Traffic light changes, PCR tests scrapped and USA opening: Your travel questions answered

Sep 24, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The last seven days have been very exciting for British travellers. A series of big, positive government announcements have been released which will make travel cheaper and easier than it has been. If you missed the news:

We have received plenty of questions from our TPG UK readers about these changes – here are your travel questions answered.

Want more TPG news dropped into your inbox each morning? Subscribe to our daily newsletter!

In This Post

Will there still be testing for Brits returning back home from the UK?

From 4 October you will not have to take a pre-departure test to board a flight to the U.K. if you are fully vaccinated. After you arrive, you will still have to take a Day 2 test, though it can be a cheaper lateral flow/antigen test rather than a more expensive PCR test. It is expected that you will still have to purchase this from a private provider rather than being able to use a free NHS test.

Unfortunately, it looks like that 4 October date may be delayed because private testing providers don’t have enough lateral flow tests to sell.

Will the passenger locator form still be used?

Yes. You will still need to complete this and list the reference number of your Day 2 lateral flow test that you will need to book before you return to the United Kingdom. If there is, say, a positive test from a passenger on your flight, Test and Trace will want to let the other passengers on the plane know.

Photo by d3sign / Gettys

When can I enter the United States?

There is no official date for the end of the 18-month U.S. travel ban for those fully vaccinated with President Biden only promising “early November”. We will let you know as soon as it is announced.

1 November falls on a Monday this year, so that is the date we are hoping for.

Will the red list still be reviewed/updated regularly?

Yes, though it may not be every third Thursday as it has been this year.

The U.K. government has warned countries could be moved onto the red list at any time, but in reality, they are very unlikely to add a country like Spain to the red list without warning as there will not be enough free hotel rooms in the country to accommodate so many last minute hotel quarantine arrivals.

Related: Everything you need to know about the UK’s hotel quarantine policy

Do you think countries will accept ‘proof of recovery’ certification for entry?

Some already do. Portugal allows you to skip the test on entry requirement if you have an “EU COVID recovery certificate showing you have recovered from COVID-19 no less than 11 days and no more than 180 days of when you are due to travel”.

If you are relying on this you will want a proper letter from your doctor, dated. Don’t just rely on an old positive covid test to satisfy this requirement. If you have not been vaccinated you will have much more success gaining entry to foreign countries with proof of vaccination versus proof of recovery.

Photo by Prab S / Getty

Do you think Australia will open its borders soon?

I’m an Australian (living in the U.K.) who hasn’t seen any of my family for almost two years I have been monitoring the situation closely. The Australian government has promised to “reopen borders by Christmas” but I don’t think this means foreign tourists will be allowed in without quarantine, even if they are fully vaccinated.

I’ve written a detailed analysis on my thoughts on a Christmas opening but I predict there will be a pecking order once the borders are opened up as to who can come in or out of the country:

  • Australian citizens overseas trying to return home who have not been able to because of passenger caps;
  • Australian citizens wishing to leave the country for non-essential purposes; and
  • Foreign tourists wishing to visit the country.

If by chance, Australia does allow foreign tourists by the end of the year I would expect a home quarantine requirement to be in place which won’t be much of a holiday.

Related: Why you might want to wait before booking a trip to Australia this Christmas

Does this mean I can travel to Turkey?

Yes! Turkey was finally moved off the red list on 22 September. It’s currently on the amber list, but remember that if you’re fully vaccinated, it’s essentially green. From 4 October Turkey moves onto the ‘Rest of World’ travel list for normal travel with the likes of Spain and Greece.

There is no longer any hotel quarantine required if you are returning from Turkey.

Related: 11 of the best hotels in Turkey, from Istanbul to Cappadocia

Photo by Shihan Shan / Gettys

As I am under 18 and only entitled to one dose am I going to be allowed US entry?

Watch this space. The U.S. has not yet given guidance on what the entry requirements will be in November, though for other countries with fully vaccinated entry requirements they have allowed unvaccinated minors to enter with fully vaccinated adults given many children have not yet been given access.

I’ve chosen not to get vaccinated. Can I still travel without quarantine?

There are some destinations that will allow you entry if you are not vaccinated, though you will likely have to present a negative test on entry and you may have to quarantine on entry while your fellow vaccinated travellers can breeze through and start their holiday.

On your return to the U.K. after 4 October, unvaccinated Brits will be treated very differently to vaccinated Brits. If you are not vaccinated and return from any destination, not on the Do Not Travel list (the old red list) you will still have to follow the old “amber list” rules of purchasing prebooked tests on Day 2 and 8 as well as 10 days of home quarantine, which can be reduced to 5 days by purchasing an additional PCR test through the Test to Release programme.

If you want easier, cheaper travel options, then being fully vaccinated is essential.

(Photo by Howard Kingsnorth/Getty Images)

Bottom line

It’s been a rollercoaster 18 months of rules and restrictions but things are finally improving. The series of positive government changes announced over the past week are warmly welcomed by the U.K. travel industry. If you are fully vaccinated you should find travel easier and more enjoyable from 4 October.

Featured image by Elena Pueyo / Gettys

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.