U.K. Now Requires a COVID Test for International Travelers Prior to Arrival

Travelers aged 12 and up will now need a negative COVID-19 test result prior to arrival.

Travelers heading to the United Kingdom will now need to present a negative COVID-19 test prior to entry, in addition to testing after arriving in the country, as the omicron variant continues to surface around the world.

All international travelers aged 12 and over must take a PCR  or lateral flow test COVID-19 test 2 days prior to arrival, the UK's latest guidance says. Travelers heading to the UK will still also have to take a COVID-19 PCR test by the second day of their trip — a protocol that went into effect Nov. 30. Visitors are required to pay for the second test and then isolate until there is a negative result.

A sign for a Covid-19 testing centre at London Heathrow Airport Ltd. in London, U.K., on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021
Jason Alden/Getty Images

Children between 5 and 17 years old will also have to book a PCR test to take by day 2, while children under 5 are exempt from all testing, according to the government.

The lateral flow test will not be accepted as the second test, only a PCR test fits the requirement.

In addition to the new pre-arrival test requirement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also announced that beginning in early December, face masks will be required in public indoor venues such as cinemas, theaters and places of worship.

The decision was made in light of the new COVID-19 variant, which has spread quickly around the world, including in the UK. Initially, the UK took steps to restrict travel from Southern Africa by placing 10 countries on the travel red list in late November, but then removed all countries several weeks later according to Reuters.

Beyond travel restrictions, the UK implemented a mandatory mask policy in shops and places like hair salons, as well as on public transport, and will require anyone who comes into contact with a suspected omicron case to self-isolate, regardless of their age or vaccination status.

Several other European countries have updated their restrictions in the wake of the omicron variant. France will now require all visitors from outside the European Union to provide proof of a negative PCR or antigen COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of their planned arrival in addition to proof they've been vaccinated against COVID-19. Germany has also implemented a lockdown for unvaccinated citizens last week according to The Associated Press while Austria has implemented a full lockdown.

As for the United States, vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers are required to take a pre-arrival test 24 hours before entry.

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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