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What are the current travel rules, including quarantine and testing?

AllClear Team
Last updated 4 January 2022

Last updated on 30th November 2021 – 8-minute read

By Letitia Smith. Letitia is the Content Manager at AllClear. As a specialist Travel Insurance provider, we keep you updated on all the latest travel news.

Since the Omicron variant was first detected, rules surrounding travel, testing and the requirement to isolate has changed with each new Governmental update.

Although the new variant is now dominant across Europe, you can still travel. However, there are a few more things to be aware of.  So, we’ve put together this up-to-date guide to help you plan for your future travels.

Red List and to testing rules

While a new strain is always concerning the good news is, when it comes to the Omicron strain, it’s been reported that it leads to less severe disease than other Covid variants.

As of 4am Wednesday 15 December, all countries were removed from the Red List.  However, as we all know things can change quickly. So here’s what you can expect should countries be placed back on to the Red List.

For UK residents wishing to Return from Red List countries the rules are: 

  • You’ll have to self-isolate at a Government approved hotel, at the cost of £2,285 for one adult, an additional £1,430 for each additional adult and £325 for each child aged 5-11.
  • Fill in a passenger locator form

What has changed for travel – rules on returning to the UK

Arriving back in the UK from a non-Red List country

According to Inews, it is understood that following the upcoming changes to travel requirements, UK arrivals will no longer be obliged to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test.

Until this is confirmed, as it stands, travellers must adhere to the requirements below:

 Vaccinated travellers

If you’re fully vaccinated and travelling back to the UK you need to:

  • Take a PCR test within 48 hours of arrival. You must quarantine at home or in the place you’re staying until you receive a negative result.
  • Fill in a passenger locator form

For information on when you can end quarantine if your PCR test result is negative and what you can and cannot do in quarantine – read this guide by the Gov.UK

Unvaccinated travellers

If you are over 18 years old and aren’t fully vaccinated you need to:

  • Fill in a passenger locator form
  • Take a PCR or lateral flow/antigen test (not a free NHS test) in the three days before you travel to the UK
  • Take a test on or before day two and on or after day eight after your return.
  • Self-isolate at home for 10 days after arrival in the UK

Is COVID-19 testing mandatory for your return to the UK? 

If you are entering the UK from a foreign country (apart from Ireland), you will need to take a PCR test on day 2 of your return – a lateral flow test will no longer be accepted as of the 30th November 2021.

Even if you tested negative before leaving the UK, you’ll still need to provide a negative test within 72 hours of travelling back to the UK.

You shouldn’t need to provide proof of a negative test to travel within the UK

You can find more information about testing and where to find test providers when abroad on the FCDO travel advice pages.

Will your Travel Insurance cover the costs of a Covid test abroad?

Travel Insurance only covers the cost of unexpected events and emergencies. The COVID-19 testing requirement is now a routine procedure for international arrivals, so it isn’t covered by your Travel Insurance.

What if you travel back to the UK without proof of a negative test?

You may not be allowed to board your transport back to the UK without proof of a negative test. There are fines of £500 for people who fail to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival in the UK.

Do you need to complete a passenger locator form?

You’ll need to fill out a Public Health passenger locator form, within the 48 hours before you’re due to arrive in the UK. 

What about the travel rules for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales?

The rules for travelling back to the UK from an international country are the same, including Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

There may be some differences in the rules once you’re back (for example, mandatory face coverings).

What about travel rules for under 18s?

Under 12s are treated as if they are vaccinated and don’t have to quarantine on arrival or take pre-departure PCR tests from non-Red List countries.

Anyone aged 12 to 18 will have to take a pre-departure test, either a lateral flow or PCR test no more than 48 hours before departing back to the UK.

Departing from the UK – what you need to know

For the latest travel advice on a particular country, visit the FCDO Foreign Travel Advice website.

If you live in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, you’ll also need to check your local government website for travel advice as this may differ. The Government’s Twitter feed is also a good way to keep up-to-date.

You’ll need to check the country’s entry requirements on the Foreign Office (FCDO) website.

  • The UK’s system for international travel only affects re-entry into England and not entry into other countries. You might still need proof of negative COVID tests. You’ll need to check the country’s entry requirements on the Foreign Office (FCDO) website, including any proof of vaccination you may need, as well as testing and quarantine rules
  • Check what extra things you may need to pack  
  • Know and follow the local COVID-19 rules and restrictions for your destination – there may be limits on group numbers and curfews
  • Make sure you have a Travel Insurance policy that includes Covid 19 cover
  • The FCDO recommends you should be prepared to stay abroad longer than planned. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, you should pack extra medication and details of prescriptions as a precaution.
  • Some destinations – such as China, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey and now the EU – need  six-month validity on your passport. So check your passport expiry date before booking your holiday.

What to look for in a Travel Insurance policy 

Comprehensive Travel Insurance is vital so you can travel with confidence. Look for a policy that covers you for cancellations, emergency medical treatment and repatriation costs related to COVID-19.

How do you get a COVID-19 test before you travel to your destination?

If you need to take a COVID-19 test before you travel abroad you’ll need to arrange and pay for a private test. Do your research and make sure the laboratory doing the test is UKAS certified

You should NOT use the NHS testing service.

You can also find a list of approved test providers on the Government’s website.

What COVID-19 tests do you need to take to travel abroad?

When it comes to going on a trip abroad from the UK the PCR test is the main one you will encounter.

Some countries may ask you to provide proof of a negative PCR test for COVID-19 at least 72 hours before you leave the UK.

How much do COVID-19 tests for travel cost?

The cost of testing for travel varies massively. Some private clinics charge as much as £200 or more for one PCR test.

Some travel companies have put together testing packages at a reduced price to make it more affordable for customers.

Hopefully, this information guide is helpful, but be aware that Government advice can change quickly. Thanks also to Nigel Thompson, Travel Editor at the Mirror for some of this information above.

We’ll continue to keep you updated as we work to help you travel with confidence.