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foreign travel aerial view

Coronavirus: Foreign Travel Advice

4 MIN READ • 23rd July 2021
Daniella Gray by Daniella Gray

Dreaming of sending your ‘out of office’ and heading for sunnier climes? Join the club.

Not being able to go on holiday is one of the top three things people are missing as a result of the pandemic according to research, so with the ever-changing foreign travel situation, you’re bound to have some questions, like where can I fly to now in the UK? And, what are the travel restrictions in the UK?

As it stands, anyone travelling abroad this summer is currently required to go through specific government processes, depending on their holiday destination.

To avoid any additional stress, Cignpost Express Test, a COVID-19 testing firm, advises travellers to treat their COVID-19 tests as a holiday essential and plan them in advance.

From testing policies to quarantine rules, Denis Kinane, chief medical officer at Cignpost ExpressTest has you covered with her expert guide to travelling during the pandemic.

Do I need a test to fly out from the UK?

It’s understandable that people are confused about the tests they need to take when they travel abroad. But, currently the UK government does not require travellers to take any form of testing before you leave for your holiday.

However, lots of holiday destinations are keen that people entering their country take some kind of COVID test before they allow you to board a plane or ship. Usually, this is a PCR test that should be taken in the 72 hours before you leave the UK.

To ensure you are fully covered, travellers should always check the government website of the country they’re visiting – reading the guidelines fully to understand what’s needed ahead of time.

Returning to the UK

Although the countries included in the three different lists (green, amber and red), are regularly reviewed, there’s a testing requirement for every country at the moment.

Green list: What countries are included?

The green list includes a very short selection of countries and territories, including Gibraltar, Israel, Singapore and Iceland.

Currently, for those travelling between countries in the green category, there’ll be no need to quarantine on return. However, travellers must:

  • Take a pre-departure test and have proof of a negative result in the three days before departing.
  • Holidaymakers will also be required to book a PCR test before they return to the UK. The test can be taken any time between their arrival and day two of their return to the UK. The tests can be carried out at selected airports around the country by Cignpost ExpressTest, including Heathrow and Gatwick.
  • You will also need to complete a passenger locator form which can be found on the gov.uk website. This free form must be completed online 48 hours before you arrive in the UK – even if you’re only transiting through the country.

If the individual’s day two test is positive, or NHS Test & Trace says you have travelled with someone who has tested positive, you’ll have to follow the UK’s quarantine guidelines.

Amber list: What are the COVID travel restrictions?

At the moment, the vast majority of counties are on the amber list, with the Government advising people not to travel to these destinations unless necessary.

Tourists who are travelling back from amber listed countries will need to:

  • Book a pre-departure test and have proof of a negative result before returning to the UK.
  • On return, holidaymakers will be required to fill in a passenger locator form prior to travelling.
  • Travellers will also be required to take two PCR tests (on day two and day eight).
  • These PCR tests must be booked and paid for before you travel back to the country and enter the reference number on your passenger locator form.
  • People travelling back to the UK from countries on the amber list must also quarantine for 10 days.

However, you can choose to take an extra test, called ‘Test to Release’, to determine if you can end quarantine early. You do not have to do this – it’s voluntary and you’ll need to pay for it.

But, if you take the test on or after day five and it’s negative, you can end your quarantine early. However, it’s very important to note that you must still take your day eight PCR test, even if you take a Test to Release.

Red List: What does the red list mean?

Those arriving from red countries will be subject to the strictest of restrictions and they’ll need to:

  • Complete a 10-day stay in a managed quarantine hotel, which you must book and pay for in advance.
  • Take a pre-departure test and the two further PCR tests (on day two and day eight).

However, you cannot currently enter the UK if you’ve been in or through a country on the red list unless you are British, Irish or you have the right to live in the UK. This is because the UK government states that these countries are at the highest risk from COVID.

Where to get tests from?


Before returning to the UK, you will also need to pay for a private test with high accuracy that must meet the performance standards for pre-departure testing.
This could include tests such as:

  • A nucleic acid test, including a PCR test.
  • A loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test.
  • An antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device.
  • In the UK, tests can be bought from government approved providers, such as Cignpost ExpressTest. If you fail to show proof of a negative test before travelling to England, it could lead to a £500 fine.

Can I use the free NHS tests?

The pre-departure tests are not the same as the free PCR tests that are available through the NHS, as the results must be overseen by a health adviser. Get up-to-date information and a list of government approved test providers online at gov.uk

What to do when in quarantine

When returning from an amber list country, you must quarantine at the address you provide on your passenger locator form; this can include staying in your own home, with friends and family, or in hotel or other temporary accommodation. You must quarantine in one place for the full 10 days, where you can have everything you may need delivered to you.

If your testing provider only carries out the day 2 and day 8 tests at their testing facilities, you can leave the house for your test. But if your tests are delivered to your home and self-administered, you can leave the premises to post the test back if there is no one in your household or bubble who can post it for you.

Meet the writer
Daniella Gray
Editorial assistant

Being able to write about everything that's important to me (exercising for mental wellbeing and delicious food, of course) to help people meet their health goals is pretty special. Before emails, I'm usually in the front-room with a dumbbell and on weekends, there's nothing better than the Kent countryside for a leisurely stroll.

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