What you need to know about foreign travel from October

Updated: 22 October 2021

There have been significant changes to the Government’s system for international travel which means there’s much more choice when it comes to booking an overseas holiday. If you are fully vaccinated, the process of going abroad is also a lot easier and cheaper, making it the best time in a long time to book an overseas break.

What you need to know when leaving the UK

Each country has its own entry requirements, such as if you need to present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result. You can find this information at the Foreign Office’s travel advice page for the country you intend to visit at www.gov.uk/foreigntraveladvice. You can also sign up to receive country specific email alerts so you get important updates straight into your inbox.  

What you need to know for returning to the UK

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

There are also changes to the testing requirements when returning to the UK from a non-red list country, if you are fully vaccinated:

  • Since Monday 4 October, you no longer need to take a pre-departure test in the three days before you return to the UK.
  • From 24 October, you will no longer need to take a PCR test on day two of your arrival in England – instead you will need to take a lateral flow test (which is cheaper) through a private provider listed on Gov.uk. These can be booked from 22 October in time for the school half term in England. Click here for more information. 
  • From 31 October, you will no longer need to take a PCR test on day two of your arrival in Wales instead you will need to take a lateral flow test. 
  • Scotland also plans to also change the day two test to a lateral flow make this change by the end of the month but is yet to confirm a date.
  • Northern Ireland has not yet announced if PCR tests will be replaced with lateral flow tests. 

If you’re travelling with children and returning to the UK from non-red list countries, there are also changes to the testing requirements:

  • In England: children aged 4 and under do not need to take any tests on their return. Children aged 5-17 just need to take a day two test, which will change from a PCR to a lateral flow from 24 October.
  • In Wales: children aged 4 and under do not need to take any tests on their return and children aged 5-17 just need to take a day two PCR test. 
  • 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 PCR test - this is due to change to a lateral flow test from the end of October.
  • In Northern Ireland: children aged 4 and under do not need to take any tests on their return. Children aged 11-17 need to take a pre-departure test and children aged 5-17 need to take a day two PCR test.

If you’re unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, there are currently no changes to the testing or quarantine requirements. This means, if you’re arriving into the UK from a non-red list country, you will still need to take a pre-departure test, a PCR test on day two and day eight, and quarantine at home for 10 days. If you’re arriving in England, you do still have the option to use the Test to Release scheme on day five. 

Arrivals into the UK from red list countries remain the same. You will still have to take a pre-departure test and pre-book a mandatory 11-night quarantine hotel package, which will include two PCR tests, taken on day two and day eight, regardless of your vaccination status.

All travellers, regardless of their vaccination status and the country they are travelling from, will still need to complete a passenger locator form any time in the 48 hours before they arrive in the UK. 

For more information, please visit our webpage: Government requirements for travel.

How to show proof of vaccination

In the UK, ‘fully vaccinated’ means it has been at least 14 days since you received the full course of an approved vaccine such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Janssen. 

You can show proof of vaccination in England and Wales using the NHS COVID Pass (which you can get via the free NHS App in England), by getting a record of your COVID-19 vaccination status or via the COVID Status app in Scotland, or through the NI COVID certification service in Northern Ireland. 

Before you travel overseas, check your destination’s definition of ‘fully vaccinated’, what proof of vaccination will be accepted, or if you’ll need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter at www.gov.uk/foreigntraveladvice

Visit the Government’s website for more information on demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status when travelling abroad

How to get a test for travel 

For more information about which tests you need for your holiday (eg 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?