Travel Rules Latest – Update For Autumn 2021

After months of expense and hassle, the tricky and complicated rules governing travel to and from the UK for those living in England have been made cheaper and easier — just in time for October half term. The news of a more simplified system, including the scrapping of the destination traffic-light, brings hope to potential holidaymakers and the millions who have been separated from family and friends since the start of the COVID pandemic.

From 4am on Monday 4 October, costly pre-departure testing for double-jabbed travellers will be scrapped, along with the destination traffic-light system. Gone is the confusing amber tier, with countries now classed as ‘red’ and ‘non-red’.

The new travel rules are likely to be in place until at least the new year — great news for Christmas holidays and the beginning of the ski season. Here are the key aspects.

Changes in tests to enter the UK

From Monday 4 October, fully vaccinated travellers will not need to take a pre-departure test (PDT) before returning to England. Once back, travellers still need to take a PCR test two days after arrival, but towards the end of October (date to be confirmed, but likely to be at the end of half-term) PCRs will be replaced by the cheaper, quicker lateral flow tests.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have not yet released details of any changes to their rules, so make sure to check the status of travel rules via the relevant devolved government website.

Visitors to the UK

The same rules as above will apply to travellers coming to England if they have been double-vaxxed for at least 14 days from an eligible non-red list country. When they arrive in England, visitors must complete a passenger locator form as well as take (and pay for) a COVID test on or before the second day of their trip. Travellers are welcomed in the UK if they have been double-vaccinated under an approved programme in the UK, Europe, US or a UK vaccine programme overseas. Also now welcome is anyone who has had the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna or Janssen vaccines from a public health body in a number of approved countries. Mixing between two-dose vaccines (Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna) in this list is also recognised.

Unvaccinated travel

If you travel to a non-red country without having been jabbed, you will still need to take a pre-departure test before returning to England, and then isolate for ten days when you arrive. During those ten days, PCR tests on days two and eight are mandatory, but the Test to Release scheme still applies, allowing travellers to pay for a private COVID test on the fifth day. If it comes back negative, then their quarantine can end.

Red-list countries

While simplifying the rules the government has also removed eight popular destinations from the red list from Wednesday 22 September, stopping the need for hotel quarantine for travellers returning from Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Oman, the Maldives, Egypt, Kenya and Sri Lanka. Otherwise the rules stay the same. Whether or not you have been fully vaccinated, you will only be allowed back in the UK from red list countries if you are a British or Irish national or are a UK resident. You must take a COVID test up to three days before coming home to England, quarantine in a hotel for 10 days once you get back and complete a passenger locator form. Whilst in quarantine, which costs £2,285, travellers must take a test on or before day two and on or after day eight of quarantine. Tests are included in hotel quarantine packages.

Check what rules apply at your destination

Although the rules have been simplified in England, the situation is still fluid globally, so check what the requirements are at your destination. Switzerland, for example, has just tightened up its rules for non-vaccinated travellers and expanded the use of its so-called ‘COVID certificate’ for all indoor activities. Only vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are recognised, so travellers jabbed with Oxford/AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Sputnik and Sinopharm — among others — will have to show a negative PCR or antigen COVID test if they want to visit a museum, eat out in a restaurant or have a drink in a bar.


If you’re planning on heading away to Europe to enjoy some winter sun, Switched On Travel Insurance provides real peace of mind through the cover provided by its standard policy and the enhanced protections offered by its COVID-19 PROTECT add on. Plus there’s currently 25% off Single Trip and Annual policies (T&Cs Apply)! Click here to find our more.


The details contained in this article were correct at the time of writing but as things can change at any time it’s important to check the latest information available to ensure you have the most up to date details to hand.