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

Fully vaccinated? You no longer need to take a PCR test to get into the U.K.

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

Anglophiles, we've got some good news for you: Travel across the pond is about to get a whole lot easier.

Starting Feb. 11, fully vaccinated travelers will no longer be required to take a COVID-19 test before or after entering the U.K. While unvaccinated travelers will still need to take a PCR test within two days of arrival, those with negative results no longer have to quarantine.

"We made the right calls at the right time and thanks to our vaccine and booster rollout it’s paying off—allowing us to safely remove nearly all COVID-19 travel restrictions for vaccinated travelers," 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 under 18, you can travel to the U.K. without having to take a pre-flight COVID-19 test or quarantining upon arrival. U.S. travelers can show their passport and CDC card showing they’ve received the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine to prove vaccination status. (The U.K. also accepts Covaxin, Novavax, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Sinopharm Beijing, and Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccines.) Travelers are also required to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) within 48 hours of departure.

Until entry restrictions lift on Feb. 11, fully vaccinated travelers heading to the U.K. are required to take a rapid lateral flow or PCR test on or before the second day of their trip.

"Thanks to the success of the vaccination program, now is the right time to take this additional step towards opening up international travel once again," said Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid.

Unvaccinated Travelers

If you’re not fully vaccinated, you have to fill out a PLF and provide a negative PCR test within two days of your departure to the U.K. Once you land, you'll take another test on or before the second day of your trip. Starting Feb. 11, you only need to isolate if your test comes back positive; for now, you must 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 a third COVID-19 test eight days after you arrive. If either the second or third test comes back positive, your 10-day isolation period will be reset.

For those traveling to England, you can opt to pay for an additional test on the fifth day; 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.

For the time being, entering the U.K. from a red list country also means taking two COVID-19 tests and staying in a quarantine hotel, which costs 2,285 pounds (around $3,100). However, the government is considering replacing this policy with other protocols.

There are currently no countries on the red list—but 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
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  1. GOV.UK. "UK Open for Travel With All Restrictions Removed for Eligible Vaccinated Arrivals." January 24, 2022.

  2. Gov.UK. "Approved COVID-19 vaccines and countries with approved COVID-19 proof of vaccination." Jan. 24, 2022

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

  4. Gov.UK. "Booking and Staying in a Quarantine Hotel." Retrieved January 27, 2022.

  5. Gov.UK. "Red list of countries and territories." Dec. 15, 2021.