International travel in the time of coronavirus: what are the rules in Wales?

Published 02/08/2021   |   Last Updated 10/08/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

Although the Welsh Government continues to encourage holidaying at home this summer, international travel has been permitted since May with certain restrictions applied. The relevant rules and entry requirements for passengers arriving in Wales (including those landing at English airports) vary according to country of departure.

This article sets out some frequently asked questions around international travel.

What requirements apply before I travel abroad from Wales?

Passengers leaving Wales will need to check the entry requirements and restrictions set by the country they wish to visit. Most destinations require either proof of double vaccination, a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test, a quarantine period, or a combination of these.

Where pre-departure testing is necessary, these tests need to be arranged via a private test provider, rather than through the NHS.

The UK Government Foreign Office provides advice and guidance on the entry requirements for those travelling to countries or territories abroad. The Welsh Government also recommends checking with airline, ferry or train operators for rules specific to particular routes and destinations.

The same entry rules and restrictions do not necessarily apply uniformly to all UK travellers. Denmark was the first EU country to differentiate between the UK’s four nations when specifying entry requirements. While England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are currently considered ‘red’ areas, Wales has been designated as ‘orange’, meaning entry requirements are less stringent for passengers arriving direct from Wales, though they are the same if travelling via another UK country.

What requirements apply when I arrive in Wales from abroad?

All international arrivals must complete a passenger locator form and have proof of a negative COVID test before travelling to Wales, taken no earlier than three days before the start of their journey. This applies to all passengers over 11 years old, with a potential fine of £500 for those failing to produce this.

Once passengers arrive into the UK, a traffic light system has been introduced to determine any further testing or isolation requirements. Countries are classified as green, amber or red, depending on factors such as coronavirus rates and presence of new disease variants. Exactly what further restrictions apply depend on the classification of the country passengers have arrived from.

Some exemptions apply, such as for people travelling for work purposes or elite sportspeople.

Individual passengers travelling to Wales are responsible for arranging any quarantine periods or tests that are needed, through the CTM booking portal. These must be booked before departure. The requirement to use the CTM portal has been criticised by some, with tests booked through this system costing more than some private tests available to passengers travelling to England.

The Welsh Government sets out that this is because it is using NHS tests, rather than private tests, with the results then sent directly into NHS Wales’ systems. This helps identify any harmful variants and makes contact tracing easier.

The Welsh Government’s Health Minister, Eluned Morgan MS, told WalesOnline this difference is also because some of the private test companies have “been very inefficient” in coming back with results leading to “people missing their holiday”.

Arrivals from RED countries

Countries and territories on the ‘red list’ are those considered to present the highest risk of COVID transmission.

People travelling from red list countries, or those who have passed through a red list country in the last 10 days, cannot travel directly to Wales and must arrive via a designated port of entry in England or Scotland. In addition to completing a passenger locator form and providing proof of a negative COVID test taken before departure, these passengers must:

  • quarantine for 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel;
  • take a coronavirus test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of quarantine (applies to all travellers aged 5 and above).
Arrivals from AMBER countries

The requirements on passengers arriving from amber countries depend on vaccination status under the UK, EU or US vaccination programmes. Fully vaccinated travellers (who had their final dose of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before arrival in Wales) must:

  • complete a passenger locator form;
  • have a pre-departure test certificate showing a negative COVID test within 72 hours before departure; and
  • take a COVID test on or before day 2 (age 5+).

Travellers aged over 18 years who are not fully vaccinated will also need to self-isolate for 10 days and take a COVID test on day 8. The Welsh Government has published guidance on what travellers can and can’t do when isolating.

Arrivals from GREEN countries

Green list’ countries are those deemed to pose a lower risk of coronavirus transmission.

Travellers arriving from green list countries must:

  • complete a passenger locator form;
  • have a pre-departure test certificate showing a negative COVID test within 72 hours before departure; and
  • take a COVID test on or before day 2 (age 5+).

Rules for arrivals from red, amber and green countries



Amber (unvaccinated)

Amber (vaccinated*)


Passenger Locator Form

Pre-departure test

Test on day 2

Test on day 8

10-day hotel quarantine

10-day self isolation



* Refers to travellers who had the final dose of an approved vaccine, administered under the UK, EU or US vaccination programmes, at least 14 whole days before the date of arrival in Wales
Source: Welsh Government

What if I need to prove my vaccination status for travel?

Everyone fully vaccinated aged 16+ is eligible for a digital NHS COVID Pass. For those who require proof of vaccination before traveling into another country, this digital pass can be downloaded or printed as a PDF document.

Those unable to use the digital pass or those who would like a bilingual certificate can request a pass in paper format. Paper certificates can be requested two weeks after finishing a full course of vaccination, and can take up to 10 working days to arrive.

Am I exempt from certain requirements if I was vaccinated outside the UK?

On 28 July, the Welsh Government confirmed that Wales would follow England in allowing EU and US passengers arriving from amber list countries to enter Wales without having to self-isolate. The Health Minister noted that although they “regret” the UK Government’s decision to remove quarantine requirements, “it would be ineffective to introduce separate arrangements for Wales”, due to the open border with England.

These changes apply to travellers fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the US Food and Drug Administration or the European Medicines Agency at least 14 days before travel to Wales. In the US, there is no national vaccine passport scheme, and available proof of vaccination varies on a state level. In Europe, the EU Digital Covid Certificate is available as proof of vaccination in all EU Member States, as well as in Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

Passengers entering Wales and the UK are still subject to various entry requirements regardless of vaccination status in the EU or US.

Where can I find more information?

Further detailed information on the rules for international travel to and from Wales can be found in the official Welsh Government guidance.

While the regulations setting out the requirements are formally reviewed every 28 days, changes are often made more frequently. While the information in this article is correct at the time of publication, travellers should consult the official guidance in case of any changes.

Article by Aoife Mahon, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament