Right now, it is difficult to travel through the UK due to a lockdown and a requirement that you quarantine for 10 days. This requirement can be reduced if you “Test to Release” by taking a test at 5 days and release when you receive the results. This scheme may only work for England as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own requirements. All passengers entering the UK must have a negative Covid-19 test. This test must be taken in the 3 days before departure and must be in English, French, or Spanish. If you try to enter the country without this test, it is considered a criminal offence and the fines can run as high as 10,000 pounds. You are then going to have to self-isolate for 10 days unless it is to complete onward travel.
Assuming you are going to transit through the UK, you are still required to have a negative Covid-19 test to enter. In addition to the Covid-19 test you are also required to pre-purchase 2 Covid-19 tests (2 and 8 day) which run about 200 pounds. Yes, you must buy this even if you will not use it as you are only going through Heathrow. If you never leave the secured area of the airport, you may be able to bypass this requirement. One of the many sites to book the two tests are at the following link (International Arrivals – Managed Quarantine in a Hotel https://quarantinehotels.ctmportal.co.uk/ ). Once purchased, you receive an access code that you use for your UK passenger locator form, which you will need for entry at the airport. You complete this form no sooner than 48 hours before entry into the country. When I went through Heathrow in January 2021 the airport queue was approximately 2 hours to show the various forms required.
Furthermore, if you have been in or traveled through any of the following Red List Countries in the previous 10 days you will be denied entry into the UK (unless you are a UK citizen or have residence rights then you will be required to stay at a government hotel for 10 days). The current Red List:
- Cape Verde
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Ethiopia (will be added to the list 4am Friday 19 March)
- French Guiana
- Mauritius (will be removed from the list 4am Friday 19 March)
- Oman (will be added to the list 4am Friday 19 March)
- Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores) (will be removed from the list 4am Friday 19 March)
- Qatar (will be added to the list 4am Friday 19 March)
- Somalia (will be added to the list 4am Friday 19 March)
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
This list is fairly fluid with countries being removed and added so you should check for updates at GOV.UK. As the penalties for breaking the UK quarantine or entering the country without proper authorization ad paperwork are severe, it is important to keep abreast of the current regulations and follow them exactly. It is not impossible to travel to or through the UK but it is difficult and there are added expenses.
As always, as your travel advisors, we are able to help you navigate the added complexities of travel during Covid-19.
Jon and Carol are owners of Vista Curated Travel specializing in small group tours to incredible places.