Update: Unfortunately, the UK has once again complicated its travel rules. Read up here for the latest info.
Unless your full time job involves the comings and goings of border rules and regulations, it’s been a really tough year to jump across a border.
Who knew, just two years ago, we’d all become experts on the various types of covid-19 testing, and learn the backend systems airlines use to validate entry restrictions.
Of all the difficult to follow entry rules, the UK was among the worst, with enough red tape to make an experts head spin. But now, after more than a year of sage advice on how to keep travel safe, but open up, the government has listened.
Travel is being simplified to levels just about anyone can understand without it being their job, once again. If you plan to leave the UK, or come to visit, here’s everything you need to know, including key dates, and new rule changes.
UK’s Simplified New Travel Rules
A major step in the UK’s newly unveiled travel rules is greater freedom and privilege for fully vaccinated visitors and residents, almost all of which start from October 4th. Fully vaccinated visitors from many countries won’t need a test before travel.
Another major step is avoiding confusion, by simply having a list of “go” and “no go”, rather than red, amber and green, each with their own set of confusing rules.
The amber list is officially being scrapped and the red list shortened.
For visitors, it’s now very clear if you’re coming from a ‘red list’ country, which will still face major restrictions including supervised quarantine, or from any other country, which now has relatively clean and simple rules to follow as part of the “green” list, so long as you’re fully vaccinated.
And look… just get vaccinated already. Please. Enough.
Key Dates For UK Travel Changes
Naturally, my first trip back into the UK is on October 3rd, the day before many of the key changes are scheduled to take place.
From October 4th, people who have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days by either…
with a full course of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines from a relevant public health body in Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan – mixing between two-dose vaccines (Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna) in this list is also recognised
under a formally approved COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial in the US, Canada and Australia and have a proof of participation (digital or paper-based) from a public health body
No longer need to take a pre-departure test before they travel to the UK, nor do they need to purchase a Day 2 + Day 8 test package before arriving in the country. If any of those apply to you, you’re good to go. If not, the old rules still apply. More on that below.
One important thing to note: for reasons which aren’t immediately all that clear, anyone with proof of US vaccination must also prove they are a resident, either with a passport or other form.
A ‘Day 2’ test package is all that will be needed for people who fit these conditions, so long as they’re not coming from a “red list” country. You won’t need to take a covid-19 test before flying. You’ll just need to fill out a UK passenger locator form (PLF) and sort out a ‘Day 2’ test package.
Important: Type Of Post Arrival Test To Change
From a later date in October, fully vaccinated travelers will no longer be required to purchase a Day 2 PCR test, and will instead be invited to purchase a (much cheaper) Antigen test for their ‘Day 2’ post arrival testing.
This is great news for the costs associated with travel, which can quickly add up, particularly for families with PCR tests costing on average more than £100 ($138) per person. Antigen, or rapid tests as they are frequently referred, can be purchased for a small fraction.
For visitors in the “vaccinated” category as set out above, travel is as simple as…
- Booking a flight
- Filling out a PLF form within 48 hours of travel, before flying.
- Booking a ‘Day 2’ testing package before filling out that form.
Until that “later in October” date is announced, you’ll still need to purchase a ‘Day 2 PCR Test’ before travel, rather than the cheaper ‘Antigen’ test. We’ll update this article when the date is announced.
Basically, for now, unless you’re traveling in November or later, expect to buy a ‘Day 2 PCR Test’ package before departure to the UK. And don’t forget the Passenger Locator Form (PLF) while you’re at it. If you’re fully vaccinated as noted above, that’s it though.
Under these new rules, there’s absolutely no quarantine period for vaccinated visitors from the US, UK, Europe, a variety of other trusted country partners or a UK Overseas vaccination program, so long as you’re not coming from a red list country.
If You’re Not Fully Vaccinated In One Of These Places…
Not much has changed — and not much will. Unvaccinated visitors, or people who were vaccinated in places which don’t currently benefit from the newly relaxed rules must still follow these restrictions.
These include pre-departure covid-19 tests, post arrival PCR tests and up to 10 days of home quarantine from non red-list arrivals.
With hope, the UK will expand its list of ‘trusted partners’ from which proof of full vaccination will be accepted from more countries, and not just the currently very limited list.
For now, it’s a big step in the right direction, hopefully with more steps to come.