urgent circumstances.

There are 226 countries and territories listed on the government's foreign travel advice page, which will tell you the general situation. As always, if it is not recommended you travel there, you should check your travel insurance for details of your cover.

This is the only thing that really needed checking before covid, and you still need to check the list now. But, of course, there are also some other things to consider now too.

Start close to home: covid restrictions in your area

The government has a comprehensive list of the current covid restrictions for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It includes full details about travelling abroad. Visit these pages for guidance specific to your area.

England www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-19-coronavirus-restrictions-what-you-can-and-cannot-do

Scotland www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

Wales https://gov.wales/coronavirus

Northern Ireland www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/coronavirus-covid-19

Traffic light country list explained

You may have heard about the traffic light system, which was introduced when international travel began to open up. There are red countries, amber countries and green countries. The important thing to remember about the traffic light system is that it does not indicate what countries you can or cannot visit. The different-coloured lists simply tell you what you need to do when you return home from these countries.

Designations and regulations can change, so you should check the government websites. Here’s a current summary of the different red, amber and green designations:

Here’s a summary of the different red, amber and green designations:

Red countries

  • Before returning home, you need to take a covid test, book a quarantine hotel in the UK and further tests, and complete a location form.
  • Once you are in the UK, you must stay in the quarantine hotel for 10 full days and have two more covid tests.

Amber countries

  • Before returning home, you need to take a covid test, order further tests to be sent to your home and complete a location form.
  • Once you are in the UK, you must quarantine at home for 10 full days and have two more covid tests. There is a Test and Release option to pay for a private test taken on day 5 which, if negative, will end the quarantine period early.

Green countries

  • Before returning home, you need to take a covid test, order a test to be sent to your home and complete a location form.
  • Once you are in the UK, you must take the covid test sent to your home within 2 days of your arrival.

Countries can move from one traffic light to another, so always check for the very latest advice.

You can find the full list with the latest designations here. This website also has links to the information you need if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Green for all clear?

The traffic light system is only a guide for what to do when you return from a certain country. It is not a system for checking what countries are OK to visit. For example, Australia is on the green list, meaning British residents can return to the UK from there without quarantine – but Australia has closed its borders and is not letting in tourists from overseas, so you cannot go on holiday there at the moment.

Also, remember that each country has its own entry conditions, so you do need to know if you’ll be allowed in before booking. And bear in mind countries’ entry conditions can change at any time.

Choosing your destination – things to consider

 Is the country one where the FCDO advises against all and/or non-essential travel?

 Do UK covid restrictions permit you to leave the area you live in?

 Do you know whether the country is on the red, amber or green list and what you need to do when you return?

 Is the country letting foreign tourists in?

 Do you pass the country’s entry conditions (i.e. fully vaccinated)

All booked? Get your travel insurance sorted

Well done for navigating what is quite a maze – you’re going to need that holiday! Find out more about high-quality Saga Travel Insurance and get a quote.

Saga Travel Insurance is underwritten by Great Lakes Insurance SE, UK Branch, which meets our high standards of quality and service.

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