Travel to the UK Just Got a Lot Easier, so Put London Back on Your Bucket List

You now only need one COVID-19 test to get into the United Kingdom

Big Ben and houses of parliament at sunset, Big Ben, London, England, UK
Gerard McAuliffe / Getty Images

Great news for anglophiles: Travel across the pond just got a whole lot easier. As of Oct. 4, it only takes one COVID-19 test to visit the United Kingdom.

The U.K. just massively simplified the coronavirus travel restrictions for entering the country: Fully vaccinated travelers no longer need a COVID-19 test before flying to the U.K., there are no quarantine requirements, and only one test is required after arriving.

“We are accelerating towards a future where travel continues to reopen safely and remains open for good, and today’s rule changes are good news for families, businesses, and the travel sector,” said Grant Shapps, the U.K.'s transport secretary, in a press release.

Here’s what you need to know to plan your next (long-awaited) trip to the U.K.:

Fully Vaccinated Travelers

If you’re fully vaccinated in the U.S. (or one of 50 other approved countries), you can travel to the U.K. without a pre-flight COVID-19 test or quarantine upon arrival. U.S. travelers can show their passport and CDC card showing they’ve received the Pfizer, Oxford AstraZeneca, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine to prove vaccination status.

Right now, you still need to book a PCR test for the second day after your flight through an approved testing company, which ranges in price from $50 to $200. But by mid-October, the government says fully vaccinated travelers heading to England will only have to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR—which is cheaper, easier, and quicker.

“Our priority remains to protect public health, but, with more than eight in 10 people now fully vaccinated, we are able to take these steps to lower the cost of testing and help the sector to continue in its recovery,” said Shapps.

Unvaccinated Travelers

If you’re not fully vaccinated, you have to provide a negative PCR test within 72 hours of your departure to the U.K. Once you land, you’ll need to stay put at your hotel or Airbnb and self-isolate for 10 days (and there’s a hefty 10,000 pound fine for breaking your quarantine). You’ll also take COVID-19 tests on the second and eighth day after your flight. You can opt to pay for an additional test on the fifth day, and if your results come back negative for the coronavirus, you can end your isolation ASAP. (It’s also important to note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that travelers be fully vaccinated before journeying abroad.)

The Red List

Previously, the U.K. government divided countries into a stoplight system of different risk groups: green, amber, and red. But the new guidelines use only one “red list” of countries the government identifies as having a high transmission rate of COVID-19.

Only U.K. citizens or residents can enter the U.K. within 10 days of departing from a red list country—and this includes traveling through an airport. So if you book a flight with a layover, double-check it’s not on the red list.

Entering the U.K. from a red list country also means staying in a quarantine hotel, which costs 2,285 pounds (around $3,100).

The red list currently includes Costa Rica, Mexico, Thailand, and more—and the government warns that countries can be added to the red list at any time, so it’s good to keep an eye out if case numbers are increasing at home.

Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Gov.UK. "Approved COVID-19 vaccines and countries with approved COVID-19 proof of vaccination." Oct. 5, 2021

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "International Travel During COVID-19." Aug. 25, 2021

  3. Gov.UK. "Red list of countries and territories." Oct. 4, 2021

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