General /May 04, 2021

Travel Traffic Light System

Effective 17th May, the UK government is withdrawing its blanket ban on non-essential overseas travel and replacing it with a travel traffic light system.

Travel Traffic Light

The following information is correct as of 6th October for travel from the end of October. This information applies to residents of England only. Variations may apply for residents of Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland.

Understanding the different colour designations

Rest of World (ie not Red)

If you are fully vaccinated……

Fully vaccinated travellers will no longer need to take a Covid test before returning to the UK. You will however still have to complete an online Passenger Locator form within 48 hours of the flight. On their return, passengers will then need to take a lateral flow Covid test on or before Day 2 of their arrival back into England. There are then no further requirements regards quarantine or Covid testing.

If you are not fully vaccinated……

No more than 72 hours before travelling to the UK, passengers will need to take a pre-departure Covid test at their travel destination. They will also need to complete an online Passenger Locator form within 48 hours of the flight. On their return, passengers will then need to take a PCR Covid test on or before Day 2 of their arrival back into England.

In addition, regardless of the result of the Covid tests, non-vaccinated travellers will be required to self-isolate at home for 10 days and take a further PCR test on Day 8.


Travellers returning from a destination designated as Red will need to follow the same guidelines as non-vaccinated passengers (see above). However, on returning to the UK, travellers will need to isolate at a government mandated quarantine hotel for 10 days, at a cost of £2285 per person, as well as taking PCR Covid tests on Days 2 & 8.

Please note that the required PCR tests on arrival back into the UK must be booked before you depart on holiday and the details entered into your Passenger Locator Form.

Traffic Light Explanation

How does the UK government decide on which countries are Red & Rest of the World.

As per the UK’s Global Travel Taskforce report, the following criteria are the most important factors in determining the colour designation of a specific destination.

  • The percentage of their population that have received a Covid vaccination
  • The rate of infection in the applicable destination
  • The prevalence of variants of concern of Covid
  • The country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing

How often will the travel travel lights change?

The government have advised that the individual designations will be constantly reviewed and can change at any time – the example of India shows how quickly the situation can change.

However, for the most part, any changes will be made every 3 weeks.

What does all this mean for travel

The first point to make is that the traffic light system relates to travel from and to England. Variations may apply for residents of Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland.

Just because the Department of Health in England, Scotland etc designates a destination as Green doesn’t mean that you will immediately be able to jump on a plane – many countries will chose to bar UK visitors for quite some time.

Even if countries permit travel from the UK, they may have their own Covid restrictions and laws in addition to those imposed by the UK, ie you may need to take a PCR Covid test before travel to your intended destination and / or take a test on arrival.

You may also wish to check out our more recent feature on Virgin Atlantic Covid tests.

Covid 19 Test

Where do our featured destinations stand in terms of the travel traffic light system?

Cuba – Cuba is currently designated as Red. With Covid cases having fallen significantly from their summer highs, we expect / hope that Cuba will be Rest of the World from the start of 2022.

Guatemala – Guatemala is currently designated as Rest of the World and we expect it to remain so for the rest of 2021. As there are no direct flights between the UK & Guatemala, travellers will also need to take into account the travel traffic light designation of wherever one flies via (generally the US).

Mexico – Mexico is currently designated as Red and we expect it to remain so for the rest of 2021 before, hopefully, transitioning to Rest of the World in early 2022.

Confused or unclear on any aspect of the new travel traffic light system or regulations in relation to our featured travel destinations? Simply drop us an email on or give us a call on 01580 764796.




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