Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on travel and transport

Published: 20 Nov 2020
Last updated: 26 Nov 2020 - see all updates

Guidance on travel rules and restrictions and protection levels, including information on essential travel.

20 Nov 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on travel and transport

To suppress the spread of COVID-19 it is essential that, with limited exceptions, there is no travel to or from areas where higher numbers of people may be carrying the virus. 

On 20 November travel restrictions were put into law. 

If people don’t abide by the travel restrictions there is a risk that the virus will spread to areas where it is less common and we may have to return to national restrictions.

To avoid that, to keep everyone safe, please comply with the rules and advice set out below.

Read the guidance for the festive period

International travel (outside the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man)

Travellers arriving in Scotland from certain countries and regions overseas may be required, by law, to quarantine by self-isolation for 14 days after arrival. See the list of countries to which this applies. The list is reviewed frequently against the evidence available and it changes from time to time.

If you travel back from a country, to which the quarantine rule applies, to another part of the UK, but your final destination is Scotland, you must follow the rules that are in place in Scotland. 

People who live in a Level 3 or 4 local authority area in Scotland are now required to stay in that area unless they have a reasonable excuse to travel, such as work, education, or welfare reasons – see travelling around Scotland.

Going on holiday, including abroad, is not a reasonable excuse to leave a level 3 or 4 area. If it has been announced that your local authority area is about to move into either Level 3 or 4 please do not then travel overseas for non-essential reasons such as a holiday. Those who are already overseas can continue with their holiday or travel as planned.

More generally, given the state of the pandemic, people who live in Scotland are strongly advised against any non-essential overseas travel.

People who live in a Level 0 – 2 local authority area can still travel overseas including by travelling through a Level 3 or 4 area by road or public transport, or to reach an airport, railway station or ferry or coach terminal. However, if you do travel, you should be aware that, as the list of countries and regions to which the quarantine rules applies changes frequently, you may be required to self-isolate when you return even if your destination is currently exempt from the requirement to self-isolate.

It is vital that before travelling overseas you check the rules in place in that country and you are advised to check that your insurance policy provides cover for cancellations.    

Travelling around Scotland

If you live or work anywhere where there are protective measures in place – at whatever level – you should not travel to another area to avoid them.

If you live in a Level 4 local authority area you should:

  • you must, by law, remain within that area unless you have a reasonable excuse (see exceptions)
  • you should also keep journeys within the area to an absolute minimum
  • if you have to travel for essential purposes, you should follow the guidance on travelling safely

If you live in a Level 3 local authority area you should:

  • you must, by law, remain within that area unless you have a reasonable excuse (see exceptions)
  • if you have to travel for essential purposes, you should follow the guidance on travelling safely 

If you live in a Level 0, 1, or 2 area in Scotland, or are considering travel to Scotland from anywhere else, you should:

  • you should minimise unnecessary journeys between areas in different levels
  • you must, by law, avoid any unnecessary travel to places in Level 3 or Level 4 areas
  • if you have to travel for essential purposes, you should follow the guidance on travelling safely

You can find out which parts of Scotland are in Levels 3 and 4 via our postcode checker

Travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man

Restrictions and advice on what you can do and where you can travel are also in place within England, Wales and Northern Ireland and in the other territories in the Common Travel area, the Republic of Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

Under current Scottish regulations, given the state of the epidemic in these countries, unless you have a reasonable excuse (see exceptions) you must not travel between Scotland and:

  • England
  • Northern Ireland
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Wales

This applies to people who live in Scotland and to people who live in any of these countries who are thinking of coming to Scotland. 

These rules will be kept under review and if the prevalence of the virus in all, or part of, any of these countries reduces it may be possible to relax these restrictions for some areas.

If you do travel for essential purposes is vital that you also check the rules in the country you are travelling to as the law may be different there.

Check the latest rules and guidance in place in each country in the Common Travel Area:

Rules may change as the virus spreads or is suppressed in different areas, and as the rules and guidance which are in place there changes. Please check the applicable rules and guidance before starting any journey.  

If you have to travel for essential purposes, follow the guidance on travelling safely


The regulations prohibit travel without a reasonable excuse into or out of a Level 3 or 4 local authority area, or to or from other parts of the Common Travel Area. The regulations list a range of different things for which travel is permitted. Guidance on those is set out below. But please remember that it is important for everyone’s safety that we all minimise such travel as much as possible.

  • travel for work or an activity associated with seeking employment, or to provide voluntary or charitable services, but only where that cannot be done from your home
  • travel to school (including travel to or from boarding school), college, or university (for example to or from home at the start or end of term)  This includes travel for home education, training, school day trips or for other essential purposes connected with a course of study
  • (to and from Level 3 local authority areas but not Level 4) travel for under 18s organised activities and sport
  • travel for essential shopping, including essential shopping for a vulnerable person. However, you should use online shopping or shops, banks and other services in your local authority area wherever you can. In Level 3, a person who lives next to a local authority boundary can cross that boundary for non-essential shopping if that retail outlet is in the immediate vicinity of where they live
  • travel for healthcare
  • travel for childcare or parental support services
  • travel for essential services, including:
    • social care
    • accessing day care centres
    • services provided by the Department for Work and Pensions
    • services provided to victims (including victims of crime)
    • asylum and immigration services and interviews
    • services of a charitable or voluntary nature such as food banks
    • waste or recycling services but only if they are not available in your local authority area
  • travel to provide care, assistance, support to or respite for a vulnerable person
  • travel to participate in or facilitate shared parenting or between two parts of an extended household
  • travel to meet a legal obligation including satisfying bail conditions, to participate in legal proceedings, to comply with a court mandate in terms of sentence imposed or to register a birth
  • travel for attendance at court including a remote jury centre, an inquiry, a children’s hearing, tribunal proceedings or to resolve a dispute via Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • travel for essential animal welfare reasons, such as exercising or feeding a horse or going to a vet
  • local outdoor informal exercise such as walking, cycling, golf, or running (in groups of up to 6 people, plus any children under 12, from no more than 2 households) that starts and finishes at the same place (which can be up to 5 miles from the boundary of your local authority area)
  • in Level 3 travel to attend a gathering which relates to a marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration
  • in Level 4 travel to attend a marriage ceremony or registration of a civil partnership
  • travel for gatherings related to funerals or for compassionate reasons which relate to the end of a person’s life. This includes gatherings related to the scattering of ashes
  • travel to or from a level 3 area (but not to or from a level 4 area) for the purposes of driving lessons or taking a driving test
  • if you are a minister of religion or worship leader, travel for the purposes of leading an act of worship
  • (to or from Level 3 local authority areas, but not to or from Level 4) travel to attend your normal place of worship
  • travel to donate blood
  • travel to transit through a Level 3 or 4 local authority area by road or public transport if your journey begins and ends outside such an area;
  • travel in connection with moving home (including viewing a property), or for activities in connection with the maintenance, purchase, sale, letting, or rental of residential property that the person owns or is otherwise responsible for.
  • travel to avoid injury, illness or to escape a risk of harm
  • for those involved in professional sports, travelling to training or competing in an event
  • to visit a person receiving treatment in a hospital, staying in a hospice or care home, or to accompany a person to a medical appointment
  • travel to register or vote in an Scottish or UK Parliament, Local Government or overseas election or by-election, including on behalf of someone else by proxy
  • travel to visit a person detained in prison, young offenders institute, remand centre, secure accommodation or other place of detention

Travelling safely

Transport Scotland has produced guidance on travelling safely in all forms of transport. Where possible you should consider walking, wheeling or cycling, if you can, to reduce pressure on the road network and on public transport where capacity will be limited.

Public transport

Transport providers will have procedures to promote the safety of customers and staff, but it is an individual’s responsibility to comply with guidance.  

On public transport you must by law wear a face covering, unless you are exempt, and comply with the physical distancing measures that are in place. Find out more about face coverings

Car Sharing

You should avoid sharing in a vehicle with people who are not members of your household or extended household as much as possible. If you have no other option, you should:

  • keep to small groups of people (such as up to 6 at any one time in a minibus)
  • keep your distance and take care entering and exiting the vehicle
  • sit as far apart as possible in the vehicle, avoiding face-to-face
  • maintain good ventilation by keeping the car windows open
  • wear a face covering, unless you are exempt
  • clean your hands before and after your journey
  • if the vehicle is your responsibility, clean the door handles and other areas that people touch

If you regularly share transport whether it is a car or minibus or other private vehicle, try and share with the same people each time.

Read more information in the Transport Scotland guidance on travelling safely.


First published: 20 Nov 2020 Last updated: 26 Nov 2020 -