Can I drive through a ‘red list’ country without quarantine?

The government’s ‘traffic light’ system has been criticised as confusing but if you are planning to travel abroad in the coming weeks and months, you will need to check the red, amber and green lists to learn the relevant Coronavirus precautions when returning to England.

Under the current rules – which may change without warning – the three lists determine the COVID-19 measures you must take in the days immediately after you get back into England.

  • Green: Take a COVID-19 test before your homeward journey and then take a Day 2 COVID-19 test in England.
  • Amber: Take a COVID-19 test before return, quarantine at home for 10 days, take Day 2 and Day 8 COVID-19 tests.
  • Red: Take a COVID-19 test before return, quarantine in a managed hotel and take two COVID-19 tests.

Breaking the rules carries a fine of up to £10,000, and deliberately lying about the countries you have visited in the 10 days before your arrival in England is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Even if you follow the rules, there’s a cost: £1,750 for one adult to stay in a managed quarantine hotel, plus £650 for each additional person aged 12 or over, and £325 for each child aged 5-11.

Is there an exemption if you don’t stop your car?

Under the ‘travel corridors’ system introduced in 2020 as the first UK lockdown eased, travellers did not need to self-isolate if they drove through a non-exempt country without stopping, or if they did not mix with any other people during any transit stops.

This is no longer the case – and if your journey takes you through a ‘red list’ country even without stopping, you will need to quarantine in a managed hotel on your return to England.

Government guidance says: “If you are travelling to England in a private vehicle, the rules of the countries and territories you drive through apply. For example, if you drive through an amber list country, then you must follow the amber list rules when you arrive in England.

“This applies whether you stop in the country or territory or not. You need to record the countries and territories you drive through on your passenger locator form.”

We would suggest planning any European road trips carefully to avoid countries on the red list. The amber list has caused some confusion but it does at least allow you to quarantine at home at your own cost, rather than paying to stay in a hotel for 10 days.

Getting your car back from a red or amber country

Vehicle repatriation from Europe remains a significant issue for anyone planning a driving holiday on the continent in the coming months.

At Ontime we would always recommend having an emergency contact number with you, so that in the event of a breakdown you can get your car recovered and returned safely to England.

This is especially the case under the current traffic light system – so if you’re planning a trip as UK restrictions ease, make sure you have Ontime’s emergency number on hand in case your vehicle breaks down and you need to get it home in line with the relevant rules.