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New Covid travel rules for the UK

Posted on January 10, 2022 by Kelly Johnstone
Child playing in the sea with family member

Rules for travel have eased for some travellers returning to the UK from a trip abroad.

Fully vaccinated travellers no longer need to take pre-departure tests before they travel to the UK. Lateral flow tests have also been reintroduced for day two testing, offering a cheaper alternative to the more expensive PCR test (which can still be used if preferred).

Travel rules remain the same for unvaccinated travellers.

The changes to pre-departure tests came into effect from 4am, Friday 7 January and the reintroduction of day 2 lateral flow tests came into effect from 4am, Sunday 9 January. These rules apply to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What’s changing to travel?

Travel rules have eased for fully vaccinated travellers travelling to the UK from non-red list countries.

Fully vaccinated travellers coming back from a non-red list country need to:

  • Take a lateral flow test on day two
  • Only self-isolate if you receive a positive result from your day two test

The rules remain the same for fully vaccinated travellers returning from red list countries. You’ll need to:

  • Take a pre-departure test 48 hours before travelling back to the UK
  • Stay in a government-managed quarantine hotel for 10 days
  • Take two further PCR tests during your quarantine period (day two and day eight)

Rules for unvaccinated travellers

Travel rules remain the same for unvaccinated travellers.

If you’re not fully vaccinated under the UK’s vaccination programme, or can’t prove your vaccination status, then travel restrictions will still apply even from non-red countries.

This means you’ll need the following for non-red list destinations:

  • a pre-departure COVID-19 test
  • a day 2 PCR test
  • a day 8 PCR test
  • self-isolate for 10 days

You can still use the Test to Release scheme to stop your self-isolation early at an extra expense.

If you’re unvaccinated and travelling from a red list country, you’ll need to:

  • Take a pre-departure test 48 hours before travelling back to the UK
  • Stay in a government-managed quarantine hotel for 10 days
  • Take two further PCR tests during your quarantine period (day two and day eight)

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 ScotlandNorthern 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 18s arriving from non-red list countries

Under 18s are treated as if they are fully vaccinated and don’t have to take pre-departure tests or quarantine upon arrival in the UK.

  • Under 18s arriving from red list countries

Children 4 or under do not need to take any pre-departure tests or tests on arrival, but they must stay in hotel quarantine.

Children aged 5-17 years old must stay in hotel quarantine for 10 days and take 2 COVID-19 tests on arrival.

Children aged 12-17 years old must also take pre-departure tests before arriving in the UK.

What about entry requirements into other countries?

The UK’s system for international travel only affects re-entry into the UK. You might still need proof of negative COVID tests to visit other countries so you’ll need to check entry requirements on the Foreign Office (FCDO) website.

Where can I get a Covid test for travel?

You’ll need to pre-book any PCR or lateral flow tests before you travel. You won’t be able to use NHS tests for travel and will need to pay for your tests privately.

If you need to book a COVID test for your next trip you’ll get 10% off* with any new Staysure policy.

Does the traffic light system affect my travel insurance?

The UK’s system for international travel doesn’t affect your travel insurance.

You’ll still need to check that your destination is safe to travel to – as seen by the Foreign Office (FCDO) and that you’re eligible to gain entry to make sure your trip can go ahead for your cover to be valid.

*Please note, offers can be changed and/or retracted at Randox’s discretion. Discount applies to home delivered COVID-19 tests only. This offer excludes tests bought for click and collect.

Kelly Johnstone

by Kelly Johnstone

Kelly Johnstone is Staysure’s Head of Content. She’s known for a love of tea and shares data-driven and breaking travel news.