If travel restrictions mention that I need to have a Covid test, can I use one of the NHS (lateral flow) tests?

No, you need to have a more 'sensitive' and therefore more accurate test such as a PCR test (results usually available in 48 hrs) or a Lamp test (results usually available in 90 mins)

Where can I get one of these tests?

1 You can get tested at various UK airports

2 You can get tested at various Boots stores.

3 You can order private tests online and send your swab back by pre-paid courier or drop them off at a nearby site. You will carry out the test yourself at home. You will be sent your results by email (along with a Fit to Fly certificate if your test is negative). Note that private tests will vary in price and service (time taken to receive the results).

How long does it take to get the results?

It varies with provider but most private tests will have your results to you in 48hrs and some same day services are available (more expensive)

What does the test involve?

This depends on the type of test but usually it involves a swab from the nose and back of throat which you will perform yourself, or get someone to help you. It is not usually painfully but you may find it unpleasant or uncomfortable and it may make you gag. It does not take more than a few seconds.

Fit to Fly

When should I arrange the test for?

This depends on where you are travelling too. You need to check that you understand the individual travel restrictions for your destination, from your starting point. Most countries state a negative PCR test must be provided that is no older than 72 hours prior to arrival (take into account the journey time). Don't forget to factor in postal times for returning your swab.

Travel restrictions mention I need a Fit to Fly certificate, what is that?

It is a certificate to show that you have been assessed as being well and free of Covid-19 symptoms. It is provided by the PCR testing company you use and will be signed by a registered GP. It must include:

  • Your name (as shown on your passport)
  • Your DOB / age
  • Your test result and the date of the test
  • Name & contact details of Test provider
  • Device used for test & type of test taken
Lateral flow tests

How do I know what restrictions are in place in my destination?

At the moment the UK is running a 'Red List' of countries from where visitors are not permitted to enter the UK without quarantining (at their own expense) in a government facility before heading home. On May 17th 2021, the UK government will be announcing an update to the scheme to introduce a 'traffic-light' system where countries are given a certain status based on several factors including incidence of Covid-19 and progress with vaccination programs. Keep an eye on the UK Government website 'Travel Abroad: Step by Step' for more information and for frequent changes/updates.

What is the Test to Release Scheme?

If you are returning to the UK from a country that is not on the red list (see above), you will be required to self isolate (quarantine). If you opt in on your passenger locator form, you can choose to book a test with a private provider 5 days after arrival. Once you receive a negative result, you may leave self-isolation.