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Arriving back in the UK: What you need to know

Posted on March 25, 2021 by Ria Wong
an image of a woman leaving the arrivals section of an airport

Returning home from a holiday abroad has changed a bit in the past 12 months. Here’s what you need to know about arriving back in the UK from a trip away.

Is COVID-19 testing mandatory for UK arrivals?

International travellers bound for the UK now need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before they depart. You will also need to book two more tests, from an approved provider, for days two and eight of your 10-day quarantine upon arrival back in the UK.

Arrivals to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland who have travelled by plane, train or boat must provide proof of a negative test taken up to 72 hours before they start their journey.

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 also won’t need to take a test if your journey to the UK began in the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Ascension, the Falkland Islands or St Helena.

Do I need a mandatory COVID-19 test if I’ve had a vaccine?

At the moment, there are no exceptions to the rules on COVID-19 testing if you have had a vaccine. It’s possible this may change as more is known about how well the vaccine stops transmission of the virus and as more people are vaccinated.

Graphic showing government accepted COVID-19 tests

What sort of test do you need to take?

The government has set out the standards for tests it will accept. If you do not take a test that meets the standards then you may not be allowed to travel.

Approved tests include:

  • A nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test.
  • An antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device.

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

Will my travel insurance cover the costs of a 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 happens if you travel to the UK without proof of a negative test?

You may not be allowed to board your transport 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 I still need to isolate for 10 days if I’ve had a negative test before arriving in the UK?

All arrivals need to isolate, unless you have travelled from a country on the travel corridor list, which is currently suspended. 

You might be able to shorten your self-isolation period through the Test to Release scheme. You will need to pay for a private test and if that test comes back negative then you can end your self-isolation.

Graphic showing UK arrival restrictions for COVID

What are the UK arrival quarantine rules?

When you arrive back in the UK, you’ll need to self-isolate for 10 days at your home or wherever you’re staying. On day two and day eight, you will need to take the two tests you booked before you left. If either of these come back positive, your quarantine could be extended.

However, from day five onwards, you can sign up to use the Test to Release scheme, which could reduce your self-isolation time. To do this, you need to provide a negative COVID-19 test from a private, approved provider.

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. During your stay you must undertake two mandatory coronavirus tests, on day two and day eight of your 10 day quarantine, you will need two negative results otherwise your self-isolation period will be extended.

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

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

Do I need to complete a passenger locator form?

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. This will have to include the invoice numbers of the two tests you booked to take once you are back in the UK, if that applies to you.

Upon arrival, you’ll be asked to present this form alongside your negative COVID-19 test result.

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Ria Wong

by Ria Wong

Ria Wong is Staysure’s Content Manager. She’s keen on long weekends away to places with good food, and enjoys a spot of DIY!