What are the rules for travelling to the UK from a red list country?

What are the rules for travelling to the UK from a red list country?

This information was correct as of 11 January 2022 but is subject to possible changes.

This page sets out the law and guidance which applies in England only.

What are the rules that say I must quarantine when I return to the UK?

The rules which set out what you can and cannot do when you travel into the UK are contained in a piece of legislation called the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021.

These regulations were changed significantly on 4 October 2021. Under the current regulations, there are different rules depending on whether you are travelling from a country on the red list or the “rest of the world”. This article will cover the red list rules. These rules apply to almost anyone travelling to the UK from a red list country (see the section on possible exemptions here), regardless of your vaccination status.

There are currently no countries on the red list. However, this can change at short notice. Therefore, we have maintained this article for your information, and in case new countries are added to the red list in the future.

If you have spent time in a red list country within 10 days to travelling to the UK these rules also apply. This includes if you transited through a red list country. 

We have produced an article on travelling to the UK from a non-red list country here.

The Government has also produced guidance on travelling from red list countries, which is available here.

Government guidance sits alongside the legislation and provides information in a format that is easier to read. However, government guidance is not legally enforceable in the same way that legislation is. When the guidance is summarising legislation, then you must follow it.

How do I know whether the country I visited is on the red list?

The official list should be provided in Schedule 3 of the Regulations here. However, updates can emerge at short notice and the legislation is not always updated immediately. The Government’s guidance page may be quicker to update.

We have replicated the current list a the time of posting below, but we would recommend checking these other sources before travelling.

There are currently no countries on the red list.

What should I do if I am travelling from a country on the red list?

You must:

Be aware that failing to do any of these things is a criminal offence (unless you have a reasonable excuse).

You may only enter England through the following airports:

  • Heathrow Airport;
  • Gatwick Airport;
  • London City Airport;
  • Birmingham Airport;
  • Farnborough Airport;
  • Bristol Airport
  • London Biggin Hill Airport
  • any military airfield or port.

Taking a coronavirus test before you travel

You must take a coronavirus test, and receive a negative result, before your flight. The sample must have been taken from you in the two days before your flight.

The test must be through a private provider (you cannot use an NHS test), must meet certain performance standards and must be certified as accurate. The regulations about which tests are compliant can be found here, and the government guidance can be found here.

If you receive a negative result, you must carry a notification of this negative result with you, either in paper or digital form.

The negative test result notification should be communicated in English, Spanish, or French and be shown on arrival.

This notification should contain the following information:

  1. the name of the person from whom the sample was taken,
  2. that person’s date of birth or age,
  3. the negative result of the test,
  4. the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider,
  5. the name of the test provider and information sufficient to contact that provider,
  6. a statement that the test was a PCR test or the name of the device that was used for the test.

If you fail to produce a notification of a negative test result, you can be fined.

Travel operators are under an equivalent duty to make sure that people boarding their services to England possess a negative test result meeting the above requirements (unless they have a reasonable excuse or are exempt). This means that travel operators should deny boarding to passengers who are unable to show a negative notification.

If you receive a positive result, you therefore should not be allowed to board a vessel at all. You should also follow the local rules and guidance for positive test results. If you are allowed to board a vessel, you will be liable to be fined when you are challenged for your negative result as you enter England. Please see below for the amounts of these fines.

Booking a managed quarantine package

Prior to arriving in England, you must organise what is called a “managed quarantine package.” This includes:

  • booking designated quarantine accommodation (aka “a quarantine hotel”);
  • booking transport to the accommodation
  • a testing package including the two coronavirus tests that you will need to take during your 10-day managed quarantine in a hotel.

For red list countries, you must take a first test on or before day 2 following your return, and a second test on or after day 8 following your return (for this countdown, the day you return is day 0).

If you test negative on the day 2 test, you are still required to quarantine for the full 10 days, and take your day 8 test.

If you test positive in the day 2 test, you are not required to take the day 8 test, but you must continue quarantining for a further full 10 days from the date of the day 2 test.

If you test positive in the day 8 test, you must continue quarantining for a further full 10 days from the date of the day 8 test.

If both tests are negative you may leave at the end of your 10 days.

The cost of this is:

Rate for 1 adult in 1 room for 10 days (11 nights)£2,285
Additional rate for 1 adult (or child over 11)£1,430
Additional rate for a child aged 5–11£325

There are no additional charges if you have to stay in quarantine for longer than 10 days because you test positive for coronavirus once tested.

You can book your package here.

If you experience difficulty booking online you can call Corporate Travel Management, who manage this scheme, on +44(0)1274 726424.

You will need to do this prior to completing your passenger locator form, so that you are able to enter in the details.

Further government guidance can be found here.

Travelling from a red list country with children

There are slightly different requirements of children travelling from a red list country, depending on their age:

  1. All children are still required to enter managed quarantine.
  2. Children aged 4 or below do not have to take the day 2 or day 8 tests when they return to England; all children aged 5 and above will have to.
  3. Children aged 10 or below do not have to take a Covid test in the 2 days before travelling to England; children aged 11 and above will have to.

What if I can’t afford to pay for a hotel?

If you do not book a quarantine hotel before you arrive in England, this is a criminal offence and you may be prosecuted and given a fine. In most cases you are required to pay this fee upfront in order to make this booking. This can be very challenging for people who are unable to pay these fees.

After they were taken to court over the pricing system via judicial review, the government has now introduced “hardship arrangements” for people who are unable to pay the fees for quarantine hotels. These arrangements may allow some people to pay in monthly instalments, pay lower fees, or get rid of the fees completely.

The rules for this are still very strict. You can find the full government guidance here.

To be eligible you must be a UK citizen or have residency (including a student visa) AND fulfil one or more of the following:

  1. You have a household income of under £13,800
  2. You and your household have no (or limited) savings
  3. You have children or adults who are financially dependent on you (and therefore have high expenses from providing this care)
  4. You’re on income-related benefits
  5. You’re above state pension age and are on a fixed income (e.g. a pension which pays the same amount every time).

In addition, your travel must have been for one of the following reasons:

  1. Compassionate reasons (e.g. you have been to visit a close family member who is ill or dying, you have attended a funeral of a close family member, or you travelled to avoid injury, illness or harm from a violent domestic situation)
  2. Urgent medical treatment (e.g. you have travelled to get important surgery which you could not get in the UK)
  3. Work (e.g. your job required you to leave the UK to carry out a job which had to be done on site in another country)
  4. Education (e.g. you are an international student coming to study in UK).

If you fulfil the above then you are eligible to apply. This does not necessarily mean you will be successful. It is uncertain exactly how these decisions will be made.

In particular, the government guidance makes it clear that people are expected to look at other “reasonable” options first. It is uncertain what will be classed as ‘reasonable’. However, it seems that this includes applying for loans, going into overdrafts, or even seeking help from friends and family.

If you apply, you will be asked to provide evidence that you have considered these options and why it is unreasonable for you to do so.

You also need to provide the following:

  1. Details of your and your household’s income
  2. Details of any benefits you collect
  3. Details of your and your household’s savings
  4. Your phone number and/or email address
  5. Your passport number
  6. The date you will return to the UK
  7. The number of people travelling in your group

How to apply for a hardship arrangement

To apply for hardship arrangements, complete this form and the Department of Health & Social Care will contact you to discuss your application before you travel.

You are expected to apply 14 days before you arrive in England, but if you are travelling at short notice you can explain your circumstances.

It has been reported that, if you were unable to pay the hotel fees previously but were forced to, you can apply to have the hotel quarantine costs repaid to you. That is because these “hardship arrangements” are supposed to be applied “retrospectively”. According to the lawyers who took the case against the government, this was agreed. However, the government guidance does not explain this clearly.

The government guidance also states that you will not be successful if you already have an existing hardship arrangement in place. This means that you will not be considered eligible for a hardship arrangement application for one flight, if you have previously (successfully) applied for a hardship arrangement for a different flight.

Completing a passenger locator form

The form you must complete should include:

  • your personal details
  • details of the address where you intend to quarantine
  • the name of your travel test package provider and the booking reference number of your travel test package
  • the booking reference of your managed quarantine package.

A full explanation of the information can be found in Schedule 6 of the regulations.

You can fill the form out here.

An immigration officer can ask you for evidence that you have completed the form.

If you do not complete a passenger locator form before travelling and you don’t have a reasonable excuse for this, this is a criminal offence. It is also a criminal offence to knowingly or carelessly provide false or misleading information on your passenger locator form. In either case you may be fined or prosecuted.

What do I have to do when I enter the UK?

When you enter the UK, you must go directly to the quarantine hotel that you have booked. Your managed quarantine package will specify the means of transport which you should use.

You must isolate for at least 10 days, and longer if one of your tests comes back positive (see above).

The guidance states that you cannot choose the hotel room you are given, and you cannot upgrade your room. Meals are provided directly to your room.

You are only allowed to leave your room for the following reasons:

  • travelling to leave the country (unless you test positive)
  • to fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending a court hearing
  • to exercise
  • to visit a friend or family member who you believe is dying
  • to attend the funeral of a close family member
  • For “exceptional circumstances” such as to:
    • to seek medical care, including medical care for your mental health
    • access critical public services, including social services and services for victims of a crime
    • to escape injury, illness or harm such as fleeing domestic violence
    • to go to the vet in urgent circumstances

When leaving your room for exercise, to visit a dying person or attend a funeral, you must have permission from a relevant authority and must follow any reasonable conditions that are imposed on you. This could, for example, include being escorted by a security guard.

You cannot have visitors to your room, unless they’re providing:

  • emergency assistance
  • necessary personal care (for example, if you need a carer to support you)
  • medical assistance
  • veterinary services
  • certain critical public services, including social services.

Who can enforce these rules?

These rules can be enforced by:

  • a police officer
  • an immigration officer (in relation to the passenger location forms and transport to managed accommodation)
  • a person designated by the Secretary of State, which may include a security guard.

Can the police send me to the hotel?

A police or an immigration officer can:

  • ask you to remain in the airport you have arrived in before being escorted to a hotel
  • direct you to the transport to a hotel
  • direct you to remain in your hotel room
  • take you to your hotel room.

If you don’t comply with any of these directions or requirements, this is a separate criminal offence. See below for more information about the penalties which apply.

What happens if I don’t do a passenger locator form?

If police or immigration officers have reasonable grounds to suspect that you have come from a red list country and:

  • have failed to fill in a passenger locator form, or
  • have knowingly or carelessly provided false or misleading information on your passenger locator form,

they have a broad range of enforcement powers that they can use.

The officer can:

  • examine your passport or travel document
  • detain you for up to three hours
  • search you, your bags, belongings or a vehicle you have travelled in
  • seize any documents that might show you have committed an offence
  • give you a Fixed Penalty Notice.

If you are searched by a police officer, this should only be an outer clothing search and pat down, and must be done by an officer of the same gender as you.

The police can only use force that is reasonable to do any of the above, if it becomes necessary.

What if I want to go home instead of to a hotel?

If you have returned from a red list country, but did not follow the hotel quarantine rules and went home instead, then the police can enter your home to remove you to a hotel.

The police must have a reasonable basis for their belief that you are breaking the rules, and must believe that it is necessary and proportionate to enter your home.

You can ask the police officer for evidence of their identity and ask them why they are entering your home, and they must answer you.

The police are only allowed to use force that is reasonable to carry out their duties.

It is important to note that this is the only situation under coronavirus regulations that the police can enter your home. They may be able to enter for other unrelated reasons, such as if they have a search warrant or in cases of emergency where someone’s life is at risk.

What are the penalties if I don’t follow these rules?

If you commit any of the criminal offences under these regulations, the police may give you a “Fixed Penalty Notice” (FPN).

A FPN is essentially a fine. If you pay the fine within the time specified, you will not be prosecuted and it will not be recorded on your criminal record. If you don’t pay it, you may be prosecuted and have to go to court.


If you do not provide up to date information on your Passenger Locator Form, do not provide a negative Covid test without a reasonable excuse or knowingly provide false information on your form (other than about your travel history) the fine is:

  • £500 if this is your first and only offence
  • £1,000 for a second FPN for the same offence
  • £2,000 for a third FPN
  • £4,000 for a fourth and any subsequent offence.

If you fly into an unapproved airport, intentionally or recklessly give false information about your travel history, or breach instructions from an immigration officer directing you to self-isolate, the fine is:

  • £10,000.

If you do not possess or acquire a travel testing package for your day 2 and day 8 tests, the fine is:

  • £1,000 if you entered the UK without one
  • £2,000 if you entered the UK without one and then did not purchase one as soon as you practically could when you entered the UK.

If you fail to take your tests as required under the rules, the fine is:

  • £1,000 for a first offence
  • £2,000 for a second offence.

If you had a “reasonable excuse” for not taking your test, you should not get a FPN. However, if you did have a reasonable excuse at the time, but then your circumstances changed so you no longer have a reasonable excuse, you must then take a test as soon as practicable.

If you have not booked a managed quarantine package when you arrive in England, the fine is:

  • £500 if this is your first and only offence
  • £1,000 for a second offence
  • £2,000 for a third and any subsequent offences.

If you do not travel directly to the accommodation, or otherwise fail to self-isolate without a reasonable excuse, the fine is:

  • £5,000 if this is your first and only offence
  • £8,000 for a second FPN for the same offence
  • £10,000 for a third and any subsequent offence.

If you “wilfully obstruct” anyone enforcing any of the directions for anyone travelling from a red list country the fine is:

  • £5,000 if this is your first and only offence
  • £8,000 for a second FPN for the same offence
  • £10,000 for a third and any subsequent offence.


If you do not believe you should have received an FPN, you can challenge this in court. You would need to speak to a criminal defence solicitor.

For information on finding a solicitor, check our website.

Who is exempt from these rules?

The Government has provided a list of jobs that are exempt. See their website for more information.

The Government has also made provision for exemptions based on ‘medical’ or ‘compassionate’ reasons here. However, the criteria to be met for these ‘exceptional and limited’ exemptions to be granted are very rigorous and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

To apply for an exemption on ‘medical’ or ‘compassionate’ grounds, you must email MQS_new_Exemptions@dhsc.gov.uk and provide supporting evidence at least 14 days ahead of travel.

Doesn’t this breach my human rights?

Your human rights are enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This is protected in UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA). (The ECHR is separate from the EU, so continues to apply despite Brexit.)

  • Article 5 protects your right to liberty.
  • Article 8 protects your right to a private and family life.

This means that public authorities like police forces have to act in a way that doesn’t breach these rights. However, these rights can be restricted in certain circumstances.

The coronavirus regulations have been passed as emergency laws which allow for a restriction on certain rights in response to the current Coronavirus pandemic. The Government also have a duty to protect our right to life (Article 2).

Whether each regulation is a lawful and proportionate interference with our human rights must ultimately be determined by a court of law.

The Government and public authorities must also ensure they are complying with their duties under the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act protects certain people from discrimination. For more information on this, see this website.

Liberty has already voiced its opposition to the these rules, and we are continuing to monitor the situation closely.

What are my rights on this?

Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them

Did you find this content useful?

Help us make our content even better by letting us know whether you found this page useful or not