Americans’ hopes for visiting UK just hit with a major setback

May 7, 2021

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On Friday May 7, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister and Transport Secretary made the announcement that the English public has been waiting on for months, where can they travel?

In a bit of a surprise, the United States did not make the cut.

That means Americans will still need to quarantine on arrival for up to 10 days although there are a few ways to escape that length a quarantine. Americans could leave isolation early with England’s Test to Release program. After five days of quarantine, if they’ve gotten a negative PCR COVID-19 test, they can leave. However, they will still need to take a “Day 2 and Day 8” duo of tests, which need to be booked prior to arrival.

This includes Americans who are fully vaccinated.

At a press conference, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps unveiled the plans for England’s return to international travel as of May 17 — a date originally set in February as part of the roadmap out of lockdown. Additionally, the government has announced which countries will appear at which level of its traffic light system.

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When non-essential travel is allowed to resume as of May 17, the Global Travel Taskforce has found that 12 countries and territories and will be on the green list, including Gibraltar, Israel and Portugal.

Shapps said the government is being “necessarily cautious” in the countries it has on its green list.

Additionally, as of that date, a number of countries will populate the amber list.

The current red list, which has been in effect since early 2021, will continue to apply to travellers coming from high-risk countries. Currently, there are 43 countries on the highest-risk red list, which requires that arrivals into England undergo a 10-day quarantine in a government-approved hotel.

Shapps announced on Friday that Turkey, Maldives and Nepal have been added.

Related: All 43 countries that are on the UK’s travel red list

Keep in mind that Friday’s announcement does not necessarily mean that all green-list countries are open to British tourists. The arrival country has to be willing to accept Brits, and each country will offer their own entry requirements. If you are interested in visiting a green-list country, check on its entry requirements to ensure that it will be open and accepting Brits in time for the lifting of restrictions.

Here’s the complete list of so-called green countries:

  • Australia
  • Brunei
  • Gibraltar
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Iceland
  • Israel
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Singapore
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
  • St Helena
  • Ascension
  • Tristan Da Cunha

As a reminder, here’s a look at the requirements for each traffic light category, which travellers will have to abide by on their reentry to England:


  • Passenger locator form;
  • Pre-departure COVID-19 test (can be from a lateral flow device) taken in the three days before departure; and
  • Post-arrival COVID-19 test (must be a PCR test), taken on or before the second day of your return.


  • Passenger locator form;
  • Pre-departure COVID-19 test (can be from a lateral flow device) taken in the three days before departure;
  • Quarantine for 10 days at home;
  • Pre-book a COVID-19 test package to take PCR tests on days two and eight of quarantine; and
  • Eligible for Test to Release to purchase and take an additional test after five days of quarantine. If negative, you can leave quarantine early, but you must still take the day-eight test, even though you’ve left isolation.


  • Only U.K. nationals and residents are permitted to enter (no visitors);
  • Passenger locator form;
  • Pre-departure COVID-19 test (can be from a lateral flow device) taken in the three days before departure;
  • Pre-book a quarantine hotel stay through the government, starting at £1,750 for a solo adult traveller. Hotel quarantine stays include transport to and from the airport, food and drink, security at the hotel and a PCR testing package for mandatory tests on days two and eight of quarantine; and
  • Not eligible for Test to Release.

As of May 17, travelers looking to leave England on holiday will no longer need to fill out the travel declaration form. Originally introduced earlier this year, all travelers have been required to submit a travel declaration, justifying that their reason for travel was essential.

Keep in mind that Friday’s announcement applies to England. The other devolved nations will likely layout their own individual paths for a return to international travel, however, they could follow the plans set out by England.

In a statement, British Airways Chairman and CEO Sean Doyle said they were happy to see a few countries on the green list, but the airline and its employees were very unhappy more countries didn’t make the cut:

“What’s clear is that with high levels of vaccination in the UK being matched by other countries, we should see more destinations going ‘green’ before the end of June. It’s disappointing to hear that despite the stringent safeguards introduced for travel from ‘amber list’ countries, the Government is now suggesting travellers avoid these. We cannot stress more greatly that the UK urgently needs travel between it and other low-risk countries, like the US, to re-start the economy, support devastated industries and reunite loved ones.”

Featured image by James D. Morgan/Getty Images.

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