Author: Philippa Kaye
Those of us in the travel fraternity (or what’s left of it) together with most of the nation, waited with baited-breath for the Government to announce which countries we will be able to travel to after the 17th May 2021. They have, rather inventively, but probably for simplicity, stuck with the traffic light colour scheme with which we are all familiar. But is travel over the next few months really going to be all that simple, are the colour codes, individual country specifications and more importantly, government disclaimers, as easy to decipher as we would have hoped?
I’ve tried to summarise it here for you.
Green – What does this really mean?
Travellers will need to:
• Take a private Covid test in their holiday destination before returning home - this can be a lateral flow or PCR test
• Fill in a passenger locator form online before leaving their destination.
• Take a private PCR test on or before day two of their arrival in England.
There will be no need to quarantine when back home, or take additional tests, unless the post-arrival test is positive. The cost of private PCR tests vary between suppliers, but the transport secretary said he hoped prices could come down to less than £50 per person. Tui Group is offering test packages for between £20 and £90.
Amber – Is it worth being an Amber Gambler?
People should not be travelling to amber countries for leisure.
If you must travel, then you must:
• Take a private Covid test before returning to England
• Fill in a passenger locator form online before heading home
• Self-isolate at home for 10 days
• Take a private PCR test on or before day two of their arrival in England and again on day eight
They could end self-isolation early by taking an optional PCR test on day five, under the existing test to release scheme.
Red – Do not pass go, do not collect GBP200.00
You should not be travelling to red countries for leisure.
Forty-three countries are now on the red list, including Turkey, India, Pakistan, Nepal, the Maldives, Brazil and South Africa.
People can only enter the UK from those countries if they are a UK or Irish national (or UK resident).
• Take a private Covid test before returning to England
• Fill in a passenger locator form online before they head home
• Book a 10-day hotel quarantine and testing package for each member of their group before departure
• Take a private PCR test on or before day two of their arrival in England and again on day eight.
The other important point to note here is that countries can be added to the red list at short notice. If a country's status changes while you are visiting, you will have to follow the stricter rules on your return.
Back to the Green List
If anybody was getting excited about countries on the green list, well, you may be somewhat disappointed. However, the list will be reviewed every three weeks. Countries can be added or removed at short notice and it is anticipated that some of the more popular destinations such as Greece, France and Spain will be added in June or July depending on their vaccination rates.
So, onto the actual list. Not only is this, shall we say, somewhat limited even at first glance, but there are also a few red herrings in there – red being the operative word, or should that be non-operative?
The 12 countries and territories on the green list are:
• New Zealand
• Faroe Islands
• Falkland Islands
• South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands
• St Helena, Tristan de Cunha and Ascension Island
The most possible places to travel to with minimal hassle are:
Israel: Not your classic summer holiday destination however it is purported to have stunning beaches, good snorkelling & diving and, according to The Telegraph, Tel Aviv is meant to be one of the Mediterranean’s underrated gems. I have to say, I’m rather tempted.
Is it really that easy? Israel has said that, from 23 May, they will welcome anyone who has been fully vaccinated. They may impose a pre departure test.
Iceland – Wonderful for road tripping, hot springs and whale watching – all three of those had me sold, though I’m not quite so convinced by their culinary delicacies of fermented shark or smoked puffin, still, it could be one way of shedding the lockdown load.
Is it really that easy? They require proof of full vaccinations or a full recovery from Covid.
Gibraltar - The southernmost point of Europe and is also strategically positioned at the western end of the Mediterranean and therefore has a positively balmy climate and is as close as you’re going to get to Spain for the immediate future. Of course, it is most famous for its rock (a limestone monolith if anyone is interested) and its monkeys, actually Barbary macaques, the only wild monkey population in Europe so you would be wise to hold on to your handbags, oh and it might get a little crowded given that it is just 3 miles long and 0.7 miles wide.
Is it really that easy? Well, they have said that they won’t even require PCR testing.
Then comes the more tricky:
Singapore – For City Slickers? Well, they are trying to change that perception. Until recently, it was often dismissed as little more than a ‘stop over city’. However, the city has rapidly evolved into a thriving and exciting hub for tourists and locals alike. It is a spot where many different cultures come together in a vibrant and eclectic mix however they are now trying to put an emphasis on their history & culture, nature & wildlife, food & drink as well as adventure experiences.
Is it really that easy? The answer is no. All short-term travellers entering Singapore are required to stay in their declared departure point for the last 21 consecutive days before departing for Singapore. Travellers entering via the Reciprocal Green Lane are required to stay in their declared departure point for at least 14 consecutive days before departing for Singapore. For more information: https://www.visitsingapore.com/travel-guide-tips/travel-requirements/
Faroe Islands: A little cluster of 18 islands 200miles north west of Scotland Enroute to Iceland and Norway, technically part of Denmark and most commonly inhabited by puffins and sheep. They are rugged and wild and perfect for lovers of the great, and somewhat quirky outdoors. Definitely on my list.
Is it really that easy? In the absence of specific information, I would stick with the, must be fully vaccinated rule.
And then we have the red herrings:
Australia and New Zealand are the first two red herrings as they have made it pretty clear that they will not be accepting travellers at least until the end of 2021.
Brunei – I’d heard of it but couldn’t tell you more than that. A cursory google glance taught me that is a pint-sized and fabulously wealthy oil-rich sultanate on the northern coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. It is covered in lush rainforest, dotted with beautiful mosques, and blessed with amazing food. For those who would like to know more: https://www.bruneitourism.com/ I bet this website has never seen so many hits.
Is it that easy? Well, from what I can gather, the simple answer is no. The only information I can find (at a glance) is that they are only letting their own nationals in, no tourists and quarantining is compulsory for 14 days.
Falkland Islands - a wonderful, natural and (particularly now) crowd free wildlife destination, though not the easiest to get to being 400m off the SE coast of South America.
Is it really that easy? You must provide proof of a negative PCR test for Covid-19 no more than 5 days prior to arrival in Senegal. As all flights via the UK stop in Dakar. For further information www.fig.gov.fk/covid-19/travel/southbound
South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands is a British Overseas Territory in the southern Atlantic Ocean though rather helpfully, they are only accessible by sea and there is no visitor accommodation. Most people who do visit do so by cruise ship or, and I’d hazard a guess at considerably fewer, by yacht ensuring that they fall into this, not very helpful red herring category.
St Helena, Tristan de Cunha and Ascension Island. Where? And well you might ask. Again, they are British Overseas territories, located in the South Atlantic Ocean between southern Africa and South America. Again, I have to say that I am intrigued.
Is it really that easy? No. Even if you do figure out a way to get there, all arrivals are required to have had a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before travelling and are subject to compulsory quarantine for 14 days and will be tested on arrival and at the end of quarantine. So, unless you have totally fallen in love with isolation and a lack of wifi, I’m guessing you might want to give them a miss.
So, there you have it, I don’t think that Grant Shapps (does anyone else wish there was a ch in his name?) will be congratulating himself on having thrilled the English (rules differ for the rest of GB) with this list, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. As for me, I think I’m going to stick to exploring more of Yorkshire for now, next stop The Dales.
Philippa Kaye is an avid explorer and author of Escape to India – probably the worst title for a book in the world right now! Still, it’s a fun read.