Heathrow and Gatwick: Latest travel rules for USA, Dubai, South Africa, Japan and Thailand

Summer is just around the corner, with the warmer London weather making everyone keen to get booked up for their next holiday abroad. Whilst many opt for the familiarity of a European holiday, the adventurers among us might be tempted to go a little further afield, where Covid restrictions can be a little more strict.

Travel into the UK is relatively hassle free now that Covid restrictions have eased, with both vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers arriving in England no longer need to complete a passenger locator form or take any Covid test. But, rules are still in place for many foreign countries so it’s important for holidaymakers to be aware of the specific rules in place before boarding your flight.

To save you the trouble of searching every destination individually, MyLondon has rounded up everything you need to know about travelling to the USA, Dubai, South Africa, Japan and Thailand.

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If you’re fully vaccinated, proof of vaccination status and a negative Covid test result taken no more than one day before travel are required to enter the USA, with certain exemptions in place.

Upon arrival, fully vaccinated travellers do not have to quarantine but are recommended to take a viral test within three to five days of arrival in the US. If you have recovered from a documented Covid infection within the past 90 days (regardless of vaccination status) you do not need to get a test three to five days after travel.

If you are travelling domestically within the USA, individual states and territories may have their own quarantine requirements. A full list of local quarantine requirements is available on the CDC website. You should check the list frequently as it is likely to change, sometimes daily, as rates of Covid-19 transmission increase or decrease.

Importantly, whilst it’s not mandatory to wear a face covering in neither Heathrow nor Gatwick, in the USA (and so travelling to) you must wear a mask on aircraft, trains, buses and at airports.


If you are fully vaccinate then, with effect from February 26, travellers to the UAE do not need to take a Covid PCR test before they travel if:

  • They hold a Covid recovery certificate with a QR code dated within 30 days of departure
  • They are under 16 years of age for arrivals in Abu Dhabi or under 12 years of age for arrivals in Dubai
  • They have severe disabilities

If you are arriving in the UAE and not fully vaccinated or do not have a Covid recover certificate, you must still have a negative Covid PCR test, taken no more than 48 hours before departure, and present the certificate at check in.

Travellers arriving in the UAE may be required to take a Covid PCR test on arrival and travellers arriving in Dubai will have to isolate pending the result of the Covid PCR test.

South Africa

If you are fully vaccinated, you do not need to take a coronavirus test to travel to South Africa but will need to present your vaccination certificate during travel and on arrival.

Upon entry to South Africa, unvaccinated people must produce either:

  • A valid certificate of a negative Covid PCR test, which was obtained not more than 72 hours before the date of travel, or
  • A valid certificate of a negative antigen Covid test performed by a medical practitioner, registered health authority or accredited laboratory, obtained not more than 48 hours before the date of departure

Children under 12 years old do not need to present a PCR or antigen test or show proof of vaccination on arrival.


Currently international travellers are still not allowed to enter Japan for any purpose, other than in exceptional circumstances. You can find a description of exceptional circumstances on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. Japan is set to relax these restrictions and reopen their borders for tourists this June, so make sure to stay on top of the latest guidance.

Foreign nationals with Status of Residence who leave or have left Japan with a valid re-entry permit are in principle allowed to re-enter the country. Please note that bookings on some flight routes have been restricted or suspended, and that those without a valid re-entry permit will be denied re-entry.

As part of travelling to Japan, you must take a Covid test within 72 hours before your flight departure time, and obtain proof of a negative result in an approved format. Before disembarkation you must also sign a written pledge that commits you to the quarantine and self-isolation rules and to a number of other requirements and complete an online health questionnaire and obtain a QR code.


If you’re fully vaccinated, from May 1 you can apply to enter Thailand via Thailand Pass and do not need to quarantine. RT-PCR tests before and upon arrival are not required but you must have been fully vaccinated – and be able to provide proof if over the age of 18 – for at least 14 days before your date of travel and the vaccines must be approved by Ministry of Public Health.

If you are not fully vaccinated, you can enter Thailand under the Alternative Quarantine scheme or you can be exempted from quarantine if you have a Covid RT-PCR test result issued no more than 72 hours before departure. If you’re not fully vaccinated but have recovered from Covid and have received at least one dose of approved vaccine, you will need to show medical certificate of recovery in order to enter Thailand.

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