Update: from February 11th, most covid-19 travel restrictions to the UK will be dropped. Read up for what you need to know for arrivals before this date, and what it will mean afterward.
I’ve bounced back and forth between the US and UK this year more than a handful of times, and spent more than 28 days in isolation over the course of the year in doing so. I’ve also taken more covid-19 tets than I could begin to count.
Tests and forms may not be ideal, but I can assure you that the travel restrictions and protocols to enter England and the United Kingdom are better now, than before.
With all that real world, first hand experience, I wanted to put together a guide on how to plan and prepare for your next trip to the UK. Here’s what you need to know about UK passenger locator forms, covid-19 testing, proof of vaccination and everything else, particularly with the new rules.
Planning Travel To The UK
If you’re planning travel to the UK and don’t want to spend 10 days in managed hotel isolation, you’ll want to avoid entering from, or transiting via a “red list” country.
Fully vaccinated arrivals from many countries, including the USA and most of Europe, are able to visit the UK without any quarantine period.
For fully vaccinated arrivals starting February 11th and onward, no covid-19 tests will be needed before departure or after arrival. You’ll just need to fill out a passenger locator form (PLF).
Until February 11th, all visitors must pre-book an antigen or PCR test for after arrival, but no longer need to isolate until a negative result. You’ll also need to fill out a rather cumbersome form before check in.
Steps To Visit The UK Without Quarantine
For travel before February 11th, 2022, if you want to visit the UK without isolating for 10 days, the simplest solution is to be coming from a green list country,
The UK previously had a confusing red, amber and green list, but now a simple “green means go” or “red means don’t” list applies. Until February 11th, if you want to enter the UK without formal quarantine, other than waiting for a result, you’ll simply need to…
- Be fully vaccinated (by UK, US, European, UK Overseas agency, or list of countries).
- Fill out a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) within 48 hours of departure.
- Pay for an antigen or PCR test, for after you arrive in the UK (must be booked in advance of travel).
For Arrivals Starting February 11th, 2022
The UK Government has announced that in England and Scotland, all pre departure and post arrival testing will be dropped for fully vaccinated visitors. The passenger locator form is the only piece of paperwork required from that date.
This means someone who fancies a trip on a whim could simply fill out a form and turn up at the airport, no test required, and board a flight to the UK.
Countries Where Proof Of Vaccination Is Accepted
More countries are expected to be added to the trusted vaccination country list, but this list is where it is for now and most countries are already included. We’ll update as countries are added.
If you’re not fully vaccinated, you’ll still need to test within 2 days of departure before your flight, and to also take a PCR test after arrival, which must be booked prior to any travel.
UK Passenger Locator Form (PLF)
Now that testing is being dropped for all fully vaccinated arrivals starting on February 11th, the Passenger Locator Form is the last “restriction” left to deal with.
You’ll need your flight number, seat number, as well as address of where you’ll be staying, and a few relevant details like that. Having them handy will help speed things up.
The passenger locator form is semi pedantic, and should take around 5 minutes per person to complete. Sadly, each adult over 18 must complete their own, but kids can be added to one of the adult forms, with relative ease.
You can create a PLF account, and if you’ll be coming more than once, it’s worth it.
UK Proof Of Vaccination
The UK currently recognizes NHS app vaccination proof, EU DCC proof of vaccination from EU nations, as well as proof of vaccination from the USA and UK Overseas covid-19 vaccination programs. Here’s the finer details.
For people vaccinated anywhere else, your proof of vaccination may not currently count and means you’ll still need to isolate for 10 days, and still need to take both a pre-departure “fit to fly” test as well as ‘Day 2+8 Test Package’.
The UK Government has a handy page, which spells out specifically how to prove your vaccination status, based on where you were vaccinated.
For example, US travelers can enter without quarantine, provided they show their US CDC vaccination card. EU travelers can show either the paper or digital format of their proof. In practice, neither is often requested.
UK Pre-Flight and Post Arrival Testing
To be ultra clear, you don’t need to take a test to travel to the UK, or take one after arrival in the UK if you’re a fully vaccinated visitor entering from February 11th, 2022 and onward.
All vaccinated visitors coming from a green list country before that February 11th, 2022 date will just need a post arrival test booked before travel. The pre booked test can be taken any time in the first two days after you arrive. FYI, It can actually be taken the minute you land, rather than waiting two days.
For now, it must be an antigen or PCR test, and it must be one booked as a ‘Day 2’ test, from the Government website of
bandits approved testing companies.
Practical Travel Tips For Visiting The UK
I’ve gotten in the habit of streamlining my arrivals, after many trips this year.
When you fill out your Passenger Locator Form (PLF), you’ll get a PDF sent to your email, with proof you completed the form. First thing, be sure to give a valid email, so you can receive it.
Second, I now send myself an email with proof of everything in one place, or upload it to my Google Drive for offline viewing. This helps to quickly give the immigration officer a view of all they wish to see, without fumbling around or waiting for something to download.
If you’re worried about your phone’s data not working, having paper copies of each, or offline downloads on your phone definitely helps. And finally, be sure to double check you have not only your passport, but proof of vaccination.
It’s a little bit more hassle than pre-covid-19 times, but a trip to the UK is always special.