Can I go to amber list countries?

20 May 2021

The following information is correct as of 20 May 2021.

“The official Government advice is very clear that people should not travel to amber or red list countries or territories. People should not travel to amber list countries for a holiday.”

“We don’t want to stop travel altogether and the reason, as Matt Hancock set out, that we have the amber list is there will be reasons why people feel they need to travel, either to visit family or indeed to visit friends. They can travel to those countries but they then have to observe quarantine when they return and have two tests after returning.”

“It is very, very clear Mr Speaker, you should not be going to an amber list country except for some extreme circumstance such as the serious illness of a family member. You should not be going to an amber list country on holiday.”

Several politicians have said possibly contradictory things about whether or not you are allowed to travel to countries on the government’s amber list, and for what reason. 

Since non-essential foreign travel resumed on 17 May 2021, a traffic light restriction system came into force. The government puts countries and territories on one of three lists: red, amber and green. Travellers to England must follow certain rules depending on the most high risk country they have come from, or made a transit stop in. 

Countries’ traffic light colour is subject to change, depending on how risky countries are deemed to be, and the list will be reviewed every three weeks. 

But most of the confusion has arisen over countries with amber status. There is no law banning travel to these countries, but you must follow certain rules on returning, and government advice is to only go there for certain reasons.

Honesty in public debate matters

You can help us take action – and get our regular free email

What does the government recommend?

Despite being legal, the government recommends that people “should not travel to amber list countries or territories.” Elsewhere on the website, it says “people should not be travelling” to amber countries “for leisure”.

At PMQs on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said: “We are trying to move away from endlessly legislating for everything and to rely on guidance and asking people to do the right thing.

“And it is very, very clear, Mr Speaker, you shouldn't go to an amber list country except for some extreme circumstances, such as the serious illness of a family member.

“You shouldn't be going to an amber list country on holiday.”

It is legal in England to travel abroad to any country, though some countries may have restrictions on admitting passengers. However, there are different quarantine rules in place for people returning from countries on each list, and there are fines for breaking these rules. People living in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow separate advice. 

People travelling to England from any country need proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow Covid test before they travel. They must also book and pay for a day two Covid-19 test and fill in a passenger locator form.

People returning from green list countries have to pay for and take a PCR test on or before day two after arriving, but don’t have to quarantine unless the test comes back positive. 

People returning from amber list countries have to quarantine at home for ten days and take a PCR test two days and eight days after returning. However they can end quarantine after five days if they pay for another test on day five which comes back negative. 

People returning from red list countries have to pay to quarantine in a managed hotel for ten days, and also take a PCR test two days and eight days after returning.  

Children aged under four returning from any country do not need to take a PCR test. 

There had been a ‘Stay in the UK’ regulation for leisure travel from England but this was lifted from 17 May 2021. Before this, any leisure travel abroad was illegal.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.