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The first British Airways Boeing 787-10 arriving at London Heathrow Airport (Photo: Graham Dinsdale)

What You Need to Know About Traveling to the U.K. Right Now

Restrictions are beginning to ease across the world after the pandemic left many countries closing their borders to overseas visitors. This saw many holidaymakers having to put their plans on hold, as well as family members continuing to be separated from their loved ones during this challenging time. 

However, in spite of local restrictions easing, this doesn’t mean that the airline industry is back to how it was pre-pandemic. 

London is a central hub for businesses throughout the world and has an abundance of opportunities for tourism and commerce, alike. Beyond the historic architecture, there is so much to explore in England. Here’s what you need to know before planning a trip to London throughout the pandemic.

The Covid-19 Situation 

Sadly for the UK, it has seen one of the highest death rates in the world (according to how deaths are reported in the U.K.) in spite of being one of the first countries to start offering vaccinations. They experienced a second wave and new variants of the virus in the winter which led to many countries canceling their air links just before Christmas 2020.

In the following January, the UK went into a full lockdown which is slowly being eased with some restrictions still in place for UK residents until the summer. 

What Does This Mean for Travel? 

In March 2020, the UK began clamping down on international travel, banning any non-essential visits into the UK from anybody who resides overseas. The exception was made for citizens returning home following a trip. 

Now all travelers entering the UK regardless of their immigration status must present a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival — a policy that has been in place since January 2021. A mandatory hotel quarantine arriving from ‘red list’ countries was introduced in mid-February. As it stands at present, people arriving in the UK need to quarantine for 14 days, and for 10 days if they have a negative Covid-19 test.

A British Airways Airbus A380 taxis in Los Angeles. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

What Countries Are on the “Red List?”

According to the gov.uk website, the following countries are on the “Red List” and may not enter the UK.

In Africa, affected nations include Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In the Americas, the government has added Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela to the Red List.

Finally, throughout Asia, Bangladesh, India, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates count themselves among the countries from which travel is prohibited.

Are There Any Exceptions?

With such rigid rules in place as well as the risk of fines of up to £10,000 ($14,000) for entering the UK without paying the £1,750 15 night hotel package, it is worth speaking to an immigration lawyer to discuss the best options for the individual based on their circumstances for visiting the UK.

Known reasons for an exception are for work purposes for jobs such as pilots, news journalists, border security workers and people working in public transportation. The restrictions are reviewed regularly so it is worth keeping an eye out for the latest news from the government website.


  • Parker Davis

    Parker joined AirlineGeeks as a writer and photographer in 2016, combining his longtime love for aviation with a newfound passion for journalism. Since then, he’s worked as a Senior Writer before becoming Editor-in-Chief of the site in 2020. Originally from Dallas and an American frequent flyer, he left behind the city’s rich aviation history to attend college in North Carolina, where he’s studying economics.

Parker Davis

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