The best PCR tests for travel

The best at-home PCR tests for Day Two testing

PCR Test tubes with blue liquid in a lab

by William Austin-Lobley |
Updated on

Travel is good for the soul and it helps us to reconnect with friends and family from all around the world. This is just as true as it’s always been, but as we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has made things a little bit more complicated. While international travel is still permitted, anyone arriving in the UK needs to take one PCR test before they begin their return travel and one PCR when they arrive in the UK. This is true for UK national citizens, European citizens and international citizens.

A globe with a mask on it being held up by two hands

Please note: All rules discussed in this article were correct at the time of writing. Be sure to double-check the official rules on travel and testing before planning or setting off on your journey. Read more about Government travel guidance here.

When you have arrived in the UK, you will need to isolate for two days and then complete a negative PCR test. The day of your arrival is counted as day zero. So, if you arrive in the UK on January 1st 2022, you will be required to isolate yourself until January 3rd 2022 and to complete a test before the end of that day. As soon as you complete a negative PCR test, you can end your quarantine.

You can get a PCR test by travelling to a test location. These tests often give you the quickest results - however, they are more expensive and travelling to these locations isn’t an option for everybody.

Home-testing PCR kits are readily available - these are best used for the two-day test. Note that these PCR tests require you to send back your completed test and await the results. Below you will find a list of the best home-testing PCR tests for travel.

The best travel PCR tests for home use:

Result time: Within 24-hours, once the lab receives your test

Amazon is currently providing four services: UK Day Two, UK Day Two & Eight, UK Day Two, Five & Right, and a general PCR test. The tests are also available in quantities of between one and six, which is ideal for families or frequent travellers.

Result time: Within 36-hours, once the lab receives your test. Depending on your location, you may be able to drop a completed test at a dropbox for a same-day result.

The Chronomoics PCR test is for Day Two tests. This is suitable for fully vaccinated travellers returning to the UK from a non-red-listed country.

Result time: Within 48-hours, once the lab receives your test

Boots provides Day Two tests for fully vaccinated travellers, and Day Two and day eight tests for unvaccinated travellers. These tests are for travellers from non-red-list countries only. Some tests are available in-store and online.

Result time: Within 48-hours, once the lab receives your test

Testing For All offers an at-home testing kit for the Day Two test required after travelling from a non-red-listed country. Please note: Available from January 2022 only - December tests are sold out.

Result time: Within 24-hours, once the lab receives your test

Eurofins offers three PCR tests. There’s a Fit To Fly test for anyone travelling internationally. Eurofins’ Day 2 test is for vaccinated travellers from non-red-listed countries, and the Day 2&8 test is for non-vaccinated travellers from non-red-listed countries.

Result time: Within 24-hours, once the lab receives your test

Project Screen is offering a two-day PCR test for fully vaccinated travellers.

UK on a globe

Who needs to take a PCR test when travelling to the UK?

Everyone needs to take a PCR test before travelling to the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). This includes UK citizens returning from abroad, vaccinated people and unvaccinated people.

If you are abroad and returning to the UK, you will need to take a PCR test before travelling. The result must be negative before you are permitted to travel.

If you are vaccinated, you will need to self-isolate for two days. After two days you are required to take a PCR test - if the test is negative, you no longer are required to self-isolate.

If you are unvaccinated, you will need to self-isolate for 10 days. You can end the self-isolation early if, after five days, you complete a negative PCR test.

If you are travelling from a red-listed country, you must complete an 11-day quarantine in a hotel. You will need to take an official test on the second and eighth days.

Do I need to take a PCR test before leaving the UK?

You only need to take a PCR test before travelling from the UK to another country if your destination country requires it. While it’s not a rule, it’s still a good idea to test before travelling, even if the destination country does not require it, to reduce the spread of Coronavirus and help keep others safe.

What is Test To Release?

If you arrive in the UK and you are unvaccinated you are required to complete a 10-day quarantine. However, you can choose to take a COVID-19 PCR test on the fifth day. A negative test on or after the fifth day will allow you to end your quarantine early.

You can read more about Test To Release and the UK international travel guidelines here.

Which countries are on the UK travel red list?

At the time of writing, there are currently no countries on the UK travel red list. However, this is subject to change at short notice. To see the official Government red list updates click here.

Will a lateral flow test do before travel?

No. While a lateral flow test (sometimes called a rapid antigen test) is a useful way to test for Covid-19 if you have no symptoms, they can be misleading. A PCR is a more sensitive and more accurate test. You must take a PCR test before arriving in the UK - a lateral flow test result is insufficient and will not be accepted.

William Lobley is a Content Writer and reviewer for WhatsTheBest, specialising in gaming, technology, and the outdoors. He also writes for Empire Online.

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