At the end of last week Transport Secretary Grant Shapps outlined the UK’s approach to travel. Basically, don’t. Under the new traffic light system almost everywhere you want to go on holiday after 17th May (when leisure travel abroad ceases to be illegal) is on the red or amber list and involves quarantine when you get back.
But there are twelve select countries and territories which you can visit freely without any quarantine, including Singapore, Portugal and The Faulkland Islands…
And (of course) there’s a massive catch here. We may be thumbs-up to New Zealand travellers coming here without having to quarantine, but there’s zero chance of New Zealand wanting you within 5,000 miles of the carefully crafted Covid-free zone that is New Zealand. In coronavirus terms they’re like the Aztecs, there’s no way they’re going to welcome you turning up like small-pox riden Cortez and coughing all over the airport.
Nevertheless, here are the countries that made it onto our green list…
A staple of the travel industry, the beaches of the Algarve will once again ring with the sound of Brits abroad. There’s excellent golf, food, weather and it’s easily accessible from the UK.
But it’s not just Portugal, the connoisseur’s choice has to be Madeira or the Azores, stunning Portuguese islands in the Atlantic.
Say g’day to not quarantining on your return from Australia. The island nation has managed to beat back covid to the point that it’s pretty much eradicated.
And that’s how they want to keep it. So good luck getting in given they aren’t issuing tourist visas to just anyone turning up with a corks-on-string-hat and a boomerang ready to go.
As you’ll start to notice with quite a few other destinations on the green list, this is a relatively academic inclusion.
City state Singapore is a key transport hub (for those impossible trips to other green list countries like New Zealand and Oz) and quite a cool destination in its own right. As well as a stunning botanical gardens and the world’s longest infinity pool, Singapore is fascinating fun and, you guessed it, closed to UK travellers.
Brits will need permission to enter Singapore, which is usually because you have a job there (which, dear reader, almost certainly isn’t you). Another non-starter…
Chances are you’ve never considered going to Brunei until now. And there are plenty of reasons to want to go to this tiny oil-rich sultanate. The beautiful mosque, its beaches and lakes are all stunning. And off limits.
Entry requirements for Brunei include an invitation from the Prime Minister and you are required to explain why your travel is essential.
So that’s another one to strike off…
As is becoming apparent, the green list is not a list of countries you can visit in real life, but a bucket list of mainly inaccessible or closed countries.
You don’t need me to sell you New Zealand, it’s generally accepted to be one of most stunning countries on earth.
But their stonking success over coronavirus has led to them making it nigh-on impossible to get there. Even if you could find a flight you’d need an incredibly strong reason to go and would have to complete hotel quarantine into the bargain.
Britain’s vaccine roll-out has been world beating, but we’re fairly outdone by Israel, which is the most vaccinated population in the world.
And, like us, they’re keen to keep out concerning variants which might undo all their hard work. Which means that Brits aren’t currently welcome in this historic and beautiful country.
With Israel closed to foreign nationals, you’ll need a very good reason to visit and to undertake a fortnight’s isolation once you arrive.
I have always wanted to go to Gibraltar, I’m fascinated with the place, but I’m always talked out of it by less than complimentary ignorants. Who, I might add, will no doubt themselves be eagerly booking the easyJet to Gibraltar International.
A British territory on the southernmost tip of Spain and guarding the entrance to the Mediterranean, it has the climate to go with its location and it’s packed with history.
And you can actually go there, finally a green list country that’s genuinely open for business!
The northern lights, the Blue Lagooon, geothermal everything, and open to British tourists.
The government have put Iceland on the Green List, and travel between the countries should be possible from 17th May when the restrictions are lifted on the UK end.
However, expect stringent testing on arrival and a £200 round trip to get from the airport to anywhere (the regular bus has been cancelled and only taxis and private hire cares are permitted at present).
The view of most people is that they’re worth fighting for, with Britain having fought (and won) an actual war with Argentina over their sovereignty, but not actually worth visiting…
The far flung islands are cold, resolutely British as witnessed by the scarlet phone boxes, flags and suchlike, and the human population is far outnumbered by the countless penguins. They are also very beautiful.
Access is expensive, and primarily available through a Royal Air Force ‘airbridge’, which costs over £2,000 return and involves what must be one of the longest no-frills flights possible.
If you’re grabbing your atlas down right now, I’ll save you the effort. Think Orkney Islands then keep going…
The cold Danish islands between Scotland and Iceland are open for business, with fully vaccinated tourists being welcomed with little hassle. However, if you haven’t been vaccinated expect to spent four days in quarantine…
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
Even the best travelled among us has probably never visited South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. A former whaling station, the islands are as stunning as they are chilly.
The islands have also got one of the world’s best coronavirus records… because they are uninhabited. Nobody lives there. There’s no airport and they make the Falklands look cosmopolitan. The only way they are normally accessed is via cruise ship, and cruise ships are on the no-no list for the forseeable…
St Helena, Tristan de Cunha, Ascension Island
One of the lead headline on the Tristan de Cunha website is “Tragic scene on Gough Island as adult albatross killed by mice”. That’s what passes as a drive-by in these sleepy mid-Atlantic islands.
One of the least accessible British overseas territories (South Sandwich Islands: ‘hold my beer’), these volcanic outcrops off the coast of Africa do not see a huge amount of passing trade. There is an airport on St Helena, with a limited service to Johannesberg. If you want to go to Tristan de Cunha then there’s a mail ship every few weeks…
The government promises to review the Green List every three weeks, with the first review coming in early June. The hopes are that this incredibly cautious list, which in realistic terms is basically Portugal, Gibraltar and Iceland, will be extended to countries we actually want to visit as Europe and beyond get their vaccination levels up to similar levels as the UK.
Until then, see you in the Falklands!