Both travels within the UK and international travel have been restricted for the past few months, thanks to domestic regulations that have been put in place to help control the spread of COVID-19.

International travel for leisure reasons has not been restricted since the 17th of May, although strict border controls do remain in place.  Different rules apply for those arriving in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales so you may want to check what those are if you are currently living there.

A new traffic light system came into effect on May 17th 2021, and this set out the different self-isolation and testing requirements for people entering England from various foreign countries. Under this system, countries were rated as red, amber or green and all travellers were expected to follow the rules relating to the country they had visited before arriving in England, even if they had been fully vaccinated. Travellers arriving back into England also need to fill out a passenger locator form.

It is important to remember that countries can be moved between the red, amber and green lists at short notice if the COVID-19 conditions change.  A lot of travel disruption has occurred recently,  as national control measures such as quarantine rules, movement restrictions and border closures have been introduced at short notice. This means that if you are travelling abroad you should be prepared to stay overseas longer than planned.

UK travel advice for red list countries

The UK government advises that you should not travel to red list countries or territories.

If you do, you must

  • Take a COVID test before you travel to England
  • Book a quarantine hotel package, including two COVID tests
  • Complete a passenger locator form
  • Quarantine in a managed hotel for 10 days on arrival in the UK, and take two COVID tests during this time

UK travel advice for amber list countries

From the 19th of July, what you need to do before and after you travel from an amber list country has changed depending on whether you have been fully vaccinated or not. 

The amber list rules if you are fully vaccinated are:

  • Take a COVID test before you travel to England
  • Book and pay for a Day 2 testing kit to be taken after you arrive back in England
  • Complete a passenger locator form, and declare that you have been fully vaccinated
  • Show proof of your vaccination status to your carrier when you travel
  • Once you arrive back in England you should take a PCR test on or before Day 2, but you do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive

The amber list rules, if you are not fully UK vaccinated are:

  • Take a COVID test before you travel to England
  • Book and pay for Day 2 and Day 8 PCR tests to be taken after arrival in England
  • Complete a passenger locator form
  • When you arrive in England you should self-isolate for 10 days
  • Take a PCR COVID test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8

You may be able to end your quarantine early by taking a Test to Release test – although you will still need to complete the Day 2 and Day 8 tests as well.

If you have been in or through a country on the red list in the 10 days before you arrive back in England, then you should follow the rules for the red list country and not the amber list.

UK travel advice for green list countries

If there is a sudden change in conditions, then a country may be moved between lists without warning. If a country/territory is at risk of being moved to the amber list it will also be listed on the green watchlist.

If you are travelling back to England from a country on the green list you should:

  • Take a COVID test
  • Book and pay for a day 2 PCR test – to be taken after arrival in England
  • Complete a passenger locator form
  • You must take a COVID test on or before day 2 after you arrive – you do not need to self-isolate unless this test result is positive

You must follow these instructions, even if you have been fully vaccinated.

People who are at higher risk of COVID-19 and particularly those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are at greater risk of contracting a severe illness and so should continue to be vigilant regarding handwashing and social distancing. 

Advice for those planning on travelling abroad

If you are planning on travelling abroad, then keep the following guidance in mind to prepare for your trip and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19:

  • Keep up to date with the latest advice offered by the country you are planning to travel to – not just the UK government’s advice
  • Check the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) guidance for your destination and their general travel guidance – you can sign up for email updates if you prefer
  • Check entry restrictions and quarantine requirements on arrival that might affect you
  • Plan ahead for possible delays to your return home, and the practical arrangements and financial implications this may have
  • Make sure you know in advance the entry requirements for your return to the UK and follow it. 

COVID Testing and Travel

Some countries may require proof of a recent negative COVID test for entry

  • You cannot use the NHS test and trace service to get a test for international travel
  • Testing before you leave the UK for international travel is only available as a private service through a private provider such as Fit2FlyTest
  • When ordering a test, you should check the requirements of the country you are planning to travel to and the time it will take to process your test and get a result
  • The type of test that is usually required is a PCR test – which Fit2FlyTest offers a home test kit for this. Our gold standard test picks up the genetic material of the virus on a swab and can tell you if you had COVID at the time the swab was taken
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