Thursday 28 October 2021

What you need to know before you travel between the Netherlands and the UK

Photo: Josh Hallett/Flickr via Wikipedia

Since the start of August, the coronavirus rules have changed to allow more travel between the UK and the Netherlands. Thousands of people have booked trips to visit friends and family members for the first time in 18 months, or to take a holiday.

However, strict rules on testing and quarantining are still in force on both sides of the border and there are heavy penalties for breaking them.

Many DutchNews.nl readers got in touch to say they found the rules confusing and contradictory. We’ve done our best here to sum up the key points and answer your questions and will try to keep you updated on any changes.

For full details of the two countries’ rules check the relevant web pages for the Dutch government and the British government.

Travelling to the UK

Use the Dutch government’s interactive guide here.

Can I travel to the UK from the Netherlands?

At present, the Netherlands is on the UK’s amber list, meaning travel is allowed with a negative coronavirus test. Travellers vaccinated in the EU no longer need to go into quarantine.

What documents do I need to travel?

A negative coronavirus test (until October 4), a passenger locator form, proof of vaccination (if you have it) and confirmation you have ordered tests to take after you arrive (see below).

You can complete the passenger locator form online in the 48 hours before travelling. You will get a QR code that you can either print off or store on your phone.

From October 4 fully vaccinated travellers will not need to take a coronavirus test before travelling to the UK. You will have to book a lateral flow (antigen) test to take two days after you arrive in England and Scotland. Wales and Northern Ireland still require PCR tests to be taken on day 2.

What tests do I need to take?

If you’re arriving before 4am on October 4 you must take a PCR or antigen test no more than 3 days before travelling and produce a negative test certificate. Otherwise, you risk a £500 fine.

Anyone travelling from the Netherlands before the end of September can book a free test to travel. These tests are also available to visitors from the UK returning home. You don’t need a Dutch DigiD or proof of residency. Free tests booked through the regional health service (GGD) are not valid for travel.

Is my vaccine passport accepted in the UK?

The EU Covid Certificate is recognised by health authorities in all UK nations. Digital or paper versions are acceptable. You must have had all your vaccinations at least 14 days before travelling.

What if I travel through France or Belgium?

France and Belgium are both on the UK’s amber list, so the same rules regarding testing and quarantine apply. After October 4 you will not have to test before departure if you are fully vaccinated.

Belgian testing and quarantine rules only apply to people who spend longer than 48 hours in the country. The Dutch provinces of Flevoland, Friesland and Zuid-Holland are in Belgium’s ‘red zone’. If you’ve been in these provinces in the last 14 days you’ll need to complete a passenger locator form and take a test in the 72 hours before you arrive in Belgium. If you don’t have proof that you’ve been vaccinated for at least 14 days or recovered from Covid-19 in the last 180 days (but more than 11 days ago) you’ll also have to quarantine. Travellers from the rest of the Netherlands only have to complete the form.

If you are entering France you need to show you have been fully vaccinated for at least 7 days (28 days for the Janssen vaccine), recovered in the last 180 days or had a negative PCR or antigen test result in the last 24 hours.

Do I have to quarantine in the UK?

If you have proof that you’ve been fully vaccinated, you do not have to quarantine. You will still need to book and take a test on day 2 (see below). If you don’t have proof of vaccination, you will need to quarantine for 10 days after you arrive. Children under 18 are not required to quarantine.

If you’ve only had one vaccine in the Netherlands because you tested positive for coronavirus in the last six months, you do not count as fully vaccinated under UK rules. A government spokesman told DutchNews: ‘The UK does not recognise natural immunity for international travel at this time.’

The quarantine supervision team will call you on the number you give on the passenger locator form and may visit you to check you are quarantining. The maximum fine for breaking quarantine is £10,000.

Do I have to test after I arrive?

Even if you’re vaccinated, you’ll need to take a test on day 2 and send it away for results. This can be an antigen test if you’re travelling to England or Scotland; Wales and Northern Ireland still require PCR tests. You need to book this test before you leave and state the booking reference on your passenger locator form.

If you haven’t been vaccinated you’ll need to book and take tests on day 2 and 8 – even if you’re leaving before day 8. There’s an optional ‘test to release’ which will allow you to end your quarantine after five days if it’s negative, but you’ll still need to take the day 8 test.

Children aged 11 and over have to take a test before departure (until October 4) and a day 2 test. Children aged 5 to 10 only need to take a day 2 test.

The UK government’s website has a list of approved test providers for travel to England. Also check independent rating sites such as Covid Testing Network.

If you’re travelling to Wales you must book an NHS test through the CTM booking portal. Travellers to Scotland can use the booking portal or the list of approved test providers in England.

Are the travel rules for the UK likely to change?

The UK reviews its colour-coded list every three weeks. The next review is in the first week of October. The decision is based on a combination of infection rates, vaccination rates, variants of concern and how much genomic sequencing a country is doing.

Travelling to the Netherlands

Can I travel to the Netherlands from the UK?

The UK is currently classed as very high-risk, but people who are fully vaccinated are exempt from the ban on travelling to the EU.

There are also exemptions from the ban for people in long-term relationships, essential workers, people travelling for pressing family reasons, and students, researchers or skilled migrants on short visits. You will need documentation to prove this.

If you have had two vaccines, or one vaccine dose and a recent infection, or one dose of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, you will be allowed to enter the Netherlands as long as you had your second vaccine at least 14 days before travelling. For those who had the Janssen vaccine the waiting period is 28 days.

What documents do I need?

If you are fully vaccinated and travelling by plane you will have to fill in a Health Declaration Form stating you do not have Covid-19 symptoms before you leave.

If you are not fully vaccinated you will need to complete a quarantine declaration (see below), even if you are exempt.

If you are not an EU citizen or resident you will need to fill in a Vaccine Declaration Form from the Dutch government website before you travel. This applies to everyone over the age of 12. Unvaccinated children are allowed to travel with their parents, but they still have to take a coronavirus test before departure.

What tests do I need to take?

Either a PCR test no more than 48 hours before departure, or a rapid antigen test (also known as a lateral flow test) taken no more than 24 hours beforehand. An antigen test must be supervised.

Is my vaccine passport accepted in the Netherlands?

The NHS Covid Pass issued in England and Wales and vaccination status letters in Scotland and Northern Ireland, are valid as proof of vaccination at the border. The NHS Covid app is not compatible with Dutch systems, so you will need the paper version.

From September 25 you will need to show a QR code proving you have been vaccinated or tested negative in the last 24 hours when you go to restaurants, bars, sports stadiums, theatres, cinemas and other indoor venues. The NHS Covid Pass is not compatible with the Dutch CoronaCheck app, so the only way for British travellers to obtain a QR code is to book a free test for entry at testenvoortoegang.org.

If you’ve been vaccinated in the UK and live in the Netherlands, the GGD health service in Utrecht can validate NHS certificates. Visit https://www.ggdru.nl/corona or call 0300 800 2899.

What if I travel through France or Belgium?

If you transit straight through (because you travelled via Eurotunnel, for example) the tests taken before you leave the UK will cover you. You are allowed to stop briefly for rest or to fill up your car.

France and Belgium are both code yellow on the Dutch government’s risk scale, so if you’re staying longer in those countries you’ll need proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test result – either a PCR test taken in the last 48 hours or an antigen test from the last 24 hours.

Do I need to quarantine in the Netherlands?

Fully vaccinated travellers no longer have to quarantine in the Netherlands. Others will have to quarantine for 10 days or claim exemption. You can leave quarantine after five days with a negative test result (see below).

There are numerous exemptions from quarantine for cross-border workers and commuters, informal carers and people travelling for funerals. There is also an exemption for ‘necessary family visits’ to first and second-degree family members, i.e. parents, children, brothers and sisters, including step-families and relatives by marriage. The government’s website states: ‘Examples of necessary family visits include reunification with family members after a long period of separation due to the COVID-19 pandemic or a visit to a sick family member.’

If you’re not fully vaccinated you must fill in a quarantine declaration before travelling, either online or on paper. If you are claiming exemption you still need to complete the form and tick the relevant box. The form states that you need to take documents supporting your case, but the government website advises that ‘only a quarantine declaration is necessary’.

Your quarantine address and phone number are passed to the supervision team, who will call you to check you are complying. If you break quarantine you could be fined €339.

Do I have to test after I arrive?

Testing on arrival is not mandatory, but if you’re required to quarantine you can end it early if you test negative on day five. This must be a PCR test. You can book a free test by calling the GGD hotline on 0800 1202 or +31 850 659 063 if you’re calling from abroad. If you have a Dutch DigiD you can book the test online at coronatest.nl.

You are allowed to leave quarantine to take a coronavirus test. This also applies if you are staying for less than five days and need to take a test to travel back.

Are the travel rules for the Netherlands likely to change?

The Dutch public health ministry told DutchNews.nl that the UK would be eligible for reclassification as a ‘high-risk’ country if the infection rate falls to 500 per 100,000 over a two-week period. On September 14 the level was 744, though case numbers have started to come down in recent days. The final decision is at the discretion of the health ministry based on the advice of the public health institute RIVM.

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