Information in this article is correct at time of publication - note that travel restrictions may change, often at short notice, due to the ongoing pandemic. Please check local government websites such as gov.uk before you plan to travel.?
Anglophiles listen up - there’s some jolly good news from across the pond. ????
The UK Government has announced a new testing system that will allow tourists to reduce its required 10-day quarantine (previously 14 days) by up to half.?
Starting on Dec. 15 2020, passengers arriving from high risk countries (including the US) will be able to cut their quarantine to as little as five days by getting a negative COVID test result.?
So, does this mean you can plan a much-awaited trip to Europe, indulge in some British history and high tea? Sort of, but remember that travel isn't recommended at the moment there are some extra restrictions you’ll want to consider. We dug into the details below.?
From the London Eye to Heathrow Express to Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studios, check out best UK activities and travel essentials on Klook.
Traveling by plane over the holidays? Book a Klook Airport transfer for 50% off anywhere in the US and Mexico. Use the code “HOLIDAY50” when you book. Valid until 1/5/2021.
How the “Test to Release” program works
The new scheme will be open to all passengers arriving from countries not featured on the government’s safe travel list (visitors from countries that are on the list are not required to quarantine).
When the program starts on Dec. 15, Americans will have the option to enter England and quarantine for just five days, take a COVID-19 PCR test on day five and bypass the rest of the quarantine once the result comes back negative.
It’s worth knowing that arriving passengers will still have the choice not to opt for the Test to Release option, and can complete the quarantine in full (10 days).?
All arriving passengers in England have to complete a passenger locator form before their flight. As of Dec. 15, there will be a new option on the form where you can indicate if you plan to take a test after day five. You’ll also need to indicate at that time where you plan to take your PCR test.
How to book a test
Travelers who want to take advantage of the Test to Release scheme will have to book a test with a private provider from a government-approved list.
This means that free NHS (UK National Health Service) testing should not be used, and the cost of the test will be out-of-pocket i.e. covered by the passenger.
The approved provider list can be found here: www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-test-to-release-for-international-travel
Typically the tests take 24 - 48 hours to get the results, though some are taking a matter of hours, and some much longer.?
What happens if I don’t take a test?
Those who decide not to take a test will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
It’s worth noting that even if you indicated on your Passenger Locator Form on arrival to England that you would get a test after 5 days to skip the rest of the quarantine, you're still free to change your mind and complete the rest of the 10 day quarantine instead.
Can I arrive in the UK before December 15?
Yes. Arrivals to England from Dec. 1 can also take advantage of the Test to Release scheme. If you’ve arrived in England on Dec. 1 or later and are still in quarantine as of Dec. 15, you can take a test and skip the remainder of your quarantine period as long as you a) get a negative result and b) have spent a minimum of 5 days in quarantine before taking the test.
Can I visit other countries in Europe after 5 days in the UK?
The short answer is no.?
There are some European countries that are open to US visitors, quarantine-free, including Turkey and Croatia, but this list is still short. Our best advice is to check local government guidelines wherever you’re hoping to visit, and know that non-essential travel is still advised against by health experts including the CDC.
Although researching and dreaming of future travel is totally OK! ??
Can I travel around the UK?
It depends. The four nations of the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) have different rules and restrictions in regards to travel and tourism during the pandemic.?
The best way to check is by searching the gov.uk website for the entry requirements of the country you’re planning to visit.
If you're traveling to the UK over Christmas 2020, know that there are 'tiered' restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the virus. You should only travel to the UK right now for essential purposes.
Anything else I need to know?
We don’t need to tell you that non-essential travel during the pandemic is not advised. You should always consult with your doctor and make a judgement call based on the necessity of the trip.?
There are harsh penalties (up to ￡10,000 / ~$13,500 USD) for breaking quarantine or not providing your contact details when you arrive in the UK. Details of which can be found on the government website here.
In summary, the Test to Release scheme feels like a small light at the end of the tunnel for international travel. Some Airlines including United and British Airways have trialled pre-departure testing which they hope will eliminate the need for quarantine altogether.
We’re already dreaming of our next European adventure, hopefully in 2021. How about you?
Read more from the Klook Blog:
Check out things to do in the UK here.