How to find the cheapest Covid tests for overseas travel

How to find the cheapest Covid tests for overseas travel

Fully vaccinated travellers and under-18s no longer need to take a test before returning to the UK. But everyone needs to take at least one test when they get back. There may be other tests required too, so check which tests you need, and use our tips below to keep costs down.

This is a controversial market where firms don't always advertise true prices. We only list firms on the UK Government's approved list – we've checked reviews and price accuracy (as much as we can). There are no certainties, so always do your own checks – please give feedback on firms, and let us know if you find a cheaper price. We've focused on mass-market providers – you may be able to find a cheaper local test, but again, always do your checks.

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Who needs to take what test?

Whether you're returning to England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, everyone in the UK needs to get tested at least once after getting back. Here are the rules:

Testing requirements – by vaccination status

TEST TYPE FULLY-VACCINATED  UNVACCINATED
Before UK departure

 

Only if destination country requires it
 

Abroad, before returning ✔️
Day two ✔️
Cheaper rapid antigen test (lateral flow) now allowed
✔️
Must self-isolate for 10 days from arrival and take PCR tests on day two & day eight 
(England arrivals can take day five PCR test to end isolation early)
Day eight

 

The rules on overseas travel are subject to change. See full info in our Coronavirus travel rights guide.

Covid travel tests need-to-knows

This remains a rapidly changing area with hundreds of providers registered with the Government. Bear the following in mind when booking travel:

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Cheap rapid antigen (lateral flow) tests for day two UK arrivals

Fully vaccinated travellers and under-18s can now take a cheaper rapid antigen test when arriving back in the UK. The day you arrive is counted as day zero and they can be taken as soon as you've landed right up till the end of day two after arrival.

You no longer need to self-isolate until you receive a negative result, so speed is less of an issue, and a home testing kit is likely your cheapest (and most convenient) option.

Home testing rapid antigen kits

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST
Chronomics £13
Testing For All £17
Project Screen* £17 via Virgin Atlantic (auto discount)
£17 if you click & collect
£19 full price
Qured £19.50
Eurofins £19.90
Randox Health £14.50 if you click & collect
£17.50 via airline/holiday operator codes
£19.99 full price
C19 Testing £22
Collinson £19.60 via discount codes
£24.50 full price
Express Test* £19 if you click & collect
£25 full price

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

At a clinic rapid antigen tests

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST
Edinburgh, Heathrow, Warrington via Eurofins £29.90
Belfast, Birmingham, East Midlands, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester via Randox Health £30 via airline/holiday operator codes
£35 full price
Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Glasgow, London, Manchester and more via Express Test* £35
East Midlands, London, Manchester via Collinson £32 via discount codes
£40 full price

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

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Not fully vaccinated? Cheap pre-departure tests before you return to the UK

Unless you're fully vaccinated, you'll need to take a PCR or cheaper rapid antigen (lateral flow) test, no more than 48 hours before departure back to the UK.

To save sourcing a test abroad, you can buy a rapid antigen test before you go and take it with you. But if you're travelling to an area you know well, it might be worth checking prices of tests locally to see if you can find one cheaply while you're out there.

We've listed the cheapest rapid antigen kits you can take with you (we've not included PCRs as they're often more expensive).

Rapid antigen kits to take away with you

PROVIDER COST TRAVEL CERTIFICATE TURNAROUND
Chronomics £12.63 Within three hours of submitting result
Project Screen* £17 for Virgin Atlantic customers, automatic discount Within 20 minutes of submitting result
£19 full price
C19 Testing £22 Within 12 hours of submitting result
Qured £19.80 for Heathrow passengers via code HEATHROW10 Within two hours of submitting result
£22 full price
Randox Health £18.95 if you click & collect Within three hours of submitting result
£21.50 via airline/holiday operator codes
£24 full price
Collinson £19.60 via code CG20 Within two hours of submitting result
Medicspot*
£29 By 11.59pm the day you submit result

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

Not fully vaccinated? Cheap combined day two and day eight PCR tests for UK arrivals

If you aren't fully vaccinated, you'll need to isolate for 10 days on your return, and take a PCR test on day two and day eight. Here are the cheapest prices we could find for both tests:

At a clinic: Often pricier than at-home tests (with some exceptions), but quicker as samples can be analysed earlier

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST RESULT TURNAROUND
Heathrow and Livingston via Eurofins

£79.90

 

Within 12-24 hours
East Midlands, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Stansted via Randox Health £110 By 11.59pm the day after 
East Midlands, Gatwick, Heathrow, London (O2 Arena and St Pancras station), Luton and more via Collinson £110.40 via discount codes Within 48 hours
£138 full price

Home testing kits: Often cheaper than clinics (not always), but results take longer as you need to factor in sending/dropping off the sample

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST RESULT TURNAROUND
Amazon* £63.98 (out of stock when we checked on 13 Jan) Within 24 hours of test received by lab 
Randox Health 
£69.98 if you click & collect By 11.59pm the day after returning your test to a drop box
£86 via airline & holiday operator codes
£96 full price
Testing For All £89 Within 48 hours of test received by lab 
Eurofins £98.90 Within 24 hours of test received by lab 
Project Screen* £124 Within 24 hours of test received by lab 
Qured £128 Within 24 hours of test received by lab 
CityDoc £130 Within 24-48 hours of test received by lab 
Boots* £136 Within 24-48 hours of test received by lab

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

Not fully vaccinated? Cheap 'Test to Release' day five PCR tests to cut short your quarantine in England

In England, you can end what would have been 10 days of self-isolation early by taking an additional test on day five and getting a negative result. This is known as 'Test to Release', but speed is key here, so be aware that at-home providers can take longer to provide a result. Below are the cheapest Test to Release PCR tests we could find.

At a clinic: Often pricier, but quickest option as samples can be analysed earlier than with a home test

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST RESULT TURNAROUND
East Midlands Airport, Liverpool, London, Manchester Airport via Randox Health £55 By 11.59pm the day after
Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Reading, Southampton via Express Test* £50 for British Airways customers via code BA21 By 10pm the day after 
£69 full price
London (Heathrow, O2 Arena and St Pancras station) via Collinson £76 via discount codes By 11.59pm the day after
£95 full price
Boots stores* around the country (see full list) £79 By 11.59pm the day after
London (Moorgate and London Bridge) via CityDoc
£125 Within 48-72 hours

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

Home testing kits: Often cheaper, but slower than a clinic as you need to factor in sending/dropping off the sample

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST RESULT TURNAROUND
Eurofins £44.90 Within 24 hours of test received by lab 
Randox Health £43 via airline & holiday operator codes By 11.59pm the day after returning your test to a drop box
£48 full price
Project Screen* £55 for Virgin Atlantic customers (automatic discount) Within 24 hours of test received by lab 
£64 full price
Medicspot* £75 Within 24 hours of test received by lab 
Chronomics £99 Within 24-36 hours of test received by lab 

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

Cheap 'fit to fly' PCR or rapid antigen tests before a UK departure (if the other country requires it)

Some countries require proof of a negative Covid test, and may accept a PCR or rapid antigen test – for both, always check the standard your destination country requires (importantly, some don't accept home testing kits). If you've a choice, rapid antigen tests are cheaper and you'll get the results quicker. For each country's requirements, see the Government's foreign travel advice.

You may have a small window from taking the test to departing (for some countries it's just 24-48 hours), so speed is key. But you'll often pay more for faster results.

Cheap PCR 'fit to fly' tests for UK departures

We've tables on cheaper but slower home testing kits or quicker tests at clinics that you pay a premium for:

At a clinic PCR tests: Pricier than at-home tests, but quicker as results can be analysed earlier

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST RESULT TURNAROUND
Liverpool One and London Waterloo station via Randox Health £55 By 11.59pm the day after
£65 By 11.59pm the same day
£80 Within 1-3 hours
London (O2 Arena and St Pancras station) via Collinson 
£55.20 for Amex cardholders via code AMEX20 Within 48 hours
£69 full price
Belfast, Dartford, Gateshead, London via Express Test* £59 By 10pm the day after
Bristol, Manchester, Oxford via Express Test* £69 By 10pm the day after
Boots stores* around the country (see full list) £79 Within 48 hours
Aberdeen, Burnley, Cardiff, Glasgow, Hatfield, Leeds, London, Northampton, Reading, Southampton via Express Test* £80 By 10pm the day after

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

Home PCR test kits: Cheaper, but slower than clinics as it takes time to send/drop off samples. Plus some countries don't accept these

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST RESULT TURNAROUND
Eurofins £40 for British Airways customers via code BA2021 Within 24 hours of test received by lab 
£44.90
Randox Health £34.99 if you click & collect By 11.59pm the day after returning your test to a drop box
£43 (home test) via airline & holiday operator codes
£48 (home test)
Boots* £62 Within 24-48 hours of test received by lab 
Project Screen* £64 Within 24 hours of test received by lab 

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

Cheap rapid antigen 'fit to fly' tests for UK departures

If choosing between home testing or going to a clinic, in this case at-home testing can be quicker, providing you order the test in plenty of time – you'll get immediate results and some could have it verified within 30 minutes, but you should check first. We've ordered the tables below by price, with the cheapest at-home tests first, though it's important to note not all countries accept home tests.

Home testing rapid antigen kits

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST TRAVEL CERTIFICATE TURNAROUND
Chronomics £15.03 Within 30 minutes of submitting result
Project Screen* £17 for Virgin Atlantic customers, automatic discount Within three hours of submitting result
£19 full price
Testing For All £19  Within five hours of submitting result
Qured £19.80 for Heathrow passengers via code HEATHROW10 Within two hours of submitting result
£22 full price
C19 Testing £22 Within 12 hours of submitting result
Randox Health £18.95 if you click & collect
Within three hours of submitting result
£21.50 via airline/holiday operator codes
£24 full price
Collinson £19.60 via discount codes Within two hours of submitting result
£24.50 full price
Medicspot* £29 By 11.59pm the day you submit result

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

At a clinic rapid antigen tests

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST RESULT TURNAROUND
Gatwick via Express Test* £33 via code LGWBTT2 Within 40 minutes
Glasgow, East Midlands Airport, Liverpool, London, Manchester Airport via Randox Health £35 Within 60 minutes
Belfast, Birmingham Airport, Heathrow via Express Test* £35 Within 40 minutes
East Midlands, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Manchester, Stansted, London via Collinson £32 via discount codes Within 45-60 minutes
£40 full price
Aberdeen, Bristol, Burnley, Cardiff, Edinburgh Airport, Glasgow, Leeds and more via Express Test* £50 Within 40 minutes

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

Competition watchdog calls for Government action over PCR travel tests

The Competition and Markets Authority has said the Government must intervene in the PCR travel test market to improve the experience for consumers.

The call for action is the outcome of a review of the market launched over the summer, amid mounting concerns over the price, reliability and quality of service provided by some firms. Complaints from customers included paying high prices for poor service, test kits and/or results arriving late or not at all, and there being no way to contact a firm when things went wrong.

For more details, see our Government must step in to address problems with PCR travel test market, says watchdog MSE News story.

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