Which is the Cheapest Covid Test for Travel Abroad?
After months of lockdown and enforced restrictions, most of us are hoping to put the last year firmly behind us and get away for a much-deserved summer holiday abroad.
However, with new variants of the Covid 19 virus springing up and the vaccine rollout ongoing, the government’s travel traffic light system remains in place, meaning potentially costly Covid tests adding to your holiday budget.
From 19 July children and fully vaccinated adults will no longer be required to self-isolate on their return from countries on the green and amber travel lists. However, they will still need to pay for PCR tests on their return and many countries continue to require proof of a negative test before granting entry.
Let’s take a look at what type of Covid test you need to travel abroad, where to get it cheapest and what this all means for travellers on the government's green, amber and red travel lists.
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Which Covid test do I need to travel?
Before forking out on a Covid test for travel, make sure that your destination country is currently allowing overseas travel from the UK. Each country’s entry requirements vary, so you should double-check both these and the UK traffic light travel list below before booking.
A PCR test is required to enter most countries, while some will also accept a negative lateral flow or antigen test. For example, at present, Spain requires a negative PCR test within 48 hours of arrival, while France, Italy, Greece, and Portugal will all accept antigen testing.
Do I need a Covid test to travel if I’m already vaccinated? Most likely. While the UK Government has spoken of vaccine passports in the past, until there is an official way to prove you’ve had both doses of the vaccine, most countries will continue to require a negative test.
What are the UK testing rules?
At the time of writing, those entering the UK from a country on the green or amber travel list must take a pre-departure PCR test and then another on or before their second day in the country.
Those arriving from amber list countries who have not been vaccinated must quarantine for ten days, and take an additional PCR test on day eight. They can also choose to pay for a private Covid-19 test on day 5 under the Test to Release program and end their quarantine early if the result is negative.
From 19 July, the quarantine requirement will change for people who have been double jabbed with the vaccine, though they will still be obliged to carry out the day two and day eight tests.
What is the cheapest Covid test for travel?
As the PCR Covid test is the most commonly accepted for travel abroad, let’s take a look at some of the cheapest PCR tests available to British travellers.
Pre-flight PCR Covid tests can cost anything from around £5 to over £500. One of the cheapest ways to get your test is through airlines and holiday providers offering discounted packages.
British Airways PCR Test
British Airways links to several recommended PCR test providers on its website. Eurofins is the cheapest Covid test listed there, at £40 with a British Airways discount.
EasyJet PCR Test
Passengers flying with EasyJet can get a discount on Randox Health home PCR test kits, starting at £43 or £60 for an in-person test. Don’t forget to make sure that your destination accepts home tests before buying.
Jet2 PCR Test
Jet2 passengers can also get the same discount with Randox Health. The cheapest PCR test for travel here is £43 for a home test kit or £60 for an in-person test
Ryanair PCR Test
Those flying with Ryanair can choose from its ‘travel packs’, which are available at a reduced price using the promo code FLYRYANAIR. Its green country testing kit costs £86 and includes one pre-departure PCR test and one day two PCR test for your return, while its £129 amber kit includes an extra test for day eight.
TUI PCR Test
Customers with TUI can pick up a ‘green list’ PCR test package for £60 to nations on the ‘green list, while its ‘amber list’ tests are £90 if a PCR test is required.
Virgin Atlantic PCR Test
Virgin Atlantic passengers can get a discounted self-testing PCR kit for £55 through Project Screen by Prenetics. Don’t forget to make sure at-home tests are accepted in your destination country before purchasing.
Cheapest Covid test for travel on the high street
Boots is one of the cheapest places to get tested on the high street, with its ‘fit to fly’ PCR tests coming in at £85. Boots Covid tests are offered at over 100 of the company's stores, and results are sent within 48 hours.
Airport and walk-in tests
Walk-in PCR tests at the airport can work out slightly cheaper than the high street. Expresstest offers walk-in or drive-in PCR testing at airports including Gatwick, Heathrow, Birmingham and Edinburgh from £60 if you’re flying from that airport.
The same company also provides testing at many other locations including Birmingham NEC, Bristol Cabot Circus, Cardiff City Football Club, Eastleigh Football Club, Leeds Victoria Gate, London Westfield, and Reading Football Club.
🟢 Which countries are on the green travel list?
Arrivals from countries on the green travel list need to take a pre-departure test as well as a PCR test on or before day two of their return to the UK.
They do not, however, need to quarantine or take any extra tests when they return, unless their result comes back positive.
Countries on the UK green travel list from 19 July are:
- Anguilla (Green watchlist)
- Antarctica/British Antarctic Territory (Green watchlist)
- Antigua and Barbuda (Green watchlist)
- Barbados (Green Watchlist)
- Bermuda (Green Watchlist)
- British Indian Ocean Territory (Green Watchlist)
- Cayman Islands (Green Watchlist)
- Croatia (Green watchlist)
- Dominica (Green Watchlist)
- Falkland Islands
- Faroe Islands
- Grenada (Green Watchlist)
- Hong Kong
- Israel and Jerusalem (Green Watchlist)
- Madeira (Green Watchlist) – Mainland Portugal and the Azores are on the amber list.
- Montserrat (Green Watchlist)
- New Zealand
- Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands (Green Watchlist)
- South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
- St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
- Taiwan (Green Watchlist)
- Turks and Caicos Islands (Green Watchlist)
🟡 Which countries are on the travel amber list?
The amber travel list includes many of the most popular holiday destinations for sun-seeking Brits, including France, Spain, Portugal and Greece.
From 19 July, UK residents arriving in England and Scotland from amber list countries will no longer have to quarantine if they have had both doses of the Covid vaccine. They will still be required to take a pre-departure Covid test and another on or before the second day of their return.
Countries on the UK amber travel list from 19 July are:
- Akrotiri and Dhekelia
- The Bahamas
- Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- British Virgin Islands
- Burkina Faso
- Central African Republic
- Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue
- Côte d’Ivoire
- Czech Republic (Czechia)
- El Salvador
- Equatorial Guinea
- French Polynesia
- The Gambia
- Greece (including islands)
- Marshall Islands
- New Caledonia
- North Korea
- North Macedonia
- The Occupied Palestinian Territories
- Papua New Guinea
- Portugal (including the Azores – Madeira is on the green watchlist)
- San Marino
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Saudi Arabia
- Solomon Islands
- South Korea
- South Sudan
- Spain (including the Canary Islands and the Balearic islands)
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Maarten
- St Martin and St Barthélemy
- St Pierre and Miquelon
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- United States
- Wallis and Futuna
- Western Sahara
🔴 Which countries are on the travel red list?
Travellers from red travel list countries are only allowed to enter the UK if they are a British or Irish national, or they have residence rights in the UK and must stay in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days. Pre-departure testing and PCR testing on or before day two and on or after day eight are mandatory and there is a penalty of up to £10,000 for breaking quarantine rules.
The countries on the UK red travel list are:
- Cape Verde
- Congo (Democratic Republic)
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- French Guiana
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Arab Emirates (UAE)