The UK has been more conservative in terms of reopening to foreign travellers during the pandemic, at least compared to its European neighbours.
However, many Canadians were understandably frustrated when the UK began allowing entry to US residents, despite their relatively higher COVID-19 case count.
Given the strong connections we have across the Northern Atlantic, it is incredibly exciting that Canadians will be permitted entry, without quarantine, to the United Kingdom as of Monday, August 30, 2021.
United Kingdom Travel Restrictions
The UK’s entry restrictions are based on a “traffic light” system. All countries fall into one of its green, amber, and red lists, which then determine the border restrictions for any travellers coming from that country.
On August 30, Canada will be added to the UK’s green list, which means that all persons who have resided in Canada or other green-coded countries for the past 10 days will be permitted entry to the United Kingdom without quarantine.
Indeed, the UK’s list of rules regarding red, amber, and green countries are not based on citizenship or residency, but rather, where someone has been and transited in the past 10 days (which makes a lot more sense, in my opinion).
Therefore, your transit cities are something to be aware of if you’re travelling to the UK. because if you do pass through a red- or amber-coded country, you will be held to their stricter restrictions.
The full list of countries and their assigned colour is available on the UK Government website.
How Can Canadians Enter the United Kingdom?
Travellers are allowed to enter the UK through all international airports, by train, and by sea, in the way of a cruise.
Travellers coming directly from Canada or only via other green countries must fulfill the following conditions before entering the UK:
- Present a negative PCR test or a negative antigen test taken within three days of departure of the final leg of the journey.
- Children 11 and younger are exempt in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
- Children 10 and younger are exempt in England.
- Passengers travelling from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, the Falkland Islands, St. Helena, and Ascension are also exempt.
- Complete a passenger locator form within 48 hours of arrival.
There is no need for proof of vaccination if you’re coming from a green-list country.
Meanwhile, even though arriving from amber countries appears to have no quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers, the UK currently only accepts select vaccines from within its own borders, Europe, and the US.
Therefore, UK-bound Canadian travellers of any vaccination status must continue to avoid amber-list countries along their journey, lest they face a quarantine upon arrival.
Any upcoming changes are also announced on the UK Government website, where you can filter between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
Testing & Quarantine Upon Arrival
All passengers arriving from green-list countries must pay and take a COVID-19 test within two days of arrival.
This is fulfilled differently between between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.
In England, you can choose to take a test in London Heathrow for £77, a mailed test for £20, or anything in between. The full list of available providers is available on the UK Government website.
On the other end of the spectrum, Scotland and Wales have only one approved provider (CTM North) from whom you can book tests for £68 via the centralized Quarantine Management system. Be sure to scroll down to the “arriving from green list country” section.
Northern Ireland also recommends the £68 test, while also providing the same list as England, stating to check which ones are eligible for Northern Ireland.
From a quick scan of a couple of the websites, it is not always clear if a given testing provider is eligible for Northern Ireland or not, so I’d recommend reaching out to the labs directly or going with the £68 CTM North test for convenience.
A mandatory quarantine of 10 days will apply if the arrival test is positive, along with another mandatory self-paid COVID-19 test on Day 8.
Testing & Quarantine Upon Return
Travellers must complete a negative PCR test within 72 hours of boarding their flight back to Canada.
The UK makes this fairly easy, with tests available at all airports from £59 at London Heathrow and £80 at Glasgow Airport, to name a few examples. There are likely cheaper options in the city, and British Airways also offers discounted tests from £43.
The UK does provide free PCR tests for those who are suffering from symptoms or those who have been in contact with someone who tested positive, but it is specifically stated that these are not to be used for travel.
Fully vaccinated Canadians can return to Canada by air without undergoing quarantine, upon completing a negative test at the airport on arrival into Canada. Canadians are considered fully vaccinated if they’ve received a full series of one of (or a mix of) Health Canada’s approved vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, or Johnson & Johnson – at least 14 days before entering Canada.
Current Health Requirements in the United Kingdom
Across England, Scotland, and Wales, the majority of restrictions have dropped and life is more or less back to normal.
In Northern Ireland, a maximum of 10 people from three different households can meet indoors in private dwellings and nightclubs remain closed. A one-metre distance must be maintained inside all indoor premises, and masks are required on all public transport, in shops, and inside other indoor settings.
Scotland and Wales have done away with social distancing outside of healthcare settings; however, masks remain compulsory on public transportation and in indoor spaces such as shops.
England has no restrictions to speak of, from social distancing to masking indoors to restaurant or nightclub capacity limits.
How to Get to the United Kingdom
Pre-pandemic, airfare between Canada and the UK was fairly affordable at around the $700–800 range for a round-trip flight in economy class.
Those fares have largely returned on both Air Canada and British Airways for the fall of 2021 and spring of 2022, so a simple round-trip booking may be your best bet if you’re happy to fly in economy class.
If you want to travel in greater luxury, then the first loyalty program that comes to mind for most Canadians is Air Canada’s Aeroplan program, given the ease of earning and its favourable rates for long-haul travel.
Direct flights to London will cost 60,000 Aeroplan points from the East Coast and 70,000 Aeroplan points from the West Coast per person one-way in business class. Of course, the price can fluctuate due to the dynamic nature of Air Canada flights.
Alternatively, you can use British Airways Avios to fly Aer Lingus from either Toronto, Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington Dulles, or Seattle to Dublin. Flights from the former start from 50,000 Avios one-way in business class, while flights from Seattle will start from 62,500 Avios one-way in business class.
From Dublin, you can use more Avios to book a connecting flight into London or take a cheap Ryanair flight.
The reason to fly into Dublin instead of London is because direct flights on British Airways attract atrocious fuel surcharges. Furthermore, while this does incur a connection, it is not any more inconvenient from a COVID-19 perspective, as transit passengers from Dublin are not subject to additional testing requirements.
If you’re an aspirational traveller looking to celebrate your first post-pandemic trip with some luxury flying, you could consider aiming for Lufthansa First Class from a US gateway airport via Frankfurt or Munich (both situated in green-list Germany) for 100,000 Aeroplan points.
However, this itinerary may present complications for your entry into the UK, as the US is currently on the UK’s amber list. It would be prudent to wait for the US to be added to the UK’s green list before embarking on this trip.
Because you must arrive directly from a country on the green list in order to avoid a quarantine, I don’t recommend any convoluted itineraries, especially considering that countries on the green list are subject to change.
The United Kingdom will be moving Canada to its green list on August 30, 2021 at 04:00 BST. This means that everyone who has been in Canada for the past 10 days can travel to the United Kingdom without incurring a mandatory quarantine.
A COVID-19 PCR or antigen test taken three days before to departure of the final leg of the journey is required, along with filling out the passenger locator form within 48 hours of arrival.
The lack of restrictions within the UK may make for a relaxing vacation, although the current higher number of cases due to the Delta variant may also be a cause for concern. This will depend on your personal comfort level as a traveller during the pandemic era.
Furthermore, the negative PCR test requirement for re-entering Canada is easily attainable in the UK, with plenty of labs to choose from and prices under $100.
In terms of countries reopening to Canadian travellers, I myself have been particularly looking forward to this one. I’ve been on many a return trip since my study abroad in London, and I’m always looking forward to revisiting my favourite old haunts.
As always, you can refer to our Travel During COVID-19 Resource for Canadians for the most up-to-date information on travelling in the pandemic era.