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Arriving back in the UK: What you need to know

Posted on July 19, 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?

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. COVID-19 testing has become a routine procedure for many countries, so it isn’t covered by your travel insurance.

You can get 10% off a PCR test package from Randox Health with new travel insurance policies, though.

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 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 traffic light system’s green list, or amber list if you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19. If you have travelled from a destination on the red list or amber list if you’re not fully vaccinated, you’ll need to quarantine, find out more on the FCDO website.

What are the UK arrival quarantine rules?

As of 17 May, the rules on testing and quarantining will depend on where you have been in the 10 days prior to arriving in England. Rules for arrivals will be split into three lists: red, amber and green.

Green list

If you have only been in or travelled through a green list country in the previous 10 days there is no need to quarantine, just as long as your post-arrival test is negative.

Amber list

If you have been in or travelled through an amber list country in the previous 10 days you will need to self-isolate for 10 days at home, or the place you’re staying. You can end self-isolation early by taking a PCR test on day 5 under the ‘Test to Release’ scheme.

From 19 July, if you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you don’t need to self-isolate on return from amber list countries.

Red list

If you have been in or travelled through a red list country in the previous 10 days you will need to quarantine 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 take 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.

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.

Different 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 COVID-19 test(s) you booked to take once you are back in the UK.

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

Go to previous – Chapter 8: Arriving at your destination
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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!