How to book a covid test for international travel

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How to book a covid test for international travel test image

The traffic light system and easing of restrictions has made it easier to travel abroad to certain countries for a holiday or to visit family. Possibly, one of the most annoying things at the moment is having to book and take coronavirus tests before, during or after you travel. At the moment the focus of tests is for returning to the UK. However, it’s important before you travel to check the status of the country you are visiting. Even though the UK Government might say you can travel there, some countries are not accepting British travellers at all and some have their own regulations including presenting a negative test result before you travel, or proof of full vaccination.

If you are returning to England from any destination, including countries on the green list, you must take a covid-19 test 3 days before you return. This also applies even if you’ve been fully vaccinated. So for example, if you travel to England on Friday, you can take the test on or after Tuesday. You will need to have the negative result available before boarding on Friday.

Test Requirements

You will need to find a private test provider to take a test. You can choose to take a test in the place where you start your journey, or in another country on your way to England if you are travelling through another country. It’s important to do your homework and find out where to get a test in your departure destination.

If you don’t have proof of a test because you planned to get tested on your journey, but you were not able to do so because you were not able to enter the country in which you planned to get tested, or if you haven’t been able to arrange a test, you will be allowed to board. But you may be fined £500 on arrival in England because you do not have a valid test result. You must ensure that the test meets the performance requirements such as a PCR or LAMP test.

If your test result is positive, you must not travel. You must follow local rules and guidance for positive coronavirus cases. If the result is inconclusive, you must take another test.

What your test must include

Your test result must be in English, Spanish or French. Translations are not be accepted.

You must provide the original test result notification. It must include the following information:

  • your name, which should match the name on your travel documents
  • your date of birth or age
  • confirmation of the device used for the test, or that the test was a PCR test
  • the name of the test provider and their contact details
  • the result of the test
  • the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider

Your test result can be provided as an email or text message or a printed document.

You cannot use any NHS tests for the purpose of travel to England.

Some tour operators are organising tests as part of a package holiday but if you are travelling independently The GOV.UK travel advice pages list providers in some countries.


Children under 10 do not need to take a pre-departure test to travel to England. There are also exemptions for people in some jobs and professions or some people for medical or compassionate reasons.

You don’t need to take a test if you are travelling from Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey or the Falkland Islands, St Helena or Ascension.

Tests after returning

The rules you must follow on testing once you have returned, depend on which countries or territories you’ve been in or travelled through in the 10 days before you arrive in England, as well as the one you’re travelling from.


When returning from a red list country you must book a quarantine hotel package and book tests for day 2 and day 8 after returning.


If you have travelled from an amber country and are fully vaccinated you don’t need to self-isolate but you have to take a test on or before day 2 after arriving.

If you are not fully vaccinated you must book a test for day 2 and day 8 after arriving  in England. However, if your day 2 test was negative you can book and pay for a test to release on day 5 and if that’s negative you can end your self-isolation.


Travelling from a green country you will need to book a test to take on or before day 2 after arriving.


The amount of test providers has shot up over the last few weeks and the cost vary. The cheapest ones are now advertised for as little as £20. There has been some examples of providers charging more than the advertised prices so it’s best to check before you go ahead and book, even through the GOV.UK website.

Some tests are sent to you to complete at home and send back by post but there are many pop-in centres opening up where you can take your test in person. Please note that there may be slight differences for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Links to all relevant information for each country can be found on the GOV.UK travel advice website.

For a full list of providers, costs and booking details for day 2 and day 8 tests, visit the Test Provider Service website.

Posted by Graham Morley

Graham is the Business Development Manager for Compare Holiday Money.

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