Checklist: Everything you need to know about flying into and out of the UK

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What forms do you need to know about? Do you have to quarantine after flying? We talk you through everything you should know if you’re heading overseas.

Before you fly

The first thing you need to do is check the latest entry requirements in the county you’re travelling to. Some require a Covid-19 test be presented on arrival, and most require you to fill out a form listing your contact details.

Check the rules at least a few days before you travel, as some countries require forms to be submitted online ahead of your trip, and others require you to print out a form and carry it with you when you travel.

The UK Foreign Office regularly updates its list of entry requirements for every country. Just click on the country you are travelling to, and then click through to the “entry requirements” page.

Finally, do not travel if you or anyone in your group is displaying coronavirus symptoms. This is not just for your safety and the safety of those around you; almost all countries are conducting visual or physical health checks (such as temperature checks) at the airport, and those who fail risk being placed into quarantine while they receive a Covid-19 test.

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During travel

Traveling overseas during the coronavirus pandemic feels both strangely normal and strangely different.

You still show up to the airport (note that only passengers should enter the terminal), pass through security and passport control, sit in the Departures hall, head to your gate and board your flight. The majority of shops and F&B outlets have reopened as passenger numbers have ticked back up in recent months.

The most obvious difference is the masks. Unless you have an exemption on physical/mental health grounds, you are required to wear a mask for the entire time you’re in an airport and on a flight. The only exception is when you sit down to eat or drink.

In the UK, the government has stated that people should not have to obtain written evidence (for example, from a doctor) that they are exempt from wearing a mask. However, most airlines recommend that you do so, or obtain a hidden disability lanyard in advance of flying, so that you are not repeatedly questioned during your trip.

In general, children under six are not required to wear a mask on planes or at the airport. You should check your airline’s policy directly with them if you are concerned.

Masks can get very stuffy after a while, as you have probably already found. Health bodies recommend changing them every four hours, but you may want to take enough to change them every couple of hours.

You will notice hand sanitiser stations dotted around the airport. However, these are frequently empty. We recommend bringing your own (under 100ml!) bottle to use after you touch items like security trays or luggage trolleys.

On your trip

So far during the pandemic, the government has been adding and removing countries from the travel corridor list (the countries you don’t need to self-isolate when you come back from) each week.

The government has emphasised that if the rules change while you are away, you are not required to immediately return to the UK, and should finish your trip as normal. However, you are still required to self-isolate even if that policy wasn’t in place when you left. You may wish to check the country page a day before you leave, so you are aware of the latest rules.

Returning to the UK

Everyone entering the UK – whether they are a tourist or a local, and whether they are returning from a ‘quarantine on return’ country or not – has to fill out a “passenger locator form” with their trip and contact details. The only exception is if you’re travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

The easiest way to do this is online here. It’s free, and you do not have to print the form and fill it in by hand. You will need to provide the UK address where you will be staying (or where you live), an email address and phone number, your flight number, airline name, travel dates, and the countries you have visited in the last 14 days.

You should make sure you have enough phone charge to show the form if necessary (you will be emailed a link to the form, which has a QR code that border officers can scan). If you don’t have access to a smartphone, you can print the form.

Do you have to quarantine after flying?

Yes, unless the country you are visiting is on the travel corridor list.

Quarantine, or “self-isolation”, means staying at one address for 14 days without leaving the house to work, shop or exercise. You should only leave the house in an emergency, and other people in the household should not be in contact with you if they are not self-isolating.

Check out the countries you can currently visit without a quarantine on either end.

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