COVID-19 testing: What do you need to know?


COVID-19 testing: What do you need to know?

Testing queue
COVID-19 testing is complex. Rules differ for departures and entry into different countries. There's different types of tests too. With testing expected to be part of the travel experience for some time yet, here's our simple guide. 
Due to the developing global situation, rules and entry requirements are constantly changing. Please make sure you check our newly updated Flight Centre Travel Hub to access the very latest information.


This blog was updated 9th July 2021. 

Birds eye view of people sitting in an airport with their suitcases, looking down at their phones


1. Check the entry guidelines of the country you are travelling to. To enter the country you may need to fill out a form or take COVID tests. Visit our COVID-19 Travel Map or the government’s Foreign Office website

2. Check what you need to do when you return back to the UK. Read our blog on the traffic light system here

3. Book your COVID tests. We recommend these suppliers

4. Check airline-specific requirements for boarding. You might need to upload documents to the airline's website or need to download a mobile app. 

5. Re-check FCDO travel advice and that you have the right documents and mobile apps. 

If you're unsure, talk to your travel team. 

Man administering a COVID test on another man


Countries are categorised under the UK's green, amber and red lists, also known as the traffic light system. Find out more about what each category entails here.

1. Most travellers (there are some exemptions) must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test to travel, even if they've been vaccinated. Tests must be taken three days before your flight, boat of train bound for the UK departs. Check information for the country you are visiting to find out where to get a test. The test provider must meet the UK standards for pre-departure testing. Government information on tests to return to the UK is here.

2. Complete a Passenger Locator Form in the 48 hours prior to arriving in the UK. It can be filled out online

3. You can opt to Test to Release on day 5 from arriving into England from an amber country. Find partners here.

4. Ensure documents are in one place on your phone and also printed. Re-check the traffic light rules in case they have changed. 

4. When you get to the UK, stick to the testing and quarantine rules. Read our blog on the traffic light system here

Covid testing checklist

5 essential tips for stress-free tests

1. Order early

COVID-19 tests themselves have a long expiry date (ranging from 30 days to six months depending on the test type). Even though you probably must take the test 72-96 hours before departure, you can order it in advance to make the process as seamless as possible.

2. Check your results format 

Some countries (South Africa, for example) require a printed negative test, whereas others will accept an email or in-app result.

3. Check your timings

As frustrating as it is, countries’ rules all vary slightly, so make sure you are taking the test within the time frame they require, and you are giving the lab enough time to process the result before you fly.

4. Read the test instructions

All the providers we work with give very clear instructions, but it’s important they are followed exactly.

5. Print documents

Have paper copies of necessary documents such as test certificates and Passenger Locator Forms, in case your battery runs out or you have poor internet connection. 

Confused? Our travel consultants are ready to help.

Have questions about your programme? Speak to an expert.

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