Updated July 29, 2021
(Published July 2, 2021)
By Joey Tyson
Until recently, regular testing and lengthy quarantines were pretty much the only way to go abroad, if travel were possible at all. But as global vaccination numbers continue to rise, a person’s vaccination status has increasingly become a factor; many countries now allow fully vaccinated travellers to enter without needing proof of a negative Covid-19 test or needing to self-isolate on arrival.
In this article, we explain everything we know about how vaccines currently relate to international travel.
Please note: This article discusses entry requirements in relation to vaccination and was accurate at the time of writing. The situation can change quickly and there are still many other restrictions, especially in relation to returning to the UK, which are not mentioned here. For information about the UK’s traffic light system, see here. For more general Covid-19 travel information, head here.
The NHS App (not to be mistaken with the NHS COVID-19 app) enables you to show your Covid-19 vaccination status. While some people are referring to the app as a vaccine passport, it’s more of a digital vaccine certificate. It simply shows that you’ve been fully vaccinated. You can access the pass two weeks after having your second dose of the vaccine - it appears as a QR code in the app. Once you’ve registered it will show:
Your code will refresh each time you login. However, you are also able to download a PDF version of the code - it's valid for 30 days and can be regenerated simply by logging back into the app.
You can also request a paper certificate two weeks after your second dose of the vaccine. You’ll find information about how to do that on the NHS website here. The letter takes up to five working days and should only be requested if you are planning to travel in the next four weeks.
The UK government has said it’s working on an agreement with other countries to ensure that the NHS App is accepted abroad. So far, no blanket agreement exists, although a number of countries, such as Spain, Greece and Portugal, have said they will accept it.
Before you travel, check the specific advice for your destination using the FCDO website.
Generally, the four vaccines used in the UK (Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen/Johnson & Johnson) will be accepted in the EU.
However, earlier this month, there were concerns that the EU would not accept travellers jabbed with Indian-made AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccines, five million doses of which were shipped to the UK as part of its initial AZ order. These are branded as ‘Covishield’, and it has not been officially approved for use in the EU.
Despite early concerns, the UK government has said it is confident that travel to the EU will not be affected by the type of vaccine you have, regardless of where it was manufactured.
Very few countries ask for proof of vaccination as the sole requirement of entry. However, it does make travel easier for some destinations. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the most popular holiday destinations for UK travellers, and explained the current entry requirements in relation to vaccines.
It’s worth pointing out that few countries refuse entry to unvaccinated people exclusively. If you haven’t yet received a vaccine, you may still be able to travel with a negative PCR test or, in some cases, proof of your recovery from Covid-19. However, additional measures, such as quarantine may be required.
Of course, the situation with Covid-19 and travel can change quickly, with every country having its own specific advice and restrictions. Always check in with the destination’s official advice before travel.
UK holidaymakers (excluding children under 12) visiting mainland Spain or its islands require proof of full vaccination (the NHS App is accepted) OR a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Antigen tests will not be accepted.
Both the Balearics and the Canary Islands will accept proof of a previous Covid-19 infection issued at least 11 days after your first positive test – this certificate is valid for 180 days.
For travel to the Canary Islands, some accommodation types will also require your relevant evidence. Check with your hotel before you travel.
Double-jabbed travellers from the UK, who have had their second dose at least two weeks before arrival in mainland Portugal, will not need to quarantine on arrival. However, you will still need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test. This can be either a PCR test taken within 72 hours of travel or an approved antigen test taken within 48 hours.
Children aged 12-18 travelling with a fully vaccinated adult must provide a negative Covid-19 test to be exempt from quarantine. Children under 12 will only need a completed Passenger Locator Card.
Madeira and Porto Santo, which are on the green watchlist, accept proof of vaccination for entry. If you have not been vaccinated, a negative PCR test or proof of recovery issued within the last 180 days are accepted.
All arrivals to green-listed Malta from the UK must be fully vaccinated. As of July 1, both the NHS App and paper certificate will be accepted. Children aged 5-11 can travel with double-jabbed adults but they must provide a negative PCR test result dated within 72 hours of arrival. Children under five do not need a test.
Children between 12 and 18 can only travel to Malta if they have been fully vaccinated.
Greece accepts proof of full vaccination for entry. If you have not been vaccinated, you can still travel but you will need to show a negative test taken no later than 72 hours before arrival.
In fact, the Greek government website is keen to stress that “entry of tourists in Greece is not subject to vaccination”, adding that “presenting a vaccination certificate greatly facilitates the procedures upon arrival. However, in no case is a vaccination or antibodies certificate considered a "passport".
To prove you’ve been vaccinated, Greece will accept the NHS App or your NHS letter of vaccination.
Keep up to date with any changes on the Greek government website or visit the FCDO for more detailed advice.
Iceland: You can only enter Iceland for non-essential travel if you’ve been vaccinated or can prove you have previously recovered from Covid-19. Iceland accepts the NHS App or an equivalent certificate as proof. Visit the FCDO for more detailed advice.
Barbados: You must present a negative PCR test taken three days prior to travel, even if you're fully vaccinated. You will also be tested on arrival and must wait for the results in government-approved accommodation before you can move around the island freely. Results can take up to two days. Unvaccinated travellers will need to quarantine for up to eight days. Visit the FCDO for more detailed advice.
France: Fully vaccinated people can enter France for a holiday without the need to provide a negative test or self-isolate. You will also need to present a 'sworn statement'. While France is on the UK’s amber list, fully vaccinated travellers will still need to self-isolate and take a day eight test. Visit the FCDO for more detailed advice.