How to get a Government-approved day two PCR test

Advice

Anyone who enters the UK must now take a PCR test by the end of the second day after arrival and self-isolate until they have a negative result.

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 PCR test for my ‘day two’?

The Government has released a list of approved PCR testing companies. Prices for these range from £20 to £399. You can either post your test back to the clinic, or take this in a centre.

When will my day two PCR test arrive?

Most companies will deliver your test by post within 48 hours, though some have longer guarantees. 

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?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that arriving passengers must now self-isolate until they receive their result. If negative, fully vaccinated travellers can end their self-isolation. If positive, they must isolate, register your result with the NHS and take a PCR test as soon as possible. Contact your test provider for advice.

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 and day 8 tests, and isolate for 10 days. You can either post your test back to the clinic, or take this in a centre.



You can take your day two lateral flow test at the airport, after arriving back in the UK


You can take your day two lateral flow test at the airport, after arriving back in the UK


Credit: Getty

Testing checklist

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. Newly reopened Thailand and India also have the requirement. 

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.

Reader Service: Do you know what medical conditions you need to declare when you buy travel insurance? Discover more about the Telegraph Media Group Travel Insurance Service. 

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