Visiting from overseas

Last updated 12 April 2021

To say that planning international travel is not entirely straightforward at the moment is rather an understatement.

We realise that many of our guests are desperate to get back to London but with the situation evolving weekly it is difficult to know how to begin arranging a trip.

Here we have pulled together the latest information regarding travel into the UK and our national roadmap out of lockdown, to give you essential information to help organise a visit over the next few months. We’ll be updating this regularly to reflect the current situation, so check back soon.

There’s quite a lot of info here, so if you just want a summary of the key points, jump to the bottom.

I want to travel to London – what’s the current situation?

Currently England is operating a simple yes/no system to categorise which countries it will accept visitors from. The UK government is not currently allowing people to visit from countries on the ‘red list’ (currently consisting of about 35 countries in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, see here for the latest list).

If you’re travelling to England from a country not on the ‘red list’ (including the US, Canada, Australia and most of continental Europe) you are allowed to visit, however you must either quarantine in the place you’re staying or in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days because of coronavirus. Exactly what you need to do depends on where you travel in the 10 days before you arrive in England – see here for the latest information.

You will also need to get two coronavirus tests after you arrive in England. You’ll need to book these before you travel.

In short, this effectively rules out visiting London for a few days of holiday or business, since you will need to quarantine for 10 days on arrival (and probably again when you get home).

Is this expected to change soon?

The UK government is currently working on a roadmap to re-open international travel, and is expected to announce its plans in April. There is no firm information available, but there is increasing expectation that quarantine-free travel will be re-opened between the UK and several other countries (based on a ‘traffic light’ system) within the next few weeks.

Does that include the US?

There are rumours that there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to establish a UK-US air corridor as a priority, given the advanced stage of the Covid vaccination programme in these two countries.

Great! Will I be able to travel freely then?

The expectation at this stage is that when specific air corridors are established with the UK, inbound quarantine rules will no longer apply provided you can demonstrate your safe ‘Covid status’ – i.e. prove you have been vaccinated, or had a negative test prior to travel. This may be done with a smartphone app or a paper document.

But will anything be open when I get to London?

Yes! The good news is that after a lengthy winter lockdown we are in the early stages of a clear path to gradually release Covid safety measures. Key dates set by the government are:

  • 12 April – restaurants and pubs are allowed to open to customers (in outdoor areas only) and all shops can resume trading
  • 17 May – most social contact rules will be lifted, hotels and B&Bs can open, restaurants and pubs will be able to operate indoor areas and almost all attractions can re-open, including museums and public art galleries
  • 21 June – all legal limits on social contact will be removed

So, in theory, life in London and the wider UK will be looking something more like normal by June, although some sensible Covid precautions will undoubtedly still be in place, such as social distancing and mask wearing in public places, and the need to register your visits to venues to assist with the NHS Test & Trace system.

The dates set out above are contingent on the public health metrics continuing to move in the right direction, but given the success of the vaccination programme in the UK to date there is a reasonable level of confidence that these dates will not slip much, if at all.

Sounds great! But I’m still not too keen on getting on a packed tube train or bus… 

Understandable. That’s why you should stay with us at the Lime Tree Hotel! As well as being situated in one of the most beautiful and charming areas of London, with numerous independent eateries, coffee shops, pubs, boutiques and art galleries lining the streets just a stone’s throw from our door, you can reach many of the city’s top attractions and historic sites easily on foot. No need to go near public transport, or even a taxi for that matter.

We’ll shortly be publishing a blog all about our local area – watch this space.

Can you summarise all that for me please?

Certainly. Here are the essential points:

  • It’s not really practical to come to the UK on holiday right now with the strict quarantine rules currently in place.
  • However, we’re expecting quarantine-free international travel from specific countries (including the US) to be allowed by late spring / early summer with some form of ‘Covid passport’. The government is due to announce its plans in April.
  • Our vaccination programme is very advanced, lockdown is easing and London will be functioning fairly ‘normally’ by June, so visitors will be able to eat, drink and make merry.

Stay happy and check back soon for the latest information.