Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 9 Feb 2021
Last updated: 16 Apr 2021 - see all updates

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

Published:
9 Feb 2021
Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on travel and transport

Travelling around Scotland

Level 4 areas

If you live in a Level 4 area you must not travel outwith your local authority area* unless for a permitted reason – a list of which is provided below (see exceptions

All areas in Scotland are in Level 4, except the following areas in Level 3:

  • Na h-Eileannan an lar
  • Orkney
  • Shetland
  • the following islands within Argyll and Bute: Coll, Colonsay, Erraid, Gometra, Iona, Islay, Jura, Mull, Oronsay, Tiree and Ulva
  • and all islands in Highland, with the exception of Skye

(* or in Highland or Argyll and Bute, the Level 4 part of those areas).

Permitted reasons for travel include travel anywhere in Scotland to meet others (in groups of up to 6 adults from 6 households) socially outdoors, for recreation or exercise.  Under 12s do not count towards the number of people meeting or households. 

You must not stay away from your local council area (or for Highland or Argyll and Bute, the Level 4 part of those areas that you live in) overnight for this purpose. 

When travelling to other areas you should maintain 2 metres physical distance from people not in your household and follow other protective measures.

Level 3 areas 

People who live in a Level 3 area must not travel outwith their local authority area* unless for a permitted reason – a list of these are provided below (see exceptions)

The following areas in Level 3:

  • Na h-Eileannan an lar
  • Orkney
  • Shetland
  • the following islands within Argyll and Bute: Coll, Colonsay, Erraid, Gometra, Iona, Islay, Jura, Mull, Oronsay, Tiree and Ulva
  • and all islands in Highland, with the exception of Skye

(* or in Highland or Argyll and Bute, the Level 3 part of those areas).

Permitted reasons for travel include travel anywhere in Scotland to meet others (in groups of up to 6 adults from 6 households) socially outdoors, for recreation or exercise.  Under 12s do not count towards the number of people meeting or households. 

You must not stay away from your local council area (or for Highland or Argyll and Bute, the Level 3 part of those areas that you live in) overnight for this purpose. 

When travelling to other areas you should maintain 2 metres physical distance from people not in your household and follow other protective measures.

Travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (the 'Common Travel Area')

From 26 April, it is planned that travel within Scotland, England and Wales will be allowed (subject to any local restrictions in place). 

Travel restrictions between Scotland and the rest of the Common Travel area (Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) will be kept under review.

Until 26 April

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

  • England
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Jersey
  • Guernsey
  • The Isle of Man 

From 26 April

It is planned that, subject to continued progress in suppressing Coronavirus, travel between Scotland, England and Wales will be allowed (subject to any local restrictions in place).

Travel restrictions between Scotland and the rest of the Common Travel area (Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) will be kept under review.

You should be aware that, additionally, rules may apply in other countries or Crown Dependencies within the Common Travel Area that may restrict your ability to enter or travel within them, even where that is allowed under Scottish law, or that may require you to self-isolate for a period of time after your arrival. 

Please check any restrictions that may be in place in your destination before you travel. You can find information here:

Exceptions 

The restrictions let you travel to or from a Level 3 or 4 area where you have a 'reasonable excuse'. The exceptions for Level 3 and Level 4 are different.

Although you can travel for these purposes, you should stay local where possible. For example, shop online or use local shops and services wherever you can.

The law lists examples of reasons for which travel is permitted.

Guidance on those is set out in the sections below. 

Exceptions for travel in Level 4 (mainland Scotland and certain islands)

You can leave a Level 4 area, or travel to a Level 4 area from somewhere else, for 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
  • school – when not being undertaken remotely - (including travel to or from boarding school), college, or university. This includes travel for home education, training, school day trips or for other essential purposes connected with a course of study.
  • essential shopping, including essential shopping for a vulnerable person. However, you should use online shopping or shops, banks and other services wherever you can and shop within your local authority wherever  possible. 
  • healthcare, including: audiology; chiropody; chiropractic; dental; ophthalmic; and osteopathic services; services relating to mental health; and testing and vaccination services
  • childcare or parental support services
  • 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 disposal or recycling services, and again within your local authority area unless such services are not available there.
  • provide care, assistance, support to or respite for a vulnerable person
  • participate in or facilitate shared parenting or between two parts of an extended household
  • 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
  • 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
  • essential animal welfare reasons, such as exercising or feeding a horse or going to a vet
  • meeting others (in groups of up to 6 adults from 6 households) socially outdoors, for recreation or exercise.  Under 12s do not count towards the number of people meeting or households. 
  • participating in or facilitate organised activity, non-contact sport or exercise which is for persons aged 17 and under. It is advised that these activities take place in groups of up to a maximum of 15 people.  This flexibility is to allow children and young people to take part in sport or organised activity, if for example they belong to a club which is just outside their own local authority area, but you should travel no further than you need to.  If attending a sport/activity in a Level 3 area or below, the Level 4 cap on attendance of 15 people should apply.
  • attending a marriage ceremony or registration of a civil partnership but only where you are either the person getting married, a witness or the person conducting the ceremony (or an interpreter if required)
  • gatherings related to funerals or for compassionate reasons which relate to the end of a person’s life. This includes the scattering of ashes, but not post-funeral events, such as wakes
  • if you are a minister of religion or worship leader, travel for the purposes of leading an act of worship
  • attend your usual place of worship
  • donate blood
  • 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. Travelling for the purposes of undertaking maintenance on a property other than your main residence 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.
  • avoiding injury, illness or to escape a risk of harm, or support someone that is doing so
  • 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
  • registering or voting in an Scottish or UK Parliament, Local Government or overseas election or by-election, including on behalf of someone else by proxy
  • visiting a person detained in prison, young offenders institute, remand centre, secure accommodation or other place of detention

Exceptions for travel to or from Level 3 areas (certain islands)

You can leave a Level 3 area, or travel to a Level 3 area from somewhere else, for 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
  • school – when not being undertaken remotely - (including travel to or from boarding school), college, or university. This includes travel for home education, training, school day trips or for other essential purposes connected with a course of study.
  • under 18s organised activities and sport
  • essential shopping, including essential shopping for a vulnerable person. However, you should use online shopping or shops, banks and other services wherever you can and shop within your local authority wherever  possible. 
  • healthcare, including: audiology; chiropody; chiropractic; dental; ophthalmic; and osteopathic services; services relating to mental health; and testing and vaccination services
  • childcare or parental support services
  • 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 disposal or recycling services, when services are not available in your local authority area
  • providing care, assistance, support to or respite for a vulnerable person
  • participate in or facilitate shared parenting or between two parts of an extended household
  • 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
  • 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
  • essential animal welfare reasons, such as exercising or feeding a horse or going to a vet
  • travel to meet others (in groups of up to 6 adults from 6 households) socially outdoors, for recreation or exercise.  Under 12s do not count towards the number of people meeting or households. 
  • where you live in a level 3 area in Scotland, travel to attend a gathering which relates to a marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration - those who do not live in a level 3 area in Scotland, travel to attend a marriage ceremony or registration of a civil partnership but only where you are either the person getting married, a witness or the person conducting the ceremony (or interpreter if required)
  • gatherings related to funerals or 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
  • if you are a minister of religion or worship leader, travel for the purposes of leading an act of worship
  • attend your normal place of worship
  • donate blood
  • 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. Travelling for the purposes of undertaking maintenance on a property other than your main residence 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.
  • avoiding injury, illness or to escape a risk of harm, or support someone that is doing so
  • 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
  • visiting a person detained in prison, young offenders institute, remand centre, secure accommodation or other place of detention
  • to or from a level 3 area or the purposes of driving lessons or taking a driving test 

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

Travel to or from Scotland without a reasonable excuse is prohibited by law. See reasonable excuses. Holidays are not a legal reason to travel.

It is likely that you will need to isolate in a hotel or at home in Scotland for at least 10 days after you arrive. Travellers, by law, must have proof of a negative coronavirus (COVID-19) test before travelling to Scotland from abroad.

More information on testing for people travelling to Scotland and quarantine is in the international travel guidance.

The situation is evolving worldwide, so it is important that you check all guidance before you travel.

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 and vehicle sharing

You should not share a vehicle with anyone from another household, unless you absolutely have to.

If this is the case, 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 the 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: 9 Feb 2021 Last updated: 16 Apr 2021 -