International travel has changed significantly from what we were used to pre-pandemic, and as countries are restarting international travel there’s a lot more planning, paperwork and patience you need to organise.

While we will always defer to official government guidance for details on what you should or should not do when travelling internationally, here are 5 things you now need to know if you’re planning on travelling overseas.

Check your country of departure’s travel restrictions

restarting international travel

The first thing you need to check is that your own country will allow you to travel overseas.

Many countries restricted international travel in the wake of the pandemic, prohibiting their own citizens and residents from travelling overseas without a ‘good reason’.

Australia and New Zealand were two countries with extremely strict international travel controls, and while they are now starting to re-open somewhat, it can still be difficult to justify why you need to travel overseas.

So make sure you check with your own government’s international travel advice and restrictions before making travel plans so that you’re clear you can actually leave the country for your intended purpose.

Check your destination country’s travel restrictions (including any layovers)

restarting international travel

You’ll also need to check the travel restrictions in place at your destination, including any restrictions in place for a country where you have a layover. This will tell you what restrictions you need to follow upon arrival, and if you’ll actually be allowed to enter the country at all.

Travel to some countries is still outright banned, such as travel to New Zealand from most of the world, while other destinations like the UK, China and Europe have strict quarantine policies in place if you arrive from a ‘red list’ country.

For example, travel to England from a ‘red list’ country means you need to quarantine in a government-provided hotel for 10 days at your own cost – currently £2,250 for a single adult.

It’s hugely important to remember that transiting through a third country on your way to the UK impacts what you need to do upon arrival. In fact, if you’ve spent any time in a third country within 10 days of travelling to the UK, that will impact you.

For example, if you travel to the UK from a non-red list country but have a layover in a red list country, you need to follow the arrival rules for a red list country – regardless of whether you even left the airport.

Similarly, if you travelled to a ‘red list’ country, went back to a non-red list country and then travelled to the UK 3 days later, you need to follow the ‘red list’ country restrictions.

Meanwhile, the US has ‘travel bans’ in place from a number of countries where all travel is prohibited, save for a limited number of exceptional reasons. So if you attempted to travel to the US from a country on the travel ban list you would likely be denied boarding to your plane or ship and would certainly be denied entry at the border.

The US is also one of an increasing number of countries that is only permitting travel by fully-vaccinated people. This means having to prove your COVID-19 vaccination status on arrival and potentially facing fines, imprisonment and deportation if you cannot do so.

What ‘fully-vaccinated’ means is also in flux. Most countries classify you as ‘fully vaccinated’ if you’ve had two doses of an approved vaccines and your second dose was at least 14 days prior to travel. However, Austria and other countries are now requiring you to have also had a third booster vaccine before they’ll classify you as ‘fully vaccinated’.

So make sure you’re doing at least two travel restriction checks before you decide to travel – one for your country of departure and one for your destination – and also check the restrictions for any countries where you’ll have a layover or where you’ve been recently. This can all impact what restrictions you’ll face upon arrival at your destination.

Check the COVID-19 test requirements

covid-19 testing

It’s likely you’ll need to take  COVID-19 tests when travelling internationally, which may include one before you depart, and another upon arrival. You may even need to take a third or fourth post-arrival test, depending upon the restrictions in place for your countries of departure and arrival.

You may still need to take a COVID-19 test even if you’re fully vaccinated.

There are a number of different COVID-19 tests, of which the ‘gold standard’ is a laboratory-processed PCR test. However, some countries will accept the results from a lower standard rapid antigen test, which can be significantly cheaper.

Travellers to and from the UK cannot use a free NHS PCR test to meet the COVID-19 testing requirements, it must be from a private laboratory.

If you’re in the UK, you can purchase tests from our testing partner Agilis Health, who will provide you with the results of a rapid antigen test immediately after your appointment or within 48 hours for a PCR test. Agilis Health tests are fully compliant with all international requirements and can be used both prior to departure from the UK and upon arrival back in the country.

You’ll typically need a negative COVID-19 test result dated within 72 hours of departure to be able to travel, however there are very different rules for testing upon arrival depending upon where you travel to. Some countries require testing at the airport (e.g. Dubai), others require testing at home while some require periods of mandatory quarantine in government-approved facilities along with testing (e.g. Hong Kong). 

Do make sure you check what COVID-19 tests you need before travel, as well as ensuring that the tests you’re taking are the right kind and are within date. And do this even if you’re fully vaccinated.

Check what proof of vaccination you need to show

vaccine certificate

If you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 it may open up new travel options to you.

A number of countries are fully open to vaccinated travellers, such as Barbados, Croatia, Iceland and the Seychelles. You may or may not still need to take a COVID-19 test to travel so make sure you check with your destination for the full requirements.

The EU is open to travellers with ‘approved COVID-19 vaccines’. Meanwhile, Spain is understood to be allowing travellers who’ve had the Russian Sputnik 5 vaccine to enter the country despite the jab not yet being approved by the European Medical Agency regulator.

Within the EU itself, the Digital Green Certificate app allows citizens and residents to show their vaccination, test or COVID-19 antibody status. The app is used to show an individual’s COVID-19 status digitally in any other Member State.

While the Digital Green Certificate isn’t available to non-EU travellers, comparable digital health certificates may be used instead. The UK’s NHS app – which contains COVID-19 status information – is accepted by the EU.

Complete your Passenger Locator Form

restarting international travel

It’s virtually certain that before you travel you’ll also need to fill out another piece of paperwork: a passenger locator form. This form helps local contact tracers get hold of you if someone you travelled with falls ill with COVID-19.

You’ll need to complete the passenger locator form for your destination country and do this before you arrive at the airport to avoid any issues.

For many destinations, you’ll also need to upload/ include details of your vaccination status and COVID-19 test result in the passenger locator form, so it’s best to organise everything in advance of travel. However, do be aware that some destinations don’t let you submit a passenger locator form until 24 hours before your flight, so you’ll need to make sure you set aside sufficient time in a quiet space with a good internet connect to do this.

Travellers from the UK arriving at ports of departure without a completed passenger locator form risk being fined up to £5,000, so it’s essential you complete this for every member of your travel party before you set off.

So there are the 5 things you need to know about safely restarting international travel. The system is a complex minefield right now with many moving parts, but if you take time to check the basics around your countries of departure, arrival and any layovers, you’ll be well prepared. And as always, only ever use official government advice – the consequences of getting something wrong could have serious financial, health and travel consequences.

1 Comment
  1. […] To help you keep on top of everything you need to do so, we’ve published a blog post on the 5 things you need to know about safely restarting international travel. Do check it out to discover what you now need to do before, during and after […]

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