Throughout 2021, England and the rest of the UK have taken a slightly more conservative approach to the second calendar year of the pandemic than the United States. National lockdowns were re-instated right after New Year's and persisted through the entire winter, with non-essential shops and restaurants closed until April and hotels shuttered until May.
Travel to England from the US was technically still allowed, but Americans faced a lengthy quarantine period (10 days, with the option to "test out" after day five) and were required to take multiple tests during their time here.
Essentially, Ye Olde England was Ye Olde Closed.
But that was then and this is now.
With nearly 90% of its adult population having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine jab, England has recently reduced almost all restrictions on social life and—as of August 2nd—is now allowing double-vaccinated Americans to visit without having to quarantine.
My parents flew into England to visit me on August 5th, which was three days after the quarantine requirement was dropped (the trip had been booked for months, so to say we got lucky is an understatement!), so we've just finished a crash course in entry requirements and have now seen firsthand what it's like experiencing England in the current climate.
So what's travel in England like right now? In short, it's still pretty awesome.
First things first, "no quarantine" doesn't mean no rules.
That being said, entry to England from the US is pretty breezy for double vaccinated travelers and basically boils down to having to do three things before you depart:
First, take a COVID-19 test—and test negative—in the three days before you travel to England. Second, book and pay for a COVID-19 test to be taken on or before your second day in England. Third, complete an online passenger locator form.
Then, after you arrive, simply take your pre-booked COVID-19 test on or before your second day in England.
If you're curious, the rules for unvaccinated Americans are the same as the ones that all travelers had to deal with in the spring: they must test negative before departure and then quarantine for 10 days with the option of "testing out" after day five.
It is worth noting that you will also need to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of your return home, but that's the USA's re-entry requirement. So, you are looking at three tests, but only two are required for entry to England. This "return home" test can be any test from an English drug store or even a rapid test at the airport before your return flight.
While taking two tests may sound intimidating and/or confusing, it's really straightforward. All the details on what type of test you need to take before departure can be found here , but rest assured it's nothing fancy, as my parents took theirs at the local CVS.
As far as the test you need to take after you arrive, there are hundreds of approved providers listed on the UK Government's website , some offering onsite testing, others offering mail-in tests at a range of prices.
We went for a different option and had my parents take their "On or Before Day 2" test immediately upon arrival at Manchester Airport with a company called Collinson . At the moment, all major airports in England are offering this service and I can wholeheartedly recommend it.
They found out their results online the very next day and then could fully enjoy their holiday, erm vacation, from that point forward.
Obviously, in the event you were to test positive, you'd have to self-isolate here.
The Fun Stuff
Okay, so with all that technical stuff out of the way, let's talk about the good part, the actual traveling itself.
To the big question that's probably on your mind though: Will you get the "full experience" if you travel to England right now?
The answer: Yes, yes you will.
Everything is open, all restrictions on social life have been dropped, and this past weekend even saw the return of crowds to Premier League soccer games. Masks are now optional but still recommended indoors, on public transportation and in crowded places. In fact, as I write this piece, we are all putting our outfits together to attend the Ebor Festival races at York Racecourse, an event that would have been but a pipedream only a few short months ago.
During the last fortnight, we've gone out for multiple meals, visited countless tourist attractions, ridden scores of trains and basically just had a ball. Honestly, the only thing you would notice different from pre-pandemic life here is the fact that most people are wearing masks in shops and on public transportation and there is hand sanitizer available almost everywhere.
Take it from me, the Yorkshire Dales are as stunning as you remember them. The English Coast is as breathtaking as before. The medieval cathedrals are as enchanting as always and the country houses are as romantic as you recall.
Oh, and the pubs are pouring pints like the good old days.
England is always an amazing destination and one of the best countries to get your feet wet with European travel, so it goes without saying that it's the perfect place for your first post-pandemic trip abroad.
See you soon.