How to find the cheapest Covid tests for overseas travel

How to find the cheapest Covid tests for overseas travel

If you're travelling abroad, you'll need to pay for at least one coronavirus test before you can return home. Some destinations will also require you to take a test before you leave the UK. These tests could add up to over £1,000 for a family of four – use our tips below to bring costs down.

This is a controversial market where firms don't always advertise true prices. We've checked as far as it's possible for us to go in the booking process to make sure the providers included in this guide offer the tests and prices stated. We've also checked reviews, but service quality can change rapidly, as can prices, so do your own checks too. Please give feedback.

Overseas travel Covid test need-to-knows

Whether you're returning to England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, everyone in the UK needs to get tested at least once after getting back.

If you're fully vaccinated and returning from a country not on the Government's red list, you no longer need to take a test before returning home.

Depending on where you travel, you now need to:

This remains a rapidly changing area with hundreds of providers registered with the Government. Bear the following in mind when booking travel:

  • You're not allowed to use the free NHS tests for travel purposes. You'll have to pay for any required tests when you return to the UK. You can use a private provider as long as it's on the Government's approved list.

    With some suppliers charging £100+ a test, this could be a hefty addition to your travel costs. A family of four (with children over 11) could end up paying over £1,000 all-in. But there's no need to pay these prices – see our cheap test tables below.

  • A number of countries (including Greece) now allow you to visit without taking a test, if you're fully vaccinated. For others, you'll need to prove you've received a negative test result. The rules vary depending on where you go – check exactly which test you need to take, as there are different types.

    Some destinations, such as Spain, won't accept results from the cheaper rapid antigen test (commonly known as lateral flow). However, a number of popular destinations will now accept this test (including France). You can find each country's requirements within the Government's foreign travel advice.

    You'll also need to make sure you have documentation (often called a 'fit-to-fly' certificate) which your destination country will accept as evidence – not every test will provide this. For example, Lloyds Pharmacy says it doesn't recommend you use its test kit for travel purposes, as your results won't include the information some airlines and countries require, such as your passport number.

  • Countries have now been placed into one of two categories: red list or non-red list, as set out below, with the Government scrapping the former traffic light system on 4 October.

    It removed the green and amber lists in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and brought in this new "two-tiered system" in an effort to simplify the rules.

    Bear in mind these lists are still subject to change, though. See full info in our Coronavirus travel rights guide.

    New Covid travel system – summary of the rules for those returning to the UK

    Non-red list – ALL destinations (there are currently no countries on the red list – however, this could change at short notice, with the Department for Transport reviewing the situation every three weeks)  

     

    Rules on returning
     

    Fully vaccinated travellers (or under-18s):

    • No pre-departure test required

    • Must take PCR test within two days of return to the UK (excludes under-fives)

    • Don't need to quarantine on return, unless you get a positive result
     

    Unvaccinated travellers:

    • Must take pre-departure test before returning

    • Must also take PCR test on day two AND day eight after arriving back in the UK
    • Must self-isolate for 10 days after arrival – can be at home 
    • You can end self-isolation early on day five by taking extra test (England only)

    Red list – there are currently no countries on the red list. However, this could change at short notice, with the Department for Transport reviewing the situation every three weeks)

     

    Rules on returning


    Fully vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers (including under-18s): 
    • Must take pre-departure test before returning (excludes under-11s) 
    • Must also take PCR test on day two AND day eight after arriving back in the UK (excludes under-fives)
    • Must undergo 11 nights of managed quarantine in hotel, which could be pricey (currently single adult travellers are charged £2,285) (1)

    You must book day two/eight tests and managed quarantine packages before departure. (1) See help booking hotel quarantine packages in EnglandNorthern IrelandScotland and Wales.

  • The Government has an approved list of providers for each test, and each scheme has different standards. For example, there are different standards for a day two PCR test and a day eight PCR test.

    So if you need a day two PCR test for your return to the UK, don't just get any test – make sure the supplier says it's suitable for day two testing.

    The same applies to the new day two lateral flow tests, which also have minimum standards set out by the Government.

  • You'll need to fill in a passenger locator form online, any time in the 48 hours before you arrive in the UK. It will ask for a booking reference to prove you've booked the necessary testing package for your destination, though you won't need to prove that the tests have been delivered to you – only that you've booked them.

    You'll need to show your form when you check in or board your plane, train or ferry.

  • Many private test providers have dropped their prices since we first wrote this guide, so while we do our best to keep the tables below up to date, it's well worth doing price comparisons before you order a test.

    Check reviews online (Trustpilot is a good starting point), as some cheaper providers have struggled with the sheer number of tests ordered, and earlier in the year there were reports of delays.

    While we've checked reviews, we can't vouch for service so doing your own research before buying is a very good idea.

    It's worth checking whether your travel provider offers flexibility if your test results are delayed. For example, Jet2 says you can change your booking for free if this happens.

  • We've scoured lots of test prices and found they're often cheapest via airlines and tour operators where they've negotiated discounts with private providers, but you need to be travelling with them to get the deals. For example, British Airways and Easyjet told us these deals should be used by their customers only.

  • As you're reliant on couriers to deliver home testing kits, it's safest to book your tests well in advance of your trip, so they ideally arrive before you go away. The Government says arrangements for booking in advance vary between providers. Many of the provider websites we checked are encouraging travellers to book tests as early as possible.

Cheap tests for UK departures (if the country you're travelling to requires it)

Some countries will require proof of a negative Covid test, and may accept a PCR or rapid antigen test – for both, always check the standard that your destination country requires. If given the choice, rapid antigen tests are generally cheaper and you'll get the results quicker. For each country's requirements, see the Government's foreign travel advice.

Important: Some destinations don't accept results taken from a home testing kit, so check requirements carefully. Even where home testing kits are accepted, they're risky, as it may take longer to get the results as you've got to wait for your sample to arrive at the lab. You may want to consider paying a bit more for a test at a clinic.

Cheap PCR tests for UK departures

Here are the cheapest prices we could find for a PCR test if needed before leaving the UK. We've focused on tests with well-known providers, which are widely available across the UK – you may be able to find a cheaper test provider locally, though it's important to check it's on the UK Government's approved list, and has decent reviews.

We've split the table into three different options – via airline/holiday operator discounts, private test providers, and airports.

Cheap PCR tests for UK departures

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST
Airlines and holiday operators
British Airways – home testing kit or in person at Liverpool One & London Waterloo station £40 (home test) – Eurofins via code BA2021
£50 (in person) – Randox Health via code BritishAirways
Easyjet* – home testing kit or in person at Liverpool One & London Waterloo station £43 (home test) – Randox Health via code easyjet2021
£50 (in person) – Randox Health via code easyjet2021
Easyjet Holidays* – home testing kit or in person at Liverpool One & London Waterloo station £43 (home test) – Randox Health via code ejh2021
£50 (in person) – Randox Health via code ejh2021
Jet2* – home testing kit or in person at Liverpool One & London Waterloo station £43 (home test) – Randox Health via code Test21
£50 (in person) – Randox Health via code Test21
KLM* – home testing kit or in person at Liverpool One & London Waterloo station £43 (home test) – Randox Health via code KLM
£50 (in person) – Randox Health via code KLM
Tui* – home testing kit or in person at Liverpool One & London Waterloo station £43 (home test) – Randox Health via code TUI2021
£50 (in person) – Randox Health via code TUI2021
Vueling – home testing kit or in person at Liverpool One & London Waterloo station £43 (home test) – Randox Health via code VUELING
£50 (in person) – Randox Health via code VUELING
Private test providers
Eurofins – home testing kit £44.90
Randox Health – home testing kit or in person at Liverpool One & London Waterloo station £48 (home test)
£55 (in person)
Collinson – London (O2 Arena & St Pancras station)
£55 for Amex cardholders via code AMEX20
£69 full price
Express Test* – Belfast, Dartford, Gateshead, London (Brent Cross & Shepherd's Bush) £59
Boots* – home testing kit £62
Express Test* –  Bristol, Manchester, Oxford £69
Project Screen – home testing kit £69
Boots* – selected stores (see full list) £79
Express Test* – Aberdeen, Burnley, Cardiff, Glasgow, Hatfield, Leeds, London (Croydon, Kensington, Paddington, St Paul's & Stratford), Northampton, Reading, Southampton £80
Airport testing
Belfast £60
East Midlands £60 – Randox Health via code EMATEST
Edinburgh £80 (airline passengers)
£99 (general public)
Gatwick – drive-through & terminal £59
Heathrow £59
London City £66 – Collinson via code LCYTEST
Luton £82.50
Manchester £60 – Randox Health via code MANTEST
Newcastle £99
Stansted  £60 – Randox Health via code STNTEST

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

Cheap lateral flow (rapid antigen) tests for UK departures

Here we've listed the cheapest prices we could find, split into three different options – via airline/holiday operator discounts, private test providers, and airports.

We've focused on tests with well-known providers, which are widely available across the UK – you may be able to find a cheaper test provider locally, though it's important to check it's on the UK Government's approved list, and has decent reviews.

Cheap rapid antigen tests for UK departures

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST
Airlines and holiday operators
British Airways – home testing kit £18.80 – Chronomics, automatic discount
Easyjet Holidays* – various locations across England £32 – Collinson via code ejh2021
KLM* – various locations across England £32 – Collinson via code KLM20OFF
Virgin Atlantic* – home testing kit £26 – Project Screen (Prenetics), automatic discount
Private test providers
Chronomics – home testing kit £18.99
Project Screen – home testing kit £19
Testing For All – home testing kit £19
Qured – home testing kit £22
Medicspot* – home testing kit £29
Randox Health – in person at Liverpool One & London (various locations) £35
Collinson – London (O2 Arena & St Pancras station) £32 for Amex cardholders via code AMEX20
£40 full price
Airport testing
Birmingham £35
East Midlands
£32 – Collinson via code EMATEST
Edinburgh £50
Gatwick £33 – Express Test* via code LGWBTT2
Heathrow – home testing kit or in person £22.50 (home test) – Qured via code HEATHROW10
£35 (in person)
Luton £40
Manchester £32 – Collinson via code MANTEST
Stansted £32 – Collinson via code STNTEST

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

Cheap tests for UK arrivals

Fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK from a non-red list country can now take a cheaper lateral flow test on day two. 

If you're not fully vaccinated, you will still need to take a day two AND a day eight PCR test. See a reminder of the current rules.

Cheap day two lateral flow (rapid antigen) tests

We've listed some of the cheapest lateral flow tests below. The table is split into three different options – airline/holiday operator discounts, private test providers, and airports.

We've focused on tests with well-known providers, which are widely available across the UK. You may be able to find a cheaper test provider locally, though it's important to check it's on the UK Government's approved list, and has decent reviews.

Cheap day two rapid antigen tests for arrivals to England

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST
Airlines and holiday operators
British Airways – home testing kit
£17.09 – Chronomics, automatic discount
Easyjet* – home testing kit
£21.50 – Randox Health via code easyjet2021
Easyjet Holidays* – home testing kit
£21.50 – Randox Health via code ejh2021
Jet2* – home testing kit
£21.50 – Randox Health via code Test21
KLM* – home testing kit
£21.50 – Randox Health via code KLM
On The Beach – home testing kit
Free (1)
Ryanair – home testing kit
£21.50 – Randox Health via code FLYRYANAIR
Tui package holidays* – home testing kit £15 – Chronomics, automatic discount
Virgin Atlantic* – home testing kit £19.50 – Project Screen (Prenetics), automatic discount
Vueling – home testing kit £21.50 – Randox Health via code VUELING
Private test providers
Testing For All – home testing kit £17
Chronomics – home testing kit £18.99
Project Screen – home testing kit £19
Boots* – home testing kit £21
Qured – home testing kit £22
Randox Health – home testing kit £24
Express Test* – home testing kit or in person (Bristol, Gateshead, Manchester, Oxford) £25 (home test)
£35 (in person)
Collinson – home testing kit £28.75
Airport testing
Gatwick £33 – Express Test* via code LGWBTT2
Heathrow £35
Manchester £32 – Collinson via code MANTEST
Stansted £32 – Collinson via code STNTEST

(1) For travel by 31 October 2022.
Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

Cheap day two PCR tests

Here are the cheapest prices we could find, if you need a day two PCR test. See the table underneath if you also need a day eight test. We've split it into the three different options – via airline/holiday operator discounts, private test providers and NHS, and airports.

We've focused on tests with well-known providers, which are widely available across the UK – you may be able to find a cheaper test provider locally, though it's important to check it's on the UK Government's approved list, and has decent reviews.

Cheap day two PCR tests for UK arrivals

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST
Airlines and holiday operators
British Airways – home testing kit £43 – Randox Health via code BritishAirways43
Easyjet* – home testing kit £43 – Randox Health via code easyjet2021
Easyjet Holidays* – home testing kit £43 – Randox Health via code ejh2021
Jet2* – home testing kit £43 – Randox Health via code Test21
KLM* – home testing kit £43 – Randox Health via code KLM
Ryanair – home testing kit £43 – Randox Health via code FLYRYANAIR
Tui package holidays* – home testing kit £20
£60 (also includes outward-bound PCR)
Virgin Atlantic* – home testing kit £68
£117 (also includes outward-bound rapid antigen)
£153 (also includes outward-bound PCR)
Vueling – home testing kit £43 – Randox Health via code VUELING
Private test providers & NHS
Eurofins – 'sampling stations' at various locations, including Bristol, Glasgow, London, Swansea £38.90
Randox Health – home testing kit £48
Testing For All – home testing kit £48
Eurofins – home testing kit £54.90
Project Screen – home testing kit £64
Collinson – London (O2 Arena & St Pancras station) £55 for Amex cardholders via code AMEX20
£69 full price
CityDoc – home testing kit £65
Express Test* – various locations, including Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, London
£69
Airport testing
Gatwick
£69
Heathrow £69
Leeds Bradford £90
Manchester Stansted £60
Newcastle £95

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

Cheap day two & day eight PCR tests

If you need a day eight test then you'll always need a day two test as well, and getting them together is sometimes cheaper, so you might as well get them as a package. Here are the cheapest prices we could find if you require both tests, split into three different options – via airline/holiday operator discounts, private test providers and NHS, and airports.

We've focused on tests with well-known providers, which are widely available across the UK – you may be able to find a cheaper test provider locally, though it's important to check it's on the UK Government's approved list, and has decent reviews.

Cheap day two & day eight PCR tests for UK arrivals

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST
Airlines and holiday operators
British Airways – home testing kit £86 – Randox Health via code BritishAirways43
Easyjet* – home testing kit £86 – Randox Health via code easyjet2021
Easyjet Holidays* – home testing kit £86 – Randox Health via code ejh2021
Jet2* – home testing kit £86 – Randox Health via code Test21
KLM* – home testing kit £86 – Randox Health via code KLM
Ryanair – home testing kit £86 – Randox Health via code FLYRYANAIR
Tui package holidays* – home testing kit £50
£90 (includes outward-bound PCR)
Virgin Atlantic* – home testing kit £132
£167 (includes outward-bound rapid antigen)
£207 (includes outward-bound PCR)
Private test providers and NHS
Testing For All – home testing kit
£89
Randox Health – home testing kit
£96
Eurofins – home testing kit £99
Collinson – London (O2 Arena & St Pancras station) £110 for Amex cardholders via code AMEX20
£138 full price
Express Test* – various locations, including Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, London £129
Boots* – home testing kit £136
CityDoc – home testing kit
£140
Qured – home testing kit £150
Project Screen – home testing kit £154
Airport testing
Gatwick £129
Heathrow £129
Manchester Stansted £120

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

Cheap 'Test to Release' day five PCR tests to cut short your quarantine in England

Unless you're fully vaccinated, you must self-isolate for 10 days after you arrive back in the UK from any country not on the Government's red list. But in England, you can end self-isolation early by taking an additional test on day five – this is known as 'Test to Release'.

Below are the cheapest Test to Release PCR tests we could find, split between airline/holiday operator discounts and private test providers. We've focused on tests with well-known suppliers, which are widely available across the UK – you may be able to find a cheaper test provider locally, though it's important to check it's on the UK Government's approved list, and has decent reviews.

Important: We've included home testing kits and in-person testing, though it's important to note that ordering a home testing kit is risky, as it may take longer to get the results as you've got to wait for your sample to arrive at the lab. You may want to consider paying a bit more for a test at a clinic.

Cheap 'Test to Release' PCR tests: End quarantine early in England

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST
Airlines and holiday operators
British Airways – home testing kit or in person at various locations, including Birmingham, Gatwick Airport, Heathrow Airport, London, Northampton, Reading, Southampton £43 (home test) – Randox Health via code BritishAirways43
£50 (in person) – Express Test* via code BA21
Easyjet Holidays* – home testing kit £43 – Randox Health via code ejh2021
KLM* – home testing kit £43 – Randox Health via code KLM
Ryanair – home testing kit
£43 – Randox Health via code FLYRYANAIR
Virgin Atlantic* – home testing kit £68
Private test providers
Randox Health – home testing kit or in person at Liverpool One & London Waterloo station £48 (home test)
£55 (in person at clinic)
Express Test* – in person at various locations, including Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Reading, Southampton £69
Qured – home testing kit £75
Collinson – in person at the O2 Arena or St Pancras station, London £76 for Amex cardholders via code AMEX20
£95 full price
Boots* – in person at about 170 stores (see full list) £79
Medicspot* – home testing kit £89
Chronomics – home testing kit £99
CityDoc – in person at Moorgate (London) & London Bridge
£125

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

Cheap tests for before you return to the UK (if you still need one)

Travellers who are fully vaccinated and returning from a country that's not on the Government's red list no longer need to take a test before returning to the UK. But if you're not vaccinated, or you're returning from a red list country, you will still need to take this test.

Here you have the choice of a PCR test or a rapid antigen test (for both, check they meet the required standard), which you'll need to take in the three days before returning to the UK. Rapid antigen tests are generally cheaper and you'll get the results quicker.

If you're travelling to an area you know well, it might be worth checking prices of tests locally to see if you can find one cheaply while you're out there. If you're not confident doing this, to save sourcing a test abroad, you can buy a rapid antigen test before you go on holiday and take it with you. See more info on taking a test before you fly home.

Cheap rapid antigen tests for before you return to the UK

We've listed the cheapest prices we could find. We've split the table into two different options – via airline/holiday operator discounts and private test providers.

We've focused on tests with well-known providers, which are widely available across the UK – you may be able to find a cheaper test provider locally, though it's important to check it's on the UK Government's approved list, and has decent reviews.

Cheap rapid antigen tests for before you return to the UK

LOCATION/PROVIDER COST
Airlines and holiday operators
British Airways – home testing kit £18.80 – Chronomics, automatic discount
Easyjet Holidays* – home testing kit £23 – Collinson via code ejh2021
Virgin Atlantic* – home testing kit £26 – Prenetics, automatic discount
Private test providers
Chronomics – home testing kit £18.99
Qured – home testing kit £25
Collinson – home testing kit £28.75
C19 Testing – home testing kit
£29
Project Screen – home testing kit £30
Medicspot* – home testing kit
£39
Airport testing
Heathrow – home testing kit £22.50 – Qured via code HEATHROW10

Discount codes for private testers via airlines are only for their own passengers.

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Competition watchdog calls for Government action over PCR travel tests

The Competition and Markets Authority has said the Government must intervene in the PCR travel test market to improve the experience for consumers.

The call for action is the outcome of a review of the market launched last month, amid mounting concerns over the price, reliability and quality of service provided by some firms. Complaints from customers included paying high prices for poor service, test kits and/or results arriving late or not at all, and there being no way to contact a firm when things went wrong. 

For more details, see our MSE News story Government must step in to address problems with PCR travel test market, says watchdog.

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