UK Foreign Office reveals travel green list for May 17th

  • UK government will deliver an update on the traffic light system for foreign travel on Friday, May 7th
  • Foreign Office quietly changes travel advice and hints at what countries could feature on the UK’s travel green list
  • When can I travel to Europe and the US?
  • Airlines and agents anticipating a boom in bookings for the 2021 summer holidays

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that foreign travel will be resuming on May 17th but said that British holidaymakers should continue to err on the side of caution as mutant variants continue to pose a threat.

According to newswire reports, there is an abundance of countries being considered under the new traffic light system, including holiday hotspots in Europe.

However, with just over ten days to go until the proposed restart date for international travel, airlines and other travel firms are furious over the lack of certainty concerning which countries will be added to the green travel list so that they can make the necessary preparations.

The UK government has said that they will deliver an update on summer travel on Friday, May 7th, with international travel expected to be given the official go-ahead on May 10th.

However, within the last week, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has quietly amended travel advice and COVID updates for European countries and other regions of the world.

While the UK government is yet to make an official announcement, the changes could indicate which countries will be added to Britain’s “green” list.

Travel abroad in 2021

Foreign Office quietly amends travel advice and fuels summer optimism

The Foreign Office has amended advice for travel abroad in 2021, taking into account the improving coronavirus developments in countries worldwide.

According to reports, countries such as Malta, Gibraltar, Portugal, and Israel could make a feature on Britain’s travel green list as the FCDO now regards these countries as low risk.

Meanwhile, the European holiday hotspots of Greece, France and Spain could be categorised as “green” from as early as June.

The FCDO has already revised advice for the Greek Islands: Corfu, Crete, Kos, Rhodes and Zakynthos in Greece, and Spain’s Canary Islands, all of which are considered low risk.

In the Caribbean, the British Virgin Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbados and Cuba are no longer regarded as high-risk destinations.

Similarly, in the Asia-Pacific region, countries such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand – the latter two having extremely low COVID-19 infection rates – also have no travel warnings and are therefore likely to feature on the UK’s travel green list.

Under the British government’s new traffic light system, British holidaymakers arriving from “green” holiday destinations will not be required to self-isolate upon their return. However, they must produce a negative pre-departure COVID test at both legs of their journey.

When can I travel to Europe and the US

When can I travel to Europe?

According to the founder and CEO of the PC Agency, Paul Charles, ministers could give international travel the green light on May 7th – to the delight of airlines and tourism firms keen to kickstart travel recovery.

While the Foreign Office has amended their advice, this only serves as an indication of the UK government’s thinking.

With much of Europe still grappling with rising infection rates, the likelihood of most European countries being added to the “amber” list is high. However, that’s not to say British holidaymakers will not be allowed to travel to these countries from May 17th.

The European Commission is also considering raising the threshold on the infection rate used to determine how safe a country is to travel to, meaning the EU would welcome a larger number of tourists.

Whether this applies to Britain remains unknown but given that the European Commission said that “they would welcome travellers arriving from countries with low COVID-19 infection rates”, British holidaymakers should benefit.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also boosted summer optimism after tweeting: “It’s time to revive the EU tourism industry and rekindle cross-border friendships safely.

“We propose to welcome vaccinated visitors & those from countries with a good health situation.”

When can I travel to the US?

The US imposed a travel ban against Britain on March 16th 2020 – during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, and the United States has remained out of bounds for Brits ever since.

According to the FCDO, UK nationals that have been in Britain, Ireland, the euro area, Brazil, China, Iran, India and South Africa within the last 14 days are prohibited from entering the US.

However, with the epidemiological situation in both countries improving due to the progressive vaccine rollout, airlines and tourism firms are urging the UK and US governments to open travel between the two nations.

In a letter addressed to US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, aviation and tourism groups from both sides of the Atlantic called for both sides to establish a UK-US travel corridor.

The letter, which included aviation and industry groups such as Heathrow Airport, the US Chamber of Commerce, Virgin Atlantic and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), wrote:

“Given the deep economic, social and cultural ties between our two nations, we believe your meeting ahead of the G7 in early June would be an ideal opportunity for a joint announcement of the full reopening of the U.S.-U.K. air travel market; for both US and UK citizens.”

The transatlantic UK-US corridor was one of the busiest in the world pre-pandemic, with approximately 3 million passengers travelling between  London-New York in 2019 alone.

Airlines and airports have also stressed that a US-UK travel corridor will significantly boost travel recovery in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

Virgin Atlantic CEO, Shai Weiss, argued: “There is no need to delay the restart data for travel between the UK and the US beyond May 17th when there is enough evidence to support a safe reopening of foreign travel between the two nations; through testing methods.”

Mr Weiss also noted that both countries have world-leading vaccination campaigns, making the United States an attractive proposition for Britain’s “green” list.

According to, 52% of the adult population or 34,667,904 people have received their first COVID vaccine doses, while 15,630,007 have been fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) revealed that 44.5% of the population or 147,894,671 had received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 106,168,588 are fully inoculated.

PC Agency CEO Paul Charles believes that Britain will add the United States to its “green” list no later than July, a move that would be a massive step for travel’s economic recovery on both sides of the Atlantic.

Some airlines and travel agents have already reported a flurry in sales as the easing of lockdown restrictions and progressive vaccine rollouts continue to fuel summer optimism.

Airlines and airports anticipate recovery boom

Airlines and agents anticipating a ‘big bang’ reopening

With the EU ban set to be lifted and member states planning to ease restrictions against non-essential trips abroad, airlines and holiday agents anticipate a summer travel boom in 2021.

Wizz Air and Ryanair have already reported signs of travel recovery in April after months of financial hardship stemming from bans and restrictions imposed to curb the spreading of COVID-19.

According to Wizz Air, they flew 565,000 passengers in April – an increase of 486,618 on levels seen during the same month the previous year. Meanwhile, Ryanair flew out 1 million passengers against 40,000 a year earlier due to stringent COVID-19 restrictions.

Many tourism firms are now anticipating a “big bang” reopening due to growing public confidence, which has led to a travel agents’ sales rally and a marked increase in enquiries for the 2021 summer holidays.

However, some challenges remain as research commissioned by GoCompare Travel Insurance found that only 13% of British holidaymakers said they were considering holidaying abroad in 2021.

According to the new research, most Brits are opting for staycations this year, with 25% of those surveyed saying that they had booked hotels and B&Bs in Britain and 21% revealing that they were planning to stay in self-catering accommodation.

When questioned about foreign holiday plans for 2021, 23% of respondents said they had decided to book holidays in the UK due to COVID-19, while 31% stated that they had reservations about foreign travel due to the coronavirus.

The UK government has also confirmed that vaccine passports, which will be made available via an NHS app, may not be ready for the proposed restart date of May 17th.

Although a Downing Street spokesperson insisted that ministers are working on an alternative option, the news has delivered another blow to the travel industry.