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PCR test for travel: Where can I get it?

Tamires Criscio
Tamires Criscio
  | Edited by Tom Church
Updated 10th December 2021

Are you planning to travel? If you are going to travel abroad, you must get a PCR test either on the way to your destination or when you are coming back to the UK. Latest Deals is here to help you understand everything you need to know about how to get a PCR test.

Please note that as the information regarding COVID-19 and travel restrictions change daily, the information in this guide may be out of date. You must check the Government website for up-to-date advice (link below). Whilst we try our best to ensure everything is accurate, you must consult professional advice before taking any action. The following article is for information only.

What is a PCR test? A PCR test is a polymerase chain reaction test, which will tell you if you have tested positive or negative for COVID-19. A COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test checks to see if the COVID-19 virus is currently in your body. It works by detecting the genetic material in the virus called RNA.

Secondly, before travelling, even if you get tested, it's essential to access the Government official website to check its latest advice on travelling, as this is updated regularly. You must also follow a step-by-step checklist before travelling. You can check this here.

Who needs to take a PCR test for travel? 

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At the time of writing (December 2021), everyone that will arrive in the UK needs to take a PCR test abroad before flying to the UK and up to the second day of arrival.

In addition, depending on where you are going to travel from the UK; you also must take a PCR test. 

Unfortunately, these tests are not cheap, and they are provided by companies that the Government approves. You can check the whole list here.

We have created a table below with some of the information you need to know: 

Test Timing Fully Vaccinated Unvaccinated Red List Country 
Before leaving the UK Only if the country you're going to requires itOnly if the country you're going to requires itOnly if the country you're going to requires it
Abroad before returning Yes YesYes 
Day 2 PCRYes, and self-isolate until negativeYes, and must self-isolate for ten days from arrival (but England arrivals can take day 5 'Test to Release' to end it early)Yes, and must book day 2 & 8 tests + 11-night quarantine hotel. This comes in a package, so you don’t need to worry about booking the test yourself.  
Day 8 PCR No NoYes 

10 things to know about PCR tests 

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1. You can’t use the free NHS test for travel.

Unfortunately, you can’t use the free NHS test for travel. You will have to pay. You can use any company as long as they are on the Government's approved list.

2. Some countries require you to take a test before you can travel to them. 

If you are fully vaccinated, some countries will allow you to travel to them without taking a test. For others, you will need to provide a negative test result. You can find each country's requirements within the Government's foreign travel advice.

3. In some cases, you will need to take a test and quarantine as well. 

Depending on where you are travelling from, and if you are vaccinated or not, when you arrive in the UK, you will need to take a test and quarantine as well. You must check if the country you are coming from is on the red-list or non-red list. Check the red list here. 

4. Not all PCR tests are the same, so you must get one approved by the Government.

The Government has a list of approved companies that can provide PCR tests for travel. The website can also help you find a provider, you just need to reply to some of their questions, and they will give you a list of possible test providers to use. 

5. You must book a PCR test before you arrive in the UK and fill a form within 48 hours before your arrival in the UK.

This is very important. You will need to fill a form within 48 hours before your arrival in the UK. This form is called passenger locator form, and here is a guide on how to fill it out. The reason why you need to book a PCR test before arriving in the UK is that you will need to provide the test booking reference in this form.

IMPORTANT NOTE: At the moment, you also need to have taken a PCR test before boarding to the UK.  

6. Make sure you compare prices and check reviews before ordering, as there are many providers available with different prices and customer service. 

Make sure you are checking the prices and the reviews available on Trustpilot. Although Latest Deals will do its best to keep this guide updated, things can change quickly, so it's always better to do your own research as well. 

7. Airlines and tour operators usually have the cheapest tests available.

The first place you need to check to get a PCR test for travel is with your airline or tour operator. These deals are only available for their customers. In addition, you will get more support as you can count on them to help you if you have any questions. 

8. Clinic tests are quicker but more expensive.

If you want to get quicker results, the best way to go is by using clinic tests. And because they are quicker, they tend to be more expensive. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: You will need to visit the closest clinic to you to get the test done, and in some cases, you won’t be able to leave isolation before a negative test, so your safest alternative is a home test.  

9. Check the cancellation rights, as the rules are  constantly changing. 

Different providers have different policies regarding cancellation rights, so make sure you talk to them about your cancellation rights before paying and booking your PCR test. 

10. If you aren’t fully vaccinated, it’s cheap to combine day two and day eight PCR tests for UK arrivals.

If you aren’t fully vaccinated, it’s better to get both tests together, as they are cheaper than buying them separately. If you aren’t fully vaccinated, you will need to get a day two test and a day eight test, and if negative, you can then leave self-isolation. 

Cheap pre-departure rapid antigen tests before you return to the UK

Since 7th December 2021, everyone aged 12 and over travelling back to the UK needs to take a PCR test, no more than 48 hours before the departure to the UK. What you can do in this case is to find a PCR test available in the country you are in. The airlines and the train companies usually provide these tests, so it's better to check with them first. 

Cheap PCR tests for UK arrivals

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Everyone that arrives in the UK, vaccinated or unvaccinated, needs to take a PCR test and self-isolate until a negative result. The day of arrival is counted as zero, so you have two more days to take this test. 

You can get these tests done at airports and also at train stations. You get the test done at the facilities and receive the results at home. They are great because you get them done as soon as you arrive in the UK. Some results are available for the next day; some take 48 hours. The best way to find out about these test centres is to check the official website of the airport or train station you will be arriving in the UK. 

Then, the next alternative is the home testing kits. We have a table with some options available. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: For vaccinated people, only a day two test is necessary. For unvaccinated people, a day two and a day eight test are necessary. For them, there is also the possibility of getting a day five test to shorten the self-isolation period if negative.

PCR Test Price Comparison

Provider Cost Day Two Tests Cost Day Eight Tests Cost Day Two and Day Eight Tests Cost Day Five testsResults Pre-departure PCR Testing (from the UK)
Randox HealthFrom £34.99 (cheaper alternatives available, check the website for more information). From £43(cheaper alternatives available, check the website for more information). From £86(cheaper alternatives available, check the website for more information). From £43(cheaper alternatives available, check the website for more information). By 11.59 pm the day after returning your test to a drop boxAvailable at home and testing facilities. 
Testing For All£48Option not available £89Option not available Within 48 hours of the test received by the lab No.  
CityDoc£65Option not available£130£195 (includes day two and eight tests)Within 48 hours of the test received by the lab Available at home and testing facilities. 
Boots £68Option not available£136Option not availableWithin 24-48 hours of the test received by the labNo. 
Chronomics£54.99Option not available£99Option not availableWithin 24-36 hours of the test received by the lab Available at home.
Eurofins£54.90(cheaper alternatives available, check the website for more information). Option not available£98.90(cheaper alternatives available, check the website for more information). £44.90Within 24 hours of the test received by the lab Available at home and testing facilities. 
Project Screen£64Option not available£124£64Within 24 hours of the test received by the lab Available at home and testing facilities. 

Cheap 'fit to fly' PCR before a UK departure (if the other country requires it) 

Some countries require proof of a negative test result before you can travel to them. Some of them don't accept home testing kits, so you will need to get them done in a testing facility. 

The best solution for this then is to get it done at the airport or train station you are departing from. Check their official website for the options available. Some providers mentioned in the table above also offer this type of test. You can also check with them (Randox Health, CityDoc, Chronomics, Eurofins and Project Screen). 

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