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Can I travel to an amber country – or get a refund for my holiday?

The ban on foreign holidays will lift on 17 May for England and Scotland, but you’ll still have to quarantine when you return home from the majority of countries.

The UK Government will allow quarantine-free travel to just 12 countries on its ‘green’ travel, and most of these countries aren’t your typical holiday destinations.

The majority of countries – including Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Croatia –  have been placed on the UK Government’s amber list, which means that you’ll have to self-isolate at home for up to 10 days when you return.

You’ll also have to take a Covid test before leaving your destination, two PCR Covid tests when you get back, and a third on day five if you want to end your quarantine early. A testing package has to be booked from a Government approved provider before you travel, and typically costs around £180.


Is travel to an amber country allowed?

From 17 May it will no longer be illegal to take foreign holidays but the Government is trying to discourage us from travelling to countries that pose the highest health risk.

It says that we shouldn’t travel for leisure to countries on the amber list, but this is only advice so you will be allowed to go to an amber country if you want to.

However, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is advising against non-essential travel to many destinations,  which might invalidate your travel insurance.

Most standard travel insurance policies will not provide cover for travel to a country against the FCDO advice so if you still want to travel you’ll have to buy insurance from a specialist provider, such as Battleface.


I don’t want to travel to an amber country, can I get a refund for my holiday or flight?

Package tour operators are likely to cancel holidays to amber destinations, especially if the FCDO is advising against travel. If your holiday is cancelled, you will be entitled to a refund within 14 days.

Any travel company that is a member of ABTA is obliged to cancel holidays and refund holidays to any countries where the FCDO says we shouldn’t travel.

If the FCDO isn’t advising against travel to your destination, it’s possible the holidays will still go ahead and they might not offer you a refund. However, they should give you the option to change the date or destination of your holiday, but you might have to pay more if your new holiday is more expensive.

Airlines are likely to continue to fly to destinations on the amber list and they might not offer you a refund, but you might have the option to change the date or destination of your flight.


Should I travel to an amber country or change my holiday/flight?

The UK Government clearly doesn’t think it’s a good idea for us to travel to destinations on its amber list due to high rates of Covid infections or the risk of bringing a new variant into the country.

It is attempting to limit this risk by making it a legal requirement for travellers to take a Covid test before leaving to return home, plus at least two more Covid tests when we arrive back in the UK.

However, there’s also a danger that an amber country will be moved onto the Government’s red list, meaning you’d have to pay up to £1,750 pp to quarantine for 10 days in a Government-approved hotel when you return.

The Government has said it will try to give three weeks’ notice of any changes, but Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says he’s prepared to move a country from amber to red very quickly if necessary.

It seems sensible, therefore, not to travel to an amber country unless you can afford the time and money to quarantine in a hotel when you get back.





Linsey McNeill

A journalist and travel writer of 35 years' standing, a once-a-week yogi, terrible skier and out-of-order mum to 2 teens. Previously Editor of, bylines also include The Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, the London Evening Standard, Which? and The South China Morning Post.

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