From Monday 4 October 2021, the UK rules for international travel are set to change from the red, amber, and green "traffic light system" to a straightforward two-tiered framework.
There will now be a single "red" list of countries that travellers should avoid, and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world, replacing the confusing "green" and "amber" lists which had dominated summer holiday plans earlier in the year.
However, rules for travel from countries and territories not on the red list will depend on your vaccination status, so there are still some restrictions in place.
Travel from red list territories
From 4am Monday 4 October 2021, travellers must adhere to a strict set of restrictions designed to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission when travelling to and from red list territories. The official government advice remains that UK citizens should not travel to red listed territories unless absolutely necessary.
Travellers must follow these rules whether they are fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, or not vaccinated at all. In addition, if travellers have been in a red listed territory in the last 10 days, they will only be allowed to enter the UK if they are a British or Irish national or have residence rights in the UK.
Before returning to England from abroad, travellers must:
- Complete a COVID-19 test in the 3 days before travelling to England.
- Book a quarantine hotel package, including 2 COVID-19 tests.
- Fill out a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before arriving in England.
On arrival in England, travellers must immediately:
Which countries are on the red list?
Below are some examples of popular destinations currently on the red list:
- Costa Rica
- South Africa
The complete list of red listed territories is available on the GOV.UK website.
Travel from the rest of the world
The restrictions which apply to travellers going to or returning from countries not on the red list depend on their vaccination status.
If you are fully vaccinated:
From 4am Monday 4 October, fully vaccinated travellers must follow all of the following criteria.
You must be:
- Fully vaccinated under an approved vaccination program in the UK, Europe, US, or a UK vaccine programme overseas.
- Fully vaccinated with a full course of the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines from a public health body in Australia, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, Dominica, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea or Taiwan (a mixture of two different vaccines in this list is also recognised).
- Fully vaccinated under an approved clinical trial in the US, Canada or Australia, and have a proof of participation (digital or paper-based) from a public health body.
- Book and pay for a day 2 COVID-19 test.
- Fill out a passenger locator form.
- Take a test on or before day 2 after you arrive in England.
You do not need to:
- Take a pre-departure test.
- Take a day 8 COVID-19 test.
- Quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days after you arrive in England.
Fully vaccinated individuals must be able to prove that they have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days with a document, digital or paper-based, from a national or state-level public health body that includes, as a minimum: Forename and surname(s); date of birth; vaccine brand and manufacturer; date of vaccination for every dose; country or territory of vaccination and/or certificate issuer.
If your documentation does not meet all of the above criteria, you must follow the non-vaccinated rules. If you are fully vaccinated in the US, will also need to prove that you are a resident of the US. If you are fully vaccinated, but do not qualify under these rules, then you must follow the rules for non-vaccinated individuals.
If you are not fully vaccinated:
From 4am Monday 4 October, travellers who are not fully vaccinated - i.e. they do not qualify under the fully vaccinated rules, are partially vaccinated, or are not vaccinated at all - must adhere to all of the following criteria.
Before arriving in England, you must:
- Take a pre-departure COVID-19 test in the 3 days before you travel to England.
- Book and pay for day 2 and day 8 COVID-19 tests to take after arriving in England.
- Complete your passenger locator form in the 48 hours before arriving in England.
After arriving in England, you must:
- Quarantine at home, or in the place you are staying, for 10 days.
- Take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8.
You may be able to end quarantine early if you pay for a private COVID-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.
What are the rules if I am travelling within the UK?
Those holidaying in the UK do not need to take a COVID-19 test or quarantine on arrival in England, so long as they are travelling from within the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man (together known as the Common Travel Area). These rules apply so long as you have not been outside of the Common Travel Area in the previous 10 days.
Are the rules different in the devolved UK nations?
The above system applies to England, but the rules differ slightly in each of the devolved nations, so make sure to check each country's official travel advice.
For more information on international travel rules in each of the devolved nations, visit:
Who is exempt from coronavirus travel restrictions?
Some people are exempt from some or all of the government's requirements, but the eligibility criteria is complex, so make sure to check the details on the GOV.UK website before assuming that you qualify:
- Certain occupations are exempt from travel restrictions.
- Certain medical or compassionate reasons exempt you from travel restrictions.
How do I demonstrate that I have been vaccinated when travelling abroad?
People in England who have had a full vaccine course (2 complete doses) can demonstrate their COVID-19 vaccination status for international travel using their NHS COVID pass. Your NHS COVID Pass shows your vaccination details, or your recent COVID-19 test results.
Some countries and territories have their own border rules to control who can and cannot enter the country, which may include COVID-19 vaccination status, so ensuring you have access to your NHS COVID Pass is essential for international travel.
Find out more from the GOV.UK website on: