a bridge over water with a bridge and a city in the background

Update: the UK has now returned to a pre-flight testing requirement as of December 7th, 2021. You must taken an antigen or PCR covid-19 test no more than two days before departure to travel to the United Kingdom, in addition to a PCR test for after arrival.

If you’ve been putting off a trip to the UK, you’re now running out of excuses. After a series of travel protocols which varied between the sensible and the absurd, the UK has now simplified what it takes to enter the country as a visitor.

Most notably, fully vaccinated visitors from most of the world will no longer need to take a test before boarding a flight to the United Kingdom, and can simply enter with a single form, and proof of a test scheduled for after arrival.

It’s not quite pre-covid-19 days, but it’s a whole lot easier than it’s been. Here’s what you need to know, if you’re planning a trip.

UK Drops Pre-Flight Testing, Simplifies Travel

If you’re fully vaccinated, travel to the UK is a lot easier now than it’s been in the last 18 months. People fully vaccinated by an approved country, including those in the US, EU and many more, can board a flight without the need to take a covid-19 test first.

a bridge over a river

Fear of potentially testing positive in the days before a trip and losing out on deposits have been a key blocker to leisure travel, and with epidemiological data consistently pointing to minimal risk of worst outcomes for fully vaccinated people, the UK testing requirement has been dropped accordingly.

Instead, travelers will now need two things: to book a covid-19 test for after they arrive, from an approved provider, and to fill out a passenger locator form (PLF) once they’ve booked their test. The form can only be filled out within 72 hours of departure.

There’s no need to isolate upon arrival for vaccinated visitors coming from any area that isn’t considered “red list” for travel, unless you’re symptomatic. The “day 2” test can actually be taken upon arrival, and you don’t need to wait two days to take it.

Green Or Red: A New Normal

Previous entry restrictions were incredibly complicated, even if you were paying close attention. Now, fully vaccinated visitors face a red list, or a green list. The “red list” is quite small, the “green list” is quite big, and so long as you avoid red, it’s just one test and one form to enter.

Government officials have noted that the requirement to book a PCR test for after arrival will be changed to a (much cheaper) antigen test at some point in October. Until that date, all arrivals will still be expected to pay for a PCR test. Using airline discount codes, many options exist around £45 ($60) per person.

Eventually, all testing requirements for vaccinated visitors could be scrapped entirely. For now, dropping the pre-flight test makes travel to the UK a lot more attractive, and a whole lot easier.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. It’s disappointing how few countries we actually accept vax certs from. Many people can’t visit without quarantine despite having more secure evidence of vax than the USA….

  2. Wondering how it would work for transiting passengers (but not officially connecting on same itinerary).

    1. As would I. As a visiting traveler, I’d have to take time off from my trip to get tested. I’d much rather do that before departure as opposed to during the trip itself. Also, much easier to deal with a positive test at home rather than in another country.

      As an American, I’d also have to take a test 3 days before my return. So as a vaccinated person, I’d need 2 tests total. I suppose that’s better than 3, but it’s 2 more than I’m willing to put up with considering the time I’d have to take away from my trip to do it.

      1. Don’t get me wrong, my personal opinion is that fully vaccinated people should not be subject to any testing. It’s an improvement, however small, and hopefully trends continue in the right direction.

        1. Hopefully, the day 2 test goes away before American Airlines devalues their FF program & makes my 260K miles worthless.

  3. I’m still not sure how this works. I’m arriving at Heathrow on October 10th. I’m fully vaccinated. I went to website you provided a link to and sent email requests for tests to three companies. No response yet. If you’ve done this, how does it work? I don’t want to show up at Heathrow and be isolated.

  4. We just returned from a trip to Portugal, via Heathrow, on BA. Testing is a pain, but antigen test in Lisbon took a total of 20 mins for both of us, and cost only 25 euros/pp (vs 110 pp for PCR). The paperwork, the requirements, the confusion and discrepancies b/w BA, VeryFLY app (which they push, but which sucks) and the actual situation on the ground is most annoying. The rules (from UK, BA and the US) are numerous, confusing and sometimes misleading. Plus, they bombard you with useless meaningless messages and e-mails, which definitely spoiled the trip for us, which would otherwise be most enjoyable due to complete lack of tourists, visitors, queues, etc.

  5. After filling out what seemed like endless number of PLFs on our trip, I’m still puzzled why airlines need them? What is it in those forms which they, the airlines themselves, don’t know? Name, address, birthday, passport number, flight #, seat # (a few times I entered incorrect one, since ours were assigned 24 hrs before the flight) — all of this info they already know.
    This is an honest question…

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