Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer travel guidance for passengers

Walking, cycling, and travelling in vehicles or on public transport during the coronavirus outbreak.

A new COVID-19 variant is spreading in some parts of England. There may be additional advice for your area. Find out what you need to do.

Safer travel easy read guide

Travel safely during the coronavirus outbreak

You should work from home if you can. If you’re going to travel, plan ahead and travel safely. This means you should:

Help keep yourself, other passengers and transport staff safe by taking the following precautions:

  • maintain social distancing
  • limit the number of people or households that you come into contact with, for example, by avoiding the busiest routes, as well as busy times, such as the rush hour
  • wash or sanitise your hands regularly
  • avoid touching your face
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing
  • travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow
  • only touch surfaces where required for safe travel
  • stay outdoors, rather than indoors, where possible
  • minimise the time spent close to other people, where possible
  • avoid loud talking, shouting or singing
  • dispose of waste safely, including items such as used disposable face coverings

You must wear a face covering on public transport and in substantially enclosed areas of transport hubs in England, unless you are exempt.

You should follow this guidance even if you have been vaccinated, as you could still spread COVID-19 to others. Check the guidance on what to expect after your vaccination.

You must not travel at all if you:

This guidance applies to England only. See:

Travel and coronavirus testing

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you must stay at home while you are waiting for a home self-sampling kit, a test site appointment or a test result. If you need to leave your home to get to a test site, observe strict social distancing advice and return home immediately afterwards.

You may be asked to take a coronavirus test by your employer, at school or at university, even if you are not displaying coronavirus symptoms. If you know you are going to be tested, before you leave home consider how you will travel back home in a way that protects others should you test positive.

If possible, walk, cycle or drive in a private vehicle alone to the test site.

If driving, you should travel by yourself or, if necessary, only with people from your household or support bubble. Follow the guidance on car-sharing.

If you need to use public transport to travel to the test site, you should travel alone or, if necessary, only with people from your household or support bubble. Try to avoid travelling on busy routes or during busy periods, such as rush hour. Follow guidance to keep yourself, other passengers and public transport staff safe.

If you have concerns about travelling back from the testing venue safely should you test positive, discuss this in advance with your employer and arrange to attend a community test centre near your home, or arrange a home test if available. If you are an essential worker, you can use the self-referral portal for testing essential workers.

If students have concerns about travel arrangements should they test positive, they should discuss this with their college or university.

Social distancing

Guidance on meeting friends and family was updated for Step 3 to apply from 17 May. Close contact with friends and family is a personal choice, but you should consider the guidance on risks associated with COVID-19 and actions you can take to help keep yourself and others safe safe.

Social distancing requirements continue to apply:

  • in the workplace
  • in businesses
  • at public venues
  • on public transport

When travelling you should, where possible, stay 2 metres apart or 1 metre apart with mitigations, from people who are not part of your household or support bubble.

Read guidance on:

Meeting and travelling with other people

On all public transport you must travel in groups of no more than 6, or 2 households, unless you are travelling for a reason that is exempt.

You can travel in a group larger than 6 people or 2 households where travel is reasonably necessary to carry out a specific activity. For example, with work, if your employer has organised transport during the course of your work.

Read the guidance on what you can and cannot do for more information about when you can meet in larger groups.

The police will be able to take action against those who break these rules, including asking people to disperse and issuing a fixed penalty notice of £200 for the first offence.

People aged 18 or over can be fined:

  • £200 for the first offence, lowered to £100 if paid within 14 days
  • £400 for the second offence, then doubling for each further offence up to a maximum of £6,400

The rules for how many people can meet indoors and outdoors are different in the other UK nations:

Face coverings

A face covering is a covering of any type that covers your nose and mouth. Surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment (PPE) should be reserved for people who need to wear them at work.

Face coverings are not a substitute for maintaining social distancing and good hand hygiene.

How to wear and make a face covering.

Where you must wear face coverings

It is the law that you must wear a face covering when travelling in England on public transport. Such as, on or in a:

  • bus or coach
  • train or tram
  • ferry or hovercraft or other vessel
  • taxi or private hire vehicle
  • aircraft
  • cable car

You must also wear a face covering in substantially enclosed areas of transport hubs from which passenger services operate. Such as:

  • airports
  • rail stations and terminals
  • the Channel Tunnel terminal in Kent
  • ports and terminals
  • bus, coach and tram stations and terminals

You must also wear a face covering in other indoor settings.

If you do not wear a face covering in these settings you will be breaking the law and could be fined. The fine for a first offence is £200, or £100 if you pay the fine within 14 days.

Repeat offenders receiving fines either on public transport or in an indoor place will have their fines doubled on each subsequent offence up to a maximum value of £6,400. After the first offence, there will be no discount. As an example, receiving a second fine will amount to £400 and a third fine will be £800. A sixth fine and all subsequent fines will be £6,400.

These laws apply while you are in England. If travelling from any other UK nation, you will be required to wear a face covering when you enter England, regardless of the rules in the nation you are transiting from.

Other areas you should wear a face covering

You must also wear a face covering by law in some other public places, unless you have a face covering exemption because of your age or health, or if you have a legitimate reason not to.

You are strongly encouraged to also wear a face covering in other enclosed spaces where it is difficult to maintain social distancing, or where there are people you do not normally meet.

The rules for wearing face coverings are different in the other UK nations:

Face covering exemptions

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering including for health, age or disability reasons.

Government and some operators have produced cards and badges which you can choose to wear to show you are exempt. There is no requirement to do this, though, and if you rely on an exemption, transport staff should not ordinarily ask for evidence.

Some transport staff may also not wear a face covering if it is not required for their job.

When you can remove your face covering

You should remove your face covering if asked to do so by a police officer or other relevant person.

You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to.

Within the public area of a transport hub, passengers are able to remove their face covering in order to eat and drink when seated. They must put their face covering back on once they finish eating or drinking.

It is important to wash or sanitise your hands before and after touching your face covering. Follow the guidance on how to wear and remove a face covering.

Please be mindful that the wearing of a face covering may inhibit communication with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.

Disposing of used face coverings

Use a ‘black bag’ waste bin or litter bin to dispose of face coverings. You should not put face coverings in a recycling bin or drop them as litter.

Walking and cycling

When travelling, walk or cycle if you can.

You should stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre while wearing a face covering.

Your local council can help you plan your journey by providing maps showing dedicated paths and routes.

You must observe social distancing rules while walking or cycling in England.

Where possible, keep a suitable distance from other people. For example, when waiting at crossings and traffic lights. Take precautions where this is not possible.

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands before and after cycling.

Consider making a list of items to take with you.

Private cars and other vehicles

Plan your journey

Plan your route, including any breaks, before setting out.

Download the NHS COVID-19 app, if possible.

Check that your vehicle is safe and roadworthy if you haven’t used it for several weeks.

You should wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people outside your household or support bubble. Take care to use face coverings properly.

Consider making a list of items to take with you.

Car sharing

There are guidelines for travelling in taxis and private hire vehicles.

When car sharing, you should only travel in groups of no more than 6 people, or 2 households, unless you are travelling for a reason that is exempt.

You can protect yourself and those you are sharing a car with by:

  • sharing the car with the same people each time and, where possible, only with members of your household or support bubble
  • minimising the group size at any one time
  • opening windows for ventilation
  • travelling side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow
  • facing away from each other
  • considering seating arrangements to maximise distance between people in the vehicle
  • cleaning your car between journeys using standard cleaning products – make sure you clean door handles and other areas that people may touch
  • asking the driver and passengers to wear a face covering

On your journey

Expect more pedestrians and cyclists, especially at peak times of day. Where possible, allow other road users to maintain social distancing. For example, give cyclists space at traffic lights.

At garages, petrol stations and motorway services, try to keep your distance from other people and, if possible, pay by contactless. Follow guidance on the use of face coverings. Where possible, check in using the NHS COVID-19 app if you enter a venue that has an official NHS COVID-19 QR code poster at the entrance. Alternatively, you can provide your contact details.

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands often, and always when exiting or re-entering your vehicle.

Completing your journey

When finishing your journey, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands as soon as possible.

Public transport

You can use public transport if you need to travel.

You must wear a face covering on public transport and in substantially enclosed areas of transport hubs in England. You will be breaking the law if you fail to do so and could be fined.

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering for health, age or disability reasons.

You should remove your face covering if asked to do so by a police officer or other relevant person.

It is important to wash or sanitise your hands before and after touching your face covering.

If you need to dispose of your face covering, use ‘black bag’ waste bins or litter bins. You should not use a recycling bin.

Plan your journey

Before and during your journey, check with your transport operator for the latest travel advice on your route:

Travel may take longer than normal on some routes due to social distancing measures. Allow more time if your journey involves changes between different forms of transport.

If you can:

  • travel at off-peak times
  • use quieter stations and stops – get off a stop early if it’s less busy
  • keep changes to a minimum, for example, between bus and train
  • walk for more of your journey, for example, the first or last mile
  • book your tickets online in advance or pay by contactless
  • download the NHS COVID-19 app before travelling

Consider making a list of items to take with you and minimise the luggage you take.

On your journey

Even after you have received a vaccine, you should continue to apply safety measures when using public transport.

You must wear a face covering on public transport and in substantially enclosed areas of transport hubs in England. You will be breaking the law if you fail to do so and could be fined.

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering for health, age or disability reasons.

When travelling you should, where possible, stay 2 metres apart or 1 metre apart with mitigations, from people who are not part of your household or support bubble. Travel is permitted in groups of no more than 6 people, or 2 households, unless you are travelling for a reason that is exempt.

Help keep yourself, other passengers and transport staff safe by observing the following precautions:

  • ensure you maintain social distancing, where possible, including at busy entrances, exits, under canopies, bus stops, platforms or outside of stations
  • limit the number of people that you come into contact with, for example, avoid travelling during peak hours
  • wash or sanitise your hands regularly
  • avoid touching your face
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing
  • travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow
  • touch as few surfaces as possible
  • stay outdoors, rather than indoors, where possible
  • minimise the time spent close to other people, where possible
  • avoid loud talking, shouting or singing
  • dispose of waste safely, including items such as used disposable face coverings
  • be prepared to queue or take a different entrance or exit at stations
  • wait for passengers to get off first before you board
  • wait for the next service if you cannot safely keep your distance on board a train, bus or coach
  • avoid consuming food and drink on public transport, where possible
  • respect other people’s space while travelling
  • be aware of pregnant, older and disabled people who may require a seat or extra space
  • be aware that not all disability is visible and some people may be exempt from wearing a face covering
  • where possible, check in using the NHS COVID-19 app if you enter a venue that has an official NHS COVID-19 QR code poster at the entrance – alternatively, you can provide your contact details

Treat transport staff with respect and follow instructions from your transport operator. This may include:

  • notices about which seats to use or how to queue
  • additional screens, barriers or floor markings
  • requests to board through different doors or to move to less busy areas

Transport support services for disabled people

All transport support services for disabled people are still available. You can contact providers in advance to understand the COVID-secure measures they have put in place to keep you safe on your journey. For more information, check your rights as a disabled passenger before you travel.

Seek assistance if you need it

If you require assistance when travelling, contact your transport operator as you would normally do.

If any problems arise or you feel ill during your journey, speak to a member of transport staff. In the case of an emergency, contact the emergency services as you normally would.

If you need help, try to keep a suitable distance from members of staff. If this isn’t possible, try to avoid physical contact and keep the time you spend near staff as short as possible.

Children

Where travel is necessary, consider whether children could walk or cycle, accompanied by a responsible adult or carer, where appropriate.

Social distancing applies to children as well as adults. Children should keep their distance from people who are not in their household or support bubble while on public transport and in enclosed or substantially enclosed public areas of transport hubs.

If this isn’t possible, children should:

  • avoid physical contact
  • face away from others
  • keep the time spent near others as short as possible

Children under the age of 3 should not wear face coverings. Children aged from 3 to 10 can wear face coverings, but they are not required to.

If you are the responsible adult or carer travelling with children, help them to:

  • minimise the surfaces they touch
  • maintain their distance from others
  • wear their face covering
  • wash their hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise their hands as soon as possible after the end of your journey

Where relevant, consider travel guidance for educational settings.

Completing your journey

When finishing your journey:

  • consider walking or cycling from the station or stop you arrived at
  • wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands as soon as possible – do the same for children who have travelled with you

Taxis and private hire vehicles

If you are travelling by taxi, aside from the driver, it is advisable to limit who you travel with to people in your household or support bubble. You can travel in a group of up to 6 people from a number of households or a group of any size from no more than 2 households unless you are travelling for a reason that is exempt.

Even after you have received a vaccine, you should continue to apply safety measures, by wearing a face covering and adhering to social distancing guidance, when using taxis or private hire vehicles.

You must wear a face covering when using taxis or private hire vehicles. You will be breaking the law if you fail to do so and could be fined. A taxi driver or private hire vehicle operator will be entitled to refuse to accept you if you do not wear a face covering, unless you are exempt from this requirement.

You should stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre while wearing a face covering.

Follow the advice of the operator and driver. For example, you may be asked to sit in the back left-hand seat if travelling alone. You may want to check with your taxi or private hire operator before travelling if they have put any additional measures in place.

You should use contactless payment if possible, or find out if you can pay online in advance.

Be aware of the surfaces you touch. Be careful not to touch your face. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing.

When finishing your journey, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands as soon as possible.

Aviation, ferries and maritime transport

You must wear a face covering when travelling on a ferry, hovercraft (or other passenger vessel) or aircraft in England.

This applies:

  • in airspace over England, when you are on board an aircraft that took off from, or is to land at, a place in England
  • in the English territorial sea, when you are on board a vessel that departed from, or is to dock at, a place in England

You must also wear a face covering at airports, as well as at ports and terminals used by vessels providing a public transport service.

If you do not wear a face covering in these settings, you will be breaking the law and could be fined.

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering for health, age or disability reasons.

It is important to wash or sanitise your hands before and after touching your face covering.

Download the NHS COVID-19 app, if possible.

Plan your journey

Before you travel, check with your travel operator and port, or airline and airport for the latest travel advice on your route.

There is specific guidance for:

Consider making a list of items to take with you.

On your journey

Even after you have received a vaccine, you should continue to apply safety measures by wearing a face covering and adhering to social distancing guidance.

You should stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre while wearing a face covering.

Be aware of the surfaces you touch. Be careful not to touch your face. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing.

Be considerate to your fellow passengers and to transport staff:

Treat transport staff with respect and follow instructions from your transport operator. This may include:

  • notices about which seats to use or how to queue
  • additional screens, barriers or floor markings
  • requests to board through different doors or to move to less busy areas

Where possible, check in using the NHS COVID-19 app if you enter a venue that has an official NHS COVID-19 QR code poster at the entrance. Alternatively, you can provide your contact details.

Completing your journey

When finishing your journey, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds or sanitise your hands as soon as possible.

Travelling abroad

You can leave England to travel internationally but you should check which countries are on the red, amber and green lists for entering England before travelling abroad.

If you have received 2 doses of a vaccine you may be able to demonstrate your vaccination status depending on which country you are travelling to.

Different rules apply in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

If you are traveling internationally, even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules and public health advice at your destination and the FCDO travel advice.

Entry restrictions

There are restrictions in place on travel to some countries and what you can do when you are there. For example, you may need proof of a negative COVID-19 test to travel to some countries.

Before you travel, you should:

Also read the following guidance:

Check your specific plans with your airline, ferry, train operator and accommodation provider. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to get travel insurance and check it provides sufficient cover.

Your transport provider may put measures in place to help you follow the public health guidance of the destination country.

Travelling to England from abroad

There are things you need to do before you travel to, and after you arrive in England. These depend on where you have been in the 10 days before you arrive. These include:

  • completing a passenger locator form
  • COVID-19 testing
  • quarantine

Before travelling you should read the rules for entering England.

Travelling within the UK

Travelling to England

You can enter England from other parts of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. This is known as the Common Travel Area. However, there may be restrictions in place in the area you intend to travel from which prevent you from travelling. For example, if you are in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, there may be restrictions on movement which means you cannot travel to England.

You should check the restrictions in place where you intend to travel from before making arrangements to travel. If you do travel to England, you must follow the restrictions on what you can and cannot do until you arrive in England.

Travelling from England

You may leave England to travel to other parts of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. However, there may be restrictions in place in the area you intend to travel to which prevent you from travelling. You may only be able to travel for certain reasons, such as work. You should check the restrictions in place at your intended destination before making arrangements to travel.

Read the guidance for:

Exemptions – people who do not have to wear a face covering on public transport and in substantially enclosed areas of transport hubs

The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to:

  • a child under the age of 11
  • passengers in an allocated cabin, berth or other similar accommodation, when they are alone or with members of their household or support bubble
  • passengers who remain in their private vehicle while on board public transport, for example, on a car ferry
  • a person who enters or is within a transport hub in a vehicle (other than a vehicle being used for the provision of a public transport service)
  • an employee of the transport hub or the relevant public transport operator, when they are acting in the course of their employment
  • any other person providing services to the transport hub or public transport operator, under arrangements made with the transport hub or transport operator, who is providing those services
  • a constable or police community support officer acting in the course of their duty
  • an emergency responder such as a paramedic or fire officer acting in the course of their duty
  • an official, for example, a border force officer, acting in the course of their duties

Legitimate reasons not to wear a face covering

You also do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to. This includes:

  • if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with, or providing help to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • if you are travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • if you need to remove it during your journey to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
  • if you need to eat, drink, or take medication on public transport
  • if you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other official, for example, to check your railcard
  • in other situations set out in further government face covering guidance

Enforcement of face coverings on public transport and in substantially enclosed areas of transport hubs

You are not allowed to get on public transport or enter substantially enclosed areas of transport hubs if you are not wearing a face covering, unless you have an exemption or a legitimate reason for not wearing one. Transport staff may tell you not to board or ask you to get off.

If you refuse to wear a face covering, you can receive a fine from the police or Transport for London enforcement officers. The fixed penalty notice will require you to pay £200, which is reduced to £100 if paid within 14 days.

Repeat offenders receiving fines either on public transport or in an indoor place will have their fines doubled on each subsequent offence up to a maximum value of £6,400. After the first offence, there will be no discount. As an example, receiving a second fine will amount to £400 and a third fine will be £800. A sixth fine and all subsequent fines will be £6,400.

Checklists for safer travel

Plan your journey

  • can you walk or cycle to your destination?
  • have you checked the latest travel advice from your transport operator?
  • have you booked your travel ticket online, bought a pass or checked if contactless payment is possible?
  • have you planned your journey to minimise crowded areas and allow for delays?
  • are you taking the most direct route to your destination?
  • have you downloaded the NHS COVID-19 app, if you have a smartphone?

What to take with you

  • a face covering – for longer journeys, take more than one face covering and a plastic bag for used face coverings
  • a plan for the journey
  • tickets, contactless payment card or pass
  • phone, if needed for travel updates, tickets, contactless payments
  • hand sanitiser
  • essential medicines
  • tissues

Guidance for transport operators

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer transport guidance for operators

Published 12 May 2020
Last updated 3 June 2021 + show all updates
  1. Added updated easy read version of the guidance.

  2. Update to reflect roadmap out of lockdown.

  3. Added updated easy read version of the guidance.

  4. Added travel and coronavirus testing information.

  5. Travel restrictions update to reflect roadmap out of lockdown.

  6. Link to declaration form for international travel from England added.

  7. Information about new testing, self-isolation and quarantine rules from 15 February.

  8. Requirement for coronavirus testing to travel to England.

  9. Added translation

  10. Added information about coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for people travelling to England.

  11. Added national lockdown information.

  12. Tier 4 local restriction information added.

  13. Updated Christmas travel guidance.

  14. Self-isolation period on arrival in UK changed from 14 days to 10 days.

  15. Added translations of local restriction tiers information.

  16. Local restriction tiers information updated.

  17. Local restriction tiers information added.

  18. Added translation

  19. National restrictions information added.

  20. Added information on local COVID alert levels.

  21. Adding instructions about using the NHS COVID-19 app.

  22. Updated Easy Read guidance to reflect latest rules on social contact and face coverings.

  23. Fines for not wearing a face covering on public transport or in enclosed areas of transport hubs have increased.

  24. Update to reflect new legislation on social contact and the requirement for passengers to wear face coverings in taxis and private hire vehicles.

  25. Easy read version of the guidance added.

  26. Added information on areas with local restrictions.

  27. Change to rule on wearing a face covering in transport hubs.

  28. Latest advice on using transport and information on upcoming changes to face covering rules in shops and supermarkets

  29. Added information about travelling into, out of and within areas under local lockdown.

  30. Linking to the list of countries and territories on the travel corridors exemption list.

  31. Social distancing guidance updated.

  32. Updated to reflect the upcoming requirement for passengers to wear face coverings on public transport in England.

  33. Added details of how people with coronavirus symptoms can arrange to have a test to see if they have COVID-19.

  34. Addition of text 'You should be prepared to remove your face covering if asked to do so by police officers and police staff for the purposes of identification.'

  35. First published.