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COVID Testing for Travel

COVID testing

The world of travel is a complex one in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. Where’s open, what are the entry requirements, will you have to self-isolate on arrival in-destination, or when you get home? The biggest questions right now are around testing – airlines, airports, destinations, PCR, rapid antigen… everywhere has its own set of rules.

For returning to England, even if you're double-jabbed, COVID-19 testing is mandatory on or before day 2 following your arrival. This includes British passport holders and even when travelling from a non-red country. That’s where Flight Centre comes in. If you’re returning to the UK and are wondering what you need to do, we’re here to help you fly with confidence. And, if you’re really stuck, be sure to give us a call on 0208 127 4273 or visit our Help Centre to check what’s needed for your booking with us.

What are the COVID testing rules for entering England?

Currently, all travellers (even UK nationals) will be required to complete a Passenger Locator Form in the 48 hours before departing for England. Travellers are also required to take a COVID-19 test on/before day 2 of their return to England. This must be:

  • a lateral flow or PCR test;
  • is applicable regardless of your entry point/method, so anyone travelling by plane, train or boat; 
  • must be presented regardless of whether you're travelling from a non-red or red-list country; and
  • you must self-isolate until you receive a negative result.

Travellers who have not been double-jabbed will also be required to:

  • take a pre-departure test (rapid antigen/lateral flow or PCR) before travelling to England;
  • book a second return test for day 8;
  • quarantine at home for 10 days (or 5 days with test-to-release); 

Anyone travelling to/from a red country will still be required to:

  • take a pre-departure test;
  • book a quarantine hotel package for their return to England.
  • In addition to any testing, forms or quarantine requirements for their destination of choice.

Sound confusing? We're here to help. Chat to our experts on 0208 127 4273 and let us book your trip without the hassle.

Where can I get a COVID test for travel?

COVID tests for travel are available from a range of private suppliers. At Flight Centre, we’ve tried and testing a range of providers, and are proud to be working with the following companies to offer value and confidence for our customers:

ExpressTest 

ExpressTest offers PCR and lateral flow/rapid antigen tests. It’s the main testing provider at London Heathrow, as well as having multiple other sites around the UK.

Randox

Randox has over 200 clinics across the UK and Ireland, as well as their own laboratory. Clinician-administered PCR and lateral flow/rapid antigen tests are available, as well as at-home kits.

Qured

Qured specialises in at-home test kits, including PCR, lateral flow/rapid antigen, and tests that require a video/supervised consultation – such as travel to the USA. Its test results can also be used with the VeriFly app.

Prenetics

Prenetics is partnered with our friends at Virgin Atlantic, and offers PCR and lateral flow tests in the form of at-home kits and a number of clinic locations for in-person testing.

Collinson Group

Collinson Group offers rapid services at UK airports and test centres, as well as great value. There are in-terminal, walk-through and drive-through options for PCR and lateral flow testing.

DiamondAir 

DiamondAir offers a range of bespoke testing for travel solutions, including rapid testing, ‘test and rest’ airport options and in-transit testing packages.

How much is a COVID test for travel?

Generally speaking, the cost of COVID tests for travel are based on two things: the type of test (whether it be a PCR test or rapid antigen for examples), and how the test is undertaken – i.e. does your destination allow tests that are taken at home and self-certified, or do you need to undertake an in-person or virtual consultation too. Standard lateral flow or rapid antigen tests – the type used for some pre-departure tests, such as travel to the USA – typically start from around £20-25 per test, while PCR tests can be as low as £43 each. It is also possible to access discount codes for cheaper testing.

Are NHS COVID tests accepted for travel?

At present, the free rapid antigen/lateral flow tests available from the UK government are not accepted for travel. You will need to order your tests online from a private supplier or visit a designated clinic.

What are the COVID testing rules for travel around the world?

In addition to your tests for returning home to England, you may also need to produce an additional negative test when departing for your holiday – dependent on your destination of choice. For example, when visiting the USA, travellers are required to take a supervised (in-person or video) rapid antigen or PCR test taken within 24 hours of departure, and present their negative result before boarding. Testing requirements for travel vary from country to country – specifically the following:

  • Who needs to be tested – age requirements vary, and in many cases children are exempt
  • What type of test is accepted – there are several out there; PCR – which detects the virus’s genetic information – is probably the most common
  • How far in advance you can be tested – many countries call for a maximum of 72 hours before travel

To see requirements for your destination of choice, check out latest travel restrictions here. Please note that requirements can change at short notice, so be sure to keep checking for updates and speak to your Flight Centre Travel Consultant if you’re unsure.

What types of COVID tests are available?

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and rapid antigen (otherwise known as lateral flow) and the most common tests you are likely to come across when it comes to travel. Lateral flow tests are often cheaper than PCR, and can be used for some pre-departure tests when leaving the UK. Some countries require a PCR test pre-departure or in-destination, and will not accept lateral flow – check with your Consultant or our Help Centre for dedicated advice.

Do airlines require COVID tests for flights?

Airline rules around pre-departure testing vary, so we highly recommend speaking to your Flight Centre Travel Expert or contacting your airline directly for the latest advice.

Are there any discounts available on COVID-19 tests?

Thanks to our fantastic relationships with our suppliers, we have secured affordable COVID-19 testing with a range of providers – ranging from 4-20% off! With help from our savings, you can get tests from as little as £18.95. Chat with your Travel Expert and they’ll be able to provide the relevant discount codes for testing for travel.

Want to Know More About COVID Testing?

Visit our Help Centre and blog! We’ve got articles on testing, restrictions, vaccine passports, travel insurance and more to get you travel ready. You can also stay up-to-date on the latest travel news, announcements and inspiration when you sign up to the Flight Centre Newsletter.

Written by Alexandra Cronin (Gregg)

Once a roving local news reporter and now a travel-obsessed writer/sub, I'm head-over-heels for nature, wildlife and the ocean. When I'm not getting up close to animals and sea creatures, I'm seeking out the sets of my favourite TV shows around the world. 

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