UK Easing Travel Restrictions for Visitors Again — What to Know

The UK reinstated testing in December as the omicron variant began to emerge.

The United Kingdom is once again eliminating the need to get tested before visiting and plans to revert back to allowing tourists to take an easier and cheaper rapid test after arriving, the government announced this week.

Starting Friday, vaccinated travelers won't have to get tested before departing for the UK and won't have to quarantine upon arrival, according to the government. Travelers will still have to book a COVID-19 test to take before day 2 of their trip, but starting Sunday, the country will plan to allow travelers to use a lateral flow rapid test instead of a PCR test.

"Our balanced approach also means that where specific measures are no longer serving their purpose, they will be dropped," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an address to the House of Commons on Wednesday. "So when the omicron variant was first identified, we rightly introduced travel restrictions to slow its arrival in our country. But now omicron is so prevalent, these measures are having limited impact on the growth in cases while continuing to pose significant costs to our travel industry."

Johnson added the pre-departure test discouraged many people from traveling "for fear of being trapped overseas and incurring significant extra expense."

People wearing facemaks arrive at Heathrow's Terminal 5
Adrian Dennis/Getty Images

In October, the UK had eliminated the need to get tested before traveling and allowed for rapid tests upon arrival before reinstating stricter travel measures in December amid the emergence of the omicron variant.

The country has seen a spike in cases as the omicron variant has spread, recording nearly 200,000 new cases on Wednesday, according to government data. But many people in the UK are vaccinated with more than 82% of people 12 and older vaccinated with two shots and just over 60% having received a third dose or booster.

The UK wasn't alone in cracking down on border protocols following the emergence of the highly contagious variant. The United States shortened its testing window for incoming passengers, requiring all international travelers, including U.S. citizens, to get tested within one day of boarding a flight.

The U.S. also initially implemented restrictions on people coming from southern African countries, but lifted the ban on Dec. 31.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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