This is the fourth and final part of this unpleasant Traffic Light System mini-series. This mini-series began with a vacation to Crete, and it feels right to end it with a vacation to Crete.
That’s right, we recently returned from another vacation in Crete. I guess we like it in Crete, having vacationed there three times in a little over a year.
On our return to the UK, one new step was adding/uploading our documents to British Airways before checking in online. Skip to those details here.
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.
It was introduced shortly before our trip to Crete in June 2021, and it has changed a lot since its introduction. Here’s a comparison of our trips to Crete under the traffic light system.
|Item||June 2021||October 2021|
|# of covid tests||4 – Camie|
5 – Peter
Peter’s 5th test was to release from quarantine early.
I was contacted by NHS Test & Trace and told that I had come into contact with someone who later tested positive; therefore, I was not eligible to “test out of quarantine”.
|Total covid test cost||£823 / $1,150||£86 / $120|
|# of quarantine days||10 – Camie|
5 – Peter
|None, we are double-jabbed|
On October 4, 2021, a simplified traffic light system went into effect for England. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have mirrored England’s simplified traffic light system in various ways.
Since we live in England and because I am not an expert on the other three devolved nations, this post will focus on the rules and requirements for entering England.
Before simplifying, the rules and requirements for ENTERING England from abroad categorized countries into three colors (amber had two sets of rules): green/green watchlist, amber, amber+, and red.
The simplified traffic light system is comprised of two categories/lists: Red and Non-red. Greece was an amber-list country at the time of our departure and became a non-red list country when we were in Crete.
Because we are double-jabbed, the switch from the amber-list to the non-red list was not a huge change for us. The only change that affected us was that we no longer have to take a covid test prior to departing to the UK.
We are still required to take a PCR test on or before day 2 after arriving in England; however, it is rumored that this PCR test will be replaced by an Antigen test soon (cheaper but not as accurate).
Greece entry requirements
Let’s start with the Greece entry requirements for double-jabbed travelers, as they existed on September 29th, 2021, which was the date we arrived in Greece.
- Complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) no later than 23:59 on the day before arrival in Greece
- Provide proof of full vaccination; the second dose must have been given at least 14 prior to arrival in Greece
Preparing for our vacation to Crete was SO EASY. It was almost like BC. Before Covid.
I did not know what to do with myself leading up to that vacation. I did not have to consider booking tests, taking tests, waiting for results, etc.
England entry requirements (non-red list, vaccinated)
Next, let’s run through the non-red list entry requirements for ENTERING England from abroad. All of the covid tests are at the expense of the traveler.
- Complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) within 48 hours prior to arriving in the UK
- Test A: Take a PCR test on or before day 2 after arriving in England
Test A: arrival test in UK
When entering England from a non-red list country, a PCR test on or before day 2 is required (the 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.
We switched things up this time and chose to do at-home tests with test kits from Randox. The Randox at-home test kits were half the cost of in-person tests at DocTap.
The reason why we had not done at-home tests previously is that testing providers like Randox dispatched the test kits with a target delivery day of days 0-2. There were many reviews online of the test kits not arriving until after day 2.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the goal with covid testing after arriving in England is to take the test when you’ve had the least amount of exposure, and the longer you wait, the more exposure you will have.
Under the “targeted delivery day” scheme, we were not willing to take the risk of receiving our test kits on day 2, or worse, after day 2, so we always chose in-person testing.
However, in preparing for this vacation, I took another look at Randox and learned that they now dispatch the kits immediately after the order is placed.
I ordered our day 2 test kits, and they arrived two days later.
Randox test kits can either be mailed back or dropped in one of their drop boxes that are scattered around London. There happens to be a dropbox next to the DocTap testing center (the collection is at 5pm every day), so I dropped our kits off there. Easy peasy.
Here’s how our day 2 tests went. To say I was shocked by the turnaround time is an understatement.
|Sunday||08:30||Tests conducted at home|
|Sunday||09:00||Dropped the kits off at the dropbox|
|Sunday||20:35||Received confirmation that our samples had arrived at the lab and were being tested|
|Monday||03:30||Received our test results ~6 hours after they arrived at the lab|
Below is a breakdown of our covid test costs for Greece.
|Randox||Day 2 – Camie||Next day||43||60|
|Randox||Day 2 – Peter||Next day||43||60|
Passenger Locator Forms (PLFs)
The process for filling out and submitting the UK PLF is the same, regardless of the 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.
The Greek PLF was very simple and only took a couple of minutes to fill out. The Greek PLF requires all members of a household to be included on one PLF.
A couple of changes that I noticed with the Greek PLF this time around were:
- The QR code is immediately generated after submitting the form. Previously, an updated PLF containing the QR code was emailed to the traveler the night before their departure to Greece.
- Vaccination information can be entered on the PLF but is only required for the main traveler.
Note: On arrival in Crete, Greek immigration requested to see our PLF. They did not request to see proof of vaccination. I guess they are just working on the honor system!
PLF submission timelines differ slightly, but when flying between the UK and Greece, you’ll be good to go if you submit the forms in the morning on the days before your departures.
British Airways Documents
Two days before our departure to the UK, we received an email from British Airways reminding us that it was time to fill out our UK PLF and add our “COVID-19 documents before checking in for our flight”.
This was our second time flying to the UK on British Airways under the traffic light system, but it was the first time that we’d been asked to add/upload documents.
We thought adding/uploading COVID-19 documents was a requirement, so we complied, but we learned at the airport that adding/uploading documents was optional… and we were probably the only two passengers who complied.
After adding/uploading our documents to BA, we received an email confirming that they (BA) had received our documents and they would begin verifying them. We were provided a tracking number for our documents in the event we wanted to check on their status.
Two hours after adding/uploading my documents, I received an email confirmation from British Airways that my documents had been verified, and I was good to go. Peter’s documentation verification took a bit longer, but he received his confirmation the same day.
As we stood in the check-in/bag drop queue at Chania airport, we observed about six people check-in/drop bags before it was our turn to approach the desk. None of them had added/uploaded their documents.
For people who did not add/upload their documents beforehand, it took about five minutes for them to check in, longer if it was a family.
It took us less than a minute to check in/drop bags at the airport. The agent said, “I see you’ve added your documents and that they’ve been verified, so you are good to go” and off we went.
Resources and testing providers
Below is a list of resources I used to prep for our vacation in Greece.
|Greece arrival information + PLF|
Note: There is a large section of information below the blue header section.
|England pre-arrival testing requirements||Link|
|England rules for non-red list countries||Link|
|UK-approved testing providers||Link|
|British Airways: Discounted testing providers||Link|
|Randox testing (at-home test kits)||Link|
Related traffic light system posts
Below are the related posts in this unpleasant traffic light system mini-series.