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Heading to the UK? Here's what you need to know to make it easy as 'one, two, tea'

If you or your clients are bound for Blighty, then this article, written by James Hewlett from Collette, will be super helpful in giving you the lowdown on what you need to know and do in order for the trip to be as smooth as possible.

If you or your clients are bound for Blighty, then this article, written by James Hewlett from Collette, will be super helpful in giving you the lowdown on what you need to know and do in order for the trip to be as smooth as possible.

Bound for Blighty? Here’s an outline of the steps taken on my recent and long-awaited visit home to the UK.

Please note, I’m sharing this purely as an industry colleague so please make sure you do your own research specific to your trip and look at the very latest info, which we all know can change in a day.

So with the disclaimer ticked, here’s how it was for me:

Prepare for process & precision

To Do List

Understandably, the days of spontaneous travel and doing anything ‘just in time’ are definitely on pause for now.

Everyone really does need a travel advisor as the process is exhausting and precision is imperative.

Here’s my list of suggestions (as of 2 February):

Prior to departure from Australia

Digital Passport
  • Passport – if you have dual nationality its very helpful to use an Australian passport as the primary passport for exiting and entering Australia. Vaccination information is easily linked and of course we have seen rules change so fast, it also makes sense to know you can (most likely) get back.
  • Complete your UK locator information – this will need your dates and itinerary/addresses.
  • Must download apps on your phone include:
    1) Medicare
    2) IATA travel Pass – limited airlines & needs improvement but worthwhile
    3) Australian Travel Declaration (ATD)
  • Click here for your Public Health Passenger Locator Form (PLF)
  • Get the international vaccine certificate linked to Medicare and then on-share to the IATA travel pass.
  • Download your international vax certificate to your phone and take a printed copy too. You’ll need to enter vaccine dates onto the ATD later – among other info.

If you’re arriving before 11 February, book your RAT to be delivered to a UK address you have confidence in collecting it at.

This has to be ordered from an approved listed company and will be delivered to your chosen address. You’ll then need to do the test and upload an image of the result.

Get good travel insurance. You might want to check out this article for more information.

At all airports

Heathrow Airport
  • Make sure your phone is always charged & connected to Wi-fi. Simple but necessary.
  • Carry a mini hand sanitizer in hand luggage. Use liberally.
  • Bring a comfortable mask for your long flights to the UK. Yes, crew will wake you up if it isn’t worn correctly whilst sleeping.

On arrival in the UK

Vapour Trails above the English Countryside

Hello jetlag, it’s been a while!

  • Get a RAT (Brits use ‘lateral flow test or LFT’) – free from a pharmacy before seeing loved ones. I suggest they do the same before that long-awaited embrace. Here we move from tick-box need to the reality of avoiding getting sick or infecting loved ones.
  • Take your pre-ordered RAT and submit the result (this will be unnecessary after 11 February)
  • Continue taking RATs daily – they’re free, easy, and its crucial information you need to know to get ahead or act appropriately.

Whilst I admit the downside is that sticking a pointy swab on your tonsils daily does lead to feeling like you have a sore throat and slight paranoia.

Planning to return to Australia


I flew Qantas who very helpfully, provided SMS messages to prompt actions along the way.

Currently, the two essential steps are:

  • Book a PCR (to be taken within 3 days of departure from the UK) or professionally administered RAT (within 24hrs) of departure. Loads of choices in location. I went for a drive through PCR next day result for GBP56– be aware that these actually are only guaranteed within 48hrs. Of course price increases significantly with urgency. Results are sent via email.
  • Australian Travel Declaration – complete info on the App at least three days prior to flight departure to get a green ‘assessed’.

Note that neither of these can currently link to the IATA travel pass (i.e. you cannot upload the negative result or ATD to the IATA pass) so slightly unnerving that you’ll never get a green ‘OK to Travel’ until you show your proof of these on your phone to the courteous team at LHR T3.

So, unfortunately, the IATA Travel Pass is great going out and no use coming home.


Yes, you must present your vaccine certificate, negative result certificate and proof of ATD before you get to the check-in desk.

Board and breathe

Confused which way

Even for someone with a few years’ travel experience, it’s a maze of new processes, acronyms, deadlines and rules.

Relax and enjoy the on-board service having jumped the hoops as required and completed a myriad of online forms but ideally and more importantly, remained Covid-free.

Arrival Revival

Sydney International Airport

Once you’re back in Australia, you’ll delete 20-30 emails from various organisations you’ve connected with simply to have fulfilled the requirements.

The final step is to do the right thing for the health of yourself others, take a RAT whilst at the airport – for sure one of the free ones packed in the UK for the purpose of being a responsible traveller.

Of course, the return of a positive test at any point would mean a whole new experience.

The value of travel

Historic Horsham

If you’re still reading this, you’ve been through the toughest times in the history of the travel industry, are still keen to learn and are still curious.

If you’ve got out there already, brilliant! If you’re wondering, go!

As an industry, we must go, learn and reacquaint ourselves with both the how and the why of travel.

Personally, I found new appreciation from taking extra photos (yes, Britain in late January is beautiful!) and truly savouring encounters.

Whilst it may be more challenging, the rewards of travel are even more precious.