Travelling to the UK: Latest Covid-19 Travel Rules and Restrictions

Friday, December 10, 2021

This information is relevant as of the publication date of December 10th, 2021.


The emergence of new coronavirus variants has created a situation where travel rules are ever-changing to curtail a global resurgence.

The UK, in its measures to curtail the spread of the recently discovered Omicron variant, has reintroduced stringent travel rules which have seen 11 countries added to its travel ‘red list’.

Visualization of the Coronavirus
Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

The Omicron variant is the latest variant of the coronavirus which was first reported in South Africa in November. The World Health Organisation (WHO) deemed it a variant of concern because early indications suggest the Omicron is highly transmissible and has several mutations.

Consequently, the UK has added 11 African countries to the travel red list - Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

What does it mean to be on the UK travel red list?

The UK has imposed a ban on travel from the designated red list countries.

While British or Irish nationals and UK residents are allowed to travel from these red list countries, they are required to follow strict travel rules that include taking a pre-departure Covid-19 test and complying with the mandatory 10-day isolation in a pre-booked government-approved hotel on arrival in the UK regardless of their vaccination status. These travellers must pre-book and pay for a hotel quarantine package priced as follows:

  • 10 days (11-nights) for one adult - £2,285
  • Additional adult (or child over 11) - £1,430
  • Children aged 5 to 11 - £325

During the 10-day isolation period, newly-arrived individuals are expected to take Day 2 and Day 8 PCR tests. They must receive negative results from both tests before they can end their isolation. Some exemptions from the red list restrictions may apply if you have medical, compassionate or work-related reasons.

Update for Other Travellers

There are also changes to testing rules for UK-bound travellers unaffected by the red list rules.

Starting from December 7 2021, all UK-bound travellers, regardless of their vaccination status, are to take a pre-departure covid test 48 hours before they fly to the UK. Travellers must either obtain a PCR or a lateral flow negative test result before they can depart for the UK. If they test positive, they have to remain in the country they are in and follow the local Covid-rules.

After arrival in the UK, travellers are also required to take a Day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. This test must have been booked and bought before their arrival in the UK from any of the government-approved list of providers.

International arrivals that do not qualify as fully vaccinated will have to self-isolate for a 10-day period during which they will take both the 2-day and 8-day Covid tests.

Additionally, all travellers are expected to fill out and submit an online Passenger Locator form before they arrive in the UK.

What other Covid-19 rules were reinstated?

Besides the travel rules, the UK government has announced Plan B Covid-19 restrictions to be imposed in the whole of the UK.

To slow the rapidly increasing cases of Omicron variant, the government is introducing the following precautionary measures:

  • Guidance to work from home
  • The compulsory use of face masks in all indoor public settings with the exemption of restaurants and pubs.
  • The introduction of NHS Covid-19 Pass (vaccine passports) for large indoor and outdoor gathering
  • The daily testing of all contacts of suspected Omicron cases

In addition, the UK government is ramping up the administration of vaccine booster shots to people that received the full course of their vaccine doses as a way of improving their immune response against the new variant.

Currently, the UK approves the following vaccines:

  • Oxford/AstraZeneca
  • Pfizer BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • Janssen (single-dose vaccine)
  • Sinovac-CoronaVac
  • Sinopharm Beijing
  • Covaxin

Therefore, travellers who have completed the full course of any of the above-listed vaccines at least 14 days before arrival in the UK are considered fully vaccinated.

We advise that you continue to check gov.uk travel guidance to stay informed about new travel requirements as they are updated.


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