COVID-19 Travel Preparations – Complete Guide

UK Travel During Covid-19

The Covid-19 outbreak wreaked havoc in the United Kingdom and around the world, causing one of the highest death tolls throughout the globe. This inevitably resulted in strict lockdowns throughout the country. However, as society reels back and the world has begun to open itself, major travelling restrictions have been lifted in England, Wales, and Scotland. But there are still stringent measures and restrictions in place for a myriad of countries when it comes to international travel.

Rules of Travelling – The Green, Amber, and Red Lists

International travel to and from the UK is now categorized under a risk-based “traffic lights” system – “green”, “amber”, and “red”. This also includes travel to and from England, Scotland, and Wales. Here’s some important information you need to know about these categories.

The Green List

If you’re travelling to or from a country that’s on the green list, you’re not required to self-isolate. However, when returning from a green listed country, you must:

  • Take the PCR test 24 to 48 hours before departure to the UK (children four or under are not required to take the Covid test)
  • When returning to the UK you will need to purchase in advance a day 2 PCR test.
  • Complete a passenger locator form

In case your day two PCR test is positive after your arrival, or if you develop coronavirus symptoms or if the NHS Test and Trace find out that you travelled with someone who tested positive, you’ll have to self-isolate. You can also request a PCR test from your airlines. For example, Ryanair has all the necessary information about test centres near you along with documentation needed when flying into the UK.

The Amber List

A plethora of countries are now on the amber list. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Adult passengers that have been fully vaccinated in the US or UK – as well as different European countries, are not required to self-isolate when coming to the UK
  • Passengers returning to the UK from an amber country are required to take a PCR test 2 days before their departure and a Covid-19 test up to 72 hours before arrival
  • Passengers flying from Spain have to take 2 Covid-19 tests, one of them being the PCR test.

The Red List

Countries that are at a higher risk of Covid-19 are categorized in the red list by the UK government and it’s strongly advised not to visit those countries if you don’t have to. There are a lot of countries listed, some of which include Turkey, South Africa, and Brazil. If you’ve been to a red-listed country in the last 10 days, you’ll only be allowed back into the UK if you’re a UK national or resident or an Irish national. Regardless of whether you’re fully vaccinated or not, you must:

  • Take a Covid-19 or PCR test 1 day before departure and must have authentic proof of a negative result
  • Complete the passenger locator form
  • Self-isolate in a government-approved hotel for 10 days. You will need to book and pay for the hotel in advance.

What Type of Covid-19 Tests Do You Need?

If you’re planning to go abroad for your holidays, irrespective of whether it’s to green, amber, or red-listed country, you’re going to have to take Covid tests.

Depending on where you’re travelling, you may be required to take a test before departing – it’s important to see the Covid rules and regulations of the country you are travelling to as every country has its own Covid safety policies.

Before returning to the UK, it’s mandatory to get a Covid test up to 72 hours before you depart, there are different tests that can be taken but most counties request PCR tests as they are the most reliable. Keep in mind that the facility you take the test from must be authorized, you’ll be required to show proof of a negative result. If you fail to show certifiable proof of a negative result, you will not be allowed to board.

How are Countries Categorized in the Traffic Lights System for Travel?

The decision to list different countries in the traffic lights system is made by the UK ministry, which is primarily based on the insights provided by the JBC (Joint Biosecurity Centre). The JBC strictly monitors and assesses different variants of the Covid-19 pandemic across the globe. But as a rule of thumb, till there is sufficient evidence of whether a particular country is relatively safe to travel to, all countries go into the amber list by default.

However, the green, amber, and red lists are consistently reviewed and updated every 3 weeks – this process is quite similar to that of Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England.

Can I Travel to another Country as a Tourist?

If you’re planning a trip abroad, it’s vital to do your research as travelling isn’t the same or simple as it was before. It’s vital to keep in mind that every country has its own set of Covid regulations and policies that all visitors must strictly adhere to. In addition, you have to stay up to date because depending on the severity of the coronavirus, these policies and regulations can quickly change on a very short notice. However, most countries require tourists to either be fully vaccinated or self-isolate for up to 2 weeks upon arrival.

All of the information above is subject to change. You can check the details of Covid-19 policies for different countries provided by the FCDO (UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office).

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