Can I travel to the Netherlands? Latest Covid rules and holiday advice for Europe

England has moved to a new simplified system for foreign travel under which countries are categorised as high risk or low risk. 

On October 28 the Government announced the removal of the remaining seven countries on the UK’s red list and the effective end of hotel quarantine, for now. All countries in Europe are now rated low-risk, meaning Britons can enjoy holidays on the continent relatively easily – especially since the EU confirmed that the NHS Covid pass will be accepted as part of entry requirements across the bloc.

Of course some European countries have restrictions on people arriving from Britain, which might include showing proof of a recent negative test or even a quarantine requirement and a number of destinations are not granting entry to unvaccinated travellers. 

Cases are also rising across Europe. The Netherlands has become the first country in Western Europe to impose a partial lockdown since the summer in a bid to stop the surge. 

The good news for travellers from Europe to Britain is that the Government has dropped restrictions for fully vaccinated people and reopened its borders to European holidaymakers.

Where can I go on holiday in Europe right now?

Fully vaccinated UK travellers can visit all European countries without the need to quarantine on return, but must still carry out some compulsory testing depending on their destination. With the removal of all countries from the red list at the last travel update, holidaymakers are not at risk of costly hotel quarantine restrictions. However, the policy does remain on reserve for use if required in future.

Countries across Europe have varying entry requirements – some are laxer than others. Spain, for example, simply requires UK travellers to provide evidence of full vaccination or a PCR test, while Malta is not allowing entry to unvaccinated visitors. Rules can change often and with little fanfare, so be sure to check the latest Government travel advice before your holiday. 

The Foreign Office (FCDO) may still advise against non-essential trips to some of the destinations in Europe which can make it more difficult to secure insurance.

What does the lockdown in the Netherlands mean for travel and are other countries likely to follow suit?

From November 13, bars, restaurants and non-essential stores in the Netherlands, including popular city break destination Amsterdam, will be ordered to close at 7pm, for at least three weeks. People will be urged to work from home as much as possible, and no audiences will be allowed at sporting events. 

The lockdown does not change rules at the nation’s borders however, and travellers can still visit as long as you are fully vaccinated and take a negative test within 48 hours of your arrival.

Across Europe nations have begun to tighten restrictions on the ground as cases spike. In Austria, a negative PCR test result is no longer accepted as part of the nation’s Covid pass rules – only people who are double jabbed or have proof of recent recovery are now permitted to enter the likes of bars and restaurants and access ski slopes. While in Germany parliament is debating new rules to tackle a fourth wave of infections, without imposing lockdowns or making vaccination shots mandatory – in Hamburg a fence will separate the unvaccinated from the vaccinated at the city’s Christmas market. It’s a rapidly changing situation and visitors are at the mercy of each nation’s government.

What travel insurance do I need?

Most insurance companies offer some degree of Covid cover. The main consideration is whether the FCDO advises that you should not visit the country for non-essential reasons. If so, your insurance will likely be invalidated unless you use a bespoke company. Currently, popular destinations such as Spain, Greece, Italy, France and Portugal do not have an FCDO advisory imposed on them. Check our Covid insurance guide for more information.

What tests do I need when returning to the UK?

Under a new simplified system, effective since October 4, double-jabbed travellers from ‘safe’ countries no longer have to take any sort of test before they get on a flight home from overseas; and only a lateral flow on their second day back in the UK.

Vaccinated travellers need

  • A lateral flow test taken within 48 hours of arriving back in the UK
  • To complete a Passenger Locator Form before returning to the UK

Unvaccinated travellers need

  • To self-isolate for 10 days
  • A Covid test taken with 72 hours of boarding a flight home
  • To complete a Passenger Locator Form before returning to the UK
  • A PCR test within 48 hours of arriving back in the UK and another Covid test on day eight

Will I need a vaccine passport?

The NHS app is used as a digital vaccine passport for Britons travelling abroad. The app holds the NHS Covid Pass, which is accepted by all EU countries, as well as most nations further afield.  It is also possible to request a NHS Covid Pass letter, if you need or prefer this version. Travellers who are not vaccinated usually have to present a negative Covid test or evidence of immunity, according to their destination’s requirements.

What are cases like in Europe right now?

Cases across much of Europe remain lower than the UK, where the current seven-day case rate is 391 per 100,000, but they are surging in some destinations, like the Netherlands. Here’s a snapshot of how things currently stand (figures as of November 11):

The Netherlands

Seven-day case rate: 505 (47.99% weekly increase); Total given second vaccination dose: 86.23%

Spain 

Seven-day case rate: 43.33 (48.48%  weekly increase); Total given second vaccination dose: 93.08%

Italy

Seven-day case rate: 77.29 (48.48%  weekly increase); Total given second vaccination dose: 83.43%

Greece

Seven-day case rate: 457.57 (31.71% weekly increase); Total given second vaccination dose: 69.86%

France

Seven-day case rate: 102.18 (51.82% weekly increase); Total given second vaccination dose: 84.01%

Germany

Seven-day case rate: 280.81 (39.75% weekly increase); Total given second vaccination dose: 78.26%

When is the next travel update?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps typically updates the country on the travel rules every three weeks. The latest update, October 28, saw the red list slashed entirely, which suggests the next announcement (due on November 18) will have less significance for travellers. 

Reader Service: Planning on travelling to the continent? Make sure you book European travel insurance before you go.