Update: from March 18th, all 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. Soon, they’ll disappear entirely.
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
Fully vaccinated arrivals from many countries, including the USA and most of Europe, are able to visit the UK without any quarantine period. There’s no testing required.
For fully vaccinated arrivals starting March 18th and onward, no covid-19 tests will be needed before departure or after arrival and the last remaining passenger locator forms will disappear too. Here is the guidance directly from the UK Government.
Change made: If you will arrive in England after 4am, Friday 18 March, you do not need to take any COVID-19 travel tests or fill in a UK passenger locator form. This will apply whether you are vaccinated or not.UK Government
Until March 18th, all visitors will simply need to fill out a passenger locator form, if they are fully vaccinated. No testing is required before or after flight.
Steps To Visit The UK Without Quarantine
For travel from March 18th, 2022, if you want to visit the UK, hop on a plane. All pre-flight testing and forms will be dropped.
The UK previously had a confusing red, amber and green list, but now there’s nothing to know at all. Until March 18th, you’ll 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.
For Arrivals Starting March 18th 2022
There’s nothing to know. Travel is like how it was before the global pandemic. Buy a ticket, flash a passport and hop on a plane. The UK won’t require proof of vaccination either.
UK Passenger Locator Form (PLF)
Now that testing has been dropped for all fully vaccinated arrivals, the Passenger Locator Form is the last “restriction” left to deal with until March 18th. From the 18th, that requirement disappears. No forms at all.
Until March 18th, 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.
Collinson is no longer on site at Heathrow, its all Express Test now.
They still have a site at Heathrow but it’s on the Bath Road. We used it recently, they didn’t return our results within the 48 hours so they refunded our full amount and gave us our results. So it was win, win !
Many flights arrive at HeThrow very early in the morning . The test sites do not open till 7.30 am leaving you to hang around after a long overnight flight. Usually the cheaper the test the longer the result takes the longer the quarantine.
This is immensely helpful! Especially the Day 2 testing at the airport. Quick question–how do you know which Heathrow location to test at? I’m not sure which terminal I’ll be coming into (my first time in the UK). Is there a testing area at Heathrow that can be accessed by anyone in the airport?
I’ve arrived at T5, T3 and T2 in the past six months. There are facilities at all three.
On a short trip, can you use the results of your ‘Day 2’ test as your ‘CDC pre entry to USA’ test if it falls within the 3 days prior to departure? e.g. I arrive in the UK on Friday, test on Saturday and leave on Monday.
Yes, with a caveat – you’ll want to make sure you get your results back. If you do the in-person testing and it falls within the US 3 day window, that’s easy, but with the mail in kits, etc, they can take days to process, particularly over weekends, so I’d say just be sure to get test done friday to ensure a result. I also recommend the Abbott BinaxNow tests you can pack in your carry on.
Very helpful, as always… Do you know if there is a list of “approved” pre-flight test providers for the UK (travelling back into the UK)?
Nick, Indeed! Here’s the (mostly post flight) list. I personally back the Qured LFD for taking with you abroad, or the Abbott BinaxNOW via eMed if you happen to be in the USA. Here’s the UK list, but doesn’t have as much about pre-flight. https://www.gov.uk/find-travel-test-provider
Following this, I’m trying to plan a trip in late October to Northern Ireland. Fully vaccinated plus have had the booster shot. Am I correct in assuming the guidelines above are the same for No. Ireland?
I am fully vaccinated but don’t know why they are not allowing me to visit the UK. I have completed the quarantine period but am always unlucky.
What is the situation for passengers transiting through a UK airport coming from a red list country going to a green list country?
Gilbert, according to the British Government you are in fact obliged to quarantine on arrival even if vaccinated until you get a negative result from your day 2 test even if you are not from a Red List Country
There are at least five times in this article where that is mentioned. I’ve now bolded them, to make them easier to find.
Spent 2 1/2 hours trying to complete my Best friend’s. First of all, she was sent a PLF for people traveling from the UK to the US & now returning by her travel person – we tried & tried to get this to work and it wouldn’t. Went to the AA site & found the US PLF… way easier now… However, Heathrow tests were booked up (so try & book well in advance), so did a City – way more work, but anyway… Then at the end the form kept asking for her PASSENGER Locator #, which was 2 digits too long. After trying everything, including deleting letters, 0’s, etc., I saw on her test confirmation, a FACILITIES Locator number – that worked! Have no idea why this has to be so difficult, and why they asked for the “Passenger,” but only the “Facilities” worked, but finally got her on a plane after having been denied boarding the night before…
The new rules are crazy. I live in Portugal currently and have a trip to the UK planned. I need to get a test before I leave Portugal but no one knows if it needs to be a PCR or Lateral Flow. The Gov’t website says I can take either one but that leaves a lot of uncertainty. Of course I’d take the cheapest test but others have said the Gov’t really wants people to take the PCR. Then Need a day 2 test upon arrival in London. I’m going to a testing site in Central London on the day I arrive, but how do I do that if I have to self-isolate? Plus, the testing is now getting more expensive than the flights.
To be clear, any official lab antigen result is accepted for pre-flight test. There’s no want – whatever is the rules is the rules, so the tele-med style tests or clinic/airport antigen tests are fine for pre-flight.
Thanks so much for this guide, it’s super helpful! Given that you are supposed to isolate until you get results, do you know if there are any rapid PCR tests available at Heathrow? When I followed your link, it seemed like the quickest test provided results the following day, but perhaps I missed something. Many thanks again!
Hey Trevor, there are some faster options in London, but because of some very pedantic rules around the tests, very few can advertise turnarounds in mere hours. In practice, most of the Heathrow tests, or tests offered at hotels (such as Sofitel and Halo) are next business day morning at the latest.
Very useful piece, thanks.
The worst thing about the current wave, however, is its increased transmissibility…so the chances of you getting a positive pre flight test, with the accompanying chaos of having to sort out short term accommodation and changing flights etc, is daunting to many, I’m sure.
It’s really put flying off the agenda for me for a while now…and I’m not sure when I’m going to be able to face it again.
Totally understandable. I think it’s really creating two segments of trip: short (under 3 days to maximize test validity, minimize chances), or long to be able to expect the unexpected. And the third variable: only going to places where you can self quarantine, if all goes to $#!T!
Question and apologies if already answered:
Is the Binaxnow Abbor test with emed supervision okay to use for a pre-travel test from the US or any other EU country?
Certainly for pre-travel to US. I’ve never had a problem for *most* EU countries, but it’s worth double checking whether there’s any specifications about no “self testing” even when supervised, etc. For UK, it def works.
This might be a ridiculous question, but my husband, 3yo, and I are traveling from USA to UK (husband & I full-vax). Since UK doesn’t require 3yo to get tested, will 1 Abbott BinaxNow 6 pack be sufficient for our needs? 4 tests for adults (pre-dept + return) + 1 for 3yo on return to USA? Can the Abbott tests be used for children? Thx
I moved to the UK from the US on a work visa a year ago, and gone back and forth a number of times myself since – this is the most accurate, up to date, and comprehensive guide I’ve seen online so far.
Helpful to see eMed/BinaxNOW is accepted for return to the UK, as I’ve used qured (or on-site PCR tests) on all prior flights into the UK but had to book with eMed to return after the holidays. Thanks!
After reading the above, is my understanding correct in that it seems it is possible to book and take your day 2 test on day zero at the airport, before heading to the hotel?
Correct : )
So, if I’m fully vaccinated (Pfizer) and arriving on a flight from Austria in late January, and only transiting at Heathrow (going to lounges, but not leaving the airport), I will no longer need to pre-test?
Thanks so much for the update! It will certainly make our upcoming trip in late February easier & less stressful! Any chance the US will change the pre-departure COVID test?
going on a cruise to Spain & Portugal arriving UK after 11/02/2022 therefore no need for day 2 LFTest
But you cant fill out PLF without code from LFTest can’t do on board no internet connection. any ideas.
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