travel to uk
The UK has eased restrictions for international travellers, making it an ideal time for Indian students to travel to the country for their education / Source: Daniel Leal / AFP

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has become a global cause for concern, resulting in ever-changing travel rules that has impacted the lives of international students, professionals, and families worldwide. 

The UK is one such destination that has frequently changed its travel rules including regarding self-isolation to booking COVID-19 arrival tests. With this, it’s not uncommon for Indian students to wonder if their travel to UK will be affected. 

Despite that, it’s generally a great time for Indian students to consider a British education. Recent reports has shown that the UK is planning to ease immigration restrictions for Indian nationals, making it easier for them to stay and work in the country after graduation. On top of that, the UK has recently relaxed many of its rules for incoming travellers.

Here’s an update on everything Indian students need to know about travelling to the UK. 

Pre-departure tests aren’t necessary anymore 

International travellers are not required to take a COVID-19 test before flying, but must conduct one arrival. Source: Adrian Dennis/AFP

The UK has eased some travel restrictions for fully vaccinated passengers and those under 18, removing the need for a pre-departure test and self-isolation on arrival. 

This has significantly eased the burden of many travellers as booking pre-departure tests can be extremely expensive. 

Fully vaccinated passengers are still required to fill in and submit an online passenger locator form at least 48 hours before their departing flight to the UK and take a test on or before day two of their arrival.

Self-isolation is no longer mandatory for travel to UK

Fully vaccinated students no longer have to self-isolate while waiting for their results.  

From Jan. 9, 2022, eligible fully vaccinated travellers and over 5s will be able to take a lateral flow test (LFT) instead of a PCR on or before day two of their arrival in England. Lateral flow tests for travel can be booked from Jan.7, 2022 and taken upon arrival, by the end of day two.

Students who choose to take an LFT and receive a positive result will have to self-isolate and take an additional NHS PCR test to confirm this. Those with a positive PCR test will need to self-isolate for 10 days. The day students received their positive result would be counted as Day 0. 

The NHS states that travellers can stop self-isolating if they do an LFT on the sixth and seventh days of their quarantine period, and:

  • Both tests are negative
  • Travellers did both tests at least 24 hours apart, and 
  • Travellers don’t have a high temperature 

However, those who choose to stop self-isolating before the recommended 10-day period should take precautions to ensure they will not infect others. This includes wearing a face mask, practicing social distancing, and avoiding interaction with vulnerable groups. More details about getting a positive COVID-19 test results can be obtained here

Unvaccinated Indians arriving in the UK must self-isolate for a full period of 10 days, regardless of whether their COVID-19 test is negative. Source: Adrian Dennis/AFP

Guidance for unvaccinated Indians

Unvaccinated Indian students can expect to face a few more restrictions, but are still permitted to travel to the UK. At the moment, they are required to:

All unvaccinated travellers into the UK must abide by the country’s home quarantine rules for 10 full days. A travellers’ day of arrival would count as Day 0. 

Indian travellers will have also to take an additional PCR test on Day 8 of their home quarantine. They will still have to self-isolate for the full 10 days regardless if their test result is negative. Those with a positive test result will have to self-isolate for 10 more days. 

Where can I quarantine?

Upon entering the UK, travellers will be required to provide an address where they’ll be staying on the passenger locator form. This could either be a rented term-time address, with friends or family, or in a standard hotel or other temporary accommodation. 

Travellers should also ensure that they have food and other necessities delivered to them as they won’t be able to change their location upon arriving at the address.

The UK government notes that travellers should go straight to the place they’re staying to quarantine upon arrival in the country. They should also avoid using public transport unless necessary. Students can read the government’s guide on travelling safely during the pandemic and regularly monitor the UK government’s website for potential changes to UK travel rules.