Booking a holiday during these COVID times inevitably requires paying attention to border rules and entry requirements. Mostly those of the destination country you intend to travel to.
But it’s also important to remember that there are rules on getting back into your own country. UK citizens returning from a holiday abroad are subject to the same rules as international visitors.
As far as COVID is concerned, you need to know what is required of you in terms of testing, vaccination certificates, health declaration forms etc when travelling in both directions. What complicates matters further for UK residents is that there are different rules in place for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The rules for England, for example, have recently changed. The government says the changes are intended to make travel into England a little easier. There is, however, still a lot you need to know. Here are answers to some of the key questions you might have.
What are the rules on returning to England if I am fully vaccinated?
The key change with the rules in England is that fully vaccinated travellers entering the country are no longer required to take a COVID test before departure. This also applies to anyone under the age of 18 (under fives are exempt from tests anyway).
People who have had their two main vaccine jabs do, however, have to book to take a test within 48 hours of arrival in England. Proof of having a test booked in advance must be presented at border control.
The test can be either a PCR test or a lateral flow test. If you test positive, you will have to self-isolate at home for seven days.
Everyone entering England also has to fill in a passenger locator form before they arrive in the UK.
What are the rules if I am not fully vaccinated?
Anyone who is not fully vaccinated still has to take a COVID test within 48 hours of setting off for the UK. You also have to pre-book not one but two tests when you arrive – one for day two and one for day eight after your arrival. These have to be PCR tests, not lateral flow tests.
Regardless of the result of the test you take before departure, you are required to isolate for 10 days pending the results of the two subsequent tests. This can be cut if you opt for the paid-for Test to Release scheme, which involves taking an earlier PCR test on day five (and getting a positive result, of course). But you still have to book the day two and day eight tests prior to departure to be allowed back into the country.
Do I have to pay for the tests?
Yes. All testing for travellers entering the UK has to be paid for privately. This includes lateral flow tests for fully vaccinated people. Free NHS tests cannot be used for travel purposes.
That further underlines the importance of planning in advance, especially while there are shortages of lateral flow tests due to such high demand.
The only exception to having to pay for tests is if you get a positive result on a day two lateral flow test. If that happens, you will be offered a complimentary PCR test to confirm the result.
Can I claim these costs on travel insurance?
No. Travel insurance will not cover you for the cost of tests you need to take to get back into the country. Insurance is designed for unforeseen expenses arising from loss, theft, damage, illness etc. COVID tests are now unfortunately one of those travel expenses we cannot avoid, like a taxi to the airport or local tourist taxes.
One thing travel insurance could help you with is this. If you are not fully vaccinated and your pre-departure test comes out positive, you will be forced to quarantine in situ and miss your flight home. That will mean paying for approved accommodation for isolating, another flight home, meals etc.
It’s not a standard part of travel insurance, but some policies will cover you for COVID-related delays or extensions. If you are planning on travelling and are not fully vaccinated, it is worth shopping around for a comprehensive policy with COVID-related extensions included, just in case that pre-departure test turns out positive.
Note: This is a collaborative post