Can I travel on bail in the UK?

Being on bail in the UK can be a confusing and uncertain time. Many people find themselves restricted in their movements and unsure about what they can and can’t do. One common question is whether it’s possible to travel domestically or internationally while on bail.

This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about bail, travel restrictions, and how to request changes to your bail conditions if you want to go on a trip within the UK or overseas.

Key Takeaways:

  • Travel is usually restricted when on bail in the UK to prevent flight risk. You must get permission from the court or police to go on any trips.
  • There are two main types of bail – unconditional bail has no restrictions, while conditional bail limits your movements and actions.
  • To travel within the UK on conditional bail, you’ll need to inform police of the dates and location. Permission is often granted for domestic trips.
  • For international travel on bail, you must make a formal application to the court and get approval before booking anything. This is rarely given.
  • Breaching bail conditions by traveling without consent is a criminal offence punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
  • If bail restrictions are preventing necessary travel, you can apply to vary your conditions but there’s no guarantee it will be allowed.

What is Bail in the UK?

Bail is a legal process that allows some individuals to be released from police custody or prison while their criminal case is pending. Rather than being kept in detention until their court date, the defendant is let out on bail with certain conditions attached to ensure they return for future proceedings.

There are two main types of bail in the UK legal system:

Unconditional Bail

This means the defendant is released without any restrictions on their activities or movements. They don’t have to adhere to any particular bail conditions and can go about their life as normal until their next court appearance.

Conditional Bail

This is a more common type of bail where the defendant’s freedom is limited by certain restrictions imposed by the court. The conditions may include things like:

  • Living at a certain address.
  • Obeying a curfew.
  • Not contacting certain people.
  • Attending police appointments.
  • Not going to particular locations.
  • Surrendering passports.

The bail conditions will be unique to each case and are designed to reduce the risk of reoffending, prevent witness interference, and ensure attendance at future court hearings.

Breaching any of the conditions amounts to a criminal offence which can incur penalties including fines or imprisonment of up to five years.

Why Are Travel Restrictions Imposed on Bail?

One of the main reasons travel is often restricted while on bail in the UK is to prevent flight risk or absconding. If there were no limitations imposed, a defendant could easily flee the country or jurisdiction to avoid prosecution and punishment.

Travel restrictions help ensure the defendant remains close by and reachable so the criminal justice process can continue. It also provides peace of mind to victims of crimes that the perpetrator cannot simply vanish.

Other reasons travel may be limited on conditional bail include:

  • Preventing the defendant from visiting a certain location or witnesses/victims there.
  • Stopping them from retrieving items stored elsewhere that may jeopardize the case.
  • Requiring them to report for regular appointments with police or probation officers locally.

By setting geographic restrictions, the authorities can maintain some control over the defendant’s movements while the case progresses through the system.

Travel Within the UK on Bail

If you are on bail in the UK and want to travel domestically for a holiday, family visit or other reasons, it may be possible depending on the specifics of your case and conditions.

Informing Police

For conditional bail, you will need to inform the police force dealing with your case about any travel plans within the country.

Provide details of the intended destinations, dates of departure and return, mode of transport, and accommodation addresses. This must be done in advance to give them time to consider the request.

The police can then check there are no objections or risks related to you traveling there. For instance, they will ensure the location doesn’t clash with any geographic restrictions on your bail.

Likelihood of Permission

In many cases, UK police forces are willing to grant permission for domestic trips as long as they are satisfied the travel doesn’t jeopardize the case or community safety in any way.

However, it depends on the nature of your alleged offence, history, ties to the area, and confidence in your likelihood to return. Those on bail for serious violent or sexual crimes are less likely to be approved.

Permission is more commonly given for things like:

  • Visiting relatives for a few days.
  • Going on holiday to another part of the country.
  • Attending a wedding or funeral elsewhere.
  • Business trips within the UK.

As long as you provide the police with advance notice and full trip details, there’s a good chance of being able to travel domestically. Always wait for approval before booking anything.

Breaching Conditions

If you fail to inform police and travel within the UK without consent while on bail, this breaches your conditions. Even if the destination itself wasn’t restricted, not seeking permission before going is still an offence.

Breaching bail is punishable by up to five years imprisonment and may result in your bail being revoked altogether.

International Travel on Bail

Receiving approval for overseas trips while on bail in the UK is significantly harder and less common. This is because international travel represents a much higher flight risk.

Court Application Needed

To travel abroad while on bail, you must make a formal application to the court dealing with your case rather than just informing police.

This will involve a hearing where you or your legal representative must convince the court why permission should be granted for the proposed trip.

You will need to provide evidence of:

  • The specific dates, locations, and purpose of travel.
  • How allowing this is consistent with the interests of justice.
  • Details of your connections and responsibilities to the UK.
  • Confidence you will return for future hearings.

The prosecution will also make submissions arguing against the application in most cases.

High Threshold

Courts apply a very high threshold for overseas travel and will not allow it unless you can thoroughly demonstrate all of the following:

  • You have a genuine demonstrable need to go abroad – e.g. family emergency, essential business requirement. Holidays rarely qualify.
  • The travel does not interfere with case progression – you must be back in time for all required hearings and meetings.
  • There is no credible flight or reoffending risk – you have strong family, employment, financial ties to the UK with a clear incentive to return and no history of absconding.
  • No other bail conditions are compromised – e.g. the trip location doesn’t clash with restricted areas.

This makes it extremely difficult to satisfy the court, particularly if your alleged offence is serious. Applications for international travel are often rejected unless there are exceptional circumstances.

As with domestic trips, you must await formal approval from the court before booking any flights, accommodation or making other arrangements.

Breaching Bail

If you travel overseas without consent from the court, you are breaching your bail conditions. This can lead to being arrested at the airport, bail revocation, and a potential prison sentence even if the destination itself wasn’t restricted.

Changing Bail Conditions

If your current bail conditions are too restrictive and prevent necessary travel, it may be possible to apply for a variation to change them.

Making a Variation Application

You or your lawyer can submit an application to the court asking for particular bail conditions to be altered or removed altogether.

This involves persuading the court that the requested changes are reasonable and do not jeopardize the case or community safety.

For example, you could request:

  • The removal of geographic travel restrictions to allow a certain trip.
  • An extended curfew period so you can travel and return.
  • Getting your passport back temporarily.

No Guarantee of Change

However, there are no guarantees that applying for bail variations will be successful. The court will consider factors like:

  • The seriousness of the case and charges.
  • Your personal circumstances and criminal history.
  • Your previous compliance with conditions.
  • Potential risks involved.

If they are not fully convinced that the alterations do not undermine public protection or prosecution, the application will be refused.

It depends on arguing why the modifications represent a proportionate level of restrictions for your particular case.

Other Important Bail Points

  • Always seek legal advice about your specific case before attempting any travel on bail or applying for condition changes.
  • Ensure you fully understand your bail conditions and the implications of breaching them before consenting to bail.
  • If consent is given to travel either domestically or abroad, you must adhere exactly to the dates, locations and other details approved.
  • Bail conditions can be changed or withdrawn by the court or police at any time while on bail if circumstances demand it.
  • Make sure you have access to reliable transport to attend all required court, police station and lawyer appointments while on bail.
  • If you have an urgent need to travel that was unforeseeable when bail was granted, the court can consider this. But there is still no guarantee consent will be given.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I go on holiday in the UK on bail?

It may be possible to get permission for a UK holiday while on conditional bail as long as you provide the police with your detailed travel plans and intended return date in advance. They will determine if the specific trip jeopardizes your case based on the charges and your personal circumstances.

What if I have a family emergency abroad?

For international family emergencies, you would need to urgently apply to the court for a one-off change to your bail conditions. You must convince them there is a genuine need for you to travel and provide evidence you intend to return for your hearings. But preparation for this situation could be made in advance through a bail variation application.

What happens if I breach bail by traveling unapproved?

Breaching any bail conditions is a criminal offence punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Unauthorized travel within or outside the UK could also result in more stringent conditions being imposed if bail is not revoked altogether. But the court will consider your individual case circumstances.

Can I get bail conditions varied to remove travel restrictions?

It may be possible to apply for a variation of your bail conditions if they are disproportionately restrictive, but this depends on the seriousness of your case and potential risks. The court could replace travel bans with alternatives like surrendering your passport. But there is no guarantee changes will be allowed if public protection could be compromised.

How early should I request domestic travel permission?

Inform the police supervising your bail of any desired domestic UK trips at least 2 weeks in advance, or as early as possible, to allow time for the risk assessment. Last-minute requests are less likely to be approved. Always await confirmation before booking travel or accommodation.


Travel while on bail in the UK is generally restricted and requires formal permission to prevent flight risk before prosecution is concluded. For domestic trips, ask your supervising police force while international travel needs court approval. Applications can be made to vary conditions if appropriately justified. Breaching conditions without consent is a serious criminal offence. Seek legal advice for guidance on your individual circumstances.