Foreign Office Travel Advice
How to prepare before you go on holiday
- Check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office travel advice for the country you’re visiting at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. This includes local rules relating to coronavirus and details of any entry requirements, such as if you need to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result and which test types will be accepted (e.g. you can’t use a free NHS test for travel). You can sign up to receive country specific email alerts to get important updates.
- Check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice to find out if the destination you’re visiting requires visitors to present proof of vaccination for entry. You can show proof that you’ve been fully vaccinated against coronavirus through the NHS COVID Pass, which is available in a digital format or as a letter sent to you in the post. If you’re a resident in England and registered with a GP, you can also get the NHS COVID Pass using the free NHS App, but do check that your destination will accept the app before choosing this option. Visit the Government’s website for more information on demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status when travelling abroad.
- Check the Government’s traffic light list to find out what you need to do for your return journey to the UK. This includes taking at least two COVID-19 tests; in the three days before you travel to the UK and a second by day two of your return. You’ll need to arrange and pay for these tests through a private testing provider, so free tests from the NHS will not be accepted.
- Take out comprehensive travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday, making sure it covers your specific needs. Many insurance policies now include different types of cover for coronavirus, such as medical expenses while on holiday or cover for cancellation if you’re unable to travel. Read the policy details carefully to ensure it has the level of cover you want.
- Allow plenty of time to get your usual travel documents in order, which includes checking your passport to see if it’s nearing its expiry date, applying for a visa if needed, and checking the latest travel health advice for your destination at TravelHealthPro. Many countries require at least six months’ validity on your passport from your date of arrival and the passport office is currently advising that it may take up to 10 weeks for applications to be processed, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to apply. For more information on passport rules for travelling to the EU, please refer to: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/passport-rules-for-travel-to-europe
- Research the health and safety measures that will be in place on your journey, such as the rules around face coverings and if there are any medical exemptions. While you are no longer legally required to wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces in England, government guidance says it “expects and recommends” them to be worn in crowded areas, such as public transport, and face coverings must still be worn in other parts of the UK. Businesses and travel operators set their own rules for customers and passengers, so make sure you speak to your travel provider and check the websites of your transport provider and your transport hub e.g. airport, train station or port to find the latest information and guidance.
- If you’re travelling to Europe, find out what extra steps you may need to take now that the UK has left the EU. This includes checking your mobile phone company’s policy on data roaming, that you have the right documents for driving or taking your pet abroad, and checking your EHIC’s expiry date and replacing it with a GHIC if necessary. If you renewed your current passport before the previous one expired, be aware that any extra months added to your passport over 10 years may not count towards the minimum three months needed.
The traffic light system
There is a traffic light system in place in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for international travel, which places foreign countries on a green, amber or red list. There is also a ‘green watchlist’ to identify which countries are more likely to move from the green list to the amber list, but for which green list rules apply.
There are different testing and quarantine requirements on your return to the UK depending on which list the country you have visited is on and whether or not you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For entry into the UK, ‘fully vaccinated’ means it’s been at least 14 days since you’ve had either two doses of an approved two dose vaccine (such as Pfizer or AstraZeneca) or one dose of an approved single dose vaccine (such as Janssen) and you need to have received your full course in the UK, Europe or the US.
You’ll need to check which list your travel destination is on and which requirements apply to you before you go away so you know what you need to do for your journey back. The Government is reviewing the traffic light lists every three weeks, so if your destination is currently on the amber or red list, it may change to the green list at the time of your departure.
- Green – You will need to take a COVID-19 test (antigen test, LAMP test or PCR test) in the three days before returning to the UK and a PCR test on or before day two of your return. You won’t need to quarantine or take any additional tests unless you get a positive test result.
- Amber (travellers who have been fully-vaccinated) – You will need to take a COVID-19 test (antigen test, LAMP test or PCR test) in the three days before returning to the UK and a PCR test on or before day two of your return. You won’t need to quarantine or take any additional tests unless you get a positive test result.
- Amber (travellers who haven’t been fully-vaccinated) – You will need to take a COVID-19 test (antigen test, LAMP test or PCR test) in the three days before returning to the UK, a PCR test on or before day two of your return and another PCR test on day eight of your return. You’ll also need to quarantine at home for 10 days on your return. If you’re returning to England, you’ll have the option of a “test to release” on day five to end self-isolation early.
- Red – You will need to stay in a quarantine hotel for 10 days on your return, as well as take a COVID-19 test (antigen test, LAMP test or PCR test) in the three days before returning to the UK and a further PCR test on day two and day eight of your return.
Regardless of which list the country you are returning from is on, you will need to complete a Passenger Locator Form before you return to the UK. Read more about how to get a test for your holiday on our blog: Which COVID-19 tests do I need for my holiday and where do I get one?
Full details of the traffic light system - including which countries are currently listed as green, amber, or red, and information on which private test providers can be used - can be found on the Government websites for the UK nation you are returning to: gov.uk (England), gov.scot (Scotland), gov.wales (Wales) and nidirect.gov.uk (Northern Ireland). Requirements may vary between nations, so check the details on the page that is most appropriate to you.
What to expect at the airport / station / port
- Whether you’re travelling via an airport, train station or port, you’ll encounter a range of measures to keep you and others safe, many of which will now be familiar to you.
- These will include wearing a face covering and practising social distancing, as well as being encouraged to use contactless payments and the extra hand sanitising stations that have been installed. You’ll also find the use of protective screens at check-in, boarding and at gates, and there will be additional cleaning procedures targeted at common use surfaces, which may include UV light treatment on escalator handrails and security trays.
- If you’re travelling to a destination that requires you to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, you’ll be asked to present your results as a printed document, an email or a text message as part of the check-in procedure. You won’t be allowed to travel without proof of a negative result from an approved private testing provider (remember that free tests from the NHS cannot be used for travel).
- If you’re embarking on a cruise, you may be given a specific arrival time to help manage the ebb-and-flow in car parks, drop-off areas and terminals to allow for social distancing when going from your car to your cabin.
- Facilities such as shops and restaurants may be closed or have a reduced capacity, so you may want to take refreshments with you or book a table in advance. If you plan to use one of the terminal lounges, check they are open and what requirements are in place.
What to expect on your journey
- Whether you’re travelling by plane, train, or boat, you’ll find there are additional or enhanced procedures in place to limit the spread of the virus, including more regular cleaning and disinfecting schedules targeted at surfaces that are touched frequently and the use of apps to store tickets and boarding passes.
- You’ll also need to wear a face covering while onboard, so make sure you take enough for your journey as it’s recommended that they are changed every four hours. Many airlines require passengers to wear medical face masks, so check with your airline which type of mask you will need.
- If you’re flying to your destination, the majority of modern, large, commercial aircraft use advanced HEPA filtration systems that are 99.9% effective at removing germs and viruses like COVID-19, and completely renew the air in the cabin every six minutes.
- It’s likely there will be a reduced food and drink service, so it’s a good idea to take refreshments for your journey.
What to expect while you’re away
- The local rules to help prevent the spread of coronavirus will vary depending on which destination you are visiting and may be different from the rules in the UK. It’s important that you follow the advice of the local and public health authority in destination, which may include wearing face coverings in public spaces, restrictions on the number of people at the beach or in public areas to aid social distancing, and in some circumstances curfews. The FCDO travel advice page for the country you are visiting has a ‘Coronavirus’ section which provides useful information on the local measures that are in place to keep you and others safe. If you’re not sure what the local requirements are, ask your travel provider, accommodation staff and excursion providers for further guidance.
- Be aware that your holiday may be different to previous experiences, with new measures including enhanced cleaning procedures at your hotel, the offer of a waiter service instead of a buffet, more options for al fresco dining and socialising, and reduced access to certain facilities to prevent the spread of the virus. These measures will change on an ongoing basis to respond to the situation in destination, so make sure you follow the advice of accommodation staff and excursion providers, or ask your travel provider if you have any questions.
- If you’ve booked a cruise, in addition to rigorous cleaning procedures and the use of face coverings and social distancing in public areas, common changes onboard include improved ventilation systems to aid filtration and provide more fresh air, and enhanced medical care for COVID-19 including dedicated cabin capacity for isolation and shoreside assistance. When disembarking for excursions, make sure you follow the local rules for the countries you are visiting and visit the FCDO travel advice pages for more information. You’ll find detailed information about the new measures for your trip by visiting your cruise line’s website and make sure you ask your cruise provider if you need further guidance.