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Travelling to destinations with quarantine – What you need to know

Posted on February 22, 2021 by Vicky Smith
Aircraft cabin with rows of seats, view down aisle

On 18 January, the government suspended travel corridors. These travel corridors meant that holidaymakers returning from certain countries did not need to quarantine when they got back to the UK.

The suspension means that anyone coming into the UK now will need to self-isolate for 10 days in their home, or wherever they’re staying.

What does that mean for those travelling outside the UK?

With the national lockdown, which started on 4 January 2021, ‘all but essential’ travel leaving the UK is restricted.

In order to leave the UK, you’ll need a valid reason and it must be essential. Unfortunately, this puts holidays on hold for a little while longer.

Once travel restrictions are lifted, you should check the UK government’s foreign travel advice and the advice from the local government of wherever you’re travelling on the Travel Health Pro website.

Before booking, you need to be completely clear on any restrictions in place from the UK or the local government because there may be changes made at short notice.

Please keep in mind that there might be other restrictions that affect your trip, such as travel insurance providers being unable to cover you for travel before 1 March.

What are the rules for travelling back to the UK?

First of all, you need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before you travel to the UK. You need to take the test within three days of your travel date, and you might be refused boarding if you fail to provide a negative test certificate. You can get 10% off PCR test packages with new travel insurance policies.

You’ll also need to fill out a Public Health passenger locator form, within the 48 hours before you’re due to arrive in the UK. Upon arrival, you’ll be asked to present this form alongside your negative COVID-19 test result.

When you arrive back in the UK, you’ll need to self-isolate for 10 days at your home or wherever you’re staying. However, you can use the Test to Release scheme to reduce your self-isolation time to five days by providing a negative COVID-19 test from a private, approved provider.

Quarantine rules when you travel to the UK

You must have proof of a negative coronavirus test within three days of starting your journey to England. And you must undertake two mandatory coronavirus tests, on day two and day eight of your 10 day quarantine.

If you are travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man and have not been in any other countries in the last 10 days, you do not need to quarantine when arriving in England.

As of 15 February 2021, arrivals in England that have travelled in (the past 10 days), or from, a ‘red list’ country, will need to self-isolate in a government approved quarantine hotel for 10 days. These quarantine packages come at a cost for the traveller, and this needs to be booked before you travel.

The list of banned countries is sometimes referred to as the ‘red list’.

If you haven’t travelled in, or from, a country on the banned travel list, you may quarantine at home.

Similar rules are in place for returning to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

What penalties are there for not following the guidance?

If you fail to provide the right details or a negative test, you may be fined. Non-UK citizens might also be refused entry for not providing the right information. Below you can find what the current fines are.

Passenger locator form

  • Up to £100 fine for not completing a form
  • Up to £3,200 for giving false information

Negative COVID-19 test

  • You might be stopped from travelling if you can’t prove you’ve had a negative test before your departure
  • Up to £500 fine for arriving in England, Scotland, or Wales without a negative test
  • In Northern Ireland, the fine starts at £500

Failing to self-isolation

Why do I need to self-isolate when I’ve had a negative COVID-19 test before I travelled?

You need to self-isolate when you get back to the UK, even if you tested negative, because it can take up to 10 days for symptoms to appear.

More guidelines apply if you develop symptoms during your self-isolation period, arrive in the UK with symptoms, and can affect those you travelled with as well as your household. Take a read of the government’s ‘how to self-isolate when you travel to England’ guide for more information.

Vicky Smith

by Vicky Smith

Vicky Smith is a journalist and freelance content creator. She loves to travel with her family. Her favourite place in the world is a sandy beach in Cornwall.