Know Before You Go: Guidance for travel in Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Updated on: 06/01/2022

Information for visitors travelling to Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The UK has a two-tiered system for international travel – a ‘red list’ of countries and territories and a ‘rest of the world’ list. What visitors must do depends on whether they qualify as fully vaccinated under the rules for travel to the UK.

There are different rules if visitors have been in a red list country or territory in the 10 days before they arrive in the UK. Red list rules apply whether visitors are fully vaccinated or not.

Please also ensure visitors check the links below for the latest guidance for each nation:

England

Scotland

Wales

Northern Ireland

International travel update for the UK from 6 January

From Friday 7 January, testing and border measures for fully vaccinated travellers and under 18s arriving into the UK have changed.

These individuals are no longer required to take a test before they travel and do not need to self-isolate upon arrival, although they must complete post-arrival tests. From 9 January, eligible fully vaccinated travellers and over 5s can choose to take either a PCR test or a lateral flow test within two days of arrival. If an individual takes a lateral flow test and tests positive, they will need to self-isolate and take a free PCR test.

The rules for unvaccinated travellers remain unchanged.

Airlines will be required to check for pre-departure tests alongside a completed passenger locator form, and passengers will not be able to board flights without providing evidence of a negative test result.

From Monday 6 December, Nigeria was added to the UK’s travel red-list.  The complete red list of countries and territories can be found for each of the nations below:

England

Scotland

Wales

Northern Ireland

Visitors who have been in a red list country in the 10 days before they arrive in the UK will need to quarantine at an approved hotel for 10 days as soon as they arrive.

COVID-19 testing when travelling to the UK

Update on COVID-19 testing for arrivals into the UK

From Friday 7 January, fully vaccinated travellers and under 18s arriving into the UK do not need to complete a pre-departure test or self-isolate upon arrival.

From 9 January, eligible fully vaccinated travellers and over 5s can choose to take either a PCR test or a lateral flow test upon arrival. This can be completed any time after they arrive and before day 2 at the latest. The day they arrive is day 0. If an individual takes a lateral flow test and tests positive, they will need to self-isolate and take a free PCR test.

The rules for unvaccinated travellers remain unchanged and are detailed below.

Those visiting the UK for less than 2 days still need to book and pay for a day 2 COVID-19 test. Visitors must isolate until they receive a negative day 2 COVID-19 PCR test, or until they leave the UK, whichever is sooner.

For information on self-isolation rules for travellers who have been vaccinated overseas, please see the end of this section. 

Travellers from non red-list countries into UK if fully vaccinated in a country with approved vaccination status

Before you travel to the UK you must:

You will need to enter your COVID-19 test booking reference number on your passenger locator form.

After you arrive in the UK you must take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2.

You must book this test before you travel.

If you will be in the UK for less than 2 days you still need to book and pay for a day 2 COVID-19 test. You only need to take the test if you are still in the UK on day 2.

Travel from non-red list countries if not fully vaccinated

Passengers who do not qualify under the fully vaccinated rules; are partially, or not vaccinated must follow these rules. Before they travel to the UK, they must:

  • take a pre-departure COVID-19 test – to be taken in the 3 days before you travel to the UK
  • book and pay for day 2 and day 8 COVID-19 tests – to be taken after arrival in the UK
  • complete your passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before you arrive in the UK

After they arrive in the UK, they must:

  • quarantine at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days
  • take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8

In England, quarantine can be ended early if they have paid for a private COVID-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.

Travel to the UK from red list countries

Passengers arriving in the UK must follow these rules if they are fully, partially or not vaccinated. If the passenger has been in a country or territory on the red list 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 travel to the UK, they must:

  • take a pre-departure COVID-19 test – to be taken in the 3 days before you travel to the UK
  • book a quarantine hotel package, including 2 COVID-19 tests
  • complete your passenger locator form – any time in the 48 hours before you arrive in the UK

When they arrive, they must quarantine in a managed hotel, including 2 COVID-19 tests.

What counts as fully vaccinated when travelling to the UK

Fully vaccinated means that you have had a complete course of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before you arrive in the UK. The day you had your final dose does not count as one of the 14 days.

The vaccine must be administered under either:

Check which vaccines are approved and the list of countries and territories with approved proof of vaccination.

Even if you are not fully vaccinated, the fully vaccinated rules apply if you:

  • are under 18 and resident in the UK or one of the countries or territories with approved proof of vaccination
  • are taking part in an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial in the UK or the USA (US residents only for USA trials)

Approved vaccines

You must have had a complete course of one of the following vaccines at least 14 days before you arrive in the UK:

  • Oxford/AstraZeneca
  • Pfizer BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • Janssen

Formulations of these vaccines, such as AstraZeneca Covishield, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria and Moderna Takeda, also qualify as approved vaccines.

2 dose vaccines

If you were vaccinated with a 2 dose vaccine (Moderna, Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca, or a combination of them), you must have had both doses to be considered fully vaccinated for travel to the UK.

This applies in all cases, even if you’ve recently recovered from COVID-19 and have natural immunity.

Those who have had COVID-19 and have only had one dose of a 2 dose vaccine must follow the rules for unvaccinated arrivals.

Where 2 doses of a vaccine are required for a full course, you can:

  • mix 2 different types of vaccine from the above list, for example Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna
  • have the 2 vaccinations under 2 different approved programmes, for example Australia and Japan, UK and USA, France and Canada

Single-dose vaccines

If you had an approved one dose vaccine (the Janssen vaccine), you are fully vaccinated.

Proof of vaccination

You must be able to prove that you’ve been fully vaccinated under a vaccination programme with approved proof of certification.

There are several ways to prove vaccination status:

Vaccine certificates only

If you use a vaccine certificate as proof, it must be issued by a national or state-level public health authority, be in English, French or Spanish, and include, 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 document from a public health body does not include all of these, you must follow the non-vaccinated rules. If not, you may be denied boarding.

If you are fully vaccinated in the US, you will also need to prove that you are a resident of the US.

If you are fully vaccinated, but do not qualify under these fully vaccinated rules, you must follow the non-vaccinated rules.

Children resident in countries with approved vaccination status

Children under 18 who are residents of countries with approved vaccination status also do not need to quarantine or take a day 8 test.

They must follow the same rules as children and young people from the UK, as outlined by England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland (depending on the country they are visiting).

England

Scotland

Wales

Northern Ireland

Self-isolation rules for individuals who have been vaccinated overseas 

Current as of 15 December 2021

If a visitor is a contact of someone who may have been infected with the Omicron variant, they must self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their age or vaccination status.

What are the rules for fully vaccinated international arrivals who are subsequently identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case?   
The rules remain that in order to be exempt from self-isolation as a recent close contact of a positive COVID-19 case, you would need to be:

  • fully vaccinated;
  • below the age of 18 years 6 months;
  • taking part or have taken part in an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial; or
  • not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons.

If you are aged 5 years and over and have been identified as a contact of someone with COVID-19, but are not legally required to self-isolate, you are strongly advised to:

  • take a lateral flow test every day for 7 days, or until 10 days since your last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19 if this is earlier
  • take this daily lateral flow test before you leave the household for the first time that day

For further guidance please visit the UK Government website here:

What if individuals have had one vaccination dose abroad and another dose in the UK – are they exempt from self-isolation if they are a close contact? 

Where two doses are recommended, will be considered fully vaccinated as long as each vaccine dose meets one of the three criteria listed above for being fully vaccinated. Visitors must be fully vaccinated in order to be exempt from self-isolation if visitors are identified as a contact of a positive COVID-19 case.

Travel to and around Britain

Travel by public transport – facemasks

The wearing of facemasks is compulsory in certain settings, such as on public transport and in shops.

For further information, please visit the dedicated websites for  England, ScotlandWales or Northern Ireland.

Public Health Passenger Locator Form

If visitors are visiting Great Britain and Northern Ireland from any country, they must complete a Public Health Passenger Locator Form that collects the following information:

  • Their passport details or the travel document they’ll use when they arrive at the UK border
  • Their travel details, including time and dates
  • The address where they will stay in the UK (if applicable)
  • Booking reference numbers for any COVID-19 tests they must take after arriving in the UK
  • The invoice number for their quarantine hotel booking if they need one

The form must be completed online and submitted no earlier than 48 hours before your arrival.

After you complete the form

After visitors complete and submit the form they’ll receive a confirmation email with a document attached. Before they arrive at the border, they must either:

  • print a copy of the document
  • download the document on your phone

Visitors will need to show this document when they arrive in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Border Force officers will scan the QR code at the top of this document to check they have completed the form successfully. For further information, including what to do if they develop coronavirus symptoms while travelling, and how to complete the form if they are travelling with someone under 18, please visit the official government information page.

We’re Good To Go

On 26 February, VisitBritain announced that tourism businesses in the UK registered to the ‘We’re Good To Go’ industry standard scheme can now be automatically issued with the international ‘Safe Travels’ stamp from the World Travel & Tourism Council ( WTTC).

The We’re Good To Go scheme, launched last year by VisitEngland in partnership with the tourism boards of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, means businesses can demonstrate that they are adhering to the respective Government and public health guidance, have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment and checked that they have the required processes in place for when people are able to visit them. It has now been recognised by WTTC as meeting its international global standardised health and hygiene protocols and for its role in supporting the recovery of the UK tourism sector.

The WTTC stamp enables visitors to recognise destinations around the world which have adopted global standardised protocols – so they can experience ‘Safe Travels.’

VisitBritain is coordinating the Safe Travels stamp issue in the UK, on behalf of the WTTC, for businesses registered to its We’re Good To Go scheme, so travellers can visit them with confidence.

Find out more at visitbritain.com and remember to look for the mark on individual business websites when thinking about planning a future trip online. Our interactive map showcases all tourism and hospitality businesses that have the mark in the UK, allowing visitors to find where it is good to go.

How to travel responsibly

To make visitors days out as enjoyable as possible in the future, we encourage them to plan your trip in advance and to check all of the important facilities and attractions, while looking after our great outdoors. To ensure we’re all doing our bit to travel responsibly, here are a few general steps to help make planning easy, when we’re all able to travel again:

  • When planning a trip, visitors should check that important facilities – like toilets and car parks – are open before they travel so they’re not caught short. They can find information on public toilets open across Great Britain and Northern Ireland at Lockdown Loo.
  • If visitors have an attraction in mind, please check online to see if they need to pre-book a time slot.
  • Locations where face coverings are mandatory differ by nation, and visitors should follow the specific guidance for face coverings for England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, depending on the country they are visiting.
  • If visitors are travelling by air, at arrival they may be requested to wear a face mask inside the airport terminal, to use online check in where possible, and minimise hand luggage. Social distancing restrictions will also be in place, in line with the specific rules for each nation.
  • Additional social distancing rules remain in place for some nations. Please see the relevant websites for each nation for further information.
  • Some places may be extremely popular, so instead why not plan to get off the beaten track and discover a hidden gem.
  • Visitors should make sure they have a bank card; many outlets are currently only accepting cashless payments.
  • Visitors should wash their hands regularly and take hand sanitiser with them for use when public hand-washing facilities are not available.

Official websites / useful links

Government information and advice

For the latest government information and specific advice on travel in each of the four nations, please visit:

What visitors should do if they think they have coronavirus symptoms

If visitors think they have coronavirus symptoms, they should use the online service on the UK Government website. They can find the latest health guidance for each individual nation on dedicated pages for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Hospital care

Hospital accident and emergency (A&E) departments in Britain provide treatment for genuine life-threatening emergencies. Should visitors require medical help or advice in a non-life-threatening situation, they should call 111 to access the NHS 111 service.
Overseas visitors may need to pay for hospital care they receive, and all visitors are strongly advised to ensure they have adequate insurance cover before travelling. Any coronavirus testing and treatment will not incur any charges.

What to do in an emergency

Visitors should dial 999 in an emergency to reach police, fire and ambulance services, as well as the coastguard. Visitors will need to indicate which service they need. Further services such as mountain rescue and Britain’s voluntary coastguard service, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, can also be accessed via this number.
Calls are free from any phone, but should only be made in genuine emergencies.

Police

If visitors are lost, they should ask a policeman or woman for assistance – they are courteous, approachable and helpful. Traffic wardens may also be able to help them with directions. If they have been the victim of a crime, they can contact the police by dialling 999 or 101 for non-emergencies.
Police community support officers also work alongside the police, and can also provide advice and guidance, alongside directions and other key information.

Travel to and around Britain

Travel by public transport – facemasks

From 30 November, the wearing of facemasks in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, and on public transport, is compulsory in England. All hospitality settings are exempt. The wearing of facemasks remains compulsory in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The rules regarding the wearing of facemasks in other locations, including airports, differ by nation. For further information, please visit the dedicated websites for England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Visiting Britain and Northern Ireland after Brexit

Great Britain and Northern Ireland have left the EU and there are new rules for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who wish to visit us. Find out what visitors need to know about visiting the UK from the EU, EEA or Switzerland or check the official government website. There will also be new rules if visitors wish to work and study in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as part of a new points-based immigration system for EU citizens. If visitors would like further information, please visit gov.uk to find out more.