How to get a PCR test for traveling – the cheapest ways to buy one
With summer holidays back on the agenda this year under a traffic light system, UK travelers are booking breaks in the sun.
However, traveling is not as easy as it used to be: many countries now require tourists to present a negative Covid test on arrival, which must be carried out within a certain period of time beforehand. This is sometimes referred to as the “Fit to Fly” test. Many countries require the gold standard PCR test, but others accept cheaper antigen tests. Check the Covid entry requirements for your destination on the Department of Foreign Affairs website before booking tests.
UK travelers are not allowed to use the free NHS test service and instead have to go through a private company to get their result although, increasingly, travel agencies are luring holidaymakers with priced travel tests reduced or subsidized.
All returning travelers, meanwhile, will need to pass at least two tests: one before leaving for the UK, which can be an antigen or PCR test; and at least one PCR test within two days of arriving in the UK, depending on their vaccination status and whether they have been in a green, amber or red country.
PCR tests for travel can often cost hundreds of pounds, especially for families.
Here’s where to find a cheaper-than-average test.
Vendors offering PCR testing at UK airports include Collinson (Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, City, Manchester, East Midland and Stansted), ExpressTest (Birmingham, Gatwick, Heathrow, Edinburgh) and Randox (Belfast, Manchester, Stansted, East Midlands ).
Collinson’s rapid PCR tests, which offer results in three hours, are available at Heathrow for £ 95. The company’s standard PCR tests cost £ 82.50. It also offers pre-departure LAMP tests (rapid tests with results taking between 90 and 120 minutes) for £ 85.
ExpressTest’s aptitude-to-fly PCR tests at its airport branches range from £ 59 to £ 80 each, depending on location. It also offers LAMP and lateral flow testing at some of its branches.
Randox offers express PCR testing for £ 95 at its airports. The tests on day two and eight, as well as those which allow passengers to test and release on day five, are available for £ 60 at its airports. These tests are carried out by qualified personnel in drive-thru centers.
Boots UK has launched a PCR self-test package for £ 65.
It sells a home PCR self-test – offered by MyHealthChecked – which can be purchased from boots.com and delivered to customers’ homes the next day. The test, which is also available in over 500 Boots stores, can also be purchased by Boots Advantage Card holders using their points.
Boots also offers an in-store Covid-19 PCR testing service for £ 85, which is now available in over 200 stores across the UK and offers results within 48 hours. Its rapid in-store antigen testing service, meanwhile, costs £ 59.99 and delivers same-day results in more than 50 stores.
The three Private Boots tests can be used as a private pre-flight test service, depending on the specific requirements of the destination country and the airline, for customers who need a negative Covid-19 certificate before traveling to the ‘foreigner.
Boots is also now an accredited test provider for the government Test to Release program, offering next day results for those who wish to reduce their home quarantine by taking a voluntary test on the fifth day after arriving in England from a country. who is not on the ‘red list’. These in-store tests cost £ 85 each.
Company testing for day two and day eight testing for international arrivals, home PCR self-test kits with results usually available within 48 hours of sample receipt at the lab, cost £ 75 each or £ 145 for a day two and eight pack.
One of the largest private Covid-19 test providers in the UK, Randox offers home PCR test kits in addition to those available at its testing centers. These cost £ 48, although discounts are available through a number of airlines (see below).
Britain’s largest holiday company announced in early May that it would offer PCR testing for £ 20 to its customers, with the aim of making summer holidays more affordable.
Tui, which has partnered with supplier Chronomics, is selling a range of tiered Covid testing packages to customers traveling to green and amber destinations this summer.
Tui’s testing packages start at £ 20 for Green List travelers who only need a lateral flow test before departure and a PCR test on arrival.
For £ 60 the package includes an additional PCR test if needed to enter the holiday destination.
For Orange List travelers, the flat rate costs £ 50 to cover UK testing requirements, rising to £ 90 for the additional outbound PCR test.
If a destination changes from orange to green, Tui says it will refund the difference.
Travelers will be able to order tests on a new Chronomics and Tui booking platform.
British Airways offers discounted fares with government approved Covid-19 testing providers with prices starting at £ 40.41.
The options available include:
- Test before your flight (proof of a negative Covid-19 test at your departure airport)
- Tests on arrival (on arrival in UK for quarantine testing on days two and eight)
- Test to Release (reduce your isolation time by paying for a Covid-19 test under the government’s “Test to Release” program)
- Day 2 and Day 8 testing for UK arrivals from Green and Amber List countries
Test providers include Qured, Randox, Halo, Medicspot, and LetsGetChecked.
The tests can be carried out at home, at test centers and at some major UK airports.
Passengers traveling on selected routes can also upload their Covid-19 test results to an app called VeriFLY to certify their test certificates.
The low-cost airline has partnered with test kit brand Randox to offer passengers cash on its PCR tests, which cost £ 43 instead of the usual £ 48.
Discounted prices are only available to UK based travelers.
The UK’s largest low-cost airline has also partnered with Randox Health to offer discounted home test kits for £ 43.
EasyJet customers wishing to take pre-departure PCR testing at the airport prior to departure can take advantage of the airline’s partnership with Collinson. By using the special discount code when booking tests on the Collinson website, you will get 20% off the regular price.
This also applies to the Collinson Green List Day 2 test, which you can take at the airport upon arrival in the UK (Day 2 test must be completed by day 2 at the latest).
The Sofitel at London Heathrow
The Sofitel London Heathrow offers travelers “test and rest” stays, consisting of one night at the hotel, breakfast and a PCR test.
Upon arrival at the Terminal 5 hotel, guests take a self-administered test that requires them to spit into a tube. This is then mailed to a laboratory at Imperial College London to be processed overnight.
The testing program is provided by biotech company Halo, and guests must also download the Halo app upon registration.
The app is directly linked to their test, so their result and certificate appear in the app as soon as it’s ready. This means that, provided they do not test positive for the virus, travelers can wake up ready to fly.
However, this test is a saliva-based test, as many destinations specify that the test should be a nasal swab.
The package costs £ 199 per person, including a double room in B&B. Two people sharing costs £ 279.