05 Aug 2021
COVID-19: general advice for travellersAdvice for travellers from the UK on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 outbreak
- This updates the news item of 29 July 2021
Travel abroad is increasing as some UK restrictions ease, but disruption continues as new measures including border closures, movement restrictions or quarantine rules can be introduced at short notice . Travellers should plan carefully and be prepared to stay overseas longer than planned.
People at higher risk from COVID-19 particularly those who are clinically extremely vulnerable  are at greater risk of severe illness and should continue to follow current UK guidance. Those who are in this group should check the advice in the UK nation they live in: England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.
Risk of severe disease and life threatening complications is also higher in people with certain underlying health conditions, those who are older, male, from deprived areas or from certain non-white ethnicities . All travellers should take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19 and attend for vaccination when invited by the NHS.
Travellers should also be aware that waiting times at borders are likely to be longer during this pandemic.
Advice for travellers
Preparations before travelling internationally
The UK government guide: Travel abroad: step by step; explains all the requirements to help UK residents plan safe international travel.
The passenger COVID charter provides guidance on rights, responsibilities and reasonable expectations regarding international travel whilst COVID-19 measures remain in place.
If you are planning to travel, check the following guidance to prepare for your trip and reduce your risk of COVID-19:
- Keep up to date with the latest official advice offered by the country you are departing from and travelling to. All countries may impose travel restrictions without notice.
- The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides guidance on COVID-19 and other risks overseas. Check FCDO travel advice for your destination. Check entry restrictions, screening and quarantine requirements on arrival. You can also subscribe to destination email updates. Contact the UK-based embassy of the country you are travelling to if you need more information.
- Check UK government general travel guidance regularly, as information may change.
- Be aware there may be enhanced screening/monitoring at entry/exit ports. In some countries, borders may close or you may be required to self-isolate for a set period. Plan ahead for any possible delays to your return home and the financial implications or practical arrangements you may need to make.
- Ensure you have extra supplies of any medication or medical equipment you need. Remember to carry copies of prescriptions and carry medication in your hand luggage.
- Check the impact COVID-19 may have on your travel insurance, including medical repatriation costs if you are ill abroad or any travel restrictions are put in place. If you are required to quarantine or self-isolate, you will be expected to do this in the country you are in. Travel insurance may be compromised if you extend your trip or travel abroad against UK government advice. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has produced information on travel insurance implications following the outbreak.
- Check up to date travel health recommendations on our Country Information pages. All countries have been classified as high, moderate or low risk for COVID-19 based on currently available information assessed by Public Health England and the National Travel Health Network and Centre. If you need travel health advice, vaccines or malaria medication, speak to your GP, practice nurse, pharmacist or travel clinic.
- Contact your airline, tour operator, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers for up-to-date information on your itinerary and travel plans. Ask about physical distancing and other measures in place to reduce or limit physical contact with potentially infected passengers. Guidance measures recommended aboard aircraft have been published [4, 5]. Other useful resources include the International Air Travel Association (IATA) and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
- The UK government has confirmed that international cruise sailings can restart from England. Current FCDO guidance states that cruise ships continue to experience COVID-19 outbreaks. Confined settings on board, along with the combination of multiple households, allows COVID-19 to spread faster than on land. See our Cruise factsheet for further guidance.
- If you are at higher risk of severe COVID-19, particularly if you are extremely clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 follow current UK recommendations to reduce your infection risk and consider postponing travel.
- Face coverings may be required in some situations and may be required in other countries. Face coverings do not replace social distancing and hygiene measures; you still need to take all the other recommended precautions.
- Know in advance the entry requirements for your return to the UK.
- COVID-19 vaccines are available via the NHS in the UK. Further information on the UK programme is available on the NHS website.
- UK proof of COVID-19 vaccination:
- Those fully vaccinated under the UK vaccination programme can access their COVID-19 vaccination status on the NHS COVID Pass. Proof of natural immunity shown by a positive COVID-19 PCR test result (lasting for 180 days after date of the test and following completion of the self-isolation period) is now part of the NHS COVID Pass in England.
- Welsh residents can find information here: Get the NHS COVID Pass to show your vaccination status for travel
- Scottish residents can find information here: Get a record of your coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination status
- Northern Ireland residents can find information here: Coronavirus (COVID-19): interim proof of vaccination document
- Be aware that different national restrictions may also be in place in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
COVID-19 testing and travel
- Some countries (including the UK for your return home) may require proof of recent COVID-19 testing for entry (or require you to take one or more tests on arrival in the country). Check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) foreign travel advice to see what type of test is required (see summary, health and entry requirements sections) and contact the UK-based embassy of the country you are travelling to if you need more information.
- You cannot use the NHS test and trace service to get a test for international travel. See our factsheet on testing for international travel purposes.
- All international arrivals into England are required to present a negative COVID-19 test taken in the three days before the service on which they will arrive in England departs. Further details, including information the test must include and travellers exempt from testing, can be found on GOV.UK. Different rules may apply for those arriving in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
- Requirements for further tests on your return depend on where you have been in the last 10 days. See the red, amber and green list rules for England, and check the rules for Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland if you are returning to these countries.
Air quality on board aircraft is carefully controlled, changed very frequently and passed through filters efficient at removing viruses . IATA state that the millions of flights since the start of the pandemic have resulted in a few confirmed cases of in-flight transmission. They describe risk of inflight transmission as low, provided a mask is worn . Whilst there is definitive evidence of in-flight transmission of COVID-19  mask-wearing appears to add an extra layer of protection .
Follow this advice if you are planning to fly:
- Do not travel if you are unwell. Exit screening may be implemented and you may be denied boarding if you have symptoms of COVID-19.
- Continue to take good hygiene measures (see below) and use the designated toilet for your area of the aircraft, washing your hands before you leave the toilet.
- Avoid moving from your seat unnecessarily, but continue to exercise your legs (flex and extend the ankles) as much as possible to encourage blood flow from the lower legs.
- If you are unwell, stay in your seat and follow any instructions provided during the flight, contacting the air crew as soon as possible.
Advice for preventing spread of respiratory viruses
- Wash your hands often with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available. This is particularly important after taking public transport or being in a public space.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home and work environment.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
- Follow social distancing guidelines and any local rules at your destination.
- Open windows/doors to let fresh air in when sharing a space with others.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash hands with soap and water. Use a face covering when required or recommended.
- If you feel unwell, stay at home, do not travel or attend work/school.
- If you are unwell with any of the following: high temperature, new continuous cough or loss/change in your sense of taste or smell (anosmia), you must self-isolate and arrange to have a test (seek local advice if you are overseas).
- Attend for vaccination when invited to do so by the NHS.
Advice if you have contact with a COVID-19 case while abroad
After contact with a known COVID-19 case, follow relevant public health advice and speak to your healthcare provider/travel insurance company for further guidance. If you are required to quarantine or self-isolate by local authorities, you must do so in the country you are in.
Advice if you become unwell abroad
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms: new continuous cough, high temperature or loss/change in your sense of taste or smell (anosmia) while abroad or during travel, you must immediately:
- Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people.
- Call your health provider and/or insurance company to discuss what to do. The FCDO website may also provide useful information with contact details and testing arrangements in other countries.
- Remember, if you have been in a malaria risk area in the last year, it is important to exclude malaria as a cause if you have a high temperature (urgent blood test required).
- Follow local public health guidance if available.
- If you become unwell at an airport, bus or train station before or during a long trip, seek medical advice and do not start or continue your journey.
- If you test positive for COVID-19 abroad, you must follow local public health advice regarding self-isolation. You should self-isolate in the country you are in, so you will need to stay longer than planned. Plan ahead for any possible delays to your return home and entry requirements at your next destination.
- Once you have fully recovered, check with your health provider if you are fit to travel, before onward travel.
Advice if you run out of medication
If your return journey is delayed and you are concerned you may run out of medicines (including antimalarials) or medical equipment, contact your travel health insurance provider for advice about how to get safe medical supplies at your destination.
Other sources of information include:
- International Society of Travel Medicine’s online Global Travel Clinic Directory.
- British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate - they may be able to recommend local healthcare resources. However, they cannot provide or pay for medical supplies or treatment.
Do not wait until your supplies of medication/equipment are low. In many countries medicines and equipment are not always easily available and the current pandemic may affect supplies. See our Medicines and Travel factsheet for more information. This is very important if you were advised to take malaria prevention tablets (chemoprophylaxis) for your destination. See our Malaria reminder during COVID-19 pandemic for more advice.
Advice for health professionals
During the current COVID-19 pandemic, individuals may present with a fever. In returned travellers, some will have other infections, including malaria, which can be fatal if not treated promptly. All individuals being assessed for possible COVID-19 must be asked if they have travelled abroad in the last six months. If they visited a country where malaria occurs, they must have an urgent same day malaria blood test result .
- GOV.UK: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Public Health England: Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance
- World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public
- ABTA: Travelling during Coronavirus
- GOV.UK: Travel advice: coronavirus (COVID-19)
- International Aircraft Transport Association (IATA): Air Travel and COVID-19
- GOV.UK: Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer travel guidance for passengers
- Department for Transport: Passenger COVID-19 Charter
- Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Foreign travel advice [Accessed 5 August 2021]
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- Public Health England. COVID-19: epidemiology, virology and clinical features. 18 February 2021 [Accessed 5 August 2021]
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- Public Health England, Guidelines for malaria prevention in travellers from the UK 2021. Last updated 9 June 2021. [Accessed 5 August 2021]