New UK travel rules in full – latest update explained as red list slashed

The traffic light system with the UK red list, amber list and green list has been scrapped – and replaced with a go- or no-go system with vastly different rules depending on whether you’re double-vaccinated

A beach in Turkey
A beach in Turkey

Half-term holidays are finally ‘go’ for double-jabbed Brits without having to do expensive tests.

The amber list will be scrapped from October 4 and replaced with two categories – the red list and the ‘rest of the world’.

If you’re double-jabbed and coming from the rest of the world, you’ll no longer have to do two tests from October 4. Instead you’ll have to do one test; initially a PCR, but later a cheaper lateral flow test.

Eight countries are also coming off the red list from September 22, including Turkey, Pakistan and the Maldives.

Here’s everything you need to know about the changes announced today.

What are the current rules being scrapped?

Under the previous system, the UK splits foreign countries into red, amber and green lists with different rules for each.

Travel to the UK from red list countries is banned, unless you are a British or Irish national or have UK residence rights.

If you enter the UK from a red list country, you must spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel costing £2,285 per adult.

Amber list countries have two sets of rules – one set for vaccinated people and another set for unvaccinated people.

Double-vaccinated people entering the UK from amber list countries must pay for a PCR or lateral flow test before their flight, and a PCR test within two days of landing. They do not have to isolate.

Unvaccinated people entering the UK from amber list countries must pay for a PCR or lateral flow test before their flight, and two PCR tests – one on Day 2 and another on Day 8. They must also quarantine at home for 10 days.

Green list countries have the same rules as for vaccinated people returning from amber list countries.

So if you enter the UK from a green list country, you do not have to isolate but you do have to take two tests – one before your flight and one after.

Travellers to the UK currently operate under a complex set of rules


AFP via Getty Images)

What are the new rules in the latest update?

The ‘amber list’ has been scrapped entirely, leaving just two categories – the red list and the rest of the world.

For ’no-go’ red list countries, arrivals must still quarantine in hotels.

But for the rest of the world, some restrictions will be abolished on return to the UK – as long as you are vaccinated. This means you had your second dose at least 14 days ago.

In contrast, if you’re NOT fully vaccinated, it appears restrictions will actually be tightened up compared to what they are now.

Meanwhile, the number of countries on the red or ‘no-go’ list has been cut from 62 to 54.

Below we go into the changes in more detail.

UK travel amber list abolished

The amber list will be abolished from October 4.

Instead, any country not on the red list will count as the rest of the world.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the “simplified measures” would “strike the right balance to manage the public health risk as No.1 priority.”

UK travel red list cut down

Today’s announcement will cut down the ‘red list’ of countries from 62 to 54 from Wednesday 22 September.

It comes from complaints by MPs and travel firms that the net had been cast too wide – and many people returning from abroad were no longer having their tests “sequenced” for variants.

But actually the reduction in the red list is far more modest than promised. Some excited briefing had claimed about 30 countries would be removed.

According to reports, Maldives, Turkey, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Oman, Kenya and Sri Lanka will be removed from the red list. But most do not allow Brits in.

A passenger wearing a face mask at Heathrow Airport


AFP via Getty Images)

No more PCR tests for the vaccinated from late October

From late October – date to be confirmed – testing requirements will change for double-jabbed people coming from the rest of the world.

From October 4, vaccinated travellers will no longer have to take pre-departure tests within 72 hours of their flight home.

From the later date in October, they WILL still have to take a Day 2 test – but this will be allowed to be a much cheaper lateral flow test, rather than a gold standard expensive PCR.

But you’ll have to pay for lateral flow tests

Vaccinated travellers returning from green list countries will be able to get cheaper lateral flow tests, instead of a gold-standard PCR on Day 2, from late October.

But despite lateral flows being available by their millions from pharmacies and the NHS, holidaymakers will still have to pay.

The free NHS tests will not be accepted, so travellers will face a cost of about £30 for each lateral flow kit, according to reports.

We’re waiting for confirmation of the details from the government.

All unvaccinated people now have to isolate?

It was widely trailed that all unvaccinated adults coming from the rest of the world would have to isolate at home. (Or in a hotel if from the red list).

We are waiting for details of this from the government.

When is the next travel update?

All these measures will take effect from October.

Normally, travel updates come every three weeks so the next one would be due in the first week of October.

We are waiting for details from the government.

Could all this be reversed later this winter?

Boris Johnson ‘s spokesman refused to rule out the possibility of some restrictions returning on travel later in the winter, if Covid surges.

He replied: “As a responsible government we will take necessary steps to protect public health.”

However, he added: “We are well placed to take further steps with regard to easing travel restrictions and indeed we continue to have one of the most open economies and societies in Europe and the G7.”


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