Preparing to arrive in the UK – travel advice

With many students now planning to arrive in London from overseas, Student Support and Wellbeing has put together guidance to prepare for the new COVID-19 reality and if needed, quarantine.

Although this page gives a summary of the guidance, please ensure you always check:

For the most detailed information and advice regarding COVID-19.

Content last updated on 20 April 2021.

Recent changes in COVID-19 rules

India will be added to the UK Government's 'red list' at 4am on 23 April 2021. This mean that students arriving from India holding a valid visa will need to quarantine in a government hotel for 10 days. For more details, please see the UK Government website.

Please note that England is now in Step 2 of its 'Roadmap out of lockdown' plan and the COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed. Please visit the Mayor of London's website for more details on what you can and can't do

You must provide your journey and contact details, a negative test and have booked your 2 COVID-19 tests

Students traveling to the UK, regardless of nationality and where they are traveling from, must provide their journey and contact details, a negative test before arrival and have booked and paid for their 2 COVID-19 tests to take on day 2 and day 8 of their quarantine. Students can fill in the passenger locator form from 48 hours before they travel, and will need to show a printed copy or the form on their phone when they arrive in the UK.

You can find more information about this requirement and a link to the form on the GOV.UK website.

The Home Office and Public Health England will use the information you provide to contact you if a passenger on your flight, ship or train, tests positive for coronavirus (COVID-19).

As a UCL student, you may want to consider booking your flights through Key Travel, one of the UK's leading bespoke travel management agencies that UCL has partnered with to support the travel planning of staff and students with more flexibility and discounts. Read more information and guidance about the Key Travel flight booking tool.   

Hotel quarantine and 2 COVID-19 test during quarantine

From February 15 2021, if you arrive from a country on the banned travel list will have to quarantine for 10 days in a UK Government-contracted hotel. You will need to purchase a hotel quarantine package at a cost of £1750 which includes the 10 days' accommodation and the 2 COVID-19 tests. See the UK Government website for more details on the hotel quarantine package and how to book it.

From February 15 2021, if you arrive from non-banned countries, you will need to have purchased the 2 COVID-19 test to be taken on day 2 and day 8 of your quarantine period. See the UK Government website for more details on this plan and how to book the 2 COVID-19 test package.

COVID-19 rules in London and England

Countries around the world have different rules in place to minimise the impact of COVID-19. You should therefore familiarise yourself with guidelines for England before you arrive and keep up to date with changes once you arrive.

England is now in Step 2 of its 'Roadmap out of lockdown' plan and the COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed. Non-essential retail such as clothing stores and personal care premises such as hairdressers are now open. Public buildings, including libraries and community centres are open as are indoor leisure facilities such as gyms. Please visit the UK Government website website for more details on what you can and can't do and to see the rest of the 4 Step roadmap out of lockdown

Rules at UCL and getting tested

At UCL the safety and wellbeing of students and staff is a priority; therefore a 2m social distancing standard is in place and everyone needs to wear a face covering when moving around the campus or when unable to guarantee the 2m distance.

To help reduce crowding on campus, a limit on the number of people allowed to enter UCL buildings will be in place, equal to 25% of usual capacity.

If you are a student but it is not possible for you to wear a face covering please contact the Student Support and Wellbeing team via askUCL and we will advise you accordingly.

UCL has set up a testing centre as part of the national testing programme for universities. The centre uses rapid Lateral Flow Tests (LFT), which typically provide results within two hours. Testing is free and voluntary. 

UCL has also announced that if you return to campus, you should take your first test as soon as possible within 24 hours, and a second test three days later. These tests are for students without COVID-19 symptoms. If you do have symptoms, follow this step-by-step guide about how to request a test and let UCL know through Connect to Protect.

For more information on the national testing programme and how you can book your tests, please visit the UCL website.

Full information about the public health protection measures UCL is taking to ensure the safety of our community can be found on the UCL website.

Quarantine and the Test to Release for International Travel scheme

The UK Government has decided to allow people entering England from outside the UK the chance to reduce their period of quarantine by booking a private COVID-19 test with the Test to Release for International Travel scheme. The scheme will start on 15 December 2020 and allows people entering England to book a COVID-19 test with a private provider in England before they arrive. If the COVID-19 test result is negative, they will be able to end their quarantine immediately. The earliest you will be able to take the test will be 5 full days after you left the country you travelled from. 

You should book your test before you travel to England. This is so you can enter details of the test when you opt into the scheme on the passenger locator form. However, you can also choose to take part in the scheme once you're in England.

The UK Government has published full details of the Test to release for International Travel scheme on their website. It's important that you read this information carefully and understand what you have to do before and after your arrival in England. Please note that if you are travelling from certain countries to the UK, you will not be allowed to use the Test to Release for International Travel scheme. This updated list can be found on the UK Government website linked above.

If you’re travelling to the UK for less than 10 days

If you’re travelling to the UK for less than 10 days, you will be expected to quarantine for the length of your stay, but you can travel directly to your place of departure. For more information on how to quarantine, please visit the UK Government website  

Things to consider and arrange before you arrive if you need to quarantine


Most UCL students live in privately rented accommodation. You need to ensure you have secured accommodation, even if temporary, for your arrival so that you can move into it directly on arrival.

If you are in a shared house, please ensure you visit the UK Government guidance for quarantine to ensure you all follow all the rules.

You can find further information on the UCL Accommodation website. Please note that no travel arrangements should be made until you have received an offer, accepted and confirmed your arrival dates.

You can find out more about the procedure and support for you whilst you are quarantining on the UCL Accommodation website.

Keeping safe whilst traveling

Once you arrive at the airport, port or train station, you will need to make your way directly to your accommodation. You should try to avoid using public transport if possible. Taxis, although more expensive, are probably the safest option. We would encourage you to pre-book one and pay ahead of time to avoid any complications when you arrive.

You may find the ‘Getting to UCL’ information on our website useful to plan your journey from the airport.


Make sure you have a bankcard that you can use to pay for transport to your accommodation (if you have not pre-paid) and to buy food and groceries online. The majority of shops and services in the UK are not acccepting cash so it's very important you have access to online paying facilities. If you have a non-UK bank, check that you can use your card in the UK and what the commission and limits might be. 

Ultimately, having a UK bank account is preferable for living in the UK so you should apply to open a UK bank account as soon as you are in the UK. For some banks, in particular digital banks, you will be able to open an account as soon as you have an address in the UK and could have the process completed by the time you arrive. This however, is not always possible so you should also consider the use of online accounts such as PayPal and Wise which can be used with some supermarkets and services to buy goods online.

More information about banks in the UK is available on the International Support website.

Access to internet and phone

We recommend that you have access to internet and a phone that you can use in the UK. If you are living in UCL accommodation and have completed pre-enrolment, you will be able to access the UCL Wi-Fi. If you live in private accommodation, we suggest you arrange for internet to already be set up or purchase a 4G dongle.

Check your mobile provider to make sure you can use your phone from the UK - for example, you may need to unlock your device in advance if you want to use another SIM card. You may also want to consider getting a GiffGaff SIM card ahead of time to ensure you have a UK number in your first few weeks. More information about GiffGaff can be found on their website.

Bedding and toiletries

As you will have to go straight to your accommodation, you will not be able to stop at shops to buy bedding, towels and toiletries. Either bring some with you or pre-order them so that they are delivered to your accommodation when you arrive. Retailers such as AmazonJohn LewisArgos, Wilko and IKEA might be a good place to start.

Make sure you also have toiletries for at least a few days. While you can buy them online at Boots, SuperdrugAmazon or other online stores, it may take a couple of days before they are delivered.

Food and groceries

When in quarantine you will not be able to go to the shops. You will therefore need to order your food online.

The main shops in the UK that you can buy groceries and toiletries online from are:

Morrison's offer a Student Doorstop Delivery Scheme, where students can order here for a next day delivery slot for just £2, and pay upon delivery. 

The main food delivery companies are Deliveroo, UberEats and JustEat (these may also do some basic grocery shop deliveries for you). Some restaurants will also deliver to your place to support people in quarantine – look on Google Maps for places near where you live.

Healthcare and medications

If you need any medical assistance, please visit the NHS 111 website or call 111.

If you develop coronavirus symptoms you should ask for a test online to find out if you have coronavirus or call the national COVID-19 helpline on 119 to arrange one.

You will also be able to access medications online from BootsSuperdrug, Lloyds Pharmacy and others.

What to do if you are worried about the quarantine requirement

UCL understand these are exceptional circumstances and is offering flexibility for the 2020-21 academic year. If you have a health condition, disability or particular circumstances that make it difficult for you to quarantine for 10-days, or you are worried about your safety and wellbeing on the UCL campus or in London, please contact your department to ask about how your teaching and assessment will be delivered for your specific degree programme  and if you can study remotely from overseas.

Collecting your student card and BRP

Student ID Card:

ID card issue for new students and returning students who require a replacement ID card are issued by appointment only via our ID card booking system.

Once you have booked your appointment and received confirmation, you will be able to collect your ID card from the Andrew Huxley Building

If you cannot attend your appointment for any reason, please ensure you cancel your appointment via the booking system. You can also reschedule your appointment date and time on here. The booking system can be accessed via the confirmation email you would have received when booking your appointment.

You must arrive to your appointment with a face mask, unless you are exempt. For more information about on campus safety and changes, please see the keeping safe around campus webpages.

Please ensure your quarantine period is complete before you arrive on campus to collect your student ID card. 

BRP Card:

UCL is no longer running face-to-face BRP collection appointments. All BRP cards will now be sent to your UK address instead. 

To obtain your BRP once you have arrived in the UK, you will need to login to your Portico account and complete the BRP Postal Service Task. 

In the BRP Postal Task, you will need to do the following:

  • Upload a copy of your stamped 90-day Travel Vignette (the sticker in your passport)
  • Confirm your UK address, email and phone number
  • If you did not receive a stamp in your passport upon your arrival, you will need to also upload a copy of your flight boarding pass which clearly shows your name and the date you arrived in the UK. 

If your BRP is being held at UCL, your BRP will be sent to your via Royal Mail Special Delivery. If your BRP still needs to be printed by UKVI, they will do this and post it to the address that you have provided in UCL's BRP Postal Task. UKVI will use a courier service to send your BRP and will contact you directly with a tracking reference number. 

For any further queries or concerns regarding BRP cards, please contact the Student Immigration Complain Team

Where to find more information, guidance and support

You are strongly advised to read the guidance about traveling to the UK and COVID-19 regulations and regularly check for updates on the UKCISA website, the UCL Coronavirus website and the UK Government website.

The Student Support and Wellbeing team has also put together a range of activities, events and resources to support students during the quarantine period.

The International Student Support team are also running drop-in sessions every Tuesday and Thursday to help you wth any questions you have. 

Leaving the UK - Travel declaration form

If you are planning on leaving the UK, then you will need to fill out the Travel Declaration Form. You can either print it out or save the completed version on your phone. You may be required to show this completed form at the airport/port of departure. 

International students returning to their home country are allowed to leave the UK. For full details, please visit the UK Government website