UK Travel Restrictions: All You Need to Know Before Visiting

UK Travel Restrictions: All You Need to Know Before Visiting

Next stop: London Heathrow!

Once one of the worst-hit countries in Europe during the pandemic,  the United Kingdom has generally returned to normalcy. Its international borders have also reopened for tourism and travellers from most countries are able to enter. 

Here’s what you need to know about travelling to the UK and about the current UK travel restrictions. 

UK travel overview

uk travel restrictions

Image credit: Heidi Fin

Vaccination status 

As of October 2021, approximately 78% of the population in The United Kingdom has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Scotland and Wales (both at 81%) currently have the highest rate of fully vaccinated individuals. 

Travellers with quarantine requirements

The UK used a tier system to differentiate quarantine rules for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers. Currently, countries are divided into “Red List” and “Green List” countries. 

Those arriving from countries and territories on the Red List will have to undergo mandatory quarantine. This also applies to Vaccinated UK nationals and vaccinated foreign travellers. These countries (updated on 12 October 2021) currently include: 

  1. Colombia
  2. The Dominican Republic
  3. Ecuador
  4. Haiti
  5. Panama
  6. Peru
  7. Venezuela

Click here for the full list of countries/regions currently on the Red List. However, take note that, based on the UK’s appraisal of the current COVID-19 situation in each country, both the Red List and Green List are subject to change.  

Citizens and nationals allowed entry without quarantine

All other countries and categories not on the Red List are automatically classified as Green List countries. Passengers arriving from these countries do not need to undergo mandatory quarantine, although certain restrictions still apply. 

Unvaccinated individuals aged 18 or younger are allowed, as long as they are arriving from countries with an approved vaccination programme or are residents of the United Kingdom. 

In addition, for travellers in Singapore, where there is a Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) in place with the UK, unvaccinated children under the age of 12 are allowed the travel if they are accompanied by a vaccinated parent. 

That said, children between the ages of 3 to 11 will need to undergo a couple of PCR tests before departure and upon arrival. 

Also read: Singapore Expands Its Vaccinated Travel Lanes With More Countries, Including US & UK

Pre-arrival requirements for travel to the UK

Before arriving in the UK, foreign travellers need to take note of certain entry requirements. Much like the quarantine arrangements, these depend on whether you’re arriving from a Green List or Red List country. 

heathrow airport

Image credit: Belinda Fewings

For those arriving from a country on the Red List

  • Passenger Locator Form
    • Any traveller entering the United Kingdom has to complete this online passenger locator form. It must be submitted at least 48 hours before your arrival. 
    • You will be required to present this form in order to board your flight or other modes of transportation into the UK
    • This also applies to travellers who are only transitioning through the area
  • A negative COVID test result
    • Travellers entering the UK will need to submit a negative PCR-COVID test result taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival
  • A booking at a verified quarantine hotel
    • Travellers arriving from Red List countries have to undergo a mandatory quarantine period of 10 days irrespective of vaccination status
    • You must have a valid booking when you arrive
  • A pre-booked COVID screening test on Day 2 and Day 8
    • Non-vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK from Green List countries must book and take a COVID-19 test on their second and eighth day in the country. 
    • The test must be booked BEFORE departure
  • Approved visa
    • If this is applicable to your country
  • Passport with at least six months validity

For those arriving from a country on the Green List (Fully Vaccinated)

  • Passenger Locator Form
    • Any traveller entering the United Kingdom has to complete this online passenger locator form. It must be submitted at least 48 hours before your arrival. 
    • You will be required to present this form in order to board your flight or other modes of transportation into the UK
    • This also applies to travellers who are only transitioning through the area
  • A pre-booked COVID screening test on Day 2
    • Fully vaccinated tourists arriving in the UK from Green List countries must book and take a COVID-19 test on or before their second day in the country. 
    • The test must be booked BEFORE departing the country of origin
    • This also applies to travellers aged 5 – 17
  • Approved visa
    • If this is applicable to your country
  • Passport with at least six months validity

For those arriving from a country on the Green List (Not Vaccinated)

  • Passenger Locator Form
    • Any traveller entering the United Kingdom has to complete this online passenger locator form. It must be submitted at least 48 hours before your arrival. 
    • You will be required to present this form in order to board your flight or other modes of transportation into the UK
    • This also applies to travellers who are only transitioning through the area
  • A negative COVID test result
    • Travellers entering the UK will need to submit a negative PCR-COVID test result taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival
  • A booking at a verified quarantine hotel (Optional)
    • Unvaccinated travellers from Green List countries have to undergo a mandatory quarantine period of 10 days either at a hotel or at home
    • You must have a valid booking when you arrive if you choose to undergo quarantine at a hotel
  • A pre-booked COVID screening test on Day 2 and Day 8
    • Non-vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK from Green List countries must book and take a COVID-19 test on their second and eighth day in the country. 
    • The test must be booked BEFORE departing the country of origin
    • This also applies to travellers aged 5 – 17
    • For non-vaccinated travllers from Green List countries, your quarantine period may be cut short in the event of a negative test result under the Test to Release Scheme
  • Approved visa
    • If this is applicable to your country
  • Passport with at least six months validity

The United Kingdom currently recognises vaccines that are administered under the UK vaccination programme or an approved overseas vaccination programme. 

The vaccines that are recognised are: Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) 

For the full list of approved vaccination certificates, click here

Arrival

Immigration

Upon arrival in the UK, all travellers are subject to immigration procedures that inspect the required documents. However, travellers do not need to undergo a health screening upon arrival. As mentioned above though, depending on your vaccination status and point of departure, you will need to undergo varying degrees of COVID screening. 

Arrivals who are required to undergo mandatory quarantine will need to proceed directly to their accommodation and self-isolate for 10 days. They are not allowed to leave the premises during the quarantine period or to receive guests.

During the stay

uk travel restrictions

Image credit: Massimo Virgilio

At the time of writing, most of the coronavirus-related restrictions in the UK have been lifted. With the exception of needing to undergo tests under certain circumstances, life has generally returned to normalcy.

That being said, there are certain precautions that are still mandatory in certain locations:

  • You are required to wear a facemask in public and crowded areas when visiting Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. These include public transport, stores, and busy outdoor locations
  • Travellers are also advised to practise social distancing and to keep a high level of personal hygiene
  • It is also the responsibility of travellers to take note of any regional rules and regulations during their stay

In addition, while there are generally no travel restrictions for travel within the United Kingdom, for example from England to Scotland, do take note that certain regional restrictions may apply.

Also read: 14 Things to Do in London on Your Very First Visit

Local travel restrictions

As mentioned, a majority of the entertainment and travel sector in the United Kingdom have reopened. Dining-in is also allowed, as are small-scale social gatherings, recreational sports and activities, and personal hygiene establishments (such as barbers, and spas). 

However, certain businesses may impose rules and regulations on customers to gain entry. These may include having to provide:

  • Proof of vaccination or
  • A negative COVID test 

Currently, there is no national curfew in place. However, local authorities have the right to impose such curfews depending on the current situation.

COVID-19 testing while in the UK

uk travel restrictions

Image credit: Luke Jones

What if someone tests positive for COVID-19?

According to the NHS, what happens if you test positive for COVID-19 depends on the type of test you undertook. 

If you test positive on a PCR test (administered in a lab), you must self-isolate immediately at your current location. Depending on when you had the test or when symptoms appeared, expect to isolate for between 10 – 14 days. You may also be contacted by the relevant authorities for contact tracing procedures. 

If you test positive on a rapid lateral flow test (such as an antigen home test kit), you must first go into self-isolation. Next, you should report your test result to the NHS and undergo a PCR test for confirmation. 

As always, make sure to note down the number of your country’s embassy in the event of an emergency. 

What if someone feels unwell, or shows possible COVID-19 symptoms?

The UK’s NHS has its own app. If you or someone you know develops possible symptoms of the virus, you can report it via the app and book a COVID-19 screening. In an emergency, you can contact the 111 hotline for assistance. 

COVID Travel outside of the UK

This covers cross-border travel to other destinations from the UK.

Currently, there are no specific restrictions that prevent travellers from travelling out of the UK to other countries, nor are there restrictions for travelling between different UK territories. However, take note that each country has its own set of regulations in terms of immigration and travel restrictions. 

You may also need to quarantine upon returning to the UK (if that is part of your travel plans). What’s more, travellers who arrive in the UK as part of a travel bubble arrangement, such as the Vaccinated Travel Lane in Singapore, should avoid cross-border travel for the time being. 

Also read: Germany Travel Restrictions: What to Know Before Visiting

Return travel

Apart from these travel restrictions in the UK, it’s also important to know the entry requirements for when you return to your country of origin. It is your responsibility to check with your respective airline and official tourism office for what documents you’ll need to bring during the return trip to your country of destination.

About Author

Darren Yeoh
Darren Yeoh

Darren enjoys the finer things in life and loves exploring unfamiliar places on foot, guided with nothing but instinct and a good-old fashioned map. He enjoys cultural experiences and exciting adventures and is not a stranger to travelling alone. When he's not putting his travel experiences into words, he's probably sitting behind his laptop, planning his upcoming adventure.

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