How to book all your COVID-19 tests for return from an amber country for just £162
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You can legally travel to the dozens of destinations on the U.K. government’s amber list right now. Note that some of these destinations have Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advice against travelling to them, which can mean your normal travel insurance is invalid, though you are still legally allowed to travel there — it is advice, not law.
I recently returned from Greece, a country on the amber list. This meant on my return to the U.K. I would need to self-isolate for 10 days. I was also required to purchase the following tests to return from an amber country:
- A pre-departure test, which can be a PCR test or a rapid antigen/lateral flow test;
- A PCR test to take on day two of my 10 days; and
- A PCR test to take on day eight of my 10 days.
I could also choose to participate in the optional Test to Release programme, whereby taking an additional PCR test on day five of my 10 days of isolation, I could finish self-isolation early once I received a negative result. Test to Release is only available in England.
I’m fully vaccinated and the thought of spending 10 days in isolation in the middle of summer wasn’t appealing, so I chose to participate in Test to Release on the assumption my day five test would be negative.
So, this meant purchasing four tests for my return to the U.K. from an amber country — three of the more expensive PCR tests and one of the cheaper antigen lateral flow tests.
I had heard horror stories from travellers last summer of PCR tests costing upwards of £200 per test, so I shopped around and was pleasantly surprised at the prices. Overall, it wasn’t cheap, but it was absolutely worth it for a proper holiday on the beautiful quiet beaches in Greece.
Being fully vaccinated, I wasn’t required to purchase or undertake any tests to leave the U.K. and arrive in Greece, so won’t be covering the costs of tests to leave the U.K. Check your individual destination’s entry requirements — many countries are now waving the requirement for negative test on arrival if you are fully vaccinated.
Here are the cheapest options I found:
The pre-departure rapid antigen test
I was able to get a test for £33.15, delivered through Qured with the discount code BATRAVEL15. You do not need to be flying British Airways to purchase the test with this discount code. These tests are delivered to you before you leave the U.K., you pop them in your suitcase and then do the test via video with the company in the 72 hours before departure.
I have used this test twice now and it’s very easy to do, with the negative test result emailed to you shortly after you’ve done the test via video and emailed in a photo of the test result.
Day two and day eight PCR tests
I paid £43 for each test (so £86 total), delivered through Randox with the discount code BRITISHAIRWAYS43 — again, you do not need to be flying British Airways to purchase this test with the discount code. These tests are performed at home, and you then drop the test in a Randox or DX box for the test to be processed by a laboratory. If you order these well in advance of your return to the United Kingdom, they should be waiting in your letterbox when you arrive.
Note the legal obligation is to take these tests on or before day two and then also on or after day eight and send them in. Once you have done that, the processing time is the obligation of the approved testing provider and you are not required to receive results on day two or day eight.
You must continue isolating after day two, and even if you participate in Test to Release, you must still take your day eight test, so it makes no difference to your isolation timing when the results of your day two and day eight tests are communicated to you, provided you submit the tests on the correct days.
Day five Test to Release PCR test
I paid £43 delivered through Randox with the discount code BritishAirways43. Note that you will take the test on day five but then post it in so you will not get your results until day 6 six at the earliest (usually around 5 p.m. on day six).
If you want same-day results on day five to potentially exit isolation on day five, rather than day six, you will need to pay more to attend an in-person test so postage times will not delay your results — I found this option for £90 at London City Airport’s testing centre.
Total cost: £33.15 + £86 + £43 = £162.15
If you choose not to participate in Test to Release, this cost can reduce to £119.15.
Spending more than £150 on tests to return from Greece was less than ideal, though I certainly saved plenty of money on things like accommodation while in Greece as there were far fewer tourists travelling than normal. Ordering and taking the tests was easy and reliable, and they all came back negative.
From 19 July, the testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers returning from amber countries will be reduced significantly along with the removal of self-isolation.
Provided you know where to look and order well in advance, you will not have to be paying £200 per test like you might have feared after last summer.
Featured image by d3sign / Gettys Images
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