Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 18 Jan 2021
Last updated: 18 Jan 2021 - see all updates

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

Published:
18 Jan 2021
Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on travel and transport

To minimise the risk of spreading the virus, we should all stay at home as much as possible and avoid unnecessary travel.  By law, in a level 4 area, you can only leave your home (or garden) for an essential purpose.

Read the stay at home guidance.

To suppress the spread of COVID-19, including the new variant, 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.  This is why we have introduced a legal requirement to stay at home unless you live in Orkney; Shetland; Na h-Eileanan Siar; 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, which will remain at Level 3.

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

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

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

Travellers, by law, must have proof of a negative coronavirus (COVID-19) test before travelling to Scotland from abroad. The test must be taken, even by UK citizens, up to 3 days before the journey to Scotland. For example, those travelling on a Friday, must take a test no earlier than Tuesday.

A proof of your negative test  is required to be presented prior to boarding the travel to Scotland. See information on what the test result must include at gov.uk. 

Travellers who do not present proof of a negative test result certificate will not be able to board any form of transport to Scotland.  Travellers who do arrive in Scotland without proof of a negative test result could be fined £480.   

Travellers arriving in Scotland from abroad (with the exception of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) are required, by law, to quarantine by self-isolation for 10 days after arrival.  

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

If you arrive in Scotland from abroad via another part of the UK you must follow the rules that are in place in Scotland when you arrive. Travel to or from Scotland without a reasonable excuse is not permitted.  See exceptions for a range of examples of reasons for which travel is permitted.

It is vital that before travelling overseas you check the rules put in place by the destination country about who is allowed to enter, requirements for quarantine and restrictions on movements within the country.  You are advised also to check that your insurance policy provides cover for cancellations.    

Travelling around Scotland

At present, unless you live in certain island communities (outlined above):

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

Travel within the islands (Level 3)

If you live within Orkney; Shetland; Na h-Eileanan Siar; 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:

  • you must, by law, remain within that area unless you have a reasonable excuse (see exceptions)

In the Level 3 areas remaining in your area would include travelling on inter island ferries within the Local Authority boundary.

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

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

You should be aware that, if you travel for essential reasons, 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, or which 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 on travel let you leave your home in a Level 4 area, and travel between areas in Levels 3 and 4 where you have a “reasonable excuse” for essential travel.  The exceptions are different in each case as they align with wider restrictions at each level.  

 Although you can travel for these purposes, you should stay as close to home as possible.  For example, shop on-line or use local shops and services wherever you can.   Travel no further than you need to reach to a safe, non-crowded place to exercise in a socially distanced way. 

The law lists a range of examples of reasons for which both leaving your home and travel is permitted.

Guidance on those is set out below. 

Exceptions for travel from home (Mainland Scotland and certain islands) (Level 4 areas with Stay At Home restrictions in place)

 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 – when not being undertaken remotely - (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
  • travel for 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 within your local authority if possible. 
  • travel for healthcare, including: audiology; chiropody; chiropractic; dental; ophthalmic; and osteopathic services; services relating to mental health; and testing and vaccination services.
  • 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 disposal or recycling services, and again within your local authority area unless such services are not available there.
  • 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 2 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).  The number of periods of exercise are not limited.
  • 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  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.
  • travel to 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.
  • travel to avoid 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.
  • travel to visit a person detained in prison, young offenders institute, remand centre, secure accommodation or other place of detention.
  • travel to facilitate the formation of an end of term household, where either or both of the student or the other household which will make up the end of term household live out with the same area.

Exceptions for travel out of or to Level 3 (islands):

  • 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 – when not being undertaken remotely - (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.
  • 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. 
  • travel for healthcare, including: audiology; chiropody; chiropractic; dental; ophthalmic; and osteopathic services; services relating to mental health; and testing and vaccination services.
  • 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 disposal or recycling services, when services 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 2 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).  The number of periods of exercise are not limited.
  • travel to attend a gathering which relates to a marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration.
  • travel for 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.
  • travel to attend your normal place of worship.
  • travel to 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.
  • travel to avoid 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.
  • travel to visit a person detained in prison, young offenders institute, remand centre, secure accommodation or other place of detention.
  • travel to or from a level 3 area or the purposes of driving lessons or taking a driving test.

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: 18 Jan 2021 Last updated: 18 Jan 2021 -