Where do I get a PCR test for travel? Rules on testing for holidays abroad – and how much they cost

Holidaymakers will need to take a Covid test to travel abroad, with PCR tests priced at around £100

Foreign holidays will be back on the cards from 17 May in England and Scotland, as a new risk-based traffic light system for travel will be introduced.

Wales and Northern Ireland have not said when they might ease their international travel restrictions, but Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said all four of the UK's chief medical officers agreed on the principles behind the traffic light system.

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The new system will see destinations categorised into green, amber and red lists, each of which will have different quarantine requirements - but testing will be essential for all.

Holidaymakers will need to order a PCR test from a provider before travel (Photo: Getty Images)

Travellers returning to the UK from “green” rated countries will not be required to quarantine, but will have to take on Covid test post-arrival. Those returning from an amber list country must self-isolate for at least five days and take two tests, while the red list requires an 11-night stay in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £1,750 for solo travellers.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests will need to be taken if you travel abroad, which are slightly different to the lateral flow tests that are currently available for free in England and Scotland.

Here’s what you need to know about how the tests work and how to order one.

What is a PCR test?

A PCR test involves taking a swap from the inside of your nose and the back of your throat using a long cotton bud.

This can be done by yourself, if you are aged 12 or over, or someone can do it for you. Parents or guardians should swab test children aged 11 or under.

This type of test is mainly used for people who have symptoms of coronavirus, including a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, and they are sent off to a lab to be checked.

Unlike lateral flow tests, which can provide results within 30 minutes, results from a PCR test are returned in up to five working days, via text or a phone call.

These tests are considered more accurate as they are better at detecting very small amounts of the virus, especially early on during an infection.

By comparison, lateral flow tests are mostly used by people who do not have any symptoms of coronavirus.

How can I get a PCR test for a holiday?

The government has advised that people should not use the NHS testing service to book a test before travelling abroad, but instead need to arrange one privately from a provider.

Test packages for holidays need to be booked in advance to give the provider time to organise delivery of the testing kits.

When these arrive, the first test will need to be taken on or before day two of your quarantine period, and the second should be taken on or after day eight of your quarantine period.

A comprehensive list of PCR test providers is available on the government website, and these typically cost around £100.

The cheapest test currently listed is from Leeds Covid Testing, which is partnered with Nonacus, with testing kits priced at £99.00.

Futher information on PCR testing, including ordering a test, in all parts of the UK can be found on gov.uk.

Can I get a test anywhere else?

High street retailers Boots and Superdrug both offer PCR tests, priced at £99 and £120 respectively.

The results of these will usually be returned within 48 hours, and if the test is inconclusive you will be issued a refund, or be given the option of paying to repeat the test. Tests at Boots also come with a “fit to fly certificate”.

Other private clinics across the country providing PCR tests can be found on the government website.

Alternatively, some airlines and travel companies also offer PCR tests, with some priced at just £60.

British airways has given passengers discount codes to some suppliers, including Nomad tests at £166, CityDoc tests at £93, MedicSpot tests at £127 and Halo tests at £75.

Easy Jet is offering a discount on tests from Randox Health which will cost £72, while Jet2 is providing tests from the Living Care Group at £75.

RyanAir has linked to private clinics around the country with prices ranging from £149 to £219, and TUI is offering tests from Screen 4 and Randox, priced at £70 and £89 respectively.

Hays Travel is also offering customers a range of government approved PCR tests from £45.

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