The UK has introduced a new system for international travel, loosening testing requirements for many fully vaccinated travelers and designating destinations either “red” or “green.”
There are currently 54 countries on the UK’s red list — including Mexico and South Africa.
From October 11, England is set to remove 47 countries from the red list, leaving only seven red destinations: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
Green list rules
All UK arrivals, regardless of country of origin or vaccination status, must complete a Passenger Locator Form before arriving in the UK.
Fully vaccinated travelers arriving in the UK from green list countries no longer need to do a pre-departure test, but must still book and pay for a day two PCR test.
Travelers under 18 arriving from green list countries are subject to the same rules as fully vaccinated travelers.
Non-vaccinated travelers arriving in the UK from green list countries must still present a pre-departure negative test (completed within 72 hours of departure) and must book and pay for a day two and day eight PCR test. Non-vaccinated green list travelers must also quarantine for 10 days upon their arrival in the UK.
Non-vaccinated travelers quarantining in England may be able to end quarantine early via the Test to Release scheme. Test to Release does not apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The list of countries with UK-approved vaccination programs includes EU countries and the US, see the full list here. From October 11, England is set to add more countries to this list, including Brazil and South Africa. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have yet to announce if they will do the same.
Any destination not on the red list is considered green, but some green destinations don’t permit nonessential travel from the UK right now.
England has also announced that from the end of October, “eligible fully vaccinated passengers and those with an approved vaccine from a select group of non-red countries” will be permitted to replace their day two PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test.
Scotland has suggested it will also move towards lateral flow tests for day two testing. In a statement, Michael Matheson, Scotland’s cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport, said: “We also intend to align with the UK post-arrival testing regime. The detail of that is still being developed with lateral flow tests being considered and we will engage further with the UK Government on those plans. Details will be announced at the same time as the UK.”
The Northern Irish government has yet to make an announcement on this, while the Welsh government has said a “decision on moving away from PCR tests is still to be made.”
Red list requirements
Unless you’re a resident of England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland — or a British or Irish national — you’ll be refused entry arriving into the UK from a red list country.
UK residents and British and Irish nationals arriving home from red list destinations must undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.
Bookings must be made through this online portal. The charge for a single adult occupying one room for 10 days is £2,285.
The UK’s quarantine hotels are located in England and Scotland, so if you arrive in the UK from a red list country and your final destination is in Wales or Northern Ireland, you will need to book a quarantine hotel in England or Scotland.
Red list arrivals dodging quarantine face steep fines.
From October 11, England is set to remove 47 countries from the red list, leaving only seven red destinations: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have yet to announce if they will follow suit.
Travel industry response
In a statement on the October 4 changes, Julie Simpson, president of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) praised the UK’s move away from pre-departure tests for fully vaccinated green list arrivals, while also hoping for further policy change.
“While this is certainly a step in the right direction, for the UK to be real leaders, the government should adopt a system based on the risk of individuals, not countries,” said Simpson. “Placing whole countries on red lists is illogical if you can keep the UK safe by checking an individual’s status and allowing fully jabbed people to travel almost anywhere in the world safely.”
Meanwhile, Airlines UK, the trade body which represents UK-registered airlines such as British Airways, called the October 4 changes “an excellent step forward” although CEO Tim Alderslade questioned the decision to keep day two testing for fully vaccinated travelers.
Red list countries (until October 11)
Congo (Democratic Republic)
Trinidad and Tobago