The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted international travel this year (2021) with many countries placing restrictions on entry for UK travellers.
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have specific guidance on coronavirus restrictions, rules for international travel, and testing and quarantine requirements when you return to the UK. You should always follow the guidelines for the country you will be arriving in, or which you live in.
Official guidance from the Uk government can change quickly and often at short notice, to reflect changes in their approach to the pandemic, and this may affect any travel you have planned. Countries can also implement or lift travel bans or quarantine measures as well, in order to curtail the spread of COVID-19. This is why it is important for you to comply with local public health authority guidelines in the country that you are visiting.
Potential risks for travellers
COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that is spread through droplets released when a person who is infected with it coughs or sneezes. If you are travelling, then your risk of being exposed to COVID-10 will relate to:
- The number of confirmed cases in the country you are travelling to
- Your means of travel, such as aircraft, boat or car
- The activities you want to undertake at your destination
Before you travel
#1 Read the FCDO Foreign Travel Guidance
The FCDO (Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office) issues travel guidance regularly including details of any restrictions such as whether the UK government is advising you to avoid travelling to a country.
#Review the traffic light system guidelines on returning to the UK
The UK government’s Global Travel Taskforce has implemented a traffic light system that sets out different self-isolation and testing requirements for anyone entering the UK from abroad.
Each country has been rated as being either red (high risk), amber (medium risk) or green (low risk) and you must follow the associated rules for these countries, even if you have been fully vaccinated.
Be prepared to make some arrangements before you travel so that you are able to comply with the traffic light rules on your return, such as:
- Completing a passenger locator form
- Arranging for COVID-19 testing at your destination in the three days before your return to the UK
- Book and pay for a quarantine hotel if you are returning from a red country
- If you are returning from an amber country you should make arrangements to quarantine at home
- Book and pay for a COVID-19 test following your return to the UK, as indicated by the traffic light rules for the country you live in
#Check the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at your destination
Prior to booking any international travel, check the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at your destination and consider how it might affect you.
Remember that your exposure to COVID-19 will increase if you do not maintain hygiene and physical distancing measures during your trip.
Be aware that local healthcare facilities may be overwhelmed, meaning you may not be able to access medical treatment at your chosen destination.
#Check if you need a negative COVID-19 test to travel abroad
Many countries now require you to prove you have a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter their country, and the FCDO guidance will list this.
COVID-19 testing for the purpose of international travel is not available on the NHS, you will need to find a private healthcare provider such as Fit2FlyTest who meet the UK government’s minimum standards for commercial COVID-19 testing.
#Consider any other health issues
To reduce your risk of needing medical care abroad, make sure you are in good health before you travel and that you are up to date with any recommended travel vaccinations.
You should expect delays when you travel abroad this year, and so allow extra time for any travelling you undertake. Be prepared to queue or take different routes than you are used to, in order to comply with physical distancing measures.
There is always going to be an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 when you are travelling in an enclosed space, due to the proximity of other people, and so you should try to maintain physical distance as much as possible, and pay strict attention to your personal hygiene.
You will also need to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken in the 3 days before starting your journey to the UK, even if you are a UK national. Failure to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test may result in you being denied the right to board the plane, or you could be fined on return to the UK.
You will need to follow the latest guidance on quarantine and testing methods upon return to the UK, as determined by the traffic light system and which country you have been in in the 10 days before you returned to the UK.
You must follow the UK Border Force rules for entering the UK, including providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the 3 days before you leave for the UK and completing a passenger locator form.
Once back in the UK you should follow the latest COVID-19 restrictions for the area you live in.