Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we’re here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next
adventure – whether that’s a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we’ve got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to
keep you up to date and ready to go.
Since 15 February, people arriving in England from certain countries have to quarantine in an approved hotel for 10 days. Separate rules are in place for travellers landing in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Avoiding this quarantine isn’t an option. If you don’t provide accurate information about the countries you’ve visited in the 10 days before your arrival in the UK, you could face 10 years in prison, a £10,000 fine or both. Breaking quarantine rules could also result in a £10,000 fine.
Although travelling for a holiday is currently illegal under COVID-19 restrictions, there are some legally permitted, essential reasons to go abroad (which you’ll need to state on a Declaration of Travel form before travelling). If you have to fly overseas, here’s what you can expect if you need to book a quarantine hotel.
UK hotel quarantine: what is it?
Everyone arriving in the UK from abroad needs to quarantine for 10 days. The day you arrive counts as day zero. For most travellers this means staying at home, however there are stricter rules in place if you arrive from a country where travel into the UK is banned. These are called ‘red list’ countries, and only British nationals, Irish nationals and people with residency rights in the UK can enter from them.
If you’ve passed through one of the 35 countries on the red list in the past 10 days then there are stricter measures in place. This includes staying at a managed quarantine hotel for the duration of your self-isolation. It’s hoped that this will help to stop the spread of harmful new variants – for example the Brazil variant and South Africa variant. In Scotland, hotel quarantine is extended to anyone arriving from outside the Common Travel Area (that’s the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands).
Which countries are ‘red list travel ban’ countries for UK entries?
As of 19 March, there are 35 countries on the red list. In alphabetical order, they are:
- Cape Verde
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- French Guiana
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Countries may be added and removed from the red list as new data emerges. To make sure you’re always up to date, visit the government’s red list travel ban page.
How many quarantine hotels are available in the UK?
So far, the UK government has contracted 16 hotels. There are 4,600 rooms available for quarantine and more will be made available if necessary. You can’t choose your hotel or your room: it’s luck of the draw. That said, hotels will try to allocate larger or connecting rooms to people travelling as a family.
How to book a quarantine hotel in the UK
The government has set up a special quarantine hotel booking portal, which is administered by Corporate Travel Management (CTM).
To book a quarantine hotel, you need to arrive at one of eight approved airports:
- Aberdeen Airport
- Birmingham Airport
- Edinburgh Airport
- Farnborough Airport
- Gatwick Airport
- Glasgow Airport
- Heathrow Airport
- London City Airport
This is because you will be picked up and dropped off at the airport as part of your quarantine package. If you’ve already booked a flight to a different airport, it’s your responsibility to change it to one of the approved airports listed above.
How to prepare for arriving in England (before travel)
Before flying into the UK, there are two important things you need to do.
Take a coronavirus test: you need to do this even if you’ve already had a vaccine. You need to take the test three days before departure, and bring proof that you tested negative. This could be a print-out or an email/text on your phone. It needs to be in English, French or Spanish: translations won’t be accepted. Make sure you inform your test provider of this. Without this evidence, you might not be allowed to travel. You could also be fined £500 if you don’t have this proof on arrival, so make sure your phone is fully charged. You can take a PCR, LAMP or lateral flow test as long as it meets certain performance standards (≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml).
Complete a Passenger Locator Form: you need to submit this up to 48 hours before your arrival. The form basically makes it easier for the government to get in touch and let you know if someone you travelled with has tested positive. You can fill in the form online. Everyone over 18 needs to fill in their own form.
Who needs to quarantine in a hotel?
Anyone who has been in or passed through one of the 35 red list countries needs to quarantine in a hotel, if they’re travelling to England. If you’re travelling to Scotland, you’ll need to quarantine in a hotel if you’re coming from anywhere outside the Common Travel Area (UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man).
Are there exemptions to hotel quarantine?
There is a small list of people who don’t need to quarantine in a hotel after travelling through a red list country. These are:
- UK and non-UK officials and contractors working on Border Security
- Crown servants or government contractors
- Defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors
- Members of diplomatic missions and consular posts in the UK
- Officers, servants or representatives of international organisations
- Representatives at an international or UK conference granted privileges and immunities, and their families or dependents.
- Drivers of goods vehicles who have been in or through Portugal
- People who need urgent medical care (e.g. not pre-arranged)
- Representatives of a foreign country or territory
- Representatives of British overseas territories
- People who are transiting on their way to another destination outside the Common Travel Area. They need to stay in the terminal or travel straight to their next point of departure.
What is the cost of hotel quarantine in the UK?
Quarantine hotels in England have a set rate, so there are no ‘budget’ or ‘luxury’ options. If your quarantine needs to last longer than 10 days, there’s an extra fee for each additional day you spend in the hotel. You can see the costs below, although these may be revised before the end of March.
|No. of guests||Rate||Additional day|
|One adult in one room for 10 days/11 nights||£1,750||£152|
|Each additional person older than 12||£650||£41|
|Each child aged 5 to 12||£325||£12|
|Each child under 5||Free||Free|
People who receive income-related benefits can apply for a deferred repayment plan when booking into the quarantine hotel. This splits the fee into 12 monthly installments, so it’s more manageable.
What services are available at the quarantine hotel?
Services will differ from hotel to hotel. The government has chosen hotels for managed quarantine that can meet the vast majority of requirements, for example free Wi-Fi, food and laundry. They’ll also be able to accommodate any dietary requirements. Nothing is guaranteed, but the hotel staff will be able to give you more information about what is available when you arrive.
How is COVID testing carried out in a quarantine hotel?
Every member of your party older than five will be tested for COVID on day two and day eight of your stay. Tests will take place in your room.
You won’t be able to leave early under the test and release programme, but if you test negative on both day two and day eight you’ll be allowed to leave after your full 10 days of quarantine. If you test positive at any point, you’ll need to quarantine for 10 days from the day after your positive test at your own expense: so until day 13 if you test positive on day two, and until day 19 if you test positive on day eight.
Day two test
The first test is designed to identify any new variants of COVID-19 as early as possible, because you may still develop COVID-19. Tests will be taken in your room in your quarantine hotel. If you test positive, you and anyone you’re travelling with will need to quarantine until day thirteen. You won’t need to take the test on day eight.
Day eight test
If you test negative on day two, you’ll need another test on or after day eight. Testing positive now means you’ll need to stay at the hotel until day 19. However, If you test negative again you’ll be allowed to leave on day 10, as long as you don’t experience any further symptoms.
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms on days nine or 10, after testing negative on day eight, you’ll need to take another test. If this comes back positive, you’ll need to spend another 10 days at the hotel. The day you take the test counts as day zero, so you’ll need to stay until day 20 or day 21, depending on which day you test positive.
This page was last updated on 19 March 2021. To our knowledge, the information was correct at the time of publication. For further, up-to-date information, please check the government’s official advice.
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