What are the new rules for travel between Sweden and the UK?

What are the new rules for travel between Sweden and the UK?
People in the arrivals area at Heathrow Airport in London in January 2021. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham
Are people allowed to travel between Sweden and the UK? Do you have to be vaccinated? What do the UK's new quarantine rules actually mean? We've tried to answer some of these questions.

Are people in Sweden warned against travelling to the UK?

No (-ish). The Swedish Foreign Ministry’s advisory against non-essential travel was lifted for the UK and a series of other countries earlier this year. The advisory itself was never legally binding, but could have implications on the validity of travel insurance.

This does not mean travel to the UK is encouraged. Even if travelling to countries exempt from the warning, the Foreign Ministry advises making a risk assessment, reading up on local Covid-19 rules, and planning for the trip home well in advance.

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What do the new rules on arriving in the UK mean?

Up to this point people coming from amber list countries like Sweden had to complete a 10-day quarantine when arriving in the UK and pay for expensive PCR tests that had to be taken on day two and day eight. But as of August 2nd, people who are fully vaccinated in the EU and the US no longer need to quarantine when arriving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from an amber list country (fully vaccinated here means that you need to have received your second dose at least two weeks before arriving), although they still need to pay for and take the day two test. Children aged under 18 do not have to quarantine even if they are not vaccinated.

This follows a decision earlier in July that allowed people vaccinated in the UK under the NHS system to avoid quarantine if coming from amber countries.

Note that your vaccine must be approved by the European Medicines Agency or US Food and Drug Administration. These include Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson (also known as Janssen).

Also note that travellers will still need to take either an antigen or PCR test before departing for the UK and a PCR test on or before the second day after they arrive. In Sweden, tests and travel certificates for overseas travel are only issued by private companies. Expect to pay around 800-1,750 kronor for a PCR test and 400-800 kronor for an antigen test. When booking, make sure the company offers travel certificates.

The test for arriving in the UK has to meet the performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml. Children aged 10 and under do not need to take a test before travelling to the UK, and children aged 4 and under are exempt from tests after arrival, while children aged 5-17 still need to take a test on or before the second day after arrival. There are also some other exemptions for tests – for example if you are going to the UK for urgent medical treatment.

Everyone arriving from Sweden has to register with the passenger locator form.

If you are not fully vaccinated, you will need to quarantine for 10 days and take another test on the eighth day.

Click the following links to read more about travelling to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Are people allowed to travel from the UK to Sweden?

There is currently a ban in place on travel to Sweden from most non-EU countries, and this includes the UK. Unlike many other countries, Sweden’s entry ban does not differentiate between non-vaccinated and vaccinated travellers, so being fully vaccinated does not make a difference in terms of your rights to enter Sweden.

There are however exemptions in place, so people who live in Sweden or are travelling for certain purposes including urgent family reasons (these are defined narrowly, so simply wishing to visit family is not enough) and vital work can still enter Sweden.

Some categories of travellers may also need to show a negative Covid-19 test to be allowed entry, although there are exceptions to this too (for example for residents).

The entry ban is currently in place until at least August 31st.

What are the rules after arriving in Sweden from the UK?

If you fit the criteria for entering Sweden from the UK, there are still some rules and recommendations you need to be aware of. Swedish public health guidance states that unless you are fully vaccinated (in this case your vaccination status plays a role) you are supposed to self-isolate for seven days after your arrival, regardless of the results of your Covid-19 tests. If you are fully vaccinated and received your second dose at least two weeks before arriving in Sweden, you are exempt from this recommendation.

If you arrive in Sweden from the UK, you are also supposed to take a Covid-19 test as soon as possible after arriving if you did not have to take one before your journey. You should also take a second test on the fifth day, even if you do not have symptoms. These recommendations are currently in place until at least August 31st.

If you are fully vaccinated and received your second dose at least three weeks before arriving in Sweden, you are exempt from this recommendation (but should still get tested if you develop symptoms). Note the different timespan for the exemption to the testing recommendation and the self-isolation recommendation.

You should also make sure you are aware of Sweden’s recommendations to curb the spread of Covid-19. Many of the restrictions for private individuals no are not legally enforced, but it’s important to know they are not considered optional. That includes keeping a distance from others; meeting people outside rather than inside if possible and avoiding large gatherings; staying at home and isolating if you develop symptoms consistent with Covid-19; and avoiding places where there is a risk of crowding.

You can read more about Sweden’s current rules HERE.

What about driving to the UK from Sweden?

Make sure you read up on all countries’ rules along the way. One thing that’s throwing a spanner in the works is that France is currently on the “amber plus” list, which means people travelling via France still have to quarantine for 10 days even if fully vaccinated.

In the other direction, Sweden does not have any restrictions on travel from the Nordic countries, including Denmark, however you will want to make sure that you read up on the various rules and entry restrictions in the countries you will be travelling through.

What else should I be aware of when travelling to Sweden?

Be aware that the rules can change quickly. Sweden’s infection and hospitalisation rates are currently low compared to previously, but some regions including Stockholm have been showing recent signs of an upturn in cases again. Here are a few websites you may find helpful:

KrisInformation is a service collecting information around crises from Swedish authorities, and has an English-language section dedicated to the pandemic.

The Public Health Agency publishes new figures regarding the number of cases, deaths, and intensive care patients Tuesday-Friday at 2pm. The Public Health Agency also publishes information about current health and safety recommendations, although the English-language section sometimes takes a while to update.

The Swedish Police Authority has a web page dedicated to frequently asked questions about Sweden’s entry restrictions. The Local has found this is usually up to date.

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