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Where you can go on holiday from 17 May

Holidays from the UK are banned at least until 17 May, but next month – on or after 12 April to be more precise – the Government has promised to let us know when we can travel again. Woo-hoo.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last month that he expects foreign holidays to resume from 17 May (but he made it clear this date isn’t guaranteed).

Lifting the ban on foreign holidays depends on a number of factors including the vaccine rollout in the UK, the number of Covid infections and hospitalisations and the number of infections overseas.

But these do seem to be going in the right direction, which is giving us hope that overseas holidays will be allowed from May.

But even after our Government says we can travel overseas, some countries might keep their borders closed or restrict our access.

Some countries have already said they will only allow holidaymakers who’ve been fully vaccinated against Covid. Others will insist we have negative Covid tests, others might insist we are vaccinated AND tested.

Will you need the Covid vaccination to go on holiday?

Also, we still might need to be tested when we return to the UK, or we might have to quarantine, either in a Government-approved hotel or at home.

At the moment, anyone returning to the UK must take THREE Covid tests at an average cost of around £300.

Where to get the cheapest Covid tests

You must also quarantine for up to 10 days. (It’s expected – but yet to be confirmed – that this will be ditched from May).

Currently, if you’re returning from one of the UK’s  ‘red list’ countries you must pay £1,750 to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.

Portugal and Mauritius will be removed from the red list on Friday morning, but Ethiopia, Oman, Somalia and Qatar will be added, bringing the total number of red list countries to 35.

Travelling to any of these countries would almost certainly invalidate standard travel insurance policies too.

Best Covid travel insurance

The good news is that when Portugal is removed from the red list you’ll be able to travel anywhere in Europe without being forced into hotel quarantine when you return to the UK.

But the Government has made it clear that destinations can be added to the red list with little or no notice.

Further potentially good news today is that Turkey has said it could allow unrestricted access to British holidaymakers from next month. No testing, no vaccination required.

So where are we likely to be able to travel from 17 May if the ban on foreign holidays is lifted?

Spain (possibly, maybe)

The country’s Prime Minister announced earlier this year that wouldn’t allow ‘mass tourism’ until it had vaccinated 70% of its population. This isn’t due to happen until the end of the summer.

Spain’s Tourism Minister has since suggested that foreign holidaymakers might be allowed to return once 30% to 40% of Spain’s population has been jabbed, which could be in June.

This has yet to be confirmed. Also, we don’t know yet what entry restrictions will be put in place. Will Spain only allow vaccinated tourists or will we have to be tested? We don’t know.

France  (hopefully)

French Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne recently announced on Twitter that entry restrictions on British holidaymakers will be lifted soon.

This has yet to be confirmed by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

When travel to France is allowed, it is likely you’ll be asked for proof of a negative Covid PCR test, taken no more than 72 hours earlier. Children under 11 are currently exempt from testing in France.

Arrivals will still need to show evidence of a negative Covid test taken in the previous 72 hours.

Where holidays May

Greece (almost definitely)

Brits will be allowed to holiday in Greece from May if they have been fully vaccinated or they can provide evidence of a previous Covid infection or they have a negative Covid test taken no more than 72 hours before departure.

In addition, tourists will be subjected to random Covid testing.

News that Greece will reopen to the Brits has led to a big increase in bookings, according to travel companies.

Cyprus (almost certainly)

Cyprus says it will reopen in May to British holidaymakers who’ve been fully vaccinated at least seven days before arrival.

It seems likely – but this hasn’t yet been confirmed – that arrivals who haven’t been vaccinated will be asked to present a negative Covid test. Young children are likely to be exempt from testing.

Authorities in Cyprus might still carry out random tests on arrivals.

Portugal holidays

Portugal (definitely)

Portugal is the latest country to announce that British tourists will be welcome back from 17 May.

You must either have proof you’re vaccinated against Covid, that you the antibodies, or you’ve taken a negative Covid test within the previous 72 hours. It is likley that children over the age of two will have to produce a negative test.

Turkey (very likely)

Turkey seems likely to become the first country in the Mediterranean to allow unrestricted access to British holidaymakers.

Its Tourism Minister says the country is planning to allow us back without Covid tests and without the need for us to be vaccinated either.

Mehmet Nuri Ersoy told the Telegraph this will be confirmed after 15 April, when it plans to examine our Covid rates.

If rates are higher than expected, it is still likely Turkey will reopen to British holidaymakers but we might have to take Covid tests.

Whether we will have to quarantine back home is another matter, but this is the case for all destinations.



Dubai (open, but red listed)

British tourists can enter Dubai with a negative PCR Covid test, taken no more than 72 hours before departure. If you don’t have a negative test, you can take one on arrival and quarantine in your hotel until you get the results.

However, if Dubai remains on the UK Government’s red list in May, you’ll have to pay £1,750 to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel when you return to the UK.

Egypt (open)

Egypt is so eager to welcome back British tourists that it is offering cheap Covid tests on arrival and on departure at airports in Red Sea resorts.

If you arrive in Sharm el Sheikh or Hurghada without proof of a negative PCR test (taken no more than 72 hours earlier) you can pay US$30 for one at the airport. Children under 6 are exempt.

Egypt is also offering free hotel quarantine if you test positive and free medical treatment for Covid.



Iceland (open to vaccinated holidaymakers)

Iceland is already allowing unrestricted access to UK holidaymakers who have been vaccinated. However, it hasn’t said yet if tourists who haven’t been vaccinated will be allowed access from 17 May, with or without a test.

Currently, anyone travelling to Iceland without the Covid vaccine must present a negative test, take a second test on arrival and quarantine for five to six days, after which a further negative test is required before they can end their self-isolation. Tourists who haven’t been vaccinated are banned.

Mexico (open)

You can travel to Mexico without the need for Covid testing or a vaccination making this one of the best choices for long-haul holidays this summer.

Screening might take place on arrival and if you show any symptoms you’ll be asked to take a Covid test. If it’s positive, you’ll have to quarantine.

The Maldives (open)

You can also travel to the Maldives, which has remained open to British tourists, but you must present a negative PCR Covid test on arrival. The test can be taken up to 96 hours before you arrive.

Dominican Republic (open)

This is one of several Caribbean islands to have made it clear British tourists are welcome without a vaccine, but testing is required.

Less well-known countries

A number of (up till now) less popular destinations are already open to British tourists. Some require Covid tests, some a vaccine. These include North Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro (with a PCR test), and Romania and Estonia (if you’ve had the vaccine).



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 TravelMole.com, bylines also include The Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, the London Evening Standard, Which? and The South China Morning Post.

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