I've lived in London for almost 5 years and have travelled back and forth between the United Kingdom and the United States on many occasions. As London is coming back to life, I have been getting questions from friends coming this way on all the cool things to do. Unfortunately, some things aren't as exciting - like figuring out Covid tests, UK phone data, and how to get home from the airport. But someone's gotta do it.
Here we go...
I think it requires a PHD to understand the ever changing nuances of traveling in the age of COVID. This link is helpful to see what's required from the UK.
A few helpful tips:
- My parents only had a printout of their vaccination records to show the airlines when flying from the United States to London, not a "vaccine card" that was required. It delayed them by a day. Even though that card seems like an old school library card, it's what the airlines wanted. Go figure. Read the instructions, reread and over prepare.
- Testing. Check the current guidelines at the link above, but this is what we encountered late November 2021.
For at home tests required on Day 2 after arrival in the United Kingdom, we used Prenetics. Not super user friendly, but it worked. I may or may not have had to take a few deep breaths filling out the paperwork and helping my family with their required tests. I wasn't a fan to be honest, and will probably use Assured next time for in home tests if needed.
For Fit to Fly tests back to the US tests, I like going to the Assured Screening in Kings Cross. I mean, who likes putting a swab up their nose and throat? But if I have to do it, this place is organized and pretty user friendly. So far so good. And if you're a Harry Potter fan and getting a photo opportunity at Platform 9 3/4 is on your bucket list of things to do, it's a quick walk from the test center inside of Kings Cross Station. So is the gorgeous St. Pancras train station, so pretty.
I love booking a driver in advance so that when I arrive, I can head right home. But sometimes I'm delayed in the long lines through immigration, so an Uber or the newer Bolt app are good ways to get to where you are going. Just make sure that you either get on WIFI at the airport or have phone coverage in the UK. See below...
If you're arriving at the International terminal #3, head to level 3 in the car park to meet your Uber. Get there by taking the elevator (they call it a "lift" in the UK) near the Cafe Nero and then walking up the ramp to the parking garage. Of course, things can change so here's the link for where to go.
Talk to your provider in the US and see if you have any ways to get international coverage, even just a little to get you going for a day or so. It's really helpful when you land. You can also purchase a SIM card at a local phone store and get minutes and data and your own phone number while you're in the UK. That's what we do with my mom. We like the EE store at our local mall who did it for us the other day. I like having someone help me in person and the gal did it in minutes. Easy breezy and totally affordable.
I'm going to be honest, I don't like carrying cash. But a few British pounds are helpful when stopping at fresh food markets, tipping, and to use public toilets if you're out and about and desperate to use the loo.
The country is big on contactless credit cards to tap in and out of anything from public transport, to getting your coffee fix. If you don't have a contactless credit card, consider getting one from your bank before coming. It makes things faster and easier.
Let me know what you think of my tips and tricks and if you have other questions... my mom tells me that if I don't make it as an artist, I can be a tour guide. I joke and say that myself and my husband can be Covid Concierges for travel. How about both, Mom? Speaking of which, I'm doing some AirBnB Art and Travel Journal classes if you're interested in getting creative during your time in London. I'll be talking about that in my next post that includes some fun things to do while you're here.
Safe and happy travels.