Travel requirements to check before travelling abroad

Updated: 29 November 2021

The pandemic continues to affect international travel. If you are looking to go on a holiday abroad, visit family or friends overseas or go on a foreign business trip during this time, there are two things you need to check and follow before you travel:

  • The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) travel advice for the destination you are planning to visit.
  • The Government requirements for travellers returning to the UK.

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office Travel Advice 

Before you go away, you will need to check the Government’s latest advice for the country, or countries, you would like to visit at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

This advice is provided by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and includes important information such as:

  • Any advice against travel, either for COVID or non-COVID reasons.
  • Details of any entry requirements, including if the country you’d like to visit is currently allowing UK travellers to enter. 
  • Specific entry requirements relating to Coronavirus, such as if you need to show proof of vaccination and/or a negative COVID-19 test for entry, and if there will be any health checks on arrival.
  • Information about the public health measures in place at your destination such as the requirement to wear a face covering or practice social distancing.
  • Further advice on health, including the latest country-specific health advice from NaTHNaC on the TravelHealthPro website.
  • Guidance on safety and security, as well as information about local laws and customs, such as advice on what to wear when visiting a religious tourist attraction.

You’ll need to check this information regularly before your trip and it’s a good idea to sign up to country specific email alerts so you’re across any important updates.

You can also read guidance from the Government about travelling overseas during the pandemic at the Coronavirus travel guidance page and find more information about staying safe abroad at the FCDO’s Travel Aware page.

Government requirements for your return to the UK

The Government has replaced the traffic light system of green, amber and red list countries with a single “red list” of countries, with everything else now “rest of the world” or “non-red list” countries.

The testing and quarantine requirements when you return to the UK are determined by your COVID-19 vaccination status and whether the country you’re travelling from is on the red list. Before you go away, you’ll need to check what you need to do on your return to make sure you’re prepared for your journey home. 

The main requirements are outlined below. You can find more detailed information for the UK nation you’re returning to on the Government websites: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Travelling from non-red list countries

If you are fully vaccinated (i.e. it’s been at least 14 days since you received the full course of an approved vaccine), you will need to:

  • Complete a Passenger Locator Form in the 48 hours before you return.
  • From 4am on Tuesday 30 November 2021, you must book and pay for a PCR test to be taken within the first two days of your arrival (this can be on arrival or anytime until the end of day two) and add the details of the test to your Passenger Locator Form. 
  • You must self-isolate on arrival, take your PCR test on or before day two and self-isolate until you receive a negative result. If the PCR test is positive, you will need to self-isolate for a further 10 days.
  • This requirement to take a day two PCR test rather than a lateral flow test is one of the precautionary, temporary measures to respond to the emergence of UK cases of the Omicron variant and will be reviewed in mid-December. Read the Prime Minister’s full announcement here.

If you’re travelling with children, the testing requirements are:

  • In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, children aged 4 and under do not need to take any tests on their return to the UK. Children aged 5-17 just need to take a day two test (which will need to be a PCR test from 4am on Tuesday 30 November 2021).
  • In Scotland: children aged 10 and under do not need to take any tests on their return. Children aged 11-17 just need to take a day two test (which will need to be a PCR test from 4am on Tuesday 30 November 2021).

If you are unvaccinated, you will need to:

  • Take a COVID-19 test (antigen test, LAMP test or PCR test) in the three days before you return. 
  • Complete a Passenger Locator Form in the 48 hours before you return. 
  • Book and pay for a PCR test to be taken on or before day two of your return and another PCR test on day eight of your return, and add the details of these tests to your Passenger Locator Form. 
  • Quarantine at home for 10 days on your return.
  • If you’re returning to England, you’ll have the option of a “test to release” on day five to end self-isolation early.

Travelling from red list countries

Regardless of your vaccination status, if you’re returning to the UK from a red list country, you will need to: 

  • Take a COVID-19 test (antigen test, LAMP test or PCR test) in the three days before you return.
  • Complete a Passenger Locator Form in the 48 hours before you return.
  • Pre-book a mandatory 11-night quarantine hotel package, which will include two PCR tests, taken on day two and day eight, and add the details to your Passenger Locator Form.

Useful information

How to show proof of vaccination

Details of how to show proof of vaccination can be found in our Q&A page: COVID-19: your holiday questions answered under “How do I show proof that I’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel abroad?”

How to get a test for travel 

For more information about which tests you need for your holiday (e.g. you can’t use a free NHS test for travel) and where to get them, visit our blog: Which COVID-19 tests do I need for my holiday and how do I get one?