What do I need to know before I travel?
Public Health Scotland logo

Fit for Travel Logo

Information on how to stay safe and healthy abroad. About us.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)


COVID-19 is a respiratory infection which is spread by droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Risk for Travellers

COVID-19 is present in all countries and poses a risk to all travellers.

Your risk of being exposed to COVID-19 during travel relates to:

  • the number of cases in the country you are travelling to (your destination)
  • your means of travel, for example by car, boat or aircraft
  • the activities you undertake at your destination

The number of positive cases in a country will vary over time, as will the public health measures that each country uses to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These measures may include:

Recommendations for All Travellers

You should ensure that you have had the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the UK COVID-19 Vaccination Programme.

Before planning or booking international travel, you should read the information on the:

These pages detail the points you must consider before, during and after travel to comply with public health measures and stay healthy. 

See the FAQ on how you can reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19 during travel

Overview of the Disease

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause a range of illnesses, from the common cold to more severe infections like MERS-CoV and SARS.

In December 2019 China discovered a new coronavirus causing chest infections in people in Wuhan city, Hubei province, China.

  • This new infection was named COVID-19 and the virus causing it is called SARS-CoV-2.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on the 11 March 2020 meaning the virus had spread worldwide.

The virus spreads from person to person through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

  • If you are physically near the person when they cough or sneeze (within 2 metres) these droplets might land in your eyes, nose or mouth and cause infection.
  • Infected droplets also land on surfaces and objects such as handles, tables, telephones.
    • If your hands touch these surfaces or objects, the virus passes onto your hands.
    • When your hands come into contact with your face the virus can cause infection through your mouth, nose, eyes.

The Illness

Most people with COVID-19 have a mild illness, or no symptoms, and fully recover.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can start up to 14 days after catching the virus.

The symptoms of COVID-19 can vary but commonly include:

  • fever/high temperature
  • cough
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • tiredness

A small percentage of people develop a more severe illness and require hospital care. More severe infections can lead to death.

Treatment and Testing

Most COVID-19 infections get better without any treatment. For those at risk of severe infection or who require admission to hospital, therapies that make the illness less severe and save lives are available.

Antibiotics do not work because it is a viral infection.


Guidance on testing in the UK nations is available from the following websites:

COVID-19 testing for the purposes of international travel is not available on the NHS.

  • Pre-travel COVID-19 tests are available in the private sector. 
  • If you need to travel internationally for work and require evidence of a test, you should speak to your employer or occupational health adviser.


Information on COVID-19 vaccines, including eligibility and how to arrange an appointment for vaccination is available from:

COVID-19 vaccines are not provided on the NHS for the purposes of travel. From 1 April 2024, COVID-19 vaccines may be available to purchase privately from some pharmacies and private travel clinics.

Further Information

Links to UK guidance on COVID-19 for:

Further information on COVID-19 is available from the World Health Organization

back to top