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Arriving back in the UK: What you need to know

Posted on October 4, 2021 by Ria Wong
an image of a woman leaving the arrivals section of an airport

Returning home from a holiday abroad requires a little more planning than it once did. Here’s what you need to know about arriving back in the UK from a trip away.

What are the UK arrival quarantine rules?

From 4am 4 October, new travel rules will see green and amber list countries merge together. Only the red list will remain the same, with mandatory hotel quarantine.

Replacing the previous traffic light system, the new rules will use your vaccination status and the country you’re travelling from to determine what tests are needed, and whether or not you need to self-isolate.

Travelling from ‘rest of world’ or non-red list country

Vaccinated travellers

Fully vaccinated holidaymakers returning from a ‘rest of world’ country no longer have to take pre-departure PCR tests before travelling back to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The only test they’ll have to take is a day 2 PCR.

In England, these day 2 PCR tests are due to be replaced with cheaper lateral flow tests by the end of October. Just like PCR tests for travel, you’ll only be able to use paid-for lateral flow tests and not those provided by the NHS.

Requirements for travelling back to the UK

Unvaccinated travellers

If you’ve not received two doses of a recognised COVID vaccination, or can’t prove your vaccination status, you’ll need to follow these guidelines, regardless of the country you’re traveling from (excluding Ireland): 

  • a pre-departure COVID 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.

Travelling from a red list country

Whatever your vaccination status, if you’re travelling from a red list country, the same rules apply to everyone.

If you have been in, or travelled through, a red list country in the 10 days prior to arriving in the UK, you’ll need to:

Is COVID-19 testing mandatory for UK arrivals?

Fully vaccinated arrivals to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland after 4am on 4 October 2021 no longer need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before they return home. This applies to anyone who has travelled by plane, train or boat.

If you are unvaccinated you will still need to provide proof of a negative test before arriving in 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.

What sort of test do you need to take?

Any travellers returning to the UK will need to take a PCR test on day 2 of arriving in the country, but there are plans for England to replace the PCR with the cheaper lateral flow test by the end of October. 

You can find more information about the tests you need for travel in our blog and 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 COVID-19 tests from Randox Health with new travel insurance policies, though.

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

If you are travelling unvaccinated and fail to provide proof of a negative test you may not be allowed to board your transport to the UK. 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 self-isolate if I’ve had a negative test before arriving in the UK?

Whether or not you need to self-isolate depends on the country you’re travelling from, and your vaccination status.

Rules for entering the UK for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers

Do I need to complete a passenger locator form?

All travellers 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 7: 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!