Update on UK travel restrictions

What’s the latest UK COVID-19 travel restrictions? Read our latest update for information.


From 4am on Friday 23 April 2021, India will be added to the UK Government’s ‘Red List’.

In this update, we set out the current restrictions on travel, which are in place until 17 May 2021, and what you can expect to see when restrictions ease.

Red List Restrictions:

If you have been to or passed through a Red List country in the 10 days prior to your arrival in the UK you will be denied entry, unless you are a British or Irish national or have residency rights in the UK. If you are permitted entry to the UK because you fall within those circumstances, you will be required to follow enhanced quarantine rules: you must carry out your 10 day quarantine at a Government approved hotel, in addition to taking a Covid-19 test on day 2 and day 8. Both tests must be negative to end your quarantine on day 10. You may be exempt from some of the restrictions applying to Red List countries depending on your job (see below).

General Travel Restrictions in the UK:

If you are in the UK, non-essential international travel is not recommended. You are only allowed to travel abroad (i.e. outside of the Common Travel Area) if you have a legally permitted reason to do so. This includes travel for:

  • Work;
  • Volunteering;
  • Education;
  • Medical reasons or to provide care;
  • Weddings or civil partnerships;
  • Funerals;
  • Elite Sports; or
  • Other reasonable excuses which are detailed here.

Before travelling, you must complete a declaration form specifying your legally permitted reason to travel, and you may be asked to provide evidence of this at your port of departure. While you are abroad, you should comply with any local Covid-19 restrictions in place at your destination.

When travelling to England, you will be required to present a completed Passenger Locator Form and evidence of a negative Covid-19 test taken at least 72 hours before your arrival date. Your airline or other travel provider may not allow you to travel if you do not have this. Upon entering England, you are required to quarantine at home (or at a government approved hotel if coming from a Red List country) for 10 days. Whilst in quarantine, you will be required to take a Covid-19 test on day 2 and day 8 which must be purchased from an approved provider. Both tests must be negative to end your quarantine on day 10.

Travel restrictions may be different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Exceptions to the General and Red List Restrictions:

You can apply for early release from quarantine by purchasing a Test for Release from an approved provider. This can cut down quarantine time by 2 or 3 days but comes at an additional cost.

There are also further exceptions for particular jobs which may make you exempt from some or all of the restrictions set out above. For example, aircraft pilots and crew are allowed to enter the UK from a Red List country, they are not required to complete a declaration form before travelling, they do not need to quarantine for 10 days, and only need to take a workplace lateral flow test after arriving in the UK. To check if there are any exemptions relevant to your job, see here.

What’s on the Horizon:

According to the Government’s roadmap, international travel restrictions will not be eased until 17 May 2021 at the earliest. However, Boris Johnson recently announced that, when travel restrictions are eased in the UK, the Government will likely introduce a traffic light system for international travel. This will categorise countries under a Red List, Amber List or Green List depending on their Covid-19 risk profile. The highest risk countries will come under the Red List and may be under a travel ban. Lower risk countries will come under the Amber or Green List and have fewer (or no) travel restrictions in place.

It’s still unclear when we can expect these changes, but the Global Travel Taskforce’s framework for a safe and sustainable return to international travel suggests more relaxed rules could be on the cards by the summer.

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of April 22, 2021.