Lateral flow test for travel: all the rules explained

From Sunday 24 October, double-jabbed travellers are no longer required to take a PCR test on or before day two of their return – instead, they can book and pay for a cheaper lateral flow test to be taken on or before day two. Here’s everything we know about the change in the rules.

How do I book a lateral flow test for travel?

From Friday 22 October, fully vaccinated travellers returning from a country not on the red list can book a day two lateral flow test from a list of private providers. The list will go live on Gov.UK on Friday 22 October, with the rule change coming into effect from Sunday 24 October.

Upon arriving in the UK, double-jabbed travellers need to take the lateral flow test as soon as possible on or before day two of their return, take a photo of their test result and booking reference and send it to the private provider to verify the result. You can also take the test at testing centres in some airports.

Are NHS covid tests accepted for travel?

No – if you're travelling back to England you need to book and pay for a test from one of the government-approved providers. NHS Test and Trace tests won’t be accepted for international travel.

However, if your lateral flow test shows a positive result, you can get a free confirmatory PCR test through NHS Test and Trace.

Are lateral flow tests cheaper than PCR tests?

Yes, although it’s not been confirmed by how much at the time of writing (Thursday 21 October). PCR tests cost between about 40 and 70, and lateral flow tests are thought to be about half that.

If I’ve already booked a PCR day two test, do I need to rebook a lateral flow test?

No. You can use the PCR test you’ve already booked and paid for.

If I’m not fully vaccinated, can I take a lateral flow test rather than a PCR test?

No, the rules remain unchanged for unvaccinated international arrivals. If you’ve not had both jabs, you must take a pre-departure test and confirm a negative result before travelling to the UK, as well as book and pay for a PCR test on or before days two and eight of your return, and quarantine for 10 days at home (this can be shortened to day five if you pay for an extra test and confirm a negative result unless you’re in Northern Ireland where this option isn’t available). You must share details of where you plan to quarantine on a Passenger Locator Form.

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