My husband and I landed in London, England and it was not without trial and tribulation due to COVID rules. With a huge thanks to my husband and a good friend who flew in from Spain, both tracked down the details of what the necessities required by the UK government upon entry. While both of us are vaccinated and have our little white cards to prove it, those mean nothing coming to the UK. What is meaningful to the UK follows.
The link that leads to the steps for UK entry/tests/quarantine:
Keep in mind that Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own process. This process I describe below is for England only.
Follow these instructions with care and precision. The most important advice I have to give, remain organized and follow the instructions above without any variation. There is no wiggle room whatsoever.
We had to complete a Passenger Locater form so the government could find where we were going to quarantine for 10 days (required). Part of this form asks for a phone number so the government can follow up.
The Passenger Locator Form is sent off within 48 hours of departure. A confirmation email came our way. After the confirmation email came our way, we received a QR code. We did two things: We printed The Passenger Locator Form with the QR Form and downloaded it on our phone as well.
Next, we had a COVID test within 72 hours of boarding the flight to London. This test could be an Antigen test, or a PCR test, or what is listed on the site above What is also listed on the site is that must be:
- “A printed document
- An email or text message you can show on your phone-make sure your device is charged”
Buyer beware: This is where we got a bit confused, our first test results were hand written, but yet printed. We were turned away from boarding the aircraft. Thus, a printed document not only means printed, but NOT handwritten. More on this later.
Not only did we have to do the above, we also had to book two more COVID tests here in the UK which will be dropped off to us where we are staying and we self test and send the results back to the company we tested with. After our results are released, then, we are free to leave our residence. There are several options for these tests, and we opted to have our tests dropped off to us- a concierge service of sorts. It is not as fancy as it sounds. The options can be found on the link above.
As we checked in to our American Airlines flight with our original documentation (the hand written documentation), the woman who checked us in looked at all the documentation and complimented us on our organization. You can imagine how happy my husband was with his thoroughness and research. However, we were stopped as we were to board the plane. Another AA employee wearing a hideously unprofessional mask curtly told us we were not able to board the plane with a handwritten COVID test despite testing negative. We looked at each other in disbelief and thought, are we going to be able to take this journey? Is this a sign? The hideously masked AA gate attendant called the AA manager who assisted us in finding new COVID testing at the airport, gaining the proper paperwork and rebooking our flight free of charge.
We stayed at the airport hotel, got up bright and early, tested again and with paperwork in hand, we doubled checked once again. But here is the fact of the matter. Not all check in agents are trained for this. When we checked in again, the agent had never checked in a passenger to the UK. She had to get on the website (which one, I don’t know) and double check our paperwork with care. At the gate, another agent okayed us and sent us through to the aircraft (only 40 passengers traveling on our flight).
As we disembarked from our flight, we were prepared to wait in a long line (reports of waiting hours due to people not having correct paperwork, and this is time intensive for immigration officers to go through this paperwork). My husband had all of our paperwork printed out, we also had our paperwork downloaded on our phones-I downloaded to chats, as I thought it was easier to access quickly. Immigaton was pleased enough with our hard copies. We had in hand for each of us:
- Passenger Locator Form
- COVID Test
- Proof of Booking for test: Day 2 and Day 8
What happens if you don’t have your ducks in a row?
Arriving without any paperwork, without a test or a false test can result in hefty fines (up to 10,000 pounds- equaling close to $14,000 USD). Without a COVID test, you could be fined 500 pounds, so attention to detail is paramount.
As previously stated, our first COVD form was filled in incorrectly by a health provider. Despite the fact that we tested negative for COVID, the form improperly filled in cost us one day, a hotel room, and severe anxiety. So, for this error, with no ability to refund the original test, it cost us a day, a hotel room, and another COVID test.
Government Checking up
One skeptic asked us, ‘Honestly, are they really going to know where you are?’ How are they going to call everyone, or knock on everyone’s door’? Trust me when I say, you will receive a phone call and it is not a brief phone call, it will be very detailed. The government is serious with this. They do not want a surge and as the UK slowly opens up, there is hope that it remains open without having to go back to any closures. Cooperation is paramount.
The government did call us. We received a call lasting about 10 minutes on how to follow guidelines, where we were getting our COVID kits for days two and eight, what to do if we have symptoms. For that matter, at this writing, we were phoned daily.
Remember, as we travel to other countries, we are guests. We follow the rules in the country. While the sun is out, all we want to do is take a walk, exercise and see the neighborhood, see friends, walk in the parks, have a cuppa. But, we will be patient and cautious and take care and be compliant.