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UK’s travel rules are changing this week: What will be different and how will it work?

Written by on 30/09/2021

The UK’s travel rules are set to change again this week as more restrictions are relaxed, allowing people to be more confident about making plans.

British holidaymakers have been forced to adapt to many new travel rules since the summer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since May this year, travellers have been adhering to the government’s travel traffic light system, which regularly changed which countries were safe visit.

Experts say they are worried about the risk of variants infecting UK travellers in Europe this year
Image: The traffic light system will be changed as part of the shake-up

These changes made planning a trip abroad difficult, but a major shake-up announced a few weeks ago will come into force on Monday – and the rules are set to remain in place until the New Year.

Which travel rules are changing this week?

Traffic light system

The current traffic light system of red, amber and green countries will be replaced with one red list only.

More on Covid-19

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the plans last month as he said the aim was to “simplify measures”.

He wrote on Twitter: “We’re making testing easier for travel.

“From Monday 4 October, if you’re fully vaccinated you won’t need a pre-departure test before arrival into England from a non-red country and from later in October, will be able to replace the day 2 PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow.

“We’ll also be introducing a new simplified system for international travel from Monday 4 October, replacing the current approach with a single red list and simplified measures for the rest of the world – striking the right balance to manage the public health risk as number 1 priority.”

PCR tests

People who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to take a pre-departure test for travelling into England from countries on the non-red lists.

At the end of October, people will also be able to replace their day-two PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test.

UK travellers face expensive COVID tests
Image: UK travellers previously faced expensive COVID tests when travelling

However, those who are unvaccinated will still have to pay for PCR tests.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid previously said he wanted to get rid of PCR tests for travel “as soon as I possibly can”.

He told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday: “I’m not going to make that decision right now, but I’ve already asked the officials that the moment we can, let’s get rid of these kinds of intrusions.

“The cost that generates for families, particularly families just trying to go out and holiday, you know we shouldn’t be keeping anything like that in place for a second longer than is absolutely necessary.”

Lateral flow tests

The pre-arrival lateral flow test required by all Britons returning to the UK will also be scrapped this week.

The government will also keep adding pressure on people to get their jabs by maintaining a 10-day quarantine on the unvaccinated despite which country they arrive from.

Which countries will still be on the red list?

Anyone returning from a red list country will also still be required to pay £2,285 to quarantine at a government-approved hotel.

The red list:







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Transport Sec on travel restrictions


Cape Verde



Congo (Democratic Republic)

Costa Rica


Dominican Republic





French Guiana






















Sierra Leone


South Africa





Trinidad and Tobago







What happens if a traveller tests positive when returning to the UK?

Anyone who tests positive will need to isolate and take a free confirmatory PCR test.

This would then be genomically sequenced to help identify new variants.

Will the new rules apply to the whole of the UK?

The travel changes will only apply to England.

The Scottish government has already announced it will not remove the requirement for people who are fully vaccinated to take a pre-departure test before returning from non-red list areas.

The Scottish government said: “A UK government decision to implement proposals to remove the requirement for a pre-departure test in England and to use lateral flow tests on day two have not been adopted at this stage in Scotland due to significant concerns at the impact on public health.”

A plane lands on the southern runway at London Heathrow Airport. US and EU travellers who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus will be allowed to enter England and Scotland without the need to quarantine from Monday. Travellers will be required to take a pre-departure test, and a PCR test on or before the second day after their arrival. Picture date: Thursday July 29, 2021.
Image: Anyone who tests positive will need to isolate and take a free confirmatory PCR test upon arrival

Eluned Morgan, minister for health and social services, added the Welsh government would “carefully consider” the new travel measures announced for England before making a decision.

Are the rules the same for leaving the UK and returning from other countries?

The rules will only apply to those getting back into the UK.

Towards the end of October, passengers who change flights or international trains during their journey will be able to follow the measures associated with the country they originally departed from, rather than the countries they have been through as part of their journey.

However, a date for this has not yet been confirmed.

Passengers should continue to check GOV.UK travel guidance to keep up to date with entry requirements into the UK here.

 Sky News

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