COVID-19 Testing For Travel

Helping you make sense of COVID-19 testing for international travel

Last updated: 20 September 2021.

As international travel reopens following COVID-19, testing requirements are now in place as an entry requirement for most holiday destinations.

In addition, the UK requires all returning travellers to take a COVID-19 test once they arrive home.

As of 4 October 2021, fully vaccinated travellers don’t need to take a pre-departure test before they arrive in the UK. If you’re not fully vaccinated though, you’ll still need to show a negative test result before boarding your fight home.

It’s important to make sure any tests you take meet the required standards. As a quick turnaround is needed to ensure you get your test results on time, we recommend using a provider that comes highly trusted.

Our Travel Specialists are always on-hand to offer our clients information and assistance when needed. To help you further, we’ve put as much information as possible into this guide to COVID-19 testing for international travel.

 

What tests do I need to take?

Many holiday destinations require proof of a negative test taken before you travel.

As for returning to the UK, the new travel system now comprises two lists – a red ‘no travel’ list, and a green list which you are free to travel to on your holiday.

While you can’t travel to any countries on the red list, you can travel to any country on the green list, so long as they’re accepting UK travellers and the FCDO advises it is safe to visit.

The tests you need to take on return depend on your vaccination status:

  • If you’ve been fully vaccinated, you only need to take a PCR test on your second day back in the UK
  • If you’re not fully vaccinated, you’ll need the above test along with a pre-departure test taken at least 72 hours before your arrival in the UK

By the end of October, there are also plans to allow you to use a lateral flow test for your second day return test if you’ve been fully vaccinated, rather than a PCR test.

You’ll need to have all necessary tests booked before you travel. Before you return home, you’ll be asked to fill out a Passenger Locator Form which requires you to provide the booking reference of your at-home test and the name of the provider.

For full details on all travel restrictions, including self-isolation or quarantine measures, please see our Traffic Light System FAQs.

What type of test do I need to take to go on holiday and return home?

The tests must meet performance standards of =97% specificity, =80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml. This could include tests such as:

  • A nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests
  • An antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device

Your test result must be in either English, French or Spanish. Translations won’t be accepted.

Testing for England Residents

If you live in England, you can’t use an NHS home testing kit for travelling. Instead, you’ll need to contact a private test provider who can include the following information with your result:

  • Your name – which will need to match the name on your travel documents
  • Your date of birth
  • The result of the test
  • The date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
  • The name of the test provider and their contact details
  • Details of what testing device was used, or confirmation that the test was a PCR test

Keep hold of all documentation that shows the result of your tests, including printed and digital copies. You’ll be asked to show them before leaving and entering a country.

Please note, testing requirements may differ for residents of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. You can find further details on this further on in this guide.

Where can I get a test for my holiday?

There are now many private facilities in the UK offering testing services for return travel to England. The Government has published a list of test providers that are approved to produce COVID-19 test results for those going on holiday, which you can find via the links below.

https://www.gov.uk/find-travel-test-provider

To further help, we’ve researched the available testing companies and have identified a selection of providers that offer a comprehensive range of options. Please click through to their websites for further details and costs.

Please note, it’s important to do your own research, read recent reviews and check each supplier’s terms and conditions when booking a test. It’ll be your own responsibility to choose a test provider for yourself.

Boots

Offers in-store COVID-19 PCR Testing service at selected sites across the UK, as well as at-home PCR testing kits.

Express Test by Cignpost Diagnostics

Provides fast, accurate, gold-standard COVID-19 PCR testing across a variety of sites in the UK. Clients include Netflix, BBC, Amazon and PGA European Tour.

Local PCR

Offers a variety of PCR testing at test centres across the UK.

MedicSpot

Uses UKAS-accredited labs with fit to fly experts to help answer any queries. They offer COVID Hub pick-up points, for those not wanting to rely on Royal Mail.

Testing for All

Their mission is to make COVID-19 testing accessible and affordable to everyone who needs it. They are proudly not-for-profit and want to contribute to getting our communities back on track.

Testing for Wales Residents

Unlike England, Wales are using NHS testing kits for the purpose of travel. This allows them to be processed in NHS laboratories which helps speed up the contact tracing process.

If you live in Wales, you’ll need to book a ‘travel test package’ before you arrive back home. If you don’t have proof that this is booked in advanced, you could be fined.

You can book your tests using the CTM booking portal.

Testing for Scotland Residents

If you reside in Scotland, you will also need to use the CMT booking portal to arrange your day two or day eight test following your return home. You can’t use a free NHS testing kit or use a private provider.

Testing for Northern Ireland Residents

Similarly to England, if you live in Northern Ireland your tests must be booked through a UK government approved private test provider.

Where can I get a test while I’m at my holiday destination?

If you’re not fully vaccinated and need to obtain a negative test 72 hours prior to your UK return, you’ll need to take a test during the final 3 days of your holiday.

This means you’ll have to use a test provider that meets the UK standards in your destination. Our Travel Specialists will do all they can to help you find approved test providers in your holiday resort or destination. Many of our hotels are providing guests with testing facilities to ensure this is as easy as possible.

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