I tried out five Covid-19 travel tests and here’s what I thought

Travelling to a green list country or vaccinated and travelling to an amber country? Here’s what tests you need, which ones I’ve tried and the companies I’d book with again.

Not from England? The rules for the nations are similar but make sure you check out Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland‘s own websites to confirm.

What type of tests do I need to visit a country?

First things first, the test you need to go somewhere will depend on that country’s entry requirements. You can check this by reading the ‘Entry Requirements’ for their FCDO page – e.g. simply google ‘Gibraltar FCDO’.

You can find my guide on how best to use the FCDO pages here.

What type of tests did you do for Portugal when it was a green list country?

I was lucky enough to test out this whole process when Portugal was still a green list country (it’s now currently amber) but let me take you through the tests I did as it will still be helpful for other countries, and hopefully for Portugal in the future too!

Testing for Portugal

When it was a green list country

RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours of boarding

OR

A lateral flow/rapid antigen test taken with 48 hours of boarding

Full details here

Testing for England

Same for all green list countries

Lateral flow/rapid antigen, or PCR test taken within 72 hours before your departure to England.

PLUS a ‘Day 2’ PCR test taken on Day 2 or before after arrival in England.

You cannot use an NHS test
For many countries, you need to show proof of your results – often called a ‘Fit to Fly’ certificate.

Portugal requires an ‘RT-PCR’ test
The ‘RT’ refers to the method used – not all PCR tests will use this method so it’s good to check. This is confirmed on a country’s ‘Entry Requirements’ page on the FCDO. Here’s Portugal’s

Please note that since I went to Portugal, they now allow rapid antigen tests as well.

Testing for Portugal when it was a green list country

You only need to do one test but I tried out two RT-PCR tests so that I could contrast and compare! This was before lateral flow/rapid antigen tests were accepted.

Randox

£48 – try googling your airline plus ‘Randox’ for an extra £5 discount

Pros
  • Gov Approved
  • One of the cheapest
  • Endorsed by airlines who provide discounts including BA and easyJet
  • Next day results
  • Nationwide drop boxes
  • They also offer a ‘green travel pack
Cons
  • Northern Ireland labs so could impact delivery
  • Popular so big demand
  • Drop box may not be close
My experience
  • Didn’t arrive in time – it ended up taking 7 days
  • When it finally came, I dropped off my test before the daily cut off and had my results by 2pm the next day 
Certific

£72 plus courier (mine was £10)

Pros
  • Gov Approved
  • Same day results if delivered before 1pm with a courier
  • Great price for same day
  • Video guide
  • Daily cap on tests so less demand for the company
Cons
  • Sell out quickly (if this is the case, try Testing For All who use the same labs)
  • Can’t drop off yourself – you need a professional courier
  • Less good if not in London, though there is a postal option available for a fee
My experience
  • The courier was a faff but I was impressed – I dropped off at 7:30pm and got my test at 3pm the next day

Fill in a Passenger Locator Card

As well as getting a negative test, you’ll also need to fill in a ‘Passenger Locator Card’ before you fly to Portugal.

You can do this at any point before your holiday – there doesn’t appear to be a timeframe – and it took me around 5 minutes to complete.

You will need your seat number and so you may need to wait until you’ve checked in if you haven’t booked seats on your flight.

Please note that there are extra form requirements for Madeira and the Azores which you can check out here.

IT’S HOLIDAY TIME!

Testing for England (before you fly home)

First up is the lateral flow/rapid antigen (they’re the same thing!) or PCR test that you have to take 72 hours before your departure back home to England. 

This means you’ll probably have to do this test whilst on your holiday and I chose the lateral flow tests as they’re cheaper and are much quicker to get results.

You only need to take one test, but I tested out these two to give you some options:

Qured

£39 (get 10% off with CHELSEA10)

Pros
  • Free tracked 24 hour delivery
  • Sends you a lateral flow test to pack in your suitcase
  • You then do your test over video with a Health Advisor whilst on holiday
Cons
  • Slightly more expensive than others
  • Can’t check appointment times until purchased
My experience
  • I received my test the day after I ordered
  • Super straightforward to do the test and the health advisor was lovely
  • Results came in 8 mins
  • Would happily use again, especially when travelling in peak times to popular locations
UCS

£21  (£18 for TAP customers)

Pros
  • At Lisbon Airport
  • You pay on arrival
  • They should accept walk-ins
  • Good Price 
  • Results in 45 mins 
Cons
  • Had to be at airport very early (for me!)
  • Leaving last minute could be stressful – remember, there could be long queues if you’re off to a popular destination and there is a chance – like there is for all tests – that you won’t get your results back in time
My experience
  • Super quick – I was in and out in minutes 
  • Got my results in 19 mins
  • Would use again if I was travelling off peak and had time to go to the airport early

Fill in a Passenger Locator Form

To get back into England, you will also need to fill in a Passenger Locator Form, any time in the 48 hours before you arrive in the UK. 

On the form you will need to confirm the PCR test booking reference of the ‘Day 2’ test you’ll take after arriving back in the UK (more on that below). 

The good news is that this reference is what you get when you purchase your test – or at least it was for mine – meaning you can order the test to be waiting for you at home whilst you’re on holiday though I’d recommend sorting it beforehand to make things easier for yourself.

Testing for England (after arrival)

The last test!

It’s become know as the ‘Day 2’ test, which is a bit confusing because the government guidance actually says ‘on or before Day 2‘ with the day you arrive in the UK being deemed as ‘Day 0’.

Basically, as long as you take it after you arrive and by Day 2, you’re good. 

You’ll need another PCR test for this and I booked the Randox ‘Day 2 Only’ test. You’ll find this option on the dropdown menu for the ‘Day 2 & 8 Test Pack‘.

Randox

£48 – try googling your airline plus ‘Randox’ for an extra £5 discount

Pros
  • Gov Approved
  • One of the cheapest
  • Endorsed by airlines who provide discounts including BA and easyJet
  • Next day results
  • Nationwide drop boxes
  • They also offer a ‘green travel pack
Cons
  • Northern Ireland labs so could impact delivery
  • Popular so big demand
  • Drop box may not be close
My experience
  • Didn’t arrive in time – they had an issue with their delivery service so it ended up taking 5 days
  • Fortunately, I already had the reference to use for my passenger locator form and the test arrived whilst I was in Portugal and I was able to send it to a local pick up point
  • When I did do the test, I dropped it off before the daily cut off and had my results by 2pm the next day so again, this is fine if you can make time for potential delivery issues

Need more help?

How do I navigate the FCDO advice?

I’ve written a guide on how I use the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s information to work out whether I can go to a destination or not.

You can read it here.

Did that help?

I hope so! And do make sure to let me know where you’ve booked so I can holiday vicariously though you.

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