UK Travel Advice: What to Know Before Traveling to Britain
The United Kingdom is a fantastic place to visit any time of the year, but it is especially wonderful during the holiday season.
For many, this could be a chance to visit friends and family, enjoy the festive decorations, or simply travel to a new country. With Britain recently opening up, many have already looked into getting their UK visa waiver ahead of time.
However, it’s also important to remember that the United Kingdom recently changed its entry policy, especially with the onset of the new Omicron variant. Keep these new entry restrictions in mind as you plan your holiday trip.
The United Kingdom has seen a surge in new infections since the beginning of November, with an average of 40 to 50 thousand new cases every day.
Likewise, vaccination efforts are still underway but slowly plateauing. At the moment, at least 77 percent of the UK population has at least one vaccine, and 70 percent have been double jabbed.
The UK has recently imposed domestic restrictions regarding the coronavirus, including a mask mandate in most public places, having employees work from home, and making sure that indoor venues check a visitor’s vaccine status before allowing entry.
Before diving into the United Kingdom’s general entry requirements, travelers should take heed to the recent changes that were influenced by the recent discovery of the Omicron strain.
The United Kingdom government regularly compiles a list of ‘red countries’ and territories that have a poor epidemiological situation. UK nationals or residents who have been to these ‘red countries’ will be able to return to the United Kingdom, but must take a PCR test before departure, go into quarantine for 10 days, and take 2 PCR tests during isolation.
Those who have been to a red-listed territory and are not UK citizens will be banned from entering the country. The only way to circumnavigate this is to go to a non-red country and stay there for a minimum of 10 days before making your way to Britain.
At the moment, the UK red list includes 11 countries: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Although many can’t wait to see the wonders of the Celtic nations, travelers will need to keep a few entry requirements in mind before traveling to the United Kingdom.
The most important thing to note is which vaccination category travelers belong to.
Travelers who are fully vaccinated do not need to provide a negative PCR test nor reserve a quarantine package. They will only need to book a COVID-19 test for the second day after arrival, which can either be a PCR test or lateral flow test.
The United Kingdom currently accepts travelers who have one of the seven approved vaccines, which include Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Sinovac (CoronaVac), Sinopharm, and Covaxin.
Visitors will need to complete the full course of vaccines at least 14 days before traveling to the United Kingdom. Likewise, it is possible to mix and match any of the approved vaccines (i.e. Moderna for the first dose and Pfizer for the second).
Travelers who are not fully vaccinated will need to adhere to slightly stricter entry requirements. Before traveling to the UK, travelers will need to take a COVID-19 test within 2 days of departure, book and pay for 2 more PCR tests after arrival, and quarantine for 10 full days.
Finally, all visitors will need to fill out the UK Passenger Locator Form, which is a general application that asks about the traveler’s full name, passport data, vessel information (flight number), accommodation details in the UK, and vaccination status. This information will be used to do contact tracing and inform the traveler if someone was found to have the coronavirus aboard their airplane, boat, or other transportation.
After making sure that travelers meet the entry requirements, the final step is to figure out which travel authorization they need in order to enter the United Kingdom.
For example, citizens of more than 80 countries — including those in the European Union, Canada, Japan, Mexico, and the United States — do not require a visa to enter the United Kingdom. Likewise, the majority of these countries can stay in the UK for up to 6 months.
The United Kingdom also has a special program called the UK Visa Waiver, which allows nationals from 4 Gulf countries to obtain their travel authorization over the internet. The countries that are eligible for this program are Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
Finally, those who do not fall under either of the above categories will need to apply for a visa in order to travel to the United Kingdom.