When you’re ready to travel to the UK from the USA here’s what you must know before you go.
As a US citizen you’re entitled to stay in the UK for up to 6 months without a visa as a tourist or visitor but you’ll need an up to date passport to pass through customs in the US and UK. Travel requirements are changing frequently so please check the links I’ve provided to make sure you get the most up to date information before you travel.
If you’re traveling to England from the US for the first time, I’ve written about my best tips here. Ready to go? Let’s get started!
1. Visa and Border requirements to enter the UK
- As a tourist you can stay up to 6 months in the UK without a visa.
- With some business or academic activities you won’t need a visa, but…
- If you plan to work in the UK you must have a work visa. Check to see if you need a visa to work in the UK
- As a student you can stay for up to 6 months without a visa; longer than 6 months you’ll need a Student visa.
- If you have a criminal record or have previously been denied entry you should apply for a Standard Visitor visa
- More information on Work, Student and Standard Visitor Visas.
2. Passport requirements to enter the UK
- You must have a current passport that will remain valid for the entire length of your stay
- Once you arrive in the UK, you’ll show your passport at airport border control
- Travelers from the US may use the automatic ePassport gates (with a few exceptions)
- Wales, Scotland and N Ireland are all part of the UK, entry requirements are the same
3. Travel to the UK from USA *COVID Requirements
Until further notice please note these additional requirements for US citizens traveling to the UK
1. Passenger locator form *COVID
- You’re required to fill in a passenger locator form before arriving in the UK
- Fill out the form online with your passport details, travel times and dates, the address where you’re staying, booking reference # for your COVID test to be taken after arrival and vaccination status
- Each adult traveling must fill out a separate form, children under age 18 may be included on parents form (in Scotland under age 16)
- Call for help or questions: 08006781767 (in UK Free) or 0044 207 113 0371 (outside UK Toll call)
2. Vaccination requirements for traveling from the USA to the UK *COVID
For Fully Vaccinated Travelers
- Book and pay for a COVID-19 test to take before end of Day 2 of your arrival. Test can be lateral flow or PCR
- Complete a Passenger locator form
- Check here for additional information on requirements
- You must be fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine. Check here for approved vaccines.
For Un-vaccinated Travelers
- Before you travel to England, you’ll need to take a COVID-19 test in the 3 days before you travel
- Book and pay for Day 2 and Day 8 COVID-19 PCR tests to be taken after arrival
- Complete a passenger locator form
- When you arrive you must quarantine at home or where you’re staying for 10 full days
- Take Day 2 and Day 8 tests, with day of arrival being O
- Check here for full requirements
4. Traveling to the UK from USA : what you can bring
When you bring goods from the US for your personal use or that you’re gifting, you don’t have to pay UK customs tax or duty.
If you’re bringing in any commercial goods, you must declare them. They’ll be subject to tax and duty charges. These types of goods must be declared before crossing the UK border.
More information on what’s allowed or how to declare your goods online.
5. Carry-on Baggage Screening by TSA
Before you board your flight to the UK your carry on will be pre-screened by TSA at the airport security checkpoint.
– Place all electronic devices larger than a cell phone separately into a bin
– Follow instructions by TSA personnel when it comes to removing shoes, belts, coats etc.
– Food and snacks may be left in bag except for liquids. Liquid rules here.
– TSA screening rules explained.
6. Luggage Allowances for Travel to UK
Checked Bag Allowance
Luggage allowances for international travel will vary depending on the class of ticket, and whether you’re eligible for an upgrade through a frequent flier or credit card program.
- Average checked bag allowed:
- Size: 62 in/158 cm = total of width + height +length
- Weight of checked bag: 50 lbs./23 kg
Carry On Bag Allowance
- 1 personal Item like a purse or laptop bag, not to exceed 18 x 14 x 8”
- 1 carry on bag not to exceed 22 x 14 x 9”
- Carry on details from American Airlines
7. Ground transportation in the UK
Most international flights arriving from the US are overnight flights landing at UK airports during morning hours. Heathrow and Gatwick airports handle the majority of US arrivals.
Heathrow airport is closest to London: about an 1- 1.5 hour drive and 18 miles west of the center of London (Westminster)
Gatwick airport lies south of London: about 1.5 hour drive and 30 miles
Ground transportation options include private taxi service, rental car or public transportation.
London Heathrow Airport
Best routes into London using public transportation
Heathrow Express – underground train to London Paddington station from Terminals 2,3 & 5
Driving and Parking at Heathrow
Taxis and Mini Cabs
RAIL: there is no direct rail/train service to Heathrow other than Heathrow Express underground service
London Gatwick Airport
Best routes into London using public transportation
Gatwick Express – faster more direct trains from Gatwick station to London stations however service is suspended until further notice.
Driving and Parking at Gatwick
Taxis at Gatwick
RAIL: Gatwick Airport has a dedicated rail station minutes from the terminal. Make connections from here to anywhere in the UK
Once you’ve arrived you’ll want to check out the capital city, London. Here’s my recommendations for getting around central London but if you want to venture further than the capital city, one of the best ways to see the country is by train.
London makes an ideal base for taking a cheeky day trip to explore the country and get the full experience of all this lovely country has to offer and yes you can do it all by train!