Last updated: 07/01/2022

With rules constantly changing and medical lingo to contend with it can be difficult to understand which Covid test is required for your trip. We have pulled together some of the common questions we get asked below, however if you need further support or advise please contact us at

What Covid test do I need to go on holiday?

Some countries require you to have a negative covid test taken within 72 hours before you are due to travel, sometimes less. While others will accept proof of a full vaccine status instead of test result as part of their entry requirements.

For this reason, it is important to research the country you are travelling to as specifications for entry will differ. For example, countries that require evidence of a negative test upon arrival may only accept results from a PCR test, however others will accept results from a lateral flow test. It may also be required that the Covid test is carried out by a professional as opposed to a home-testing kit, so this is definitely something to check ahead of your departure. However, one thing that is certain is that under no circumstance are the free NHS Covid testing kits accepted as a negative result.

Additionally, while several countries do now accept proof of a full vaccination status as part of their entry requirements, you will still need to check what documents are needed to show you have both vaccines as this will differ between countries. Specific entry requirements can be found on the government website.

It’s also worth being aware that some countries now also require children to arrive with proof of a full vaccine status as evidence to enter the country. As a result, the government has recently allowed those aged 12-15 to receive a second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and has introduced an NHS Covid Pass specifically for 12-15-year-olds to prove their vaccine status to destinations, such as Spain, that have changed their entry requirements. The new 12-15 Covid Pass is currently in a letter format; however, we do encourage families immediately affected by these changes to keep up-to-date with the government website as alternative options may soon be available.

What Covid test do I need to return to the UK?

Fully vaccinated travellers and those under 18 arriving in the UK after 4am on Friday 7 January 2021 will no longer need to provide evidence of a negative pre-departure test on their return. They will, however, still need to complete a Passenger Locator Form before their arrival and book and complete a Day 2 PCR test. Travellers will not be required to isolate while they wait for a negative test.

However, from 4am on Sunday 9 January, the rules change again. From 9 January, fully vaccinated travellers may use a private lateral flow test, instead of a PCR test, on the day of their arrival or within the two following days as proof of a negative test. The test must be booked with a private testing company and the free NHS lateral flow tests cannot be used. If the lateral flow test comes back positive, travellers will then need to book and complete a free NHS PCR test at their local testing site.

Unvaccinated travellers must continue to take a pre-departure test before their arrival to the UK, as well as complete a Day 2 and Day 8 PCR, and isolate for 10 days.

What is the difference between a PCR test and a lateral flow test?

A PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test is used to detect a specific organism, such as a virus. The test can detect the COVID-19 virus following a nasal and throat swab. A positive result means you are likely to have Covid and a negative result means you do not have the virus at the time of testing. These tests are sent away to a lab to determine the results and is the most accurate way of detecting the COVID-19 virus.

A lateral flow test is generally used if you are not showing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. It can detect the COVID-19 virus quickly, at home, but is not as accurate as a PCR test. Some countries are now accepting a negative lateral flow test as part of their entry requirements. These tests are generally cheaper than a PCR test.

It is important to check whether the country you plan to visit requires you to arrive with proof of a negative Covid-19 test result or not, and whether the evidence can be provided in a PCR or lateral flow test format.

Additionally, if you are unvaccinated and need to complete a pre-departure test when returning to the UK, it is essential that you check that the test and provider than you plan to use is approved by the UK government. You can find more information about the providers that have been assessed against the government’s minimum standards by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), and therefore can be considered when selecting a suitable test, here. If you have booked with a tour operator, they should also be able to help you.

It is important to know that it is your responsibility to make sure that you have the correct tests and documentation for both arriving abroad and returning the UK. The reason being, your travel insurance provider will not offer cover for denied entry or boarding as a result of not having the correct evidence or documentation.

How do I get a PCR test?

As mentioned previously, there is a list of reputable PCR test companies on the Government website should you need one, click here. The cost and efficiency of tests will differ between countries so it is worth comparing which test would be most suitable for you. These tests are sent to your home address for you to complete and send back to the laboratory, you will then need to wait for your results. Please allow sufficient time to get your results, but also ensure it is within the required time frame depending on the country you are travelling to.

You can also book and have a PCR test at pop up test centres, clinics or some stores including Boots. Some countries will require your test is carried out by a professional so you will need to research PCR test centres near you. Again, you should allow sufficient time for your results to be returned to you before travelling.

All tests must be booked before travelling, including tests required once you have arrived back in the UK.

How do I get a lateral flow test?

You can order a lateral flow test from a reputable company and the testing kit is sent to your home address for you to complete. Most companies require you to send a picture of your test result to them and you will then be issued with a certificate, typically within a few hours, confirming your test result. It is important you do send your test result back to the company as failure to do so may result in a fine. Not all countries accept this method of testing, so please check before ordering. You may also be able to complete a lateral flow test at your local pharmacy or clinic.

All tests must be booked before travelling, including tests required once you have arrived back in the UK.

What happens if my Covid test or the results don’t arrive on time?

Due to the tight turnaround time of 72 hours, it is not unheard of for some private covid testing companies to struggle to provide people with their results on time. This has left many people unable to travel to their chosen destination meaning they need to delay or cancel their trip. For this reason, we would advise that you check the providers reviews and research back-up test provider options to have in place, should your test result not arrive in time.

It’s worth mentioning that while some airlines are more lenient than others and are allowing passengers to push back their holiday travel date free of charge if their results are not returned on time, you cannot rely on their goodwill. So, you will need to check your airline’s individual terms and conditions if you are found in this situation to understand your rights. Additionally, accommodation providers and package holidays may also be able to assist you, but again you will need to check their allowances with them.

You should not board your plane before receiving your test results in the hope they will arrive by the time you land. If they do not, you will be refused entry to the country and have to make your own way home. Your travel insurance policy will also not cover the costs for this or any missed holiday as it is your responsibility to ensure you have the right documentation.

At the moment, travel insurance policies will not cover for cancellation or travel delays due to covid test results not arriving on time. However, if this changes, we will be sure to update this information.

Compensation-wise, you will need to contact the Covid testing company directly to see whether they are compensating customer for delayed test results. This may also be something to check when researching a suitable company to book with.

Can I use an NHS Covid test?

NHS Covid tests are not permitted to be used for travel and will not be accepted on arrival to either the holiday destination or on your return to the UK, if necessary.