In this article we’ve summarised the government’s guidance on international travel and linked to the most up to date official sources to check regularly before you book or take a trip.
It focuses on what you need to know about returning to the UK from wherever you choose to travel to. But it’s also important to check local entry requirements and restrictions in your destination, to make sure you’re able to visit it in the first place.
You should also read about what travel insurance covers for coronavirus, and remember that travelling against official advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) can invalidate your cover.
Travel red and green lists and what they mean
As of 4 October 2021, the UK government’s travel restrictions have been simplified to make it easier to know where you can travel to and where to avoid.
The UK government now maintains a red list of countries considered highest risk, which it says shouldn’t be visited except in the most extreme of circumstances.
If you do visit a red list destination you should expect the strictest restrictions, including having to take multiple Covid-19 tests and pay in advance for a period of self-isolation in a quarantine hotel when you return to the UK.
Also from 4 October, the previous amber and green lists have now been merged into a single ‘rest of the word’ category of low-risk destinations. We’ve called it the ‘green’ list here.
If you visit one of these green list destinations, the number of Covid-19 tests you’ll need to take and whether you need to self-isolate when you get home will differ depending on whether you’ve been fully vaccinated against the virus.
Let’s look at the requirements in more detail.
Returning from a ‘green’ list country
If you’re returning from any destination that’s not on the UK’s red list, the rules vary depending on your vaccination status.
If you’ve already been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and your second jab was two or more weeks prior to travel, you no longer need to take a test before your journey home. There’s also no need to self-isolate when you get back to the UK unless you develop symptoms and test positive for the virus.
If you’ve yet to be vaccinated or have only received one dose, you’ll need to take a Covid-19 test before your return departure. This will usually be a lateral flow test but may vary by country. You’ll also need to self-isolate at home for 10 days. You may be able to reduce this period through the Test to Release programme.
All UK travellers need to complete a passenger locator form and take a Covid test on day 2 back in the UK (except for the under-5s). This must be a PCR test. Those not fully vaccinated also need to take a PCR test on or after day 8. If your test result is positive, you’ll need to follow the government’s guidance for self-isolation.
Returning from a red list country
This may be either a lateral flow or PCR test depending on the country you’re visiting. Check the FCDO guidance for specific destinations.
You’ll also need to pay in advance to self-isolate in a quarantine hotel for 10 days when back in the UK. The price you pay for this will include the cost of PCR tests taken on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of your return.
Always check the latest before you book in case you’re planning to visit a destination that’s at risk of moving to the red list. You may need to postpone or cancel your trip.