What You Need to Know About Traveling in the UK Now

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As of July 19, requirements on physical distancing were lifted in England and the wearing of face masks in any setting is only voluntary. Within the United Kingdom, travelers can go anywhere within and across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. You can stay at hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, and hostels in Central London and elsewhere in these destinations. If you plan to visit any Scottish island, though, you must undergo lateral flow tests twice before your trip.

According to NHS, the lateral flow test is for people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms. It requires either a nose swab alone or a nose and throat swab and delivers a quick result. Do not eat half an hour before the test because this can affect the outcome.

Traveling Outside the UK

On May 17, the government lifted restrictions for nonessential travel abroad among residents of England, Wales, and Scotland. On May 24, the government lifted these among Northern Ireland residents. There are many requirements, though. On June 21, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the UK stated that it will be difficult to travel but the hassle and delays are necessary to prevent the virus from returning and keep the entire country safe.

The UK has classified countries as green, amber, and red, with countries on the green list, deemed the safest. The government reportedly based the classification on several factors including the country’s transmission risk for COVID-19, the transmission risk of its current dominant variant, and its capability for genomic surveillance. Risk assessments for each destination included data on the total vaccination doses dispensed for every 100 people. The UK’s Joint Biosecurity Centre did the assessments.

English travelers to countries on the green list do not have to quarantine upon their return. You will, however, need to take a COVID-19 nose swab polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before your return and another on or before the second day from your return.

English travelers can also visit countries in the amber and red lists but there are much stricter restrictions. If you travel to amber countries and you are not fully vaccinated, you must get a PCR test before your return, another on the second day from your return, and still another on the eighth day. You are also required to do a 10-day quarantine upon your return. Unless you come from France, though, you can take the third PCR test after the fifth day of the quarantine, and you can be released if it comes out negative.

As of July 19, English travelers who have full vaccinations from the UK vaccine program need not quarantine upon returning from amber countries. You will still have to take the PCR test before returning, though, and another on the second day from your return.

English travelers who travel to countries on the red list must follow all the testing requirements as those who are returning from amber countries. In addition, you are required to quarantine in designated quarantine hotels in the UK at your own cost. This comes to £1,750 or about $2,445 for every adult.

Countries on the Green, Amber, and Red Lists

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As of July 19, countries on the green list are Australia; Bulgaria; Brunei; Faroe Islands; Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Iceland; Hong Kong; Malta; New Zealand; Singapore; St Helena; Tristan da Cunha; Ascension; South Sandwich Islands; and South Georgia. The green watchlist includes countries that are at risk of being moved to amber, a riskier classification. These are the Turks and Caicos Islands; Montserrat; Madeira; Israel including Jerusalem; Grenada; Dominica; Croatia; Cayman Islands; Bulgaria; British Indian Ocean Territory; Bermuda; Barbados; Antigua and Barbuda; Antarctica or the British Antarctic Territory; and Anguilla.

Just because a country is on the green list means you can go, though. You must first check if those countries are accepting travelers from abroad, and specifically travelers from the UK. For instance, Australia and New Zealand, which are on the green list, do not currently accept international travelers.

Countries on the red list as of July 19 are Angola, Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Bolivia, Brazil, Botswana, Burundi, Chile, Cape Verde, Colombia, Costa Rica, Congo Democratic Republic, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eswatini, Eritrea, French Guiana, Ethiopia, Guyana, India, Haiti, Indonesia, Lesotho, Kenya, Malawi, Mongolia, Maldives, Mozambique, Namibia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Oman, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, the Philippines, Rwanda, Qatar, Seychelles, Somalia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Turkey, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Venezuela, Uruguay, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

Countries that are neither on the green or red lists are on the amber list. These lists are very fluid and can change at any time so before you make any travel plans, it is best to first consult the government’s website for guidance. Also, be prepared to adjust if changes occur just before your trip.

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