Which Covid-19 test do I need to get to travel abroad?

This article was written by the Great British Mag editorial team on 9 December 2020

If you want to leave the UK for the Christmas break most airlines and destination countries will ask you to prove you a Covid-19 negative through a PCR test. In this article we explain what a PCR test is, where you can get tested and how much it will cost.

What is a Covid-19 PCR test?

The PCR test is different from the regular Covid-19 test as it detects the presence of a coronavirus antigen, rather than the presence of the body’s immune response. By detecting the antigens, which are present in the body before symptoms  are present, the test can tell whether someone has the early stages of the virus.

Will airlines and destination countries accept another Covid-19 test?

If you are travelling abroad, you will need to book a Covid-19 test that has been approved by your chosen airline and will be acceptable to the destination country and in most cases they will ask you to take a PCR test, which is not available on the NHS and has to be done privately.

To keep up to date with the travel restrictions imposed by the country to which you want to travel, register for email alerts via the UK Government website.

When do I need to take the PCR test?

You need to check with your preferred airline when you need to take the test as it ranges from seven days to 72 hours before travel. Once you have a negative test it is wise to self-isolate until you travel.

How do I get a PCR test?

PCR tests are not available on the NHS, and you will have to be tested privately. There are many different private companies offering tests online and your university will be able to help you find a provider locally. Before booking one, ensure it will be processed by a UKAS-approved laboratory and that the test will also be CE-marked.

How much does a PCR test cost?

The average price ranges between £150 and £250. However the cost can go up considerably if you need to get the results back urgently, and remember when you book a PCR test make sure it will be processed by a UKAS-approved laboratory, and that the test will be CE-marked.

You should also familiarise yourself with the requirements of your preferred airline and destination country to ensure the test meets with their requirements. 

You many also want to read

Travel guidance for the Christmas break for international students 

Travel guidance for students moving to the UK in Jan 2021

How to self-isolate correctly