Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 21 May 2021
Last updated: 21 May 2021 - see all updates

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

21 May 2021
Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on travel and transport

Travel is allowed within Scotland, with the exception of travel into or out of areas in Level 3 or Level 4.

Travel is allowed between Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Travel to some parts of England will be restricted from 24 May.

For restrictions on travel between Scotland and the rest of the world see the international travel section below.

These rules may be changed depending on the state of the pandemic in Scotland and in other countries. Please check back here for up to date information before you travel.

Travelling around Scotland

Mainland Scotland and some islands are at Level 2. The Glasgow City local authority area is in Level 3. 

Orkney, Shetland, Na h-Eileanan Siar, all islands in Highland (except Skye) and the following islands in Argyll – Coll, Colonsay, Erraid, Gometra, Iona, Islay, Jura, Mull, Oronsay, Tiree and Ulva – are at Level 1. 

Travel is allowed within Scotland (with the exception of Glasgow) and overnight stays with family and friends are allowed in line with rules on indoor gatherings.  Covid restriction rules including on indoor and outdoor gatherings and tourist accommodation must also be followed. 

See also:

In Levels 0, 1 and 2 you must not travel to an area in Level 3 or 4 except  for a permitted reason.

In Levels 3 and 4 you must not leave your area except for a permitted reason.  

If you are a permanent resident of Glasgow City and were outside your home local authority when the Level 3 travel restrictions came into effect (for example, you were on holiday), you should return directly upon completion of your stay outwith the area.  Likewise, for non-residents of Glasgow currently in the area for non-permitted purposes, you should leave the area at the earliest opportunity.  In doing so you should take additional care, especially if travelling by public transport (see section below) and minimise contact with others.

More information on permitted reasons is below.

Travelling to the Scottish islands: pre-departure testing

To reduce the risk of coronavirus being brought into island communities, we are encouraging anyone planning to travel to a Scottish island to test before they do so. 

You can order rapid lateral flow tests for delivery to your home anywhere in the UK and they should arrive within 24-48 hours. 

You should test three days before you plan to travel and then again on the day of departure.  If you test positive, you should complete your period of self-isolation before you begin your journey.   

If your test result is negative it is not a guarantee that you do not have coronavirus. You must continue to follow national and local restrictions, including coronavirus guidance. If you develop coronavirus symptoms you must self-isolate and book a PCR test.

This is a voluntary scheme and you will not need evidence of a negative test to travel to a Scottish island. However, we encourage you to participate in order to reduce the risk that you inadvertently carry coronavirus into one of our island communities.

Travelling within the Common Travel Area (UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland)

A Common Travel Area (CTA) exists between the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Republic of Ireland. 

Testing and isolation requirements required for international travel are not required for travel within the CTA.

Travel between Scotland and the CTA is subject to restrictions based on conditions with the pandemic. Travel to and from Level 3 and Level 4 areas is not allowed except for permitted reasons.

We advise against travel to areas in the UK managing outbreaks of the B1.617.2 variant (sometimes referred to as the 'Indian variant'). This advice is in addition to legal restrictions on travel between Scotland and the specific areas listed below.

The current travel restrictions between Scotland (except any areas in Level 3 or Level 4) and the CTA are as follows:

You should also check those countries’ own rules on entry and other restrictions before you travel. 

The Scottish rules on travel to and from other parts of the CTA are kept under active review and are subject to change depending on the state of the pandemic. Please check back here for up to date information before you travel.

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

Travel between a Level 3 or Level 4 area in Scotland and anywhere else in the world is not allowed except for a permitted reason.  Although the law on international travel to and from the rest of Scotland has been relaxed that does not mean it is advisable. 

The Scottish Government has introduced a risk assessment for international travel similar to the UK Government’s existing ‘traffic light’ system.  This entails the following requirements for both residents of Scotland on their return and overseas visitors:

  • arrivals from red list countries will be required to enter a managed isolation hotel and stay there for 10 days. Travel to such countries should only be for essential reasons. 
  • arrivals from amber list countries, which will be the majority of countries, should self-isolate at home [or if a visitor from another country, their accommodation on arrival] for 10 days, and take two PCR tests while they are isolating.
  • arrivals from green list countries will not be required to quarantine or isolate on arrival in Scotland, but will need to take a PCR test shortly after arrival. 

Further information on this process, and details of the countries on each list, is available in our international travel guidance.

Permitted reasons for travel in Level 3

The regulations permit travel to or from a Level 3 area if you have a reasonable excuse.  They also let you travel through a Level 3 area to somewhere else. In doing so you should take additional care, especially if travelling by public transport (see section below) and minimise contact with others.

Examples of reasonable excuses for travel to or from a Level 3 area include:

  • essential shopping for your household or that of a vulnerable person.  However, please use online shopping or shops, banks and other services whenever you can and shop locally wherever possible. 
  • work (or providing voluntary or charitable services, but only where that cannot be done from your home. This includes seeking employment, for example by travel for a job interview.
  • education and training - this includes travel to school (including boarding school), college or university, for home education, for school day trips or for other purposes connected with a course of study.
  • accessing childcare or parental support services
  • driving lessons or tests
  • to lead an act of worship or attend your usual place of worship
  • to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person
  • to visit a person detained in a prison, young offenders institution, remand centre, secure accommodation or other place of detention
  • to provide or receive emergency assistance
  • to access healthcare, including testing and vaccination
  • to accompany someone obtaining medical assistance, such as to a doctor’s appointment, or visit a person in a hospital, hospice or care home
  • to avoid injury, illness or other risk of harm, or support someone who is doing so
  • to move home or undertake activities in connection with the maintenance, purchase, sale, letting, or rental of residential property that you own or are otherwise responsible for. Maintenance of a second home should not be used as a pretext for a holiday. You should not stay longer than for the length of time required to undertake the necessary work.
  • to participate in or facilitate shared parenting arrangements
  • to fulfil a legal obligation or participate in legal proceedings. This can include, for example, registering a birth, satisfying bail conditions, complying with a court mandate in terms of sentence imposed  It can also include attendance at court including a remote jury centre, an inquiry, a children’s hearing, tribunal proceedings, or proceedings to resolve a dispute via Alternative Dispute Resolution.
  • to vote, or register to vote, in an election (including to vote as proxy for someone else)
  • to donate blood
  • to access public services, including any of the following—
    • social services
    • services provided by the Department for Work and Pensions
    • services provided to victims (such as victims of crime)
    • asylum and immigration services and interviews
  • to access voluntary or charitable services, including food banks
  • to access waste disposal or recycling facilities
  • to visit a bank, building society, cash machine, post office or similar services to obtain or deposit money
  • to participate in or facilitate organised activity, sport or exercise which is for persons under 18 years of age.  See “extra detail” below for what is meant by “organised”.
  • outdoor exercise, socialising and recreation.  The regulations let you travel to a place up to 5 miles beyond the boundary of a Level 3 area to reach a place to meet up or start and finish your exercise, but please travel no further than you need to in order to find a safe, non-crowded place to exercise or meet up.  The activity must be on your own, with members of your own household (including an extended household “bubble”), or in groups of no more than 6 people from 6 households, plus any children under 12.  It must not involve an overnight stay.

  • if you are a professional sportsperson or their coach, travel to coach, train or compete

  • to attend a gathering which relates to a marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration.  See weddings and civil partnership registrations.

  • to attend a gathering which relates to a funeral or to travel for compassionate reasons which relate to the end of a person’s life.  This includes the scattering of ashes, as well as post-funeral events, such as wakes.  See guidance for funeral services.
  • to feed or care for an animal, including obtaining veterinary services
  • if you are in an extended household “bubble” arrangement, travel to visit another member of the extended household
  • to attend an organised picket (see “extra detail” below)

Extra detail

The regulations (Schedule 5, paragraph 15 (2) (u)) permit travel to participate in or facilitate organised activity, sport or exercise which is for persons under 18 years of age.  An activity, sport or exercise is “organised” if—

          (a) it is organised by—

(i) a person who is responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service,

(ii) a person who is responsible for a place of worship

(iii) a charity or other not for profit organisation,

(iv) a club or political organisation, or

(v) the governing body of a sport or other activity, and

(b) the organiser has taken measures to minimise exposure to Coronavirus required by the regulations

See also:

The regulations (Schedule 5, paragraph 15 (2) (ab)) permit travel to participate in to attend an organised picket.  For the purpose of sub-paragraph (2)(ab), a picket is “organised” if—

(a) it is carried out in accordance with the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, and

b) the organiser has taken measures to minimise exposure to Coronavirus required by the regulations. 

Travelling safely 

Transport Scotland has produced guidance on travelling safely in all forms of transport

You can help keep Scotland moving by:

  • reducing the need to travel: Work from home if you can and stay local for shopping and services
  • planning ahead: If you need to make a journey, check your travel options in advance
  • choosing active travel: Walk, wheel or cycle where possible
  • staying travel safe: Help ensure we have a safe public transport system, available to those most in need

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 and vehicle sharing

You should not share a vehicle with anyone from another household, unless you absolutely have to. It is recognised that people with additional support needs may need to car share and in these circumstances, they should also follow the appropriate measures, steps and precautions where possible.

If you absolutely have to share a car journey with anyone from another household, you should take the following steps and precautions:

  • if sharing a vehicle with anyone from another household, limit the number of people in the vehicle to as few as possible, ideally no more than 2 (applies to adults and children aged 12 and over)
  • use the biggest vehicle available for car sharing purposes
  • occupants should sit as far apart as possible. Ideally a passenger should sit in the back seat diagonally opposite the driver, aiming for 2 metre distancing between occupants
  • windows in the car should be opened as far as possible taking account of weather conditions to improve ventilation in the space
  • occupants in the car, including the driver, should wear a face covering provided it does not compromise driver safety in any way
  • occupants should perform hand hygiene before entering the vehicle and again on leaving the vehicle
  • occupants should avoid eating in the vehicle
  • passengers in the vehicle should minimise any surfaces touched
  • keep the volume of any music/radio to a minimum to prevent the need to raise voices in the car
  • the longer the journey, the higher the risk; keep journey times to the minimum feasible and do not linger in the vehicle before or after the journey itself
  • where non-household members are car-sharing, the car must be cleaned regularly (at least daily) and particular attention should be paid to high risk touch points such as door handles, electronic buttons and seat belts. General purpose detergent is sufficient unless a symptomatic or confirmed case of COVID-19 has been in the vehicle in which case a disinfectant (e.g. chlorine-based product) should be used

You should not travel to work/car share if you have any symptoms of coronavirus, as outlined on the NHS Inform website. 

Note the above guidance relates to private vehicles. For taxis and private hire vehicles you should refer to guidance on taxis and private hire vehicles.

If you are travelling in a vehicle as part of your job or business, safe operation of workplaces applies, therefore please refer to your employer. For employers, you may wish to refer to guidance for safer workplaces.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, all passengers will be assessed for close contact and are likely to be advised to self-isolate.

For further information please visit our advice on how to travel safely.

First published: 21 May 2021 Last updated: 21 May 2021 -