covid tests

Which Covid tests do I need to travel abroad?

Find the cheapest private coronavirus tests for travelling overseas

If you're travelling abroad this year, you'll need to pay for at least two coronavirus tests before you can return home. Some destinations will also require you to take a test before you leave the UK. These tests could add up to over £1,000 for a family of four. Use our tips below to bring costs down.

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Check which Covid tests you need

Whether you're returning to England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, everyone in the UK needs to take a test before flying home, and get tested again at least once after getting back. We've focused on coming back to the UK but it's equally important when you leave to go abroad.

Depending on where you travel, you may need to take a test before you leave (if the country you're travelling to requires it), as well as a test before you return to the UK, and one or two tests after you've arrived back in the UK.

It's worth noting, children under five (and those exempt due to medical conditions) don't need to take any tests when travelling back to the UK. Children aged five and over will need to be tested at least once. See more on testing rules for children below.

You can't use the free tests – you'll have to pay

You're not allowed to use the free NHS tests for travel purposes. You'll have to pay for any required tests when you return to the UK. With some providers in England charging £100+ per test, this could be a hefty addition to your travel costs. A family of four (with children over 11) could end up paying over £1,000 all-in.

The rules on where you can order tests are different across the UK

  • If you're travelling back to Scotland or Wales, you have to use the CTM portal to book your tests. You're not allowed to use private test providers. It costs £88 for a Day 2 test, and £170 if you need both Day 2 and Day 8 tests.

  • If you're travelling back to England or Northern Ireland, you can use a private provider, but it needs to be on the UK Government's approved list. We've seen some testing packages costing as much as £575 for two tests. But there's no need to pay these prices – see how to find the cheapest coronavirus tests for full help.

Some countries require you to take a test before you travel to them

You'll need to prove you've received a negative result, but the rules vary depending on where you go. You'll need to check exactly which test you need to take, as there are different types.

Many popular destinations, such as France and Greece, will only accept results from the more expensive PCR test. However, some countries (eg, Norway and Spain) will accept other tests, such as the rapid antigen or LAMP test. You can find each country's requirements via the Government's foreign travel advice.

You'll also need to make sure you have documentation (often called a 'fit-to-fly' certificate) which your destination country will accept as evidence – not every test will provide this. For example, Lloyds Pharmacy says it doesn't recommend you use its test kit for travel purposes, as your results won't include the information some airlines and countries require, such as your passport number.

You need to take a test before you fly home, but you have a few options here

The rules for this test are the same across the UK – it can be a rapid antigen (commonly known as lateral flow), PCR or LAMP test. But it needs to meet certain standards, so make sure the provider says the test is suitable to be used as a 'pre-departure' test.

To save sourcing a test abroad, you can buy one before you go on holiday and take it with you. Rapid antigen tests tend to be the cheapest option. For example, you can order one from Qured for £39 (BA passengers get a 15% discount). And Virgin Atlantic passengers can get a discounted test for £26. See more rapid antigen providers below.

You'll need to show proof that you've received a negative result at the airport, or you won't be able to board the plane home – this can be either a printed document or an email/text from the test provider.

Whether you need to get tested AND quarantine when arriving back to the UK depends on where you're travelling from

Countries have been placed in one of three categories, as set out below. The first review of the traffic light lists has taken place, with a number of changes – including Portugal moving to the amber list – coming into effect from 4am on Tuesday 8 June.

Traffic light system – summary of the rules across the UK

Category Destinations on list Rules on returning to England/ Northern Ireland/ Scotland/ Wales

Green

12, incl Australia, Gibraltar,  Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Portugal (incl Azores & Madeira) & Singapore.

From Tue 8 June: Portugal moving to amber

 

See full Eng list / NI list / Scot list / Wal list

• Must take pre-departure test before returning (1)

• Must also take PCR test on or before day two of arrival

• DON'T need to quarantine on return, unless you get a positive result

 


Amber
170+, incl much of Europe (eg, France, Greece, Italy & Spain), the USA, Morocco & Sri Lanka.

See full Eng list / Scot list / Wal list (NI doesn't list them separately) 
• Must take pre-departure test before returning (1)
• Must also take PCR test on day two AND day eight after arriving
• Must self-isolate for 10 days after arrival – can be at home
• You can end self-isolation early on day five by taking extra test (Eng only)

Red

43, incl Brazil, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Seychelles, South Africa, Turkey & UAE.

 

From Tue 8 June: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Sudan & Trinidad and Tobago to be added

 

See full Eng list / NI list / Scot list / Wal list

• Must take pre-departure test before returning (1)
• Must also take PCR test on day two AND day eight after arriving
• Must undergo 10 days of managed quarantine in hotel, which could be pricey (currently single adult travellers are charged £1,750) (2)

Day two/eight tests and managed quarantine packages must be booked before departure. (1) Accepted tests include PCR, LAMP and rapid antigen (also known as lateral flow). (2) See help booking hotel quarantine packages in EngNIScot and Wal.

Under-11s DON'T need to take a test before flying home... but they might need one when they're back

Children under 11 don't need to take a 'pre-departure' test before flying back to the UK. In Scotland they also don't need to take any tests when they're back home.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, children aged five and over WILL still need to take a Day 2 test (and Day 8 if necessary) once home.

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How to find the cheapest coronavirus tests

Required tests can add £1,000+ to a family holiday, but some can get them from £20 per person. Use the tips below to bring down costs if you're travelling abroad this year.

It's worth noting, this is a rapidly changing area with hundreds of providers now registered with the Government. Bear the following in mind when booking travel:

  • Not all PCR tests are the same – make sure you get the right test. The Government has an approved list of providers for each test, and says each scheme has different standards. If you need a Day 2 test for your return to the UK, don't just get any PCR test – make sure the provider says it's suitable for Day 2 testing.

  • You need to book your return tests BEFORE you travel home. You'll need to fill out a passenger locator form online, any time in the 48 hours before you arrive in the UK. It will ask for a booking reference to prove you've booked the necessary testing package (eg, Day 2 and Day 8 if you've visited an amber destination). You’ll need to show your form when you check in or board your plane, train or ferry.

  • Prices can change quickly, as providers and travel operators compete. For example, British Airways has announced a £40 outward-bound PCR test. And Tui is offering hugely-discounted test packages for its holiday customers, starting at just £20.

  • Providers may struggle to meet demand. There are also concerns over testing capacity, with some private providers struggling to fulfil orders in time. It's worth checking whether your travel provider offers flexibility if your test results are delayed, eg, Jet2 says you can change your booking for free if this happens.

Below we've listed the main routes to get the key tests and listed the best prices we've found for each kind of test. Always compare prices before you order any tests, and let us know if you've spotted one cheaper elsewhere. Here are our top tips:

1. Check if your airline or holiday operator is offering a discount 

To encourage people to book, some travel providers are offering discounts on tests (via approved private test providers). Tui is offering testing packages from just £20-£90 for its package holiday customers, which include ALL the tests you need before and after your holiday.

While it's not worth choosing your holiday provider solely based on testing prices, it could be a real saving if you are able to get a discount this way. Here are some examples we've found for the tests you need to travel back to the UK:

Tests for UK arrivals: Airline & travel operator discounts

Location/provider Test type Cost Turnaround time
British Airways - Discounted home testing kit Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £120 for both (1) No timeframe given
Easyjet - Discounted home testing kit Day 2 PCR test £60 (2) Next day (5)
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £120 for both (3) Next day (5)
Ryanair - Discounted home testing kit Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £120 for both (4) No timeframe given
Tui package holidays - Discounted home testing kit Day 2 PCR test (plus rapid antigen for journey home) £20 for both No timeframe given
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests (plus rapid antigen for journey home) £50 for all No timeframe given
Day 2 PCR test (plus outward-bound PCR & rapid antigen for journey home) £60 for all 24-36 hours (5)
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests (plus outward-bound PCR & rapid antigen for journey home) £90 for all 24-36 hours (5)
Virgin Atlantic - Discounted home testing kit Rapid antigen £26 20 minutes
Day 2 PCR test £85 No timeframe given
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £145 for both No timeframe given
Day 2 PCR test (plus outward-bound rapid antigen & rapid antigen for journey home) £130 for all No timeframe given
Day 2 PCR test (plus outward-bound PCR & rapid antigen for journey home) £152 for all No timeframe given
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests (plus outward-bound rapid antigen & rapid antigen for journey home) £179 for all No timeframe given
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests (plus outward-bound PCR & rapid antigen for journey home) £211 for all No timeframe given

(1) With Randox Health via code BritishAirwaysD2D8 (2) With Randox Health via code easyJet2021 (3) With Randox Health via code easyJet2021d2d8 (4) With Randox Health via code RYAND2821 (5) Once test is received by the lab

You can also get discounts on outward-bound PCR tests, if your destination requires you to take one before you travel:

Tests for UK departures - if your destination requires one: Airline & holiday operator discounts

Location/provider Test type Cost Turnaround time
British Airways - Discounted home test kit PCR £40 (1) 24 hours (4)
Easyjet - Discounted home test kit PCR £60 (2) 12-24 hours
Jet2 - Discounts via third-party providers PCR £75 (3) No timeframe given
Tui flights - Discounted home test kit PCR £70 24-48 hours (4)
Tui package holidays - Discounted home test kit PCR (plus rapid antigen & Day 2 test for UK return) £60 for all 24-36 hours (4)
PCR (plus rapid antigen, Day 2 & Day 8 tests for UK return) £90 for all 24-36 hours (4)
Virgin Atlantic - Discounted home testing kit PCR £55 24 hours

(1) With Eurofins (2) With Randox Health via code easyJet2021 (3) Discount will be available online in 'Manage my booking' 4 weeks before travel (4) Once test is received by the lab

2. Compare private test provider prices

You can get tested in a private clinic or order a home-testing kit via a number of companies, including Boots. There are hundreds of providers registered with the Government to provide Day 2 and Day 8 testing, with prices ranging from £99 (for both tests) to a whopping £575.

We've included some of the cheapest tests below that are widely available. It's worth checking reviews online, as some cheaper providers have struggled with the sheer number of tests ordered.

We've also included some of the bigger names, such as Express Test and Randox Health, which have partnered with airports and airlines to provide tests. These may be more reliable, and have greater capacity, but nothing is guaranteed.

Day 2 & Day 8 tests for UK arrivals: Private test providers

Location/provider Test type Cost Turnaround time
Testing for all - Home testing kit Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £99 for both 48 hours (1)
Boots - Home testing kit Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £160 for both 24-48 hours (1)
Citydoc - Home testing kit Day 2 PCR test £80 24-48 hours (1)
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £160 for both 24-48 hours (1)
Project Screen - Home testing kit Day 2 PCR test £79 24 hours (1)
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £164 for both 24 hours (1)
Collinson - O2 Arena, London
Day 2 PCR test £82.50 Same day (for tests before 4pm)
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £165 for both Same day (for tests before 4pm)
Randox Health - Home testing kit Day 2 PCR test £120 No timeframe given
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £175 for both No timeframe given
Express Test - Various locations, incl Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, London Day 2 PCR test £99 10pm next day
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £189 for both 10pm next day
Qured - Home testing kit Day 2 PCR test £99 24-48 hours (1)
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £210 for both 24-48 hours (1)

(1) Once test is received by the lab. (2) Some airports offer a 5% discount, eg, Manchester AirportStansted Airport

We've found private providers offering PCR tests from £65, which is a decent price if you can't get one cheaper via your airline or travel operator.

Tests for UK departures - if your destination requires one: Private test providers

Location/provider Test type Cost Turnaround time
Boots - Home testing kit PCR £65 No timeframe given
Express Test - Various locations, incl Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Reading, Southampton PCR £80 10pm next day
Randox Health - Various locations, incl Belfast, Liverpool, London PCR £85 Next day
Project Screen - Home testing kit PCR £98 24 hours (1)
Boots - Selected stores (see full list) PCR £99 48 hours
Collinson - O2 Arena, London PCR £99 48 hours
MASTA travel clinics - Various locations across Eng, Wales & Scot PCR £150 2-3 days

(1) Once test is received by the lab

If you need a rapid antigen or LAMP test, we found a few options here. Though check if you can get one cheaper via your airline or travel operator.

Rapid antigen & LAMP tests: Private test providers

Location/provider Test type Cost Turnaround time
Qured - Home testing kit Rapid antigen £39 20 minutes
Randox Health - Various locations, incl Belfast, Liverpool, London Rapid antigen £45 1 hour
Medicspot - Home testing kit Rapid antigen £45 20 minutes
Collinson - O2 Arena, London Rapid antigen £59 45-60 minutes
LAMP £85 90-120 minutes

3. Check airport prices – even if you're not flying from there

We found the cheapest PCR tests for pre-departure were often at airports. Eg, you'll pay around £60-£80 for a PCR test at Edinburgh, Gatwick and Heathrow.

However, if you need Day 2 and Day 8 tests on your return to the UK, a private clinic or home-testing kit may be your best bet, as some are offering packages from £99.

PCR tests for UK arrivals: Airport testing

Location/provider Test type Cost Turnaround time
Gatwick Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £189 for both 10pm next day
Heathrow Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £129 for both 48 hours
Leeds BradfordNewcastle Airport Day 2 PCR test £95 72 hours
Day 8 PCR test £95 72 hours
Manchester Airport Day 2 PCR test £66 48 hours
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £132 for both 48 hours
Stansted Day 2 PCR test £66 48 hours
Day 2 & Day 8 PCR tests £132 for both 48 hours

You can also get discounts on PCR tests, if your destination requires you to take one before you travel:

Tests for UK departures - if your destination requires one: Airport testing

Airport Test type Cost Turnaround time
Belfast Airport PCR £85 Next day
East Midlands (1)London City (2)Manchester (3) & Stansted (4) PCR £66 48 hours
LAMP £68 90 minutes
Rapid antigen £32 1 hour
Antibody £32 24-72 hours
Edinburgh Airport PCR £80 (airline passengers) 10pm next day
£99 (general public)
Rapid antigen £50 20 minutes
Gatwick - Drive through & terminal PCR £60 10pm next day
Heathrow PCR £59 10pm next day
Rapid antigen
£35 30 minutes
Luton PCR £82.50 48 hours
LAMP £85 90-120 minutes
Rapid antigen £40 45-60 minutes
Antibody £40 45-60 minutes
Newcastle Airport PCR £110 36-48 hours

(1) With Collinson via code EMATEST (2) With Collinson via code LCYTEST (3) With Collinson via code MANTEST (4) With Collinson via code STNTEST

In England, you can cut short your quarantine with 'Test to Release'

If you've arrived in the UK from a country on the amber list, you must self-isolate for 10 days after arrival. But in England, you can end self-isolation early by taking an additional test on day five. This is called Test to Release – we've seen it cost around £85-£175.

Virgin Atlantic passengers can get the test for £85 via Project Screen. The cheapest home-testing kit we found (available to anyone) was £99 via Qured. We've listed more options below.

Test to Release: End quarantine early with an extra test

Location/provider Test type Cost Turnaround time
Virgin Atlantic - Discounted home testing kit Test to Release PCR test £85 No timeframe given
British Airways - Discounted home testing kit Test to Release PCR test
£95 (1) 24-36 hours
Boots - Selected stores (see full list) Test to Release PCR test £99 Next day
Qured - Home testing kit
Test to Release PCR test £99 24-48 hours
Express Test - Various locations, incl Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Reading, Southampton Test to Release PCR test £99 10pm next day
Collinson - O2 Arena, London
Test to Release PCR test £99 Same day (for tests before 4pm)
Chronomics - Home testing kit Test to Release PCR test £119 24-36 hours
Randox Health - Home testing kit
Test to Release PCR test £120 11.59pm next day
Medicspot - Home testing kit Test to Release PCR test £149 24 hours
MASTA travel clinics - Various locations across Eng, Wales & Scot Test to Release PCR test £150 (2) 48-72 hours
Citydoc - Home testing kit
Test to Release PCR test £175 48-72 hours (3)

(1) Via ExpressTest with discount code BRITISHAIRWAYS04 (2) Some airports offer a 5% discount, eg, Manchester AirportStansted Airport. (3) Once test is received by the lab.

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