What happened when I flew back to Bristol Airport from an amber list country

I’m not the most relaxed of travellers, so the hoops I knew I would have to jump through on returning to Bristol Airport from two weeks in an amber list country sent my anxiety levels rocketing.

PCR tests and passenger locator forms on top of all the usual stresses of international travel, seemed quite daunting and I can see why many people are choosing to holiday in the UK this year – especially after what happened with Mexico going on to the Red list.

But for family reasons, I was spending two weeks in Hungary, flying into and out of Budapest International Airport. And this was only possible as I am married to a Hungarian citizen, enabling me to travel to the country and avoid their travel ‘ban’ on most UK visitors.

Read more: Is Tenerife on the green list? What do rule changes mean for Canary Islands

Coming back to the UK, the Government had set a number of must-do tasks before I could return to the country of my birth.

  • Take a COVID-19 test – you must take the test in the three days before you travel to England;
  • Book and pay for COVID-19 tests – to be taken after arrival in England £35.99;
  • Complete a passenger locator form.

The good news for anxious travellers, is that the system seems to work – at least it did for me.

And while I was a bit stressed at every official checkpoint, I managed to clear the various hurdles to arrive safely, legally and Covid free at Bristol Airport.

Getting the test

Phil in Budapest where he had to take a PCR test
Phil in Budapest where he had to take a PCR test

Doing anything in a foreign country can be a bit of a challenge, especially when you don’t speak the language.

So sorting out a test meant we had to find a convenient place to take the test in the three days before I left and fit it into our schedule. Paranoid as I am, I wanted to leave some wriggle room in case the test was inconclusive.

I had been staying with family in the Hungarian plains, about two and a half hours out of Budapest, but returned to the city on the Wednesday (August 4) before my flight back on the Saturday (August 7).

The PCR test centre in Budapest
The PCR test centre in Budapest

We had picked a place near a shopping centre near where we were staying, and struggled to find it until we saw what looked like a shipping container in the outside car park. The temporary lab, run by Whitelab, took advanced booking and mine was scheduled for 4pm on Thursday.

After finally working out which door I needed, the test took less than a minute – walked in, sat down, opened my mouth, a sample taken from my tonsils, I was given a souvenir pen, and that was that.

They promised a 15-hour turn around and the result was actually sent just six hours later – negative, thankfully.

Cost: Around £50

Book and pay for COVID-19

I chose Expert Medicals for the day two Covid PCR test. You need to book this and show evidence of it being booked (and paid for) before returning to the UK.

The company kept me well informed, sending my proof of the booking and the unique booking code that would be needed for the Passenger Locator Form.

While I was still in Hungary, I was told when the test would be delivered and sent confirmation that it had been delivered. It was waiting on the doormat when I returned home.

I haven’t done the test yet as I need to do it today (Monday), but it seems very similar to the lateral flow tests I have done numerous times.

Cost: £35.99

Passenger locator form

As long as you have all the paperwork this is very straightforward and took me about 10 to 15 minutes to complete online. You’ll need your flight details, passport number and answer quite a few questions about your travels.

You’ll also need to put in that booking number from your day two PCR test confirmation.

Cost: Nothing

Going through the airport

Waiting to board the plane after Covid test and Passenger Locator Form had been checked by Ryanair staff
Waiting to board the plane after Covid test and Passenger Locator Form had been checked by Ryanair staff

I was expecting delays and hold-ups, and there definitely was when boarding the Ryanair flight.

As well as having passports and boarding passes checked, airline staff had to check that you had a negative Covid test and that you had your Passenger Locator Form.

Some people took longer to get through as they struggled to find the right information and some seem to have been taken aside for further checks. One person appeared to not have a test result, but I am not sure what happened to them.

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Customs

I feared the worst after hearing some of the horror stories about long delays, but I pretty much walked through customs.

I had my e-passport which would have been linked to the passenger locator form, so after going through the gates I was home free.

Will I do it again?

Well, my wife and two children have to go through the same rigmarole in a couple of weeks and we have another trip to Hungary planned for the autumn half-term. Who knows what the situation will be like be then?

But, knowing what forms to fill in, knowing the two labs I chose to do the test are reliable, will definitely take the pressure of doing it in October.

What has been your experience of international travel? Sign in and join the conversations in the comments below

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