All travellers returning to the UK must take a ‘day two’ Covid test after arriving home.
Vaccinated holidaymakers can now book a lateral flow test (from a private testing provider) to take on – or before – the second day of their arrival home, instead of a more costly PCR test. You cannot take an NHS test for your day two test.
Travellers will need to take a photo of their lateral flow test and booking reference supplied by the private provider and send it back to them to verify the result, or take a test at the airport they arrive into.
This may not be the only test you need to take. Certain countries still require even double-jabbed arrivals to show evidence of a recent negative Covid test on arrival, while unvaccinated must take tests to gain entry to almost all destinations. Check the Foreign Office page for your destination before you go.
If unvaccinated, you will also need to take a pre-departure test up to 72 hours before travelling home. Furthermore, you must still take a PCR test for your day two test, and another on day eight, and self-isolate for ten days.
Here, we break down how the respective tests work and what to look out for when booking one in the coming months.
How do I get a lateral flow test for my ‘day two’?
On October 22, the Government released a list of approved testing companies. Prices for a lateral flow test currently average at around £20, but some providers offer pick-up tests for £15, and at the highest end tests cost £39.
When will my day two lateral flow test arrive?
Most companies will deliver your test by post within 24 to 48 hours.
What do I do with my day two test confirmation code?
Keep this safe. You will need to put this on your Passenger Locator Form in order to travel back to the UK.
When do I need to take the day two test?
Arrival day counts as ‘day 0’, meaning ‘day two’ is the third day after arrival back. If you land on a Monday, day two is Wednesday. Misleadingly, you do not need to take the test on day two, but rather by day two. So you can take the test as soon as you land, if you wish.
What do I do once I have taken my test?
You must take a photograph of your test result and send it back to your test supplier (your company will give instructions after you have paid for your test) who will confirm the result. If negative, you need take no further action. If positive, you must isolate, register your result with the NHS and take a PCR test as soon as possible. Contact your test provider for advice.
What if I am vaccinated but have already booked a day two PCR test?
That is fine. You can take the day two PCR test, and do not need to take an additional lateral flow test after October 24.
Do children need to take tests for travel?
Different countries have varying entry rules for children. Many, including France, Spain, Portugal and Greece require unvaccinated children over the age of 12 to have taken an antigen or PCR test before arrival.
In terms of returning to the UK, all children over the age of 5 must take the day two lateral flow test. Under 18s can take a lateral flow test, regardless of their vaccination status. Children do not need to take the pre-departure test, before travelling back to the UK.
What if I am not vaccinated?
If you are not vaccinated, you must take a PCR test for your day two. Prices for these range from £20 to £399. You can either post your test back to the clinic, or take this in a centre.
Vaccinated travellers need:
- A lateral flow (from October 24) or PCR test, taken within 48 hours of arriving back in the UK
- To complete a Passenger Locator Form before returning to the UK
Unvaccinated travellers need:
- To self-isolate for 10 days
- A Covid test before boarding a flight home (pre-departure test)
- To complete a Passenger Locator Form before returning to the UK
- A PCR test within 48 hours of arriving back in the UK and another Covid test on day eight
How do I get my pre-departure test (unvaccinated travellers only)?
If you are not fully vaccinated, you must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test to travel to England from abroad. This must be taken no more than three days before travel but can be either a LAMP, lateral flow or PCR test.
FCDO advice pages contain information on where to find local test providers in different countries. Tour operators, airlines and hotels can also advise on how to book these tests. Some private providers offer test packages that you can take away with you and complete over video call, before a certificate if emailed to you.
How do I get a day two and eight PCR test when I arrive back in England (unvaccinated travellers only)?
As above, unvaccinated travellers must also book tests, to take place on day two and eight of their return to the UK and provide booking references on their passenger locator form.
Similarly to outbound tests, this must be booked through a private test provider, though the Government sets out a different list of companies that should be used for returning travellers. Providers will flag which tests should be used for returning travellers, with companies such as Randox offering ‘test to release’ packages for unvaccinated travellers. Prices tend to be similar to any required outbound tests, for example Boots offers ‘day two’ home tests for £75.
Arrivals can also take a test at a clinic or drive-through site. Randox has various airport centres where arrivals can take their required test (for £60).
Do I need to take a test before I travel abroad?
Some countries require even fully vaccinated travellers to show evidence of a recent negative test to enter. For example, the Maldives demands all those over the age of one to take a PCR test 96 hours before departure. Most Caribbean islands open to tourists also have rigorous testing requirements.
With little regulation, private testing costs vary wildly. Among the more reasonably priced is testing giant Randox, which offers a delivered at-home PCR test for £43 – click and collect options are available from £34.99. The price includes a certificate with all the relevant information on to present to authorities. Be sure to order and send back your test in good time to avoid any pre-holiday panic.
Travellers can also opt to take a pre-departure test at a clinic, which generally have faster turnaround times but also tend to be more expensive. Vivo Clinics has 34 outposts across the country, from Glasgow to Exeter, and offers next day PCR test results from £119.
For those leaving things to the last minute, Heathrow has launched an on-site PCR testing service with a three-hour results turnaround from £119. Its Cignpost ExpressTest facilities also offer lateral flow tests (certain countries accept rapid tests for entry) for £35.