Last Updated: 07/01/2022

Dare we say it, the world is starting to open again and as a result there has been a surge in holiday bookings with people desperate to the leave the UK for a taste of normality. But, with ever-changing rules, additional tests and contradicting advice how can you make sure your holiday is protected against COVID chaos?

We have been following the updates very closely and put together a COVID guide. All information is correct at the time of publishing and will be frequently reviewed and updated, but if you feel there is anything we have missed or we haven’t quite answered your question please email us at

What are PCR tests and how do I get one?

A PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is used to detect a specific organism, such as a virus. In this case, with COVID-19, the test can detect the virus that causes COVID following a nasal and oral swab. A positive result means you are likely to have COVID and a negative means you are not likely to have the virus at the time of the test.

The need for a PCR test, and the days it is required to be taken on, is dependent on the country you are travelling to. The government website provides a link to the Foreign Travel Advice which will outline the requirements for each country.

It is important to note, tests must be taken or booked (again, depending on the country) prior to travel and NHS PCR tests are not accepted, you will need to book a private test. The government has a list of reputable companies on their website. It is important to allow enough time for your test results to be returned to you; missing your holiday departure because you do not have the require documents to board the plane or enter the country you are travelling to will not be covered by your travel insurance policy.

Do I need to be double vaccinated to travel?

Some, but not all, countries will require that you have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to travelling – and for certain destinations, this requirement extends to children too.

The UK government recently announced that children aged 12-15-years-old would be able to receive a second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Previously, children under 18 years of age were only offered one dose. As a result, the government has introduced an NHS Covid Pass for those aged 12-15-years-old to help prove their vaccine status. Currently, it is understood that vaccine proof for 12-15-year-olds comes in a letter format, however we would encourage travellers to keep an eye on the government websites for more updates on this.

Separately, if you have not been vaccinated, but are still allowed to enter a country, a period of isolation or additional tests may be required. You will need to check the entry requirements for the specific country you are travelling to.

What documents do I need to enter a country abroad?

In most cases you will be required to show evidence of a negative COVID test taken no longer than 72 hours before your travel date and/or your NHS COVID Pass. It is likely the airline will also ask to see this before allowing you to board your flight. The name on your NHS COVID Pass should match the name on your passport, so speak to your GP if it doesn’t match and allow at least 14 days for any updates to be made.

To show proof of vaccinations, most countries will accept you showing them the NHS app. Some destinations do require children to have received both vaccines as well, so if you are travelling with anyone under 18, be sure to check the country’s entry requirements and make sure you can provide a Covid Pass for them too!

If you are not fully vaccinated, you will need to check the entry requirements and documentation needed, usually a negative COVID test, prior to departing for your holiday. Again, NHS COVID tests will not be accepted, so all PCR tests will need to be booked privately.

Although not COVID related, it is important not to forget to check whether a VISA is required and that your passport has the suitable validity for the country you are travelling to (some countries will require your passport to be in date for six months from the date you land back in the UK). You will need to check the individual entry requirements for the country you are travelling to.

What if the country I am travelling to goes onto the red list?

If the destination you plan to visit is placed on the red list, it is likely that the FCDO has also advised against all but essential travel to that particular country. Therefore, harsher isolation measures will be required upon your return.

For example, previously, arrivals from red list countries have been required to isolate at a government-regulated hotel for 10 nights on their return to the UK. What’s more is the hotel stay and all other expenses incurred during this period, including PCR tests and food, are all at the traveller’s own expense and cannot be claimed back through their travel insurance.

As of December 15th 2021, there are no destinations on the red list. This means that all travellers returning to the UK are required to follow the government’s current testing procedures. Of course, anyone who does test positive for Covid-19 upon their return to the UK will need to isolate at home. You can find more information about the existing Covid testing requirements when entering the UK, dependent on your vaccine status, below.

Why am I able to buy a travel insurance policy for a red list country, but am told it won’t cover me?

It is essential you check the entry requirements for the country you are travelling to, although a country may be on the Governments rest of the world list it doesn’t mean they are allowing visitors from the UK to enter. If you book to travel to a country and are denied entry, this will not be covered by your travel insurance, but your holiday provider (if you have booked a package deal) may be able to help as they were not able to provide you with the holiday you booked. You will need to speak with the company directly at the time of booking to understand their stance on this.

A travel insurance policy will only void cover if you are travelling to a country that has been deemed ‘no travel’ or ‘all but essential travel’ by the FCDO at the time of you booking your holiday. There are some travel insurance policies that will provide limited cover if you are travelling for essential reasons, it is worth noting, a holiday is not considered an essential reason, so this may be something to look into if your reason for travel is essential.

If you have booked a holiday and then the country you are travelling to is placed on the red list, it may be possible for you to change your destination or cancel your holiday. Please be aware that the majority of travel insurers are excluding this reason for cancellation from their cover so it may be best to book through a package holiday provider or carefully check policy wordings before buying your travel insurance policy.

What are the isolation periods once I am back in the UK?

Now that all destinations have been removed from the red list, travellers will no longer be required to participate in mandatory hotel quarantine. However, whether individuals need to isolate or not will dependent on their age or vaccine status.

From 4am on Friday 7th January 2022, fully vaccinated travellers and those under 18 arriving in the UK will no longer need to provide evidence of a negative pre-departure test on their return. Travellers will, however, still need to complete a Passenger Locator Form and book a Day 2 test before their arrival. Although, they won’t have to isolate while they wait for their test result.

However, the rules change slightly again from 4am on Sunday 9 January. From this date, fully vaccinated travellers may book and use a private lateral flow test, instead of a PCR test, on either the day of or two days after their arrival. Again, the lateral flow test must be booked with a private testing company and the free NHS tests cannot be used. If the lateral flow test comes back positive, travellers will then need to book a free NHS PCR test at their local testing site.

It is essential that travellers check that the test provider being used is accepted in the UK and meets the testing standards. More information testing providers and test standards can be found here.

Those who are not fully vaccinated must still take a pre-departure test, as well as book and pay for a PCR test to be taken on Day 2 and Day 8 of their arrival – they must also continue to quarantine for 10 days. If the Day 2 test comes back positive, travellers must self-isolate for 10 full days, counting the day that the first test was taken as Day 0. Travellers do not need to take the Day 8 test if the Day 2 test is positive. However, if the Day 2 test is negative, they must still take the Day 8 test. If the Day 8 test is positive, travellers must self-isolate for 10 full days. The day the Day 8 test was taken would be classed as Day 0.

If, however, the Day 2 test comes back negative, travellers must continue to quarantine until it is time to take the Day 8 test.  If the Day 8 test comes back negative, travellers can stop isolating on either Day 10 of the return to the UK or whenever the Day 8 test result was received – whichever is later.

Children under 18 who are resident in the UK, or in a country with an approved proof of vaccination, do not have to isolate on arrival in England.

What if I contract COVID or need to isolate prior to travel?

If you contract COVID before you are due to travel and are not able to provide a negative result within the time frame outlined by the country you are visiting to, you have several options.

If you have booked a package holiday you may be able to postpone your trip, however most are now offering cancellation cover as standard if you contract COVID or are told to isolate due to someone you have been in contact with testing positive. If you have booked independently, you will need to check your travel insurance policy.

Similar to package holiday companies, most travel insurers will offer to cover cancellation costs, that can’t be reimbursed elsewhere i.e. from the company you have booked with, if you or someone in your household tests positive. There are a few policies that offer cover if you are notified to isolate by the NHS app, so be sure to check this before buying your travel insurance policy.

What if I contract COVID or need to isolate during travel delaying my return to the UK?

Medical attention and the required treatment following the contraction of COVID abroad is generally covered under most travel insurance policies, provided you are using the public hospital (private hospital treatment will only be covered if agreed by your travel insurer prior to treatment) – you can read more about this <here>. Having said that, only a few travel insurance companies will cover the cost of additional accommodation and expenses if you are required to remain in the country until you are able to provide a negative test to fly home, so if this cover is important to you, check the policy you are buying does offer it.

COVID cases or restrictions have changed in the country I am travelling to, can I cancel?

Most package holiday companies will cover cancellation if the rules change for the country you are travelling to and you are no longer able to travel there, however if you chose to book independently it is important to note that not all travel insurance policies are offering this cover.  It is also unlikely you will be covered if you change your mind or no longer want to go because of a rise in cases. This is often termed as ‘disinclination to travel’. If you are able to travel but they won’t let you in to the country as the borders close you may be entitled to a refund by your airline or travel agent, as they are not able to fulfil the service you have paid them for.

Will ATOL protection include COVID cover?

Usually if you package holiday is cancelled by the tour operator, you are entitled to a full refund of flights within 7 days and package holidays within 14, by law. However, due to COVID causing widespread disruption, it is likely you will be offered either a full refund or a credit note. Those who opt for a full refund are being warned of long delays whilst companies catch up with a backlog of COVID cancellations. If you have opted for a credit note and the company you are booked with goes bust, if they are ATOL protected you will be reimbursed any refund due under the credit note.

FCDO advice versus the travel list, which one do I follow?

Despite all countries being removed from the red list, travellers are advised to check their destination is deemed safe by the FCDO. If the FCDO places a country under ‘all but essential travel’ or ‘no travel’ you will not be covered, should anything go wrong, by your travel insurance company – regardless of whether it is on the government’s red list.

  • All information is correct at time of publishing