Planning to travel to the United Kingdom on a US passport? You may be wondering what restrictions are in place and how to prepare for your trip.
The COVID pandemic ushered in many new travel restrictions that are constantly changing. Although many have been lifted, they can still be confusing.
But don’t worry, we’re here to help! In this article, we will discuss current US-UK travel restrictions and provide tips on preparing for your journey so you can have a safe and enjoyable trip. We will look at the standard travel guidelines and any additional temporary COVID guidelines that may still be in place.
US-UK Travel: What Are The Basic Entry Requirements?
Traveling to any foreign country has its requirements; however, the UK is on the stricter side, so read this guide to avoid being denied boarding. Here are the bases you’ll need to cover before you go.
To avoid any embarrassment at the airport, check your passport is still valid and that it also has enough time left before it expires.
To visit the United Kingdom, the expiration date on your passport must be more than six months away. This is more than other countries require.
If your passport expires within six months, you must renew it to avoid being turned away at the gate.
Although the United Kingdom has removed the legal requirement to wear a face-covering, it is still wise to bring one. Transport for London still asks all passengers to wear a face mask if they are visiting London.
Do I Need to Wear a Mask on My Flight?
Although this is changing all the time, your travel provider should be able to advise you on the latest information before your flight. To be safe, pack a mask as different airlines vary. Alternatively, contact your flight provider.
A visa can be a typical entry and exit requirement in most countries. The excellent news is that you may not need one visiting the UK.
If you plan to stay in the UK for less than six months as a tourist, you will not need to apply for a visa.
However, there are some other conditions that you must meet to be eligible for this, including having a return ticket and being able to prove that you have enough money to support yourself during your stay.
Suppose you have a criminal record or can’t get into the UK. In that case, the UK Gov website recommends applying for a standard visa before your trip.
A note on Tourist Visas: Remember, you cannot do any paid or unpaid work on your trip, get married, or enter into a civil partnership during your stay without proper documentation.
Visa Waiver Program
The UK is not currently participating in the Visa Waiver Program, meaning US citizens cannot enter the country without a visa if they plan to do business.
For more information on visas and immigration, you can visit the UK Government’s website.
Do I Need to be Fully Vaccinated or Have a Negative COVID Test?
COVID rules vary across the UK, so you will need to know what restrictions apply in the area you are traveling to. Here are the current measures as of June 2022. You can use the Gov UK website should you want to check before you depart.
The World Health Organization recommends that all travelers get vaccinated against COVID-19 before traveling.
If you’re not vaccinated, it’s worth looking into this before traveling; however, rules have relaxed across the UK. The rule was that you would need to show proof of vaccination status or a negative COVID-19 test result. However, countries within the UK recently relaxed those requirements. See below for the different conditions.
The most popular destination to travel to in the UK is London. If you are traveling to London or anywhere in England, the good news is England has the least restrictive measures.
As of March 2022, you do not need to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter England. You will not get asked to fill in an advance passenger information form or take a PCR or antigen test.
If you come from a country on the red list, you will be required to quarantine in a hotel for ten days. However, at the moment, there are no red restrictions in place. That could change should a surge in cases arise. You can check the UK Gov website for the latest measures.
Legal requirements for testing have now been removed for Wales. However, unlike England, Wales insists you take precautions by regularly doing rapid lateral flow tests.
However, like England, they are currently not asking for a passenger locator form or other disease control measures.
Although Scotland was one of the strictest areas within the UK for COVID isolation rules, they have also relaxed their policies for international travelers. Currently, there are no additional restrictions in place, and you do not need to complete a passenger location form, take any tests or isolate.
Popular among Americans as a filming location for Game of Thrones, Northern Ireland has always been an attraction. The good news is that as of May 2021, there are no additional restrictions or guidance for travelers from the US to Northern Ireland.
What About Traveling Back to the USA?
Traveling from the US to the UK and back has entry and exit requirements, meaning it’s important to consider the return trip and the initial trip.
Going from the US to the United Kingdom is fairly straightforward; however, you may hit more pandemic barriers on the return journey.
For instance, to enter the US unvaccinated, you must have been granted an exception or be a US Citizen, US National, or US Lawful Permanent Resident. Check these ahead of time so you can safely get back.
While not an essential entry requirement, this would not be a good travel guide if we did not include some tips on what to expect when arriving in the United Kingdom.
Although the UK is part of Europe, it has its own currency, the Pound (£). £1 currently is equivalent to $1.23. Of course, rates vary daily.
When changing your money, make sure you shop around for a good deal as they all offer different rates.
Some places will also accept Euros; however, this is rare, so it’s best to get the local currency.
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in the UK. However, don’t assume you can use American Express everywhere, so if you have this card, prepare an alternative way to pay just in case.
We recommend using an account like Revolut or TransferWise that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. You can also wait for the currency to be at the optimum price before purchasing.
Tip: if you are traveling with a partner and use a joint account for finances, if you both get a Revolut account, you can open up a shared vault where you can both save for your trip.
A Note on Tipping
In the US, it is customary to tip around 15-20% in restaurants and bars. However, in the UK, this is not common. The average tip, usually included on the bill, is 10%.
Although the UK is famous for its free NHS health care service, this, of course, is only available to UK citizens. To cover yourself for travel, make sure you have a good travel insurance policy. Travel insurance will usually cover any medical treatment and lost or stolen items.
There are many options for finding flights from the US to the UK. A lot will depend on your budget and where you are flying from. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are among the most popular, so it’s worth checking their sites too but don’t forget to shop around!
To get the best deals, book in advance and use flight aggregators like Skyscanner and Google Flights, as well as airline websites.
Tips to Enjoy the Long Haul Flight
Traveling between the US to the UK is guaranteed to be a flight time of at least seven hours, so it’s essential to be comfortable. Here are some tips to make your flight is as enjoyable as possible:
- Wear comfortable clothing: Depending on the time you fly, you might want to try and sleep on the flight, so make sure you are satisfied.
- Bring a scarf or shawl: The air conditioning can be pretty intense on long-haul flights.
- Stay hydrated: This is important for your skin and overall health during the flight.
- Ensure you have all the essentials in your hand luggage, like lip balm, a scarf, headphones, and books/movies.
- Upgrade your seat if you can afford it, as this could significantly improve your flight experience.
- Check-in online before your flight: Checking in on your app cuts waiting time at the airport trip since you can skip the long queues at the check-in desk.
- Download any necessary apps: Most airline apps allow you track your flight, make changes to your itinerary, and even order food and drinks from your seat!
- Bring a neck pillow and blanket, especially if you fly at night.
- Stretch your legs and move around the cabin every few hours.
- If you have any special needs or requirements, make sure to communicate these with the airline in advance. Especially if you have any allergies.
Traveling from the US to the United Kingdom doesn’t need to be stressful. Following the guidance in this article, you can be sure that you’re prepared for your trip and ready to enjoy everything the UK offers.
Although most COVID-related restrictions are fading away, the resources listed in this article and the government websites are worth checking for the most up-to-date information.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Mary Elizabeth is a self-taught finance nerd and money master. At the age of 21, she bought her first house, and by the time she was 30 had paid off all student debt and saved 100k.
She founded MeMoreMoney.com to help others achieve their own financial goals with uncomplicated advice that works for everyone from just starting out to those who have been saving for decades.