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Covid travel testing explained: How to get a cheap lateral flow Day 2 test - when and where to get tested

Testing for travel is a minefield - here’s what you need to know if you’re travelling internationally

England has now ditched the requirement for ‘pre-departure’ tests for inbound international travellers - so what are the new rules?

England has now ditched the requirement for ‘pre-departure’ tests for inbound international travellers.

As of 4am on January 7 2022, fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England are permitted to enter the UK without producing a negative ‘pre-departure’ PCR or Lateral Flow Test.

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Travellers will, however, have to submit a ‘day-2 test’ - that is to say, a test taken within 48 hours of their arrival in the UK. While previously this had to be a PCR test (which is analysed in a lab), now the less expensive rapid antigen Lateral Flow Test (LFT) is permissible.

Travellers no longer need to quarantine until they receive the result of their day 2 test - however, if their LFT test is positive they will then be required to take a PCR test.

Though these are referred to as “day 2 tests” they can be taken at any stage within the first 48 hours of arrival. Test sooner, and you’ll know your Covid status sooner, meaning you are better placed to shield yourself and those around you if you need to self-isolate.

If you want to test on arrival, many airports offer this service. Check out our guides to the following major UK airports here:

Testing on site at arrival at an airport

For guides to being tested on site, as you land in an airport from your overseas travel, check the following links. For some, this can be the most convenient means of ensuring you are tested in a timely fashion.

Do I need to isolate on return to the UK?

Not any more, unless your day 2 test returns positive, in which case you will need to get a PCR test - this is so the variant of Covid you have contracted can be traced.

Countries have their own requirements for entry

If you are leaving the UK, make sure you check the entry requirements for the country you are visiting - they may differ. Up to the minute information is available on the gov.uk travel advice website.

ExpressTest sell a lateral flow test you can self administer £25, here. OfficialRapidTests sell one for for £21.99, here. Both promise results within 15 minutes and adhere to government standards for testing.

Can I use a NHS Covid tests to clear me for travel?

No. Tests for Covid-19 available through the NHS can not be used to clear you for international travel, if the country you are travelling to requires a clear test.

You must use a private test provider, who self-declare that they meet the UK government’s standards. These test providers are numerous - and not all created equal. We have, however, used the following test providers, and found them to be reliable, swift, and reasonably priced as compared to the competition:

It is worth carrying Proof of Vaccination on your phone

You can access the NHS proof of vaccine status on the NHS app. This is a golden ticket for gaining access to many hotels, museums, restaurants, and events while travelling.

What is the Passenger Locator Form (PLF)?

The Passenger Locator Form (PLF) needs to be completed ahead of your return to the UK - it will be checked at security before your board your plane home (or train or boat). It requires you to detail your self-isolation address, and your travel for the previous 10 days.

The PLF form will ask you for your confirmation booking code for your day 2 test (the one you complete after arriving). Make sure you have this booked well in advance, to avoid stress (or delays).

Do children need to be tested on return to the UK?

Over the age of 8, children will need to take a day LFT test.

What are the rules for returning from red list countries?

Simply put - expensive. You need the pre-departure Covid test, a completed PLF, then to quarantine in a designated hotel for 10 days. You need to pay for this stay.

You need to have either British or Irish citizenship, or residency rights, to travel to the UK from a red list country.

Do I need to take a Fit to Fly PCR test before I leave the UK?

No - although different travel destinations have their own requirements - check the relevant destination page on the Foreign Office website to get details.

Check the type of test required. Some destinations require PCR tests conducted in person at designated testing locations, while others will accept postal PCR test kits, or even antigen lateral flow tests.

Will I get tested on arrival to a country?

Again - this depends on the destination. Some do - usually requiring a PCR test or lateral flow test at the airport on arrival, with self-isolation at a hotel until the results are received. Other destinations do randomised testing - so be prepared.

Most commonly, though, is the requirement to show a passport for your Covid vaccine at hotels, museums, and restaurants. You can access the NHS proof of vaccine status on the NHS app.

If you have not been vaccinated then it is not impossible to travel internationally, but it is incredibly difficult - and costly. Some countries will not allow you to visit altogether. The advice in this article assumes you have been double vaccinated.

Where can I get a LFT test for travel?

This is the list of the government-approved test providers, who you can book tests through - they are also detailed by the Covid Testing Network.

You can either purchase a test to be self-administered at home, where the results are then sent to a lab for analysis, or to be done in person at a testing site.

Tried and trusted at home LFT tests are available through:

Some countries don’t accept self-administered tests as they are easily falsified, so check this.

Tried and trusted in-person tests are available through:

In person tests are swifter and you will receive your results more promptly, but they do tend to be more expensive, which can be problematic if you’re travelling as a family.

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