UK amber list: Countries to spend 11 days in to avoid hotel quarantine
From Albania's stunning shorelines to Jordan's vast open desert, here are several places to visit – and how to spend your time – before you travel onwards to the UK
Explained: UK's traffic light for travel system
The UAE remains red-listed for travel to the UK.
In Britain's most recent update to its international travel rules, which came into effect on Tuesday, travellers cannot fly directly from the UAE to the UK without spending 10 days in mandatory hotel quarantine.
At a cost of £1,750 ($2,480) for a single adult, that's an expensive investment for a largely uninspiring hotel stay. But other options exist for UAE residents keen to travel to the UK to visit friends and family this summer.
While green-listed destinations are few and far between, Iceland is an option – albeit a rather expensive one – for an entirely quarantine-free return to the UK.
Visiting an amber-listed country, however, and seeing out 11 days before heading on to the UK, means travellers will instead have to self-isolate on their arrival for 10 days, rather than pay for hotel quarantine. Travellers staying in England also have the option of a PCR "test to release" on day five, should they not be diagnosed with Covid-19.
So, if you're planning a visit to the UK, but don't want to spend time and money on hotel quarantine, here are 11 destinations where you can quite happily spend 11 days before journeying on.
Why go? With Adriatic and Ionian coastlines, Albania is a treasure in south-eastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula. Explore archaeological sites and ancient castles, hike in the Albanian Alps and spend time in the capital, Tirana. In the latter, sightsee in Skanderbeg Square, ride the longest cable car in the region and venture into the hills to take in nature at the Dajti Mountain National Park, right on the outskirts of the city.
Getting there and away: Flydubai operates non-stop flights to Tirana and the journey takes less than six hours. Fares start from Dh1,955 ($532). From Albania, you can fly direct to London with Wizz Air. The journey takes a little over three hours, and you can get low-cost basic fares from about Dh500.
What do I need to do before travelling? Albania is welcoming citizens and residents from the UAE who can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 90 days. There are no PCR test requirements to travel to Albania unless the airline you’re flying with asks for this.
Anything else I need to know? In the third week of this month, Albania plans to set up summer health centres in 29 locations across the country where travellers will be able to take Covid-19 tests. Tourists are free to move around the country, but are reminded to stick to social-distancing rules of 1.5 metres. Albania is amber-listed in the UK, so travellers will have to follow home quarantine rules upon arrival.
2. Bosnia and Herzegovina
Why go? Home to the Dinaric Alps, endless limestone lakes, Ottoman architecture and ancient hilltop villages, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a stunning holiday destination that counts Croatia and Montenegro as its closest neighbours.
Summer visits mean sunshine-filled days perfect for hiking, mountain biking or kayaking, and don’t forget to explore the museums in Sarajevo, which pay touching tribute to the region's not-so-distant past. It's also an easy-on-the-wallet destination with plenty of low-cost accommodation and affordable living expenses.
Getting there and away: It’s a six-hour flight from Dubai to Sarajevo, with Air Arabia Abu Dhabi getting you there from Dh1,398. To the UK, currently there are no direct flights. From Friday, June 18, you can fly from the capital to Sweden with Wizz Air, then onwards to several destinations in the UK. Or go via Vienna with Austrian Air and Ryanair with fares from £270.
What do I need to do before travelling? All passengers need a printed copy of a negative Covid-19 PCR test result certificate issued no more than 48 hours prior to arriving in the country.
Anything else I need to know? Mask-wearing and social distancing are required on public transport, in public places and outside in crowded areas. There are also restrictions on movement between 11pm and 5am. A list of clinics providing PCR tests in Bosnia and Herzegovina is available here. The country is amber-listed in the UK, as are Sweden and Austria for transit purposes.
Why go? The Mediterranean island is welcoming tourists again and is an ideal holiday spot. Brimming with archaeological sites, coastal cities and pristine beaches, Cyprus offers a lot more entertainment than sitting in a hotel room for 11 days. The Mediterranean climate means holidays will undoubtedly include days on the beach, water sports, biking trails and hiking through wild flower meadows or pine-clad mountains.
Getting there and away: Flying from Dubai with Emirates, travellers are looking at a flight time of about four hours with fares from about Dh2,425. To the UK, fly direct with Ryanair to London or Bournemouth, with fares from a very reasonable Dh177, and a journey time of under five hours.
What do I need to do before travelling? The UAE is currently red-listed by Cypriot authorities, which means travellers need to take a Covid-19 test 72 hours before travelling, and another one on arrival. So long as your second test is negative, you won’t need to quarantine.
Vaccinated travellers are exempt from testing and quarantine requirements, and the Sinopharm jab is among those recognised. All travellers must apply for permission to enter the country at least 24 hours before travelling, via Cyprus Flight Pass.
Anything else I need to know? Cyprus is currently under restrictions that are set to run until at least Thursday, June 10, but they could be extended. A curfew is in place between 1am and 5am, and travellers may be asked to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test or vaccination status before entering indoor leisure spaces, including restaurants, hotels, theatres, malls and more.
PCR tests can be taken at Paphos or Larnaca airports; travellers can pre-register for the tests here.
Cyprus is amber-listed in the UK, so home quarantine and two PCR tests will need to factor into your plans.
Why go? Greece offers something for everyone, and has reopened with no quarantine necessary for visitors. The country serves up archaeological wonders in ancient Athens, white sugar cube-style hotels on its famed and lesser-known islands, and culinary experiences loaded with the freshest seafood, flaky pastries, local cheeses and olive oils. With so many islands, towns and cities, you can easily find the type of holiday you're dreaming of.
Getting there and away: From the UAE, you can fly direct to the Greek capital in under five hours. Etihad has flights to Athens with return fares from Dh995 and is also launching summer flights to Santorini and Mykonos. Crete and Rhodes are also reachable direct from Abu Dhabi with Wizz Air, which will operate flights to the Greek islands from July, with one-way fares starting at Dh179.
Leaving Greece, you can find direct flights to several places across the UK, including London, Exeter and Newcastle, depending on your departure point. Search for flights with Jet2, Ryanair and Wizz Air for low-cost fares.
What do I need to do before travelling? You need to take a Covid-19 PCR test and complete a Passenger Locator Form at least 24 hours before departing the UAE for Greece. All travellers over the age of 5 must have a negative Covid-19 test result, except those who have a certificate of vaccination completed at least 14 days before their arrival in Greece.
Anything else I need to know? Cafes, bars and restaurants are now open across Greece, provided that customers can sit outside. The nationwide curfew has been extended to 12.30am, so late-night strolls and al fresco bar visits are back on the cards. Museums and archaeological archeological sites, including the Acropolis in Athens, have also reopened with restrictions on visitor numbers.
PCR tests are available at several clinics across the country, with prices capped at a maximum of Dh260. Greece and the country's islands are amber-listed in the UK. Travellers need to factor in taking a Covid-19 test before flying back to the UK, and paying for two Covid-19 tests to be taken once there.
Why go? This tiny country is filled with ancient cities, gorgeous coastlines and mountainous landscapes, and is easy to navigate thanks to its small size, meaning you're never too far from beaches or craggy peaks. Head to Europe's southern-most fjord, the Bay of Kotor, to explore towns and villages such as Herceg Novi, Morinj and Kotor's Old Town.
The Budva Riviera is home to Jaz Beach, named one of the best in Europe by Lonely Planet, while ancient palaces await in Perast and Dobrota, and that's before you even begin to consider the country's numerous national parks. The new One & Only Portonovi, the first from the luxury brand in Europe opened recently, for those seeking somewhere special to stay.
Getting there and away: Flydubai is launching direct flights to Tivat from Friday, June 25, with fares from Dh1,570. The flight time is less than six hours. From Montenegro, fly with Ryanair to London Stansted from Thursday, July 1, with fares from only €20 ($24).
What do I need to do before travelling? Travellers from the UAE are welcome in Montenegro, with visas available on arrival. UAE citizens can stay for 90 days, and those with UK, EU or US passports can stay for 30 days. UAE residents are also welcome, but only for stays of up to 10 days, so you might not be able to use the destination as your pre-UK holiday spot if this is the case.
A negative PCR test no older than 72 hours, or proof of full vaccination status, is accepted for entry.
Anything else I need to know? There are health and safety measures in place across the country, with face masks and social distancing a must. Beaches, swimming pools, national parks and other leisure spaces have restrictions on capacity. The nationwide curfew has been lifted, but live music is only allowed until 11pm.
Montenegro is amber-listed so tourists must self-isolate when arriving in the UK. Tourists staying in Tivat can get a free PCR test to fly home by applying to the Tivat Tourism Board via email no later than three days before their flight.
Why go? A Mediterranean island steeped in history, Malta boasts year-round sunshine making it ideal for a summer break. There are plenty of beaches, including Mellieha Bay, the island’s largest, and Golden Bay, on the north-west coast, where the surrounding waters are perfect for scuba-diving.
This three-island archipelago, located only 50 nautical miles off the coast of Italy's Sicily, also offers a culinary feast with traditional Maltese food a fusion of the different civilisations that once occupied the island. And, talking of history, there are ancient ruins linked to the Romans, the Moors and the Knights of St John to see, as well as mysterious temples dating back to the Neolithic period.
Getting there and away: There are currently no direct flights from the UAE to Malta, but you can go via Sofia with flydubai and Ryanair with fares from Dh2,580. From July 14, Emirates will restart flights to Malta via Larnaca, Cpyrus. The Dubai airline will fly three times per week to Malta, with one-way fares from Dh1,950. Flydubai has Malta listed as a planned route, so keep an eye on the low-cost airline for more news on the same.Ryanair operates from Valetta in Malta to various destinations in the UK, while Air Malta will fly you direct to either London or Manchester.
What do I need to do before travelling? The UAE is listed amber by Malta, meaning travellers need to have negative PCR test result taken no more than 72 hours before landing in the country. Children under 5 are exempt.
All passengers must complete a Passenger Locator and Health Declaration Form, which can be downloaded here. Both PCR test results and the form are required in paper format.
Anything else I need to know? Bars, theatres and cinemas reopened on Monday, and restaurants can remain open until midnight. Malta's museums reopened on June 1, but restrictions regarding opening times and capacities remain in place.
Some popular historical sites remain closed, including Ta’ Bistra Catacombs, the Malta Maritime Museum and The Palace State Rooms. From Monday, a maximum of six people from different households can gather in public places.
Malta is UK amber-listed, so travellers will need to self-isolate in the UK. You can take a PCR test in Malta by registering for an appointment here.
Why go? Home to more than 1,000 islands and inlets dotted along its Adriatic coastline, Croatia's appeal is its perfect sailing terrain, pebbled beaches, thick forests, picturesque towns and centuries-old cobbled streets. It's also a popular choice with Game of Thrones fans – the HBO fantasy series used Dubrovnik as the setting for several scenes, including the Red Keep, the House of the Undying and the setting of the Purple Wedding.
There are no fewer than 10 Unesco-listed sites and eight national parks across the country. Croatia also boasts great hiking and nature spots across the Dinaric Alps for anyone looking to kick off summer with some adventure.
Getting there and away: There are currently no direct flights from the UAE to Croatia, but go to Zagreb with Turkish Airlines from Dubai and you'll pay about Dh1,500. You could also fly direct to Montenegro with flydubai and travel by road to Croatia, a journey that takes about two hours. From Croatia, fly direct to London from Zagreb, Split, Pula or Zadar with low-cost fares via Ryanair from Dh99.
What do I need to do before travelling? Croatia is open to travellers who have a recognised vaccine (currently Pfizer, Moderna, Gamaleya, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson) taken at least 14 days before travel. Other travellers can present a negative PCR test taken 48 hours before arriving at the border, with children under 7 exempt.
Tourists must also hold a valid accommodation booking or proof of property ownership in Croatia.
Anything else I need to know? Social-distancing measures and mandatory face masks in public spaces are required. Covid-19 tests are readily available in Croatia for departing passengers, but are not cheap – starting from 400 Croatian Kuna ($64). Croatia is amber-listed for the UK, so expect 10 days home quarantine upon return.
Why go? Summertime temperatures in Lebanon are delightful and the country has myriad ways to enjoy an 11-day holiday. Soak up some sunshine on the beaches, or there are 225 kilometres of western coastline to choose from with surfing, cliff-diving and seaside eateries abundant.
Escape to the mountains to explore Lebanon's hiking trails that take you through old villages, wide-open pastures and amazing rivers and waterfalls. And lest we forget Beirut, the country's capital, that's packed with historical buildings, churches, mosques, museums and more, and well worth a few days' exploration.
Getting there and away: Etihad operates direct flights to Beirut from Abu Dhabi, while flydubai is a good pick for flights from Dubai. Onwards to the UK, go with Middle East Airlines with direct flights to London starting from Dh850 and a flight time of just over five hours.
What do I need to do before travelling? A PCR test is required that's been taken no more than 96 hours before landing in the country. Travellers must also fill out a registration form, and download the 'Covidlebtrack' app.
All travellers will take another PCR test in Lebanon, at a cost of $50. Children under 12 do not need to be tested. Vaccinated travellers are exempt from pre-testing, but must take the on-arrival tests.
Unvaccinated travellers must quarantine at their place of accommodation for the first 72 hours in the country.
Anything else I need to know? Travellers need to take a PCR test in Lebanon before departure; a list of available places to do so can be found here. The country is amber-listed in the UK, so get set for 10 days of home quarantine.
Why go? If you're vaccinated, there are several reasons to head to Spain, one of the world's most-visited countries. From sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches along the coast, to Granada's Moorish Alhambra palaces or Barcelona's Sagrada Familia, Gaudi sites and buzzy Eixample neighbourhood, visitors need endless time to discover all of Spain's treasures. So don't try to – instead, decide what you want to see and pick your destination based on that.
Getting there and away: From the UAE, you can fly direct to Barcelona or Madrid. Emirates flies to Barcelona from Dubai four times a week, and to Madrid five times a week. From Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways and Air Europa operate flights to both Spanish cities, with fares starting at about Dh2,700.
Domestic Spanish airlines offer flights to additional destinations in the country, such as Alicante, Ibiza or Seville, via connecting flights.
From Spain to the UK, several airlines fly from airports across the country with low-cost fares with Ryanair, Vueling or easyJet costing less than Dh100.
What do I need to do before travelling? Visitors from the UAE must have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccination at least 14 days before travelling to Spain. All tourists must also complete an online Health Control Form, no more than 48 hours before their flights are set to depart. Once submitted, passengers will get an email with a QR code that is needed to board flights to any Spanish destination.
Anything else I need to know? Spain recently lifted a six-month state of emergency and, since then, restrictions have eased across much of the country. This handy map from the Spanish Tourism authority lets you see what measures are in place for the different destinations you plan to visit during your stay. It also details which regions of Spain offer access to free insurance with Covid-19 coverage for international travellers and tourists.
To get a PCR test to fly back to the UK, travellers can check this list of testing centres located within close proximity of regional airports.
10. The US
Why go? It might be a bit out of the way in terms of geographical location, but, with direct flights to several destinations in the US from the UAE, and the country open to tourists without quarantine, it's another option for a pre-summer jaunt to the UK.
Whether you fancy skyscrapers in New York, theme parks in Florida, history in Washington, DC, or slow-paced strolls in the south of the country, the US is like nowhere else in the world and guarantees a fascinating place to spend 11 days. It's also doable on any budget, with cheap Airbnbs and self-catering options available for those watching what they spend, or luxury hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants for those seeking the finer things in life.
Getting there and away: Emirates flies direct from Dubai to 11 destinations in the US, and will add Miami to the network from Thursday, July 22. From Abu Dhabi, Etihad will fly you to Los Angeles, Chicago, New York or Washington, DC, with fares from Dh2,995; the UAE airline can also help you clear US immigration before travel to cut down on paperwork and processes stateside.
From the US, several airlines operate to the UK, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Finnair and more.
What do I need to do before travelling? In general, if you're vaccinated, you won't need to quarantine when landing in the US. This applies to any FDA-authorised vaccine or one authorised for emergency use by the World Health Organisation, which includes Sinopharm.
International travellers should have a PCR test before travel and again three to five days after travel. Different states have their own rules on what you need to do before you go, so check what restrictions are in place for your destination and expect that you may need to self-isolate if you're unvaccinated.
Anything else I need to know? The US is on track to meet its vaccine targets, but uptake has been better in some states than others. Places such as Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New Jersey are ahead in the vaccine race, while others, including Vermont, Oregon, Maine and Washington, have some of the lowest Covid-19 case numbers, so choose which state you visit wisely.
Some US airports offer PCR tests for travellers, while other states have testing available via health centres or major drugstores, including Rite Aid and Walgreens.
Why go? Home to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Jordan boasts amazing natural landscapes and ancient archaeological sites, coupled with warm Bedouin hospitality. Spend a few days in the capital, Amman, a hub for arts and culture and a foodies' delight, and head to Petra – Jordan's gem and the ancient seat of the Nabataean kingdom.
Stay with locals in the desert of Wadi Rum, trekking across Mars-like landscapes, or go stargazing at the Dana Biosphere, then head to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth where floating in the water is effortless.
The country is as diverse as is it delightful, offering a rich history, bustling souqs and sunshine-filled shorelines.
Getting there and away: Emirates flies its A380 superjumbo daily to Amman from Dubai with fares from Dh2,015 and Etihad flies from Abu Dhabi with fares from Dh1,763.
From Amman, you can fly direct to the UK with Royal Jordanian with a flight time of just over five hours. For a budget connecting flight, go via Milan with Ryanair.
What do I need to do before travelling? All travellers flying to Jordan need to complete this declaration form. Tourists also need a negative PCR test, taken no more than 72 hours before arriving in Jordan. Unvaccinated passengers must be tested again upon landing in Amman, and Jordan recognises all vaccines in use in the UAE.
Anything else I need to know? Some tourism facilities, including hotels, restaurants and some archaeological and diving sites, are operating at 50 per cent capacity, so be sure to book ahead of time.
If you're looking for clinics for a PCR test before leaving Jordan, Emirates has a handy list of places to try. Travellers flying to the UK from Jordan will be coming from an amber country, so should follow the rules in place for international travel from this category.
Updated: June 11, 2021 11:17 AM