By The Reduce My Excess Travel Team,
06 May 2021
7 mins read
If you’re one of the many people hoping to get abroad for your holidays this summer, you may be pretty confused with how it’s going to work.
With the Covid situation as fluid and changing as it is, we’ve put together a guide to show you what the foreign travel rules are now currently, and what they’re likely to be when summer hits.
As of now, it is currently legal to travel abroad from the UK to certain countries for a holiday.
From the 17th May, UK holidaymakers have been able to travel abroad for their holidays. The government have implemented a traffic light system for all destination countries that determines the level of testing and quarantine you will need to do on return to the UK:
- Green: You will not need to quarantine when you return, but you will need to take a pre-departure Covid test and then a PCR test when you return to the UK.
- Amber: When you return you will need to quarantine for 10 days on top of taking the pre-departure and subsequent PCR tests on days 2 and 8 (could be reduced to 5 if you pay for extra test on this day) on your return.
- Red: You will need to pay for a 10-day long stay in an official quarantine hotel upon your return and take the pre-departure test and subsequent PCR tests on days 2 and 8 on your return.
Which Countries are on the "Green List"?
Currently there are officially 11 countries and territories on the green list. The government have said that more may join this list in due course. These countries/territories are:
Australia, Brunei, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
For more info on the green list head to gov.uk to see exact times of when these travel corridors will open up.
The government regularly updates tits "Red List" information and if you plan to travel aboard this summer, you should check it as often as you can. India and Turkey have recently been added to this list, for more info click here: current red list countries
What Does the “Red List” Actually Mean?
If the government chooses to add a country to the red list this is usually down to the existence of “variants of concern”. What this essentially means is that the country on the red list has a concerning mutation of Covid-19 present in their country that could jeopardise the effectiveness of Covid vaccines in the UK.
What does quarantining mean for ‘Amber’ Countries?
Quarantining means staying in your allotted place of residence (as stated in your passenger locator form) for the full 10-day period. You must not leave for any purpose except for going to get your tests done or other medical reasons. If you participate in the 5-day test and release scheme, then you can leave after a negative result but if you do not you must quarantine for the full 10 days even after a negative day 8 result.
What Tests do I Need?
Once the 17th May has come and gone, you’ll need to work out which tests you’ll need to travel and with so many different types out there, it can be difficult to know exactly what test you need to take in order to travel abroad. We’ve outlined what you’ll need when you both leave and return to the UK after 17th May.
Travelling from UK
When you leave the UK, you generally need a pre-departure test less than 72 hours before your trip. This can be the standard (and often costly) PCR test, but the European Commission has recently released a list of acceptable tests including rapid antigen and lateral flow tests. These are not only a lot more affordable, but quicker too (this is advantageous as the test must be less than 72 hours old when you travel), and can even be taken at your departure airport before you get on the plane. So if you’re flying to the EU you may have more pre-departure test options available to you.
When you arrive at your destination, you’ll need to make sure you adhere to their post-arrival testing procedures too. These vary by country and may be minimal or even non-existent. It is likely that proof of vaccination may be an alternative to testing in some destinations.
Travelling to UK
When you return to the UK, you will again need to take a pre-departure test. This can be PCR, rapid antigen or lateral flow depending on availability. Only tests with a specificity rating of higher than 97% and a sensitivity rating or greater than 80% are accepted. Generally the pharmacy will be able to advise on the appropriateness of their tests. The test results must show all the relevant information that the government has requested here.
When Do I Need to Get a Test?
Working out when to get a pre-departure test before you leave the UK after 17th May depends on the rules of your destination country, which currently makes it frustratingly complicated (especially for long haul flights) to book a test in. Many countries require a test no longer than 72 hours old, but some ask for 48 hours and some even stretch it to 7 days prior to your arrival. Check before you book and make sure you’re aware in advance of the requirements for your destination country.
If the country you visit falls into the “Amber” group When you return to the UK, you need to take a test less than 48 hours before arrival and two further PCR test on days 2 and 8 of you returning to the UK (if “Green”, then you’ll only need 1 PCR test when you return.)
You’ll need to book these tests in advance.
Where can I book a test?
The government website provides a list of approved providers. It’s worth considering that the cheapest providers are likely to have a very large demand and may provide a poor service as a consequence. It is also worth considering if you prefer home tests which are subject to postal delays or prefer to go to get the test done in a pharmacy or clinic. It is permitted to leave your quarantine for travel to and from the place a test is being performed.
Will Test and Release Still Happen?
You can opt into the Test and Release scheme by indicating on your passenger locator for, taking an additional test on day 5 and you are released from quarantine immediately on receipt of a negative test.
How Do I Get a Test?
Pre-departure tests may be available at your departure airport, so check the relevant website to see if they’re offered. If not, there are any number of testing sites offering lateral flow tests across the UK – find your local one here.
PCR tests are available through the larger airports in the UK, namely Heathrow, Gatwick, and Edinburgh, but also through other private companies easily found online.
What About Brexit?
Ah yes, thought we’d forget? No chance. With all these rules about Covid-19 it can be difficult to remember that this will likely be the first time you’ve travelled abroad since Brexit.
The biggest change to remember is that some countries (the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) require you to have at least 6 months left on your passport.
Our friends at Eversure have put together a handy tool to help you check if your passport needs renewing, check it out here.
Are There Any Exemptions?
Some people are exempt. Visit gov.uk for full details.