Unlocking the World

Travel to the UK during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

CNN StaffUpdated 10th May 2022
The UK has been among the countries worst-hit by coronavirus.
Editor's Note — Coronavirus cases are in flux across the globe. Health officials caution that staying home is the best way to stem transmission until you're fully vaccinated. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on May 10.
(CNN) — If you're planning to travel to the UK, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

The United Kingdom has seen one of the highest number of deaths from Covid-19 in the world, resulting in multiple lockdowns. Earlier in 2022, the Omicron coronavirus variant spread rapidly across the UK.
Covid restrictions have since been mostly removed across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. See more detail below.
There are currently no Covid-related restrictions on international travel to the UK.

What's on offer

In London, the UK has one of the world's greatest cities. But beyond the architectural marvels and nightlife of the capital, there is much to explore -- the rugged peaks of the Scottish Highlands, distant Welsh lakes and the wide sweep of Cornish beaches, for starters, plus historic towns and cities such as Bath, Oxford and Harrogate.

Who can go

Anyone can enter the UK without any additional testing or quarantine requirements, regardless of vaccination status.

What are the restrictions?

There are currently no Covid-related restrictions on international travel to the UK.
Arrivals no longer need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before arriving in the UK.
Red list countries
The UK divides destinations into "red" and "green" destinations. At present, there are no countries on the "red" list.
Previously, certain arrivals from red list countries were required to quarantine in designated hotels, but the infrastructure for hotel quarantine was "fully stood down" at the end of March 2022.
The UK government said it will "maintain a range of contingency measures in reserve" which could be activated if concerning coronavirus variants emerge.
The UK government had previously said if red list restrictions needed to be reintroduced, home isolation would likely be the preferred option.
Green list countries
Any destination not on the red list is considered green -- so currently all destinations are green, but some green destinations don't currently permit nonessential travel from the UK.
Anyone -- regardless of vaccination status -- from green list countries can enter the UK without any additional testing or quarantine requirements.
For full UK government guidance on traveling to the UK, see here.
Other developments:
International and domestic cruising is operational in the UK -- see government guidance here and check the specific cruise line for regulations.
If you test positive for Covid-19 while in the UK, you are not legally required to self-isolate but England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all recommend self-isolation.
Some airlines flying into England no longer require passengers or crew to wear masks, but it depends on the specific route so you should check before boarding.

What's the Covid situation?

The UK has suffered considerably during Covid-19 and cases peaked earlier in this year following the emergence of Omicron. Cases have since fallen.
There have been over 22.3 million Covid cases and more than 177,000 deaths in the UK as of May 10. Over 73.3% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

What can visitors expect?

  • England
There are no legal Covid restrictions in England.
Face coverings are no longer mandatory anywhere. They aren't required on any public transport, however Transport for London recommends travelers wear face masks.
London's Heathrow Airport has removed its face covering mandate. In a press release, the airport said "Heathrow strongly encourages those at the airport to continue wearing a face covering -- particularly when coming into close contact with others -- although this will no longer be a firm requirement."
Venues operating with large numbers -- like theaters, concert venues and nightclubs -- no longer require proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test.
For England-based Covid guidance, see here.
  • Wales
Wales is currently at what the country calls Covid alert level 0 and the majority of Covid restrictions have been lifted.
Face masks are no longer a legal requirement in Wales, aside from in health and care settings, although they continue to be "strongly recommended" by the Welsh government. See full Welsh face mask guidance here.
Venues like theaters, concert venues and nightclubs no longer require proof of vaccination or proof of a negative PCR test or negative rapid lateral flow test.
For Welsh Covid guidance, see this link.
  • Scotland
There are no remaining Covid restrictions in Scotland.
The legal requirement to wear face masks in Scotland was removed in April, but masks continue to be "strongly recommended."
Scottish venues like theaters, concert venues and nightclubs no longer require proof of vaccination or proof of a negative PCR test or negative rapid lateral flow test.
People in Scotland must show they've had a booster jab to be considered fully vaccinated if their last vaccine dose was more than four months ago.
For Scotland's current Covid guidance, see here.
  • Northern Ireland
There are no legal Covid restrictions in Northern Ireland.
Wearing a face covering is no longer a legal requirement in Northern Ireland, but face masks continue to be "strongly recommended in indoor areas where you come into contact with people you do not usually meet" -- such as public transport.
Venues like theaters, concert venues and nightclubs no longer require proof of vaccination or proof of a negative PCR test or negative rapid lateral flow test.
For Northern Ireland's current Covid guidance, see here.

Useful links

Our recent coverage

The Derry-Coleraine railway in Northern Ireland and the West Highland Railway in Scotland made our recent list of Europe's most beautiful train journeys.
The West Highland Railway was also spotlighted in our round-up of the world's most incredible railway routes.
The town of Clovelly in southwest England made our round-up of the most beautiful towns in Europe. You can also read our report on London's abandoned Down Street station here.
You can also check out our list of the top places to visit in the UK, or if it's England specifically you're interested in, here are some of the loveliest spots in the country. You'll find our list of Scotland's top spots here.