Expat Life: How We Travelled Back to the UK from Red Listed Qatar

As travel restrictions lifted in the UK back in May, with a traffic light system coming into play, expats all over the world held their breath to see if they would be able to visit family at home.

In my case, whether I would be able to take part in the annual summer migration.

With bated breath we sat round our patio table, having a barbecue, watching as the red, amber and green list rolled out.

It was no surprise that Qatar was on the Red List

At that point in time cases were rising, schools had shut for the entirety of April, and we just wanted to come home.

Yet I couldn’t imagine anything more damaging to mine, and the children’s, mental health than spending ten days locked up in hotel quarantine.

So we began to research.

In a position where both my husband and I were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine we started to look to where we could head to to do our quarantine in lieu of spending ten days trapped in a hotel room. With horror stories springing out of many Facebook groups we came to the conclusion we would do our quarantine time outside of Qatar somewhere a little more open.

Enter Cyprus

With the added benefit that my father in law lives in Cyprus, this is a place we came back to again and again. On the UK Amber list, but ten days home quarantine was a much more child friendly alternative, this is the route we kept arriving back to.

With entry into Cyprus open to over 60 countries, including Qatar, with no requirement for us to do a PCR test if we were double vaccinated we decided to take the plunge and booked a family holiday over the Eid break.

Travel was smooth, arriving at the airport, masked up and ready to go. Showing our forms, the most important being the Cyprus Flight Pass where we has uploaded vaccination certificates, and we were off flying to Cyprus.

Where we stayed in Cyprus

We chose to stay in a self contained villa with it’s own pool, in Peiya which is a small town in Paphos, Cyprus. Our main consideration was being close to my Father-in-Law and Paphos airport where we would be returning to the UK.


We found a variety of options through both booking.com and AirBnB before settling on a 4 bedroom villa a stones throw away from my father in law – there was plenty of choice and options for all budgets. Maybe you’d rather a hotel with a kids club, or being a stones throw from the harbour.

We were close to the Coral Bay strip, filled with restaurants and that all important PCR testing clinic…

Things to do

The one thing which was asked regularly was – what was the point in adding to our quarantine time. Cyprus had, at that point in time, opened up to tourists.

Yes we had to wear masks, and show our Cyprus flight pass BUT we were able to explore outside, go out to eat in restaurants, enter the supermarket, play in the swimming pool, go to the beach, visit the zoo and explore the Roman ruins.

woman with lemur

We delighted in being able to run every day (ahem, my husband delighted in daily running, I did it for a few days…) and being out in the fresh air after the humidity and dust of Doha.

It was quite possibly the strangest holiday we have ever had, an enforced holiday, as it is something we wouldn’t have done if Qatar had been on the Amber list and we’d been able to enter directly.

BUT as it was, we went, we enjoyed and then on day 10 my husband headed back to Qatar and the following day I headed back to the UK.

How long do you need to be out of a red list country

This is the worrying part – what if you don’t complete enough time out of the red list country and STILL get taken into hotel quarantine?

The important thing to remember is that the day you land is Day 0 and then you need to spend TEN full days (aka 10 nights) from that point, leaving on Day 11.

Example of leaving red list country to travel to the UK via a green or amber list country.

Above shows an example with dates.

When leaving to travel to the UK you need to ensure you have your Day 2 and 8 tests booked (if coming from an Amber Country) or your Day 2 test booked (if you’re coming from a Green Country) as these bookings need to be listed on your Passenger Locator Form.

I chose to use Test to Release on Day 5 as well, however I didn’t book this until I arrived in the country as I wasn’t sure that was what I wanted to do. This meant I had to fill in a second PLF when I booked my tests confirming I was utilising Test to Release.

The Home Quarantine

We home quarantined with my mum – she was free to go about her business while we isolated at home. After my negative Day 5 test I was also able to leave. If at any point we would have tested positive then my mum would have had to isolate with us.

We spent a lot of time in the garden, watching the tv, upcycling furniture and pottering around until we were free to leave – luckily a few days after we arrived it stopped raining and the boys had the excitement of being at Grandma’s to entertain them. The days seem to pass relatively quickly and before we knew it we were able to leave.

All in all, it was a much better experience than being in a hotel room for the ten days.

Of course there are the worries – what if the country status changes while you are there and you end up in another red listed country – as happened to many in Turkey and Egypt, what if you do get COVID-19 while in another country, it was a calculated risk that paid off for us – and many others who are trying to get home to see loved ones. From countries that are deemed red yet have a lower rate of infection than the UK.

One Facebook Group that helps is : Returning to the UK from a red list country (Summer 2021)

Three boys in front of shipwreck Cyprus
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