Which Countries Require a COVID-19 PCR Test for Entry?
- 01 October 2020 01 October 2020
Updated: January 15th 2021
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Due to the lockdown, under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, you must temporarily stay at home. You must not leave home or travel, including internationally unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so.
Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, there is a chance you may require a COVID-19 PCR test for entry to your destination. The Polymerase Chain Reaction Test may be a daunting term but it is simply the process used to detect whether the COVID-19 virus is present in your body. The tests look for the presence of the RNA of the antigen to determine whether or not you may be actively infected.
The test itself is an unobtrusive swab of the inside of the mouth or nasal passage. It takes only a moment and, depending on where you have it done, can take just 12-24 hours for a result. Despite the advertised turnaround for results of half a day, Health and Fitness Travel, the Wellness Specialists, strongly recommend that you do not leave your testing to the 24 hours before your flight. Postal delays at private clinics could derail your travel so we advise you plan ahead.
For the expressed purpose of travel, the government advises against seeking a PCR test on the NHS as it diverts vital resources that should be used in tackling the crisis. Private medical practitioners offer appointments and walk-in PCR tests with results in 2-3 days. The costs of these tests do vary in price so it is best to shop around for the best deal and availability before booking your test.
As safety is a top priority in the current climate, many countries are requiring negative results on a PCR test before allowing any travellers access. Some countries have gone further by maintaining stricter measures: not allowing anyone entry or requiring 14-day quarantines in government facilities on arrival. To give you a comprehensive oversight of travel in September 2020, we’ve compiled the latest travel advice on which countries currently require a negative covid-19 PCR test. If you are after any more advice for travelling safely and hygienically, discover our top hygiene tips whilst travelling 2020-2021.
This beautiful mountainous island in the West Indies is part of an exclusive club: the CDC’s (Centre for Disease Control) very low-risk category for COVID-19. St Lucia is among one of the few popular holiday destinations to win a space on this list. St Lucia then is unique; a safe port of call for those seeking a healthy holiday. In addition to its safety, St Lucia is currently on the UK travel corridor list so a 14-day self-isolation is not required on your return. There are some minor entry requirements to St Lucia to maintain the safety of this island paradise for all, these include:
- Visitors must complete a pre-arrival registration form
- All travellers must provide certified proof of a negative PCR test taken seven days or less before travel.
- Passengers will be refused boarding if they do not have proof of a negative test.
- All arriving passengers will be screened using temperature checks upon arrival.
Turks & Caicos
Turks & Caicos is a Bahaman archipelago of idyllic tropical islands with quiet white beaches and peaceful blue waterways. It is a sanctuary of separation from the modern world and all the safety concerns that come with it. You can relax here, on your private island, safe in the knowledge that the natural tranquillity of this region is unlikely to be disturbed. The entry requirements to Turks & Caicos are simple and hassle-free; however, a 14-day quarantine is required on your return to the UK.
- Travellers have to complete a pre-travel authorisation via the Turks and Caicos Islands online portal. This requires evidence of a negative COVID-19 test from a reputable facility taken less than five days prior to arrival in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
- Proof of health/travel insurance with COVID-19 cover and a completed health screening questionnaire is also mandatory.
- All visitors must wear a mask on arrival.
The Maldivian Atolls dotting the middle of the Indian Ocean have long maintained a tropical mysticism. The main islands and the surrounding volcanic ridges breathe a vitality of life 1000s of miles from the mainlands of Africa or India: a green oasis in a sea of fluorescent blue. This incredible place is perfect for a getaway to break the winter COVID blues and has recently opened its borders after a long period of lockdown. There are thorough entry measures in place to prevent further spread to the region.
- Since the 10th of September, all tourists and short-term visitors must present a negative PCR test for COVID-19 on arrival to the Maldives.
- The test and negative PCR certificate must be issued no more than 96 hours prior to departure.
- Travellers must complete a health declaration form 24 hours before departure to the Maldives.
- A 14-day quarantine is required once you return to the UK.
UPDATE: Temporary visitors from the UK are not permitted to travel to Cyprus. Legal residents of Cyprus and Cypriot ID holders, are permitted to enter Cyprus on presentation of proof of residence or Cypriot nationality.
Mountainous islands seem to have fared well when compared to some larger regions in Europe, America and Asia. Cyprus, in the eastern Mediterranean, is a characterful island with year-long enjoyable weather and vibrant culture. For centuries, the mountain communities have developed the mineral-rich springs for natural bathing and holistic spa therapies. A retreat in Cyprus is a chance to loosen the shoulders and cleanse the skin. However, Cyprus has been removed from the UK's travel corridor which means that returning travellers will be required to self isolate for 14 days.
- Passengers arriving from the UK will be subject to PCR testing on arrival followed by a compulsory 7-day self-isolation in government-assigned hotels, with a further PCR test on day 7. If the result is negative, self-isolation continues at home for another 3 days. If no symptoms occur, self-isolation ends on the 10th day. These measures are in force until at least 19 January.
- In addition to testing on arrival, you may also need to provide a negative COVID-19 result from a PCR test taken within 72 hours before travel. Test results can be in the form of an email or SMS, but the result itself and/or appointment letter must include the date and time when the test was taken.
- You will have to complete a ‘Cyprus Flight Pass’ before travelling and upload your negative test within 24 hours of your flight.
UPDATE: Travel to Portugal by air is temporarily suspended unless you are a UK national who is officially a resident in Portugal or another EU member state. You may also fly from the UK if you are a national who is travelling for essential purposes, such as to live with immediate family members, or for professional, educational, health or humanitarian reasons.
Certain regions of Portugal have been hit harder than others. Lisbon is suffering from an increase in cases and the Foreign Office advises against all non-essential travel to the city and the surrounding areas. Madeira and the Azores, on the other hand, are viewed by the Foreign Office as being safer. The sunny island chains under Portuguese sovereignty are several hundred miles from the mainland so provide refuge from the outbreak. The entry requirements aren’t as strict as some countries but they are more rigorous than the border policies taken by France or Croatia for example.
- All passengers, excluding children up to the age of 2, travelling to Portugal must show a negative RT-PCR test result for SARS/COVID-19 at the time of boarding. The test must have been taken within 72 hours of departure.
- If your airline has exceptionally allowed you to travel without proof of a COVID-19 test, you will need to take the test on arrival at the airport or independently within 48 hours. You will need to pay for the test and self-isolate until you receive a negative test result. You can be prosecuted if you do not comply with these requirements.
- If you are staying longer than a week then you will need to take another test and submit it to the authorities.
- UPDATE: The land border with Spain is open. Under current COVID-19 measures, you cannot enter Spain by air or sea unless you are a Spanish national or are resident in Spain.
UPDATE: Turkey has temporarily suspended passenger flights between the UK and Turkey. However, limited flights from Turkey to the UK continue.
The southwestern region of the Bodrum peninsula is a different world to many European destinations. Asian cultural influences fuse with the Mediterranean lifestyle to create a region perfect for a summer wellness holiday. Spend your mornings in mosaic chambers filled with a cleansing steam and celebrate the afternoon by diving into the refreshing waters of the Aegean. Turkey is an ideal location for a getaway to focus on your wellbeing and expand your cultural horizons. There are a few entry requirements for which travellers should plan accordingly:
- Passengers who have been in the UK within the last 10 days will be quarantined for 14 days on arrival in Turkey at locations selected by the local Turkish authorities.
- You must wear a face mask at all times whilst in an airport, and for the duration of all flights, to and from Turkey.
- All passengers from all points of departure to Turkey must have proof of a negative PCR test undertaken within 72 hours prior to departure to Turkey.
- If you test positive, you will be treated at a medical facility determined by the Turkish Ministry of Health or at a private medical facility of your choosing.
- You will also need to complete a passenger locator form.
- As of the 1st of October, a 14-day quarantine is required on your return to the UK.
Update: On 22nd December 2020, Spain introduced travel restrictions on passenger travel from the UK by air and sea. These measures have been extended until 6pm (GMT+1) on 2 February 2021 (5pm / GMT in the Canary Islands), with the exception of Spanish nationals and those legally resident in Spain.
If you are travelling to a country that does not explicitly require a PCR test, it may still be wise to test yourself regardless as, more often than not, they will have screening measures in place at customs. Spain has always been a hit with holiday goers, prior to lockdown it was attracting over 80 million tourists a year. To maintain the travel industry and keep life in the vibrant coastal towns, the Spanish government has allowed visitors to enter but have kept a few safety protocols in place.
- It is compulsory for all visitors to present a PCR test taken no less than 72 hours before arrival.
- You also have to undergo a screening process where you will have your temperature checked and undergo a visual health check.
- A 14-day quarantine is required on your return to the UK.
- A 14-day quarantine is now required on return from December 12th from The Canary Islands.
UPDATE: Travel from the UK temporarily suspended pending review on January 15th
Italy struggled through one of the worst COVID outbreaks in Europe. The Italian crisis has, thankfully, lessened but there is still a risk of travel to the mainland or Sardinia and there are measures in place to curb the spread of any further outbreak. It is still possible to relax on the sunny Venetian promenades or unwind in the luxury spas nestled in the Alps but you should aim to schedule a COVID-19 test before departure. At some airports, you can have a test on arrival or shortly after but these have been known to close unexpectedly. The Italian government will need clarification of a negative result by some means if you plan on staying in the country. There are also specific entry requirements for the Island of Sardinia that do not apply to the mainland.
- A negative PCR test is required for entry to Italy 72 hours before departure.
- Until 15 January, entry into Italy is only permitted for those with official residency or those with absolute necessity, which must be declared in writing.
- Until 15 January, those wishing to fly must present the airline with a negative COVID-19 rapid antigenic or molecular swab test taken no more than 72 hours before entry into Italy. You must also take a COVID-19 rapid antigenic or molecular swab test within 48 hours of entering Italy – arrivals by air from the UK will take this test at the airport. Whatever the result of the 2 swab tests, those arriving in Italy from the UK must also report to their local health authorities on arrival and self-isolate for 14 days
- If you are travelling to Sardinia, you are required to complete a COVID tracking form 48 hours prior to departure.
- You also need to register your trip in advance.
- As of the 15th of October, a 14-day quarantine is required on your return to the UK.
UPDATE: UK nationals are permitted to enter Greece if they are a permanent resident in the UK
Fishing villages, painted bright white, climb into the rugged cliff lines of the Aegean Sea, making for spectacular views and a charming wellness holiday. Greece has been quiet this season but it has not lost any of its remarkable beauty. The culture of the mainland, the fun activities of the coast and the wellness retreats of the mountains are still available without the hassle of obtaining a negative PCR test. Greek authorities aim to make access for tourists from the UK comparatively painless.
- From November 11th you will need to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival.
- UK nationals are permitted to enter Greece if they are a permanent resident in the UK.
- When you arrive, Greek authorities could ask you to take an additional rapid test for Coronavirus, to permit entry. This is in addition to the negative PCR test result.
- From November 14th, Greece has been removed from the UK travel corridor so a 14-day quarantine is now required upon return.
UPDATE: In line with the treatment of non-EU/EEA nationals, from 1 January 2021 UK nationals travelling to Croatia from the UK, or any other non-EU/EEA country, are not permitted to enter the country
With over 4000 miles of picturesque Adriatic shoreline, Croatia has become increasingly popular with tourists from the UK as an alternative to the French and Italian Rivieras. Unlike Italy, which has recently reported a substantial increase in case numbers on the Isle of Sardinia, Croatia has not felt the brunt of the global pandemic. Compared with other European nations, Croatia has fairly relaxed entry requirements.
- Limited exemptions will apply for Croatian residents and those travelling for urgent personal, family or business reasons (but are still subject to the requirement to present a negative PCR test result, not older than 48 hours on arrival, or isolate until a negative test result has been obtained locally at their own expense). The Croatian government has introduced a new online entry form to expedite the entry of foreign visitors.
- You should carry a copy of your accommodation booking when arriving in Croatia.
- A 14-day quarantine is required when returning to the UK.
UPDATE: France announced they would be restricting travel from the UK from 20 December. Travel restrictions apply to all air, car, ferry and train passengers.
Vive le France! A nation steeped in culture, history and beautiful landscapes. Rest under the sun, soaking up the surroundings of the French Riviere with wellness activities, therapies and meditation to feel rejuvenated this winter. Under recent changes, you can travel to France without taking a PCR test, but be aware of local restrictions.
- All travellers from the UK, including children aged 11 and above, will need to present a negative COVID-19 test result, carried out less than 72 hours before departure.
- Both PCR and other antigen tests are accepted for entry into France.
- You may travel if you are a British and/or third-country national who is either habitually a resident in France, the European Union or the European Area, or who must travel for certain essential reasons.
- Due to French lockdown restrictions, it may be best to remain within a retreat/resort's grounds rather than venturing out.
Countries that do not require a PCR Test
A PCR Test is completely pain-free and usually a very reliable and punctual means of telling whether or not someone has COVID. However, if you are adamant to dodge the hassle of PCR test, there are fantastic holiday destinations that do not require it. They may maintain some basic entry requirements but these countries are more relaxed than the ones mentioned above. As before, Health and Fitness Travel advises that you try to stay up to date with Foreign Office information on your destination as requirements have been known to suddenly change. Planning ahead is still an essential requirement for travel in 2020 and 2021.
Pristine beaches, teal shores, dense rainforests, breathtaking volcanoes; this is a true wellness destination! Offering a blend of relaxation and adventure, Costa Rica has been a popular getaway for UK travellers. Whilst there is still protocol to adhere too to gain access to this stunning country, you do not have to take a PCR test to enter. It also is important to note that from November 18th, British driving licenses will not qualify you to drive in Costa Rica.
- From October 26th, you no longer require a COVID-19 PCR test to enter Costa Rica.
- you do need to complete an epidemiological information form in advance.
- You also will need purchase insurance with specific cover requirements in advance.
- A 14-day quarantine is not required upon arriving in Costa Rica for visitors but is for legal residents.
- From November 18th, British driving licences are invalid.
UPDATE: As of 22 December, you temporarily cannot enter Colombia if your journey began in the UK.
Colombia, known as the 'gateway to South America' is home to a myriad of contrasting landscapes. The towering Andes mountain range, idyllic beaches, Amazonian rainforests and even deserts! With so much to see and explore, this is an adventurer's holiday! You cannot travel to this tropical gem by land or sea, but you are permitted to fly into the country without taking a PCR test.
- For air travel into Colombia, a negative PCR test issued within 96 hours prior to boarding will be required for all passengers
- Between 24 to 1 hour before departure, you will need to fill out a 'Check-Mig' form which can be found on the Migración Colombia website,
- You will need to present the confirmation email upon arriving in Colombia.
- Colombia’s land and sea borders will remain closed until 1 December 2020.
- Internal travel within Colombia is permitted.
For more information on the ever-changing world situation, please go to our detailed COVID-19 Information Hub.
Talk to one of our Travel Specialists on 0203 397 8891 or contact us here to discuss tailor-making your perfect holiday.