Know Before You Go

Know Before You Go: Guidance for travel in Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Updated on: 27/11/2020

Restrictions and lockdowns are in place to varying levels across Great Britain and Northern Ireland and quarantine is still in place for some international visitors and those returning from abroad. So, we recommend checking the latest government advice and local guidance on travel so you’re in the know before you go.

It’s important to remember to check the official websites of organisations and visitor attractions in advance, to ensure you’re up to date on opening hours and any restrictions.

Please keep in mind that EnglandScotlandWales and Northern Ireland currently have different guidelines, advice and timelines for re-opening tourism. Local and national lockdowns are being implemented across Great Britain and Northern Ireland at different times. For more information on specific areas, please check the relevant government pages and the interactive map of lockdown restrictions before you travel.

You do not need to self-isolate when you arrive in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland if you are travelling or returning from certain countries and territories. The lists of these countries and territories vary for each respective nation and can be found by following the links below:

 

You will still be required to abide by the restrictions in place in each nation even if you do not need to isolate. 

If you have not been to, or made a ‘transit stop’, in a country that’s not on the list for that nation in the previous 14 days, you will not need to self-isolate. Your travel tickets and documentation should tell you if you are making a transit stop.

If you have been to, or made a transit stop in a country that’s not on the travel list, you will have to self-isolate until 14 days have passed since you left that country, if you are arriving into Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. From 15 December, if you are arriving into England from countries not featured on the Government’s travel corridor list, you will have the option to book and pay to take a test after five days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing you from the need to isolate. Under this ‘Test to release for international travel’ strategy, if you are arriving into England by plane, ferry or train, you should book your test before you travel; you must complete a passenger locator form; and you will still need to self-isolate for five days before taking a test.

For additional information and specific guidance for each of the four nations, please follow the links above.

Please note: the list of countries and territories for each nation is subject to frequent change and should be checked regularly ahead of planning any trip to Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

If you are visiting Great Britain and Northern Ireland from any country, you must complete a Public Health Passenger Locator Form that collects the following information:

  • Contact details
  • Travel details (dates etc.)
  • Passport details

 

The form must be completed online and submitted no earlier than 48 hours before your arrival.

 

After you complete the form

After you complete and submit the form you’ll receive a confirmation email with a document attached. Before you arrive at the border, you must either:

  • print a copy of the document
  • download the document on your phone

 

You’ll need to show this document when you arrive in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Border Force officers will scan the QR code at the top of this document to check you have completed the form successfully. For further information, including what to do if you develop coronavirus symptoms while travelling, and how to complete the form if you are travelling with someone under 18, please visit the official government information page.

To help you plan your travels, we’ve worked together with VisitEngland and the national tourist organisations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to launch a Great Britain and Northern Ireland-wide industry standard and ‘We’re Good to Go’ mark. The scheme means businesses can demonstrate that they are adhering to the respective Government and public health guidance, have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment and checked that they have the required processes in place for when you’re able to visit them.

To obtain the mark businesses must complete a self-assessment through the online platform, including a check-list confirming they have put the necessary processes in place, before receiving certification and the 'We’re Good To Go' mark for display in their premises and online. For added reassurance, an ‘alert’ system will ensure that businesses signed up to the standard are notified of any changes to the official guidance – so you can visit them with confidence.

Find out more at visitbritain.com and remember to look for the mark on individual business websites when you’re thinking about planning your trip online. Our interactive map showcases all tourism and hospitality businesses that have the mark, allowing you to find where it is good to go.

To make your days out as enjoyable as possible, we encourage you to plan your trip in advance and to check all of the important facilities and attractions, while looking after our great outdoors. To ensure we’re all doing our bit to travel responsibly, here are a few general steps to help make planning easy:

  • Please keep in mind that local lockdowns could be implemented in different areas at different times, so make sure to check the interactive map of lockdown restrictions before you travel.
  • When planning your trip, check that important facilities – like toilets and car parks – are open before you travel so you’re not caught short. You can find information on public toilets open across Great Britain and Northern Ireland at Lockdown Loo.
  • If you have an attraction in mind, please check online to see if you need to pre-book a time slot.
  • Across Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it is the law that you must wear a face mask at all times when using public transport like buses, trains, taxis and minicabs, unless you are exempt from doing so.
  • Locations where face coverings are mandatory differ by nation, and you should follow the specific guidance for face coverings for EnglandScotlandWales or Northern Ireland, depending on the country you are visiting.
  • If you are travelling by air, at arrival you may be requested to wear a face mask inside the airport terminal, to use online check in where possible, and minimise hand luggage. Social distancing restrictions will also be in place, in line with the specific rules for each nation.
  • Keep two metres apart from anyone outside your household – this not only applies to walking, but running, cycling, and sitting. Please note: Social distancing is two metres apart in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In England, you should stay two metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or one metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors). Please see the relevant websites for each nation for further information.
  • Some places may be extremely popular, so instead why not plan to get off the beaten track and discover a hidden gem.
  • Make sure you have a bank card; many outlets are currently only accepting cashless payments.
  • Wash your hands regularly and take hand sanitiser with you for use when public hand-washing facilities are not available.

Government information and advice

For the latest government information and specific advice on travel in each of the four nations, please visit:

 

Local lockdown restrictions

For information on current lockdown restrictions across Great Britain and Northern Ireland, please visit the relevant government websites or check: https://visual.parliament.uk/research/visualisations/coronavirus-restrictions-map/

If you think you have coronavirus symptoms, you should dial 111 to access the NHS helpline for advice. The free-to-call non-emergency number is available 24 hours a day. You can find the latest health guidance for each individual nation on dedicated pages for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Hospital accident and emergency (A&E) departments in Britain provide treatment for genuine life-threatening emergencies. Should you require medical help or advice in a non-life-threatening situation, you should call 111 to access the NHS 111 service.

Overseas visitors may need to pay for hospital care they receive, and all visitors are strongly advised to ensure they have adequate insurance cover before travelling. Any coronavirus testing and treatment will not incur any charges.

You should dial 999 in an emergency to reach police, fire and ambulance services, as well as the coastguard. You will need to indicate which service you need. Further services such as mountain rescue and Britain’s voluntary coastguard service, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, can also be accessed via this number.

Calls are free from any phone, but should only be made in genuine emergencies.

If you are lost, ask a policeman or woman for assistance – they are courteous, approachable and helpful. Traffic wardens may also be able to help you with directions. If you have been the victim of a crime, contact the police by dialling 999 or 101 for non-emergencies.

Police community support officers also work alongside the police, and can also provide advice and guidance, alongside directions and other key information.

Travel by public transport - facemasks

Remember, across Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it is the law that you must wear a face mask at all times when using public transport like buses, trains, taxis and minicabs, unless you are exempt from doing so.

The rules regarding the wearing of facemasks in other locations, including airports and public transport hubs, differ by nation. For further information, please visit the dedicated websites for EnglandScotlandWales or Northern Ireland.

 

Airports

London Heathrow Airport is around 15 miles to the west of central London and has connections to Paddington station via the Heathrow Express, taking 15-20 minutes, or via the Piccadilly Underground Line.

London Gatwick Airport is situated 30 miles to the south of central London, with the Gatwick Express taking passengers to London Victoria station in just 30 minutes. Thameslink and Southern services provide links to several London hubs.

London Stansted Airport is found 40 miles to the north-east of London. The Stansted Express serves Liverpool Street station and takes around 50 minutes. Bus services run from the airport to London’s main hubs.

London City Airport is nine miles to the east of central London, with connections to the Underground network via the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) taking just 22 minutes.

London Luton Airport is situated 30 miles to the north of London and is served by regular services to the capital’s main hubs from Luton Airport Parkway.

Birmingham Airport is around eight miles from central Birmingham and is linked to Birmingham International Railway Station via the AirRail Link, providing routes into the city centre which take as little as 20 minutes.

Manchester Airport is situated around nine miles south of central Manchester, with train services into Manchester Piccadilly station taking around 20 minutes. Regular coach and tram services provide an alternative.

Liverpool John Lennon Airport is found seven miles to the south east of Liverpool city centre, with regular train and bus services taking around 40 minutes.

Cardiff Airport serves as an international gateway to Wales and is around 30 minutes from the city centre, served by the Cardiff Airport Express bus service and trains from Rhoose Cardiff International Airport station.

Edinburgh Airport is situated to the west of the Scottish capital, with regular tram and bus links to the city centre taking around 35 minutes.

Glasgow Airport is eight miles to the west of the city, with the Glasgow Airport Express bus service taking travellers to the city centre in just 15 minutes.

 

Domestic Air Travel

As distances are small within the UK, domestic air travel isn't essential, but is a good option if you want to save time for longer journeys such as between London and Scotland. Internal flight providers include British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair and Aer Lingus.

 

National Express

National Express has introduced a range of safety measures and is a holder of the ‘We’re Good To Go’ mark. Their coaches provide direct connections between major airports (London Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, Luton, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Coventry, East Midlands and Bristol) and many British cities and towns. They also have a regular service between Gatwick and Heathrow and are usually a cheaper alternative to rail.

Great Britain and Northern Ireland have left the EU, and the transition period after Brexit comes to an end this year. We’re looking forward to welcoming you back and want to keep you updated that from 1 January 2021, there will be new rules if you wish to visit us from abroad. For further details please check the official government website or see our visiting the UK after the Brexit transition has ended page. There will also be new rules if you wish to work and study in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as part of a new points-based immigration system for EU citizens.  If you would like further information, please visit gov.uk to find out more.