In August, England, followed by Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland lifted their quarantine requirements for vaccinated American tourists. This means Americans can now more readily jump across the pond for a glorious European vacation. However, there are still hurdles to maneuver and rules to follow. Here’s what Americans need to know about traveling to the U.K. in 2021.
Arrive early at the airport
As a general rule, airlines typically recommend that passengers traveling internationally arrive three hours before their scheduled flight departure to make sure they have ample time to get bags checked, documents verified, and time to get through security. This three-hour window is especially important during this Covid-era, as the extra steps to check vaccine cards, Covid tests, and verify passenger locator forms are creating long waits.
You must be vaccinated to avoid mandatory quarantine
Travelers who show proof of vaccination from a vaccine authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be exempt from the 10-day quarantine. However, travelers need to ensure their final dose was taken at least 14 days before arriving in the U.K., otherwise, they will be subject to the 10-day quarantine and test mandate required for non-vaccinated travelers.
Don’t forget your passenger locator form before arrival in the U.K.
All Americans visiting the U.K. must complete and submit a passenger locator form before arriving in the U.K. Travelers can submit the form anytime in the 48 hours before they arrive, and will need to show the QR code they received after submitting the form to be able to enter the U.K. The information gathered on the passenger locator form will be used for any necessary contact tracing, and may also be used to check if passengers are following quarantine rules.
You still need to take a Covid test prior to entry
All visitors to the U.K., regardless of vaccination status, must present results of a negative COVID-19 test in order to fly to the U.K. The results will be verified by an airline agent at the airport before you even take off, so do not forget this crucial step. The test must be taken within 72 hours of your flight and can be either a PCR or antigen test, but make sure to check the local guidelines to ensure the test fits the U.K.’s specifications.
You need to schedule a second covid test after arrival, too
Even after arriving in the U.K. with a vaccine card and mandatory Covid-19 test in hand, travelers will need to arrange a second PCR COVID-19 test from a U.K. government-approved provider to be taken on or before day two of their stay. Travelers must book and pay for the test in advance of arrival, and have three days after they arrive to take the test, as the arrival date is considered day 0 of the trip.
Don’t forget to pack your mask
While the U.K. government has lifted its nationwide mask mandate for indoor settings and public transportation, businesses are still able to decide on mask policies for their stores and restaurants, so always carry a mask just in case it’s required.
You will still need another Covid test to get back into the United States
Just as the U.K. requires a negative Covid-19 test ahead of arriving in the country, the United States has a similar testing requirement for all travelers re-entering, regardless of vaccination status or citizenship. Everyone must show a negative Covid test result taken within three days of departing for home.
TL;DR: For Americans headed to the U.K., make sure to plan ahead and check that you have all of the proper documents, forms and Covid-test results needed to make your entry into the country as smooth and stress-free as possible.