COVID-19 tests for travelling to amber (non-red) countries from the UK

As of 4 October, amber and green countries merge in a new non-red list. Find out what tests you'll need for your travels.

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Before you go to a country on the non-red list – or “rest of world” as the government calls it – you’ll need to find out what restrictions that country has put in place for visitors; most require a negative COVID test, at least. You can find out each country’s rules via the UK’s government foreign travel advice.

You’ll also need to know which tests you have to get for returning to the UK. This will depend on whether or not you’ve been vaccinated, whether you’re returning to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, and whether you’re under 18. As of 4 October, the rules have changed. We’ve set out the new requirements below.

What COVID-19 tests do I need to travel to the UK from a non-red country?

The tests are different depending on whether or not you’ve been fully vaccinated.

If you’ve been fully vaccinated in the UK, US or Europe, or are under 18, you must:
  • Book and pay for a day 2 PCR test (excludes children aged 4 and under, or 10 and under in Scotland). In England, the government is set to relax the rules at the end of October (no date yet) to allow cheaper, lateral flow tests for day 2 testing instead of PCR tests.
  • You must fill in your passenger locator form up to 48 hours before arrival into the UK.

You’ll need to take your day 2 test on or before the second day after your arrival. You don’t need to quarantine.

If you’re not fully vaccinated, you’ll need:
  • A pre-departure COVID-19 test before you travel – bring the negative result to the airport.
  • Book and pay for day 2 and day 8 PCR tests. These are typically available from providers as a bundle.
  • Optional: In England only, you have the option of taking another COVID test (test to release) on day 5 of your quarantine, and if this is negative, you can end your quarantine. You still need to take the day 8 test on day 8, though.

You’ll also need to fill in your passenger locator form up to 48 hours before arrival into the UK.

You must quarantine for 10 days or, in England, until your optional day 5 (test to release) test comes back negative. There’s no Test to Release scheme in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Can I get a free COVID test for travel from the NHS?

You can’t. The gov.uk site says that NHS tests can’t be used for this purpose. The NHS offers free PCR tests only to people with COVID symptoms or those who are advised to get a test by a medical practitioner or public agency. For travel, you have to use a paid-for COVID test.

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