London Rovinj

The traffic light system – part 3

Note: On October 4, 2021, a simplified traffic light system will go into effect. I have no doubt that there will be a dreaded part 4 on this topic but I hope it will be the fourth and final part of unpleasant mini-series.

First, background info. If you are not familiar with the Traffic Light System, then I recommend starting with first two parts of this mini-series because the Traffic Light System is… a lot.

Part 1 of my traffic light system posts detailed our experience traveling to Greece which was/is an amber-list country (we were single-jabbed). Part 2 of my traffic light system posts detailed my sister’s experience traveling from the USA (also an amber-list country) to the UK as a double-jabbed traveler.

We recently traveled to Croatia which is a green-list country and this post will detail our green-list country experience (now double-jabbed) in a similar way to our amber-list country experience when visiting Greece and when visiting the UK from the USA.

Here’s a list of shortcuts if you’re looking for specific information regarding traveling from a green-list country to England, including details of our experiences with testing providers, turnaround times, etc.

Traffic light system

The traffic light system is a set of rules and requirements for travelers ENTERING the UK from abroad. Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England each have their own set of rules. Since we live in England and traveled to Croatia, this post will focus on the rules and requirements for entering England and Croatia.

When I wrote part 1 in June 2021, the traffic light system’s rules and requirements applied to all incoming travelers to England regardless if the traveler was unvaccinated, single-jabbed, or double-jabbed and regardless if the traveler had legal rights to live in the UK (exception: travelers entering from red-list countries must have legal rights to live in the UK).

Since June, the traffic light system has expanded to include a green watchlist category, an amber+ category, and exemptions for double-jabbed travelers entering England from amber-list countries (who have been vaccinated in specific countries such as the USA).

The rules and requirements for ENTERING England from abroad are defined by England’s traffic light system which categorizes countries into three colors (amber got razamatazed and now has two sets of rules): green/green watchlist, amber, amber+, and red.

When entering England from abroad, green-list countries have the least strict requirements, red-list countries have the most strict, and amber+ and amber-list countries fall in the middle.

England reviews the green and red lists every three weeks. Croatia is currently designated as an green-list country, however, it is on the green watchlist which means it follows green-list rules but can switch to amber at any second and without warning. How fun is that?

Since the rules for amber-list countries (for double-jabbed travelers) and green-list countries (regardless of vaccination status) are the same, a quick switch from green to amber would not affect us because we are double-jabbed.

Croatia entry requirements

Let’s start with the Croatia entry requirements, as they existed on September 9th, 2021, which was the date we arrived in Croatia.

  • Complete a Travel Announcement Form before arrival
  • Test A: Take a PCR test within 72 hours prior to arriving in Croatia or take an Antigen test within 48 hours prior to arriving in Croatia

Note: We are double-jabbed and if we entered Croatia from an EU country, our vaccination status would have met Croatia’s entry requirements and a test would not have been required.

However, Croatia has deemed the UK as a risky country so regardless of vaccination status, we were required to present a negative covid test. More details can be found on Croatia’s official travel website here.

Croatia’s 72 hour PCR testing window is literally 72 hours from your arrival time in Croatia, not 72 hours from your arrival day, nor three calendar days. Don’t forget to factor in time zone differences and the possibility of late arrivals when calculating the 72-hour window.

The same applies for the 48 hour Antigen testing window – it’s literally 48 hours, not two calendar days.

As an example, our flight was scheduled to arrive at 13:30 on a Thursday and Croatia is one hour ahead of the UK. Our departure Antigen test timeline looked like this:

DayTimeAction
Tuesday12:30 BST48 hour testing window begins
Wednesday09:00 BSTAntigen test w/1 hour results
Thursday13:30 CESTFlight arrives in Croatia

Additionally, Croatia only accepts Antigen test manufacturers that are authorized by the European Union. The list of authorized manufacturers can be found here.

Note: Croatian immigration officers only validated the negative test result on our certificate, not the test manufacturer.

In most cases, the EU-authorized list provides no value to the traveler. Testing providers, at least those in the UK, do not typically publicize test kit manufacturers. In some cases, you will only know the manufacturer after you’ve got the kit in your hand and by then, it’s too late. More on this in a bit.

England entry requirements (green-list)

Next, let’s run through the green-list entry requirements for ENTERING England from abroad. All of the covid tests are at the expense of the traveler.

Note: Amber-list requirements for double-jabbed travelers are the same as green-list requirements, regardless of vaccination status. Amber+-list requirements are a different story for different day.

  • Test B: Take a PCR or Antigen test in the 3 days before the service (e.g. flight, ferry) on which you will arrive in England departs
  • Complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) within 48 hours prior to arriving in the UK
  • Test C: Take a PCR test on or before day 2 after arriving in England

Note: The UK’s 3-day testing window for Test B includes the three calendar days preceding your departure day. As an example, if you arrive in England on a Sunday, your test must be taken on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday (unsure if Sunday is acceptable, I assume it is). 

Test A: pre-departure test in the UK

In summary, for travel to/from Croatia (a green-list country), we were required to take three covid tests.

  • Test A: Pre-departure PCR test in the UK (Croatia requirement)
  • Test B: Pre-departure test in Croatia (UK requirement)
  • Test C: PCR test in the UK on or before day 2 after arrival

The pre-departure test in the UK (“Test A”) is a Croatia requirement and needs to be coordinated a couple of weeks before departing the UK, either by ordering an at-home test kit or by booking an in-person test appointment at a testing centre or partner pharmacy.

We booked our in-person pre-departure Antigen tests (“Test A”) with DocTap after I confirmed with customer service that the manufacturer of their Antigen test kits were Orient Gene which is an EU-authorized manufacturer.

DocTap went a step further and provided me with their Antigen test Fit to Fly certificate template so that I could confirm the test kit manufacturer details in the tiny print in the footer of the certificate.

Here’s a copy of that template.

We paid £39 per test and had our results within 30 minutes.

Test B: pre-departure test at the destination

Antigen, PCR, and LAMP tests are all acceptable types of tests (“Test B”) to ENTER England, however, for cost and convenience sake, the at-home (taken at your destination) Antigen test is the obvious winner.

Note: Confirm the type of tests that are accepted with your airline and your departure country. Just because the UK accepts multiple types of tests does not mean the country you are departing or the airline you are flying accepts the same types of tests. Kenya is an example of this – they only accept PCR tests when departing Kenya.

To prevent fraudulent testing, the identity of the traveler taking the at-home test must be confirmed and linked to the test kit serial number. In the case of pre-ordered, at-home Antigen test kits, this is accomplished via a telehealth/telecare appointment.

A couple of weeks prior to departing to Croatia, we repeated what we did for our trip to Greece and ordered Antigen test kits from a company called Qured (pronounced “cured”) for £39 per test.

Protip: Use code BATRAVEL15 for 15% off when ordering tests from Qured. This code can be used regardless of the airline you are flying.

The test kits arrived at our flat two days later and we booked our future telehealth/telecare test appointments through Qured’s insecure and clunky calendar booking system.

We brought these test kits with us to Croatia and conducted the tests under the watchful eye of a Qured representative through the Qured online portal two days before departing to the UK.

Here’s how my Qured testing telehealth appointment went.

TimeAction
09:15Connected to the Qured online portal for introductions and instructions
09:20Self-administered the Antigen tests and set a timer for 15 minutes
09:40Uploaded a photo to my Qured account of the test cassette showing the result
10:30Checked my online account and my Fit to Fly certificate was available for download. I did not receive an email notifying me that the certificate had been processed.

Protip: Research testing centres at your destination as a backup for the scenario where your Antigen test comes back inconclusive (usually due to inadequate sample size). I failed to take my own advice on this matter and later found out that our hotel offerred onsite testing (as well as there being testing at the airport and in Rovinj). This information was not available through our hotel’s website but rather through the county’s (Istria) tourism site here.

Test C: arrival test in UK

When entering England from a green-list country, a PCR test on or before day 2 is required (day of arrival is day 0).

This test is officially called “Day 2” and is not required to be booked prior to departing to your destination, however, it is required to be booked prior to departing TO the UK.

Our “Day 2” testing provider, DocTap, provided a booking reference number and this number was required on the UK PLF. More on PLFs here.

I recommend taking this test immediately after arriving in England. The goal is to take this test when you’ve had the least amount of exposure and the longer you wait, the more exposure you will have. Our tests were done and dusted within six hours after arriving in England.

Protip: The only way to guarantee a test on the day of arrival is to book an in-person test appointment at a testing centre or partner pharmacy. Providers that mail test kits to you may be delivered to your residence before you arrive in England or as late as day 2. You just never know.

Here’s how our day 2 tests went.

DayTimeAction
Tuesday18:30Tests conducted at the DocTap testing centre
Tuesday19:20Received confirmation that our samples were on their way to the laboratory
Wednesday02:35Received notification that our samples were being tested
Wednesday12:05Received Camie’s test result, ~18 hours after taking the test
Wednesday21:00Received notification that it was taking longer than normal to test Peter’s sample and that this is normally because the test is having to be re-run
Wednesday22:10Received Peter’s test result, ~28 hours after taking the test

Test costs

Below is a breakdown of our covid test costs for Croatia. The total cost is a fraction of the price of our covid test costs for Greece (amber-list country, single-jabbed at the time).

Testing providerTestResultGBPUSD
DocTap (Test A)Pre-departure – CamieNext day3954
DocTap (Test A)Pre-departure – PeterNext day3954
Qured (Test B)Pre-departure – Camie1 hour3346
Qured (Test B)Pre-departure – Peter1 hour3346
DocTap (Test C)Day 2 – CamieNext day6995
DocTap (Test C)Day 2 – PeterNext day6995
Grand total£282$390

Passenger Locator Forms (PLFs)

The process for filling out and submitting the UK PLF is the same, regardless of the color of country you are entering England from and your vaccination status. The UK PLF takes about 20 minutes to fill out and every adult is required to submit their own PLF (under-18s should be included on an adult’s UK PLF).

Note: Day 2 tests are required to be booked prior to departing TO the UK. The test is assigned a booking reference number and it is required on the UK PLF.

One change to the UK PLF since the last time we filled it out is that proof of vaccination status can optionally be attached to the form. If you are fully vaccinated and you do not attach proof of vaccination to the form, then my guess is that you may get flagged by UK immigration and not be able to use the eGates which can cost you hours of time.

The proof of vaccination can be uploaded as a form (i.e. PDF) or electronically attached by scanning a QR code.

I was vaccinated in England, so I launched the NHS app on my phone and created a travel pass. This created two QR codes, one for each jab. The instructions on the UK PLF specifically state that only one QR code can be scanned, so, using the camera on my laptop, I scanned the QR code for my second jab.

There’s no preview or acknowledgement that the QR code was successfully scanned but the PLF workflow wizard automatically advanced me to the next page of questions. Additionally, the summary shown at the end of the PLF process (before final submission) indicated that my QR code scan was successful.

The Croatian Travel Announcement Form takes about 10 minutes to fill out. It’s worth noting that a vaccination certificate or a negative covid test result (based on the requirements for your originating destination) are required to be uploaded to the form and the form cannot be submitted without the supporting documentation.

The Croatian Travel Announcement Form requires all members of a household to be included on one form.

Form submission timelines differ slightly but when flying between the UK and Croatia, you’ll be good to go if you submit the forms in the morning on the days before your departures.

Croatian immigration did not ask for the confirmation number of our Travel Announcement Form – they had all the information in their tracking system.

Finally, as if electronic PLFs are not enough hassle, we were required to complete a generic paper PLF prior to landing in Croatia.

The flight attendant said that Croatian immigration had requested the paper form, however, we handed the forms to the flight attendants as we disembarked.

I do not believe Croatian immigration requested the form but I cannot come up with a reason as to why easyJet would need the information entered on the form either.

NHS Test and Trace

As of August 16th, 2021, double-jabbed residents of England do not need to self-isolate for 10 days if they’ve been contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told that they’ve come into close contact with a covid-positive person.

This is a huge relief because this was the only thing that went wrong with our trip to Greece in June and, ironically, is the only thing that went wrong with our trip to Croatia.

Greece: On day 4 of our quarantine after returning to England from Greece in June, I was contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told that I had come into close contact with a person who had later tested positive. Due to this, I was not eligible for the Test to Release scheme and was told that I had to quarantine for the full [very long] 10 days.

Croatia: On day 5 (today, an hour ago to be precise), I was contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told I had come into close contact with a person who later tested positive. The date of this contact was our travel day from Croatia to England. And just like the Greece instance, Peter was not contacted so this is an EXACT REPLAY of what happened when we returned from Greece in June.

Our day 2 PCR test results (after returning from Croatia) were negative and the guidance is that I should take another PCR test but I’m not willing to take another test and I’m certainly not willing to voluntarily self-isolate.

If the tracing system is not skilled enough to flag both of us (we sat next to each other on both of our return flights), then the only conclusion I can draw is that I’ve been erroneously flagged in both instances.

UPDATE | September 20, 2021: I was erroneously identified as a close contact. And I now believe more than ever that I was erroneously flagged in June too.

Resources and testing providers

Below is a list of resources I used to prep for our vacation in Croatia.

ResourceLink
Croatia arrival information + requirementsLink
Croatia test locationsLink
Istria county arrival information + requirementsLink
Istria county tourism + daily covid stats, Link
UK PLFLink
England pre-arrival testing requirementsLink
UK approved testing providersLink
British Airways: General rules for leaving and entering England Link
British Airways: Discounted testing providersLink
Qured testingLink
DocTap testingLink

Related traffic light system posts

Below are the related posts in this unpleasant traffic light system mini-series.

  • Part 1 – Amber country, single-jabbed (June 2021)
  • Part 2 – Amber country, double-jabbed (August 2021)
  • Part 3 (this post) – Green country, double-jabbed (September 2021)
  • Part 4 – Amber country, double-jabbed (September 2021)

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