What You Should Know About COVID Testing Before Travel to England


What You Should Know about COVID-19 Testing Before You Travel to England

There’s a lot to worry about when travelling to another country – packing, gathering all your important documents, and now testing for COVID-19.

Many passengers travelling to England will need to book a covid test shortly before arriving in the country. However, the rules have been relaxed recently, so not everyone has to take a test.

In this comprehensive guide, we will tell you everything you need to know about current testing requirements. There are penalties for failing to comply with current guidelines, so make sure you are fully informed and leave enough time to take your test and get the results before leaving for England.

Check England’s Current Travel Red List

There are different rules to follow depending on whether or not you are fully vaccinated and whether or not you have been in a country on England’s red list in the ten days before your arrival in England.

You should not leave England to travel to a red list country. If you are travelling from a red list country, you will have to follow stricter rules regarding testing and quarantine when you arrive in England. You can check the current red list here. It is updated every three weeks, so ensure you’ve looked at the most up-to-date version before you travel.

Fill in a Form Showing Where You Will be Staying in England

There is a form you have to fill in online before arriving in England, even if you are only passing through briefly. After completing the form, you’ll get a QR code via email. You’ll have to show this when boarding your plane or another mode of transport.

The form will be used to gather details so you can be contacted if someone you have travelled with tests positive for COVID-19 or develops symptoms of the virus. This includes contact details, the address you will be staying at during your time in England, and your passport details.

Do I Need to Take a Test Before Travelling?

The rules regarding testing before travel to England are not as strict as they once were, but there are still a few groups who have to be tested within the three days before their journey to England. Those who should take a coronavirus test before travelling include:

anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated
passengers who have been in a red list country within the ten days before arriving in England

So, if you are fully vaccinated and haven’t been to any red list countries, you don’t need to book a test before travelling. Likewise, children aged 11 years and under don’t have to take a test before going to England, even if they meet the above criteria.

Different Types of Tests

If you are in one group that has to take a test before travel, you must ensure the test meets specific standards. You can use any type of test that meets these standards, including PCR, LAMP, and lateral flow (antigen) tests.

Lateral flow tests should be taken by those who have recently been infected with COVID-19 but are no longer infectious. They are less likely to give false-positive results due to previous infections, as they are less sensitive. 

Where and When Should I Take the Test?

The test must be taken within the three days before your departure for England. You’ll have to make sure you leave enough time to get the test results back so you can show your negative test result when boarding.

You can take the test before leaving home or during the journey if it is a long one. So, for example, if you will be stopping for a few days in another country before travelling onwards to England, you can take the test there instead.

You might have to visit a testing centre, get a test at the airport, or you may be able to test yourself at home before travelling.

What if my Test Comes Back Positive?

If you get the dreaded positive result on your coronavirus test, you will not be allowed to travel to England. Instead, you should follow current guidance in your country until you are no longer infectious. This usually means you’ll have to enter quarantine for ten days.

What if I am Exempt from Testing?

Even if you are fully vaccinated and haven’t been in a red list country, you might still be exempt from pre-travel testing.

Children under 11 are not required to take a test, nor are those arriving from certain countries. This includes the rest of the U.K. (including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands), the Falkland Islands, Ascension, or St Helena.

Do I Need to Quarantine on Arrival in England?

The majority of passengers no longer need to quarantine when entering England. However, there are a few groups where this rule still applies. You will have to quarantine in a dedicated hotel for ten days if any of the following apply:

you are not fully vaccinated
you’ve been in one of the red list countries in the last ten days
you test positive for COVID-19 within ten days of arriving in England

Can I Get Help to Pay for Tests or Hotel Quarantine?

Tests to prove you can travel safely can be expensive, especially if you are travelling as part of a large family. Staying in a hotel for quarantine (managed quarantine) is also rather costly.

You will have to meet the costs yourself most of the time, so factor this into your travel budget. However, if your travel is essential, you may apply for financial aid from the government.

Essential travel includes travel for work, education (for example, students coming to England to study), urgent medical care, and compassionate reasons. The latter involves attending a close relative’s funeral or visiting a family member who is critically ill or dying.