Plan Now, Travel Soon with Culture Trip

Doors to automatic – time to get booking your next flight!
Doors to automatic – time to get booking your next flight! | © Brendan King / Alamy
Photo of Cassam Looch
Social Editor7 May 2021

International travel for leisure has been severely curtailed in many countries – and banned completely in others – as Covid-19 has spread around the world. As infection rates fall in some nations, the virus continues to wreak devastation elsewhere. A cautious approach is being taken to welcome tourists back, but there is finally reason for hope.

For many of us, it’s been over a year now since we were last able to hop on a plane and fly to foreign destinations without having to plan too far ahead, but what does the latest announcement from the UK Government mean for our holidays in the next few months?

The benefits of travel for both our mental and physical health are well known, with many people looking forward to getting away for a few days when they can safely do so. There’s also the economic side to consider, with the multibillion-pound travel and tourism industry awaiting approval to restart in earnest again, having been effectively paused for so long. There are the countless people around the world whose livelihoods depend on holidaymakers coming to visit – and spending.

Middle Oneonta Falls in Oregon – easy to socially distance here | © Design Pics Inc / Alamy

On the other side of the travel debate is the very real need to prevent virus mutations and keep infection rates down at home. Vaccines and lockdowns have seen some countries emerge from the health crisis at a rapid rate and these locations, such as the UK and North America, are now in a position to start planning travel once again. The situation is in a constant state of flux, but here’s a look at what we know so far and some tips on where to start planning your next holiday.

The Green, Amber and Red lists

In England, 17 May has been enshrined in the minds of travellers for a while. It’s the date when the government has said international travel could return, along with a series of other leisure activities such as indoor dining at restaurants and trips to the cinema. The rest of the UK is following a tweaked version of this timetable, but infection rates continue to tumble across the country.

Individual countries are establishing their own rules as to entry requirements, and it is essential that when you’re planning to travel abroad, you research what you need at your destination to complete your journey. Greece has announced that anyone who is fully vaccinated will be allowed in, with Spain and Croatia implementing similar plans.

Oia village, in Santorini – Greece is ready to welcome back visitors, but remains on the UK Government’s amber list | © vivoo / Alamy

Travel bubbles are also being launched between neighbouring countries with strong trading links and low infection rates, such as the one between New Zealand and Australia.

To facilitate leisure travel abroad in England, a traffic light system is being implemented with countries being placed in one of three categories based on a variety of factors.


A test is required prior to flying back to England and another one on your return. However, there will be no quarantine required on arrival. A negative test also means that no self-isolation is required.

London Heathrow – check the requirements of where you’re heading before you depart | © Elena Graham / Alamy


A test is required prior to departure and self-isolation on return for 10 days. Tests are also required on days two and eight of quarantine, although a negative PCR test on day five may lift the isolation period. Rules may vary for individuals who have been fully vaccinated.


Anyone returning from a red list country will have to isolate in a quarantine hotel at their own expense.

Rules around the world

The European Union is working on a separate list of “safe” countries that will be able to welcome visitors back in the coming months. The list will also highlight countries from which arrivals will be accepted – that is, those with low infection rates and high vaccination uptake.

Madrid airport – Spain is one of the countries ready to welcome back vaccinated visitors | © Sipa US / Alamy

The Italian government has announced its own list of countries from which it will allow visitors to enter without the need for any quarantine from 16 May. The UK features on this list, along with Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.

The situation in the USA is also improving quickly, although international travel is still being kept to a minimum. Domestic travel continues to grow, however, and rules about travelling abroad for leisure will be reviewed soon.

With all these factors in play, here are some of Culture Trip’s favourite destinations that are waiting for your return, with extra peace of mind available thanks to our Feel Good Booking Guarantee, which outlines how we can help if your plans change.

Green list countries for UK travellers

Following the announcement on May 7 from the UK Government, here are the destinations Brits will be able to visit for leisure from May 17. It’s crucial that all travellers check in advance if your intended destination will accept foreign visitors. The good news is that we can start planning where to go right now.


This British enclave is welcoming back visitors from the UK | © Rocklights / Alamy


Marinha Beach, Algarve, Portugal | © Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo


Seljalandsfoss waterfall – Iceland is on the ‘safe to visit’ list | © Arterra Picture Library / Alamy


Jaffa, the oldest neighbourhood in Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel | © TravelMuse / Alamy Stock Photo

New Zealand

The terminal of Franz Josef Glacier, West Coast, New Zealand | © travellinglight / Alamy Stock Photo


Bondi Beach, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia | © ITPhoto / Alamy Stock Photo

Faroe Islands

A small fjord, Faroe Islands | © Roberto Cornacchia / Alamy Stock Photo


Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, Bandar Seri Begawan, Sultanate of Brunei | © Michele Burgess / Alamy Stock Photo

Falkland Islands

Beach on the southern tip of Carcass Island, with gentoo and Magellanic penguins, Falkland Islands | © Patrick J. Endres / Alamy Stock Photo


Entertainment district of Boat quay in the business district, Singapore | © AsiaDreamPhoto / Alamy Stock Photo

Ascension Islands

Georgetown Ascension island part of the St Helena group of islands | © Gillian Moore / Alamy Stock Photo

Tristan da Cunha and St Helena

Jamestown, St Helena, South Atlantic | © mark phillips / Alamy Stock Photo

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Island

Avalanche on the island, Gold Harbor, South Georgia, Antarctica | © Keren Su/China Span / Alamy Stock Photo

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