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.

Image by Pierre Blaché from Pixabay

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.

Join the Conversation

31 Comments

      1. 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 !

    1. 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.

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

    1. 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.
      https://www.godsavethepoints.com/covid-19-test-abbott-emed-travel-game-changer/

  3. 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?

  4. 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

  5. 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…

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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

  11. 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!

  12. 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?

  13. 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?

  14. 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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