Do I have to self-isolate when travelling to the UK?

It can be very confusing to keep up with all the changes to the travel restrictions currently in force around the world.

Here’s our quick guide to whether you have to self-isolate on entering the UK.

This guide is primarily aimed at people who are staying in England. The countries of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own rules.

The main rule is that you must self-isolate for 14 days when you enter the UK.

However, there are some notable exceptions. If the country you are in immediately before you arrive in the UK is on an exempt list then you do not have to self isolate for the 14 day period.

The exempt list can change at any time and you should ensure that you check if the country you are travelling from is on the exempt list at the time you are travelling.

This means, in general, that if your trip is less than 14 days in length, then you must self-isolate for the duration of your stay.

Why 14 days?

If you have Coronavirus, the symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear. During this time, it is possible to pass the virus on to someone else. Therefore, it is important to take extra precautions each time you move to a new area.

What if I was in a non-exempt country and then an exempt country in the past 14 days?

If you were in a non-exempt country and then an exempt country during the past 14 days, then you are required to self-isolate for the remainder of the 14 day period.

For example, you went from an non-exempt country to an exempt country 6 days ago and you arrived in the UK today. You would now need to self-isolate for 8 further days.

I’m travelling from outside the Common Travel Area. What do I need to do?

If you are travelling from outside the Common Travel Area, you will need to provide the following details 48 hours before you arrive:

  • your journey
  • contact details
  • the address where you will self-isolate

You can provide this using the Public Health Passenger Locator Form.

How do I travel to my accommodation?

When you arrive in the UK, you should go straight to the address where you will be self-isolating.

You should only use public transport if you have no other option. There are laws about travelling on public transport during the pandemic.

If you have a long journey to your final destination, it is allowed to stay in safe accommodation along the way. In these circumstances you must declare the address of the safe accommodation on your Public Health Passenger Locator Form.

If you develop Coronavirus symptoms during your journey to or within the UK, you must tell the relevant team member, who will give you guidance on what to do next.

How do I self-isolate?

You should stay in one place where you can have food/medicine delivered and stay away from others, except those who travelled with you.

Visitors (including family and friends, must only provide the following:

  • Emergency assistance
  • Care or assistance (including personal care)
  • Medical Assistance

You cannot:

  • go to work
  • visit public areas (like schools/parks)
  • go shopping
  • exercise outside of the property

Is there a time when I can leave the property?

Yes, you can leave the property to:

  • travel directly to a place to leave the country
  • receive urgent medical assistance
  • fulfil a legal obligation
  • avoid injury/illness
  • escape a risk of harm
  • attend a funeral of a family member or someone you live with
  • visit a critically ill family member or someone you live with
  • shop for food/medicine when there is no other person who can help you
  • move to another place of self-isolation if
    • there is a legal obligation to do so
    • you are travelling to your main place of self-isolation and need overnight accommodation
    • there are exceptional circumstances that prevent you staying at the main address

How can I shop for food?

It can be difficult to get food or medicine if you do not know anyone so there is a team of NHS Volunteer Responders who can help you. You can call them on 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm) for practical help or just a “check-in and chat”.

Do I still need to wash my hands?


Wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, before rinsing and drying thoroughly.

Use alcohol based sanitiser if necessary and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

What happens after the 14 day period?

At the end of the 14 day period you can move around the UK whilst observing the restrictions in place for each country:

I developed Coronavirus symptoms during my stay, what should I do?

The Coronavirus symptoms are:

  • a new continuous cough
  • a rise in temperature
  • a reduction/loss of sense of taste and/or smell

If ANY of these symptoms appear you must begin a 14-day self-isolation cycle.

If you develop symptoms whilst in a symptom-free household then ALL members of the household must also self-isolate for 14 days.

You should also apply for a Coronavirus test online or call the NHS on 119.

This graphic explains how long each member of the household should self-isolate

I am working on a Critical National Infrastructure, can I still work?

There are a minority of people who are exempt from self-isolation, including workers on a Critical National Infrastructure project. There are other exceptions too and you can find them on the UK governments self-isolation page guide.

Thank you for reading and please stay safe

This article is only a guide. For the absolute latest and most up-to-date advice you should go to the British Government’s Coronavirus website.


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