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A breakdown of the new testing rules for travelers headed to the UK

Jan. 06, 2022
5 min read
ANKARA, TURKEY - AUGUST 28: Samples of PCR tests are seen at Yildirim Beyazit University Yenimahalle Training and Research Hospital in Ankara, Turkey on August 28, 2021. Molecular microbiology laboratory works hard to finalize the PCR tests, which is the most critical stage in the diagnosis of Covid-19. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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This article has been updated.


From Friday, Jan. 7, people entering England will no longer have to prove they are free of COVID-19 before they set off.

Instead, they will have to provide a negative PCR test upon arrival. Then, from Jan. 9, that rule will change again, meaning you will only have to provide a negative lateral flow test instead of a PCR.

The new rules come into play as British health authorities acknowledge that omicron is now the dominant variant in the country, rendering previous measures to hamper its entry into Britain redundant.

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In an effort to slow down the spread, the U.K. had introduced several legislative travel firewalls, including mandatory predeparture testing. But on Wednesday, after figures revealed that one in 25 people in England had the virus before Christmas, ministers relaxed the rules.

Here are your questions about travel to the U.K. answered:

Do I need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before traveling to the U.K.?

No. Previously, anyone aged 12 and above traveling to the U.K. was required to show a negative test taken up to two days before departure.

But as of 4 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 7, fully vaccinated travelers and people under 18 will no longer have to take a predeparture test before returning to England.

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From Sunday, Jan. 9, you will only be required to take a lateral flow Day 2 test, opposed to the more expensive PCR test previously required.

Are free NHS lateral flow tests accepted?

No. Free NHS tests are not allowed. Instead, you must buy one from a private test provider, which you will need to book before departure.

Several companies, such as Qured or Randox, sell at-home or mail-in COVID-19 tests. You can find a list of government-approved lateral flow tests here.

If the result is positive, you are required to then take a PCR test to confirm the result. If that also comes back positive, you will need to self-isolate for seven days, so long as you take two negative lateral flow tests 24 hours apart.

If you’re traveling internationally you must use a private test provider that has self-declared it meets the U.K. government minimum standards for commercial testing.

However, in all cases, it’s wise to be organized. While all of these services offer a quick turnaround, this could easily be affected by a surge in demand as the new testing rules come into force. Book your test as far in advance as you can to be safe, especially if you’re required to also book a video consultation with the test.

Will I still need to isolate and take a PCR test?

You are only expected to self-isolate if your post-arrival lateral flow test result is positive. That is to say: You do not have to isolate while you wait for your lateral flow result.

If your lateral flow result is positive, then you must self-isolate while you await the result of a PCR test.

What if I am not fully vaccinated?

Then the old rules currently still apply. If you are not fully vaccinated you will still be required to take both a Day 2 and a Day 8 test and you may also be required to quarantine for 10 days even if you test negative.

Following your Day 2 test, you must continue to quarantine regardless of whether or not you receive a negative result.

Once you have taken your Day 8 test, you can leave quarantine on whichever is later: Day 10 of your arrival in the U.K. or when you receive a negative Day 8 result. If your Day 8 test is positive you must quarantine for an additional 10 days, with the Day 8 test being counted as Day Zero of your quarantine.

If you are entering the U.K. via a cruise ship you may be subject to slightly different testing requirements.

Will I need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) before I travel?

Everyone traveling to the U.K. must complete a PLF no later or earlier than two days before they arrive at their destination. This is regardless of your vaccination status. This should be completed after you have booked your Day 2 test (and if unvaccinated, your Day 8 test) as you will be required to provide a unique code as proof that you have testing arranged.

The Passenger Locator form can be accessed here.

Being able to show proof of full vaccination will make your travels a lot easier.

Depending upon the Day 2 testing service you book you could be out of self-isolation within hours of your arrival in the U.K. if you are fully vaccinated.

If you are unvaccinated, you will be required to quarantine for much longer, which could cause disruptions to your visit.

Additional reporting by Jordan Waller.

Featured image by ANKARA, TURKEY - AUGUST 28: Samples of PCR tests are seen at Yildirim Beyazit University Yenimahalle Training and Research Hospital in Ankara, Turkey on August 28, 2021. Molecular microbiology laboratory works hard to finalize the PCR tests, which is the most critical stage in the diagnosis of Covid-19. (Photo by Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
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Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more