Do you need to take Covid Travel Tests in August 2021?

I know from personal experience, how daunting it can be to plough your way from website to website, trying to work out what’s required and, more importantly, what’s affordable.

In the last month, I’ve taken two trips to Europe – both to get some trail running practice in the Alps prior to the UTMB later this month.

Here is what I learned about testing, documentation and quarantine from these two trips:

Pre-Departure Testing

On trips, fully vaccinated Britons were not required to present an additional negative test to enter either France or Switzerland. However, for our family summer holiday, my children both needed a negative PCR test.

I bought test at home kits from Randox. Using a Brittany Ferries code (BF2021) the price was reduced to £45.

The tests are easy to administer (nasal swab only). You can then package them up and drop them at a local drop box, from where they are shipped to Northern Ireland overnight. Results are promised by 11.59pm the following day. Our results arrived at 3pm.

The one point I would make about Randox is that some of their drop boxes have evidently not been cleared quickly enough and/or have experienced excess demand. Perhaps check the situation in your local area, but I had no issues for our drop box in Brighton.

COVID-19 Pre-Departure Test - Randox Online Store

Pre-Return Testing

Anyone coming into the UK must have a negative test, taken within three days of your return date. It can be a Lateral Flow or PCR test.

Although it’s relatively easy to take a test in many chemists around Europe, I was moving from location to location on a daily basis and wanted to be 100% sure that I would have the test I needed in the timeframe that was required.

In both cases I chose a remote test via Qured that cost £39. That’s slightly more than the cost of a test from a pharmacy in France, but what I really like about this system is that you can choose the time that suits you best and do the test from your hotel room.

The tests are conducted by video on your phone or laptop. Simply order your test before you travel (they offer next day delivery), then at the pre-arranged time of your choice, log on and a technician will talk you through the test.

You then take a photo of your (hopefully) negative results, email it through to them and within a few hours they email back your confirmation certificate.

The only negative would be that it seems relatively easy to fix, if you were that sort of person.

Day 2 + 8 Testing

Despite being double-vaccinated, the idiotic ‘Amber Plus’ category was in existence for both of my trips, each of which included France.

I was therefore required to buy Day 2 and Day 8 tests, which for the first trip I bought from a supplier called 247 Travel Tests for £150.

The tests turned up on time and the results were delivered promptly, but in retrospect it was a poor decision as they are simply a reseller for Randox.

For my second trip, I bought exactly the same tests for £96. I thought I’d done the research, but that’s why I’m writing this – to help whoever’s reading this to do yours.

Day 5 – Test to Release

Firstly, it’s important to realise that in effect, this only reduces your quarantine period to six days and not five days.

This is because your test is on day 5 and you may not get your result back until late in the evening on day 6. In my case, the result was delivered at 7pm. You are only allowed out of quarantine once you have received your negative result.

Having said that, you are legally allowed to leave the house to take tests, so I specifically chose Express Test for my ‘Test to Release’ as they have a testing centre at Gatwick Airport (as well as other regional airports).

I was so impressed with their set up at Gatwick. They have taken over the entire long-stay car park and look as if they could handle hundreds of customers at a time. The day I went there were two or three cars there, but the staff were friendly and efficient.

I also chose Express Test as I didn’t want to pay the extra money (£69) and not be freed quickly. They don’t quite guarantee a 24 hour result, but ‘aim to deliver results by 10pm the following day’. In my case it arrived at 7pm.

UK's largest private Covid-19 testing facility opens at Heathrow – Business  Traveller

Test and Trace

And what of our vaunted £37 billion (yes, just clarifying, £37 BILLION) ‘Test and Trace’ service?

I was rung on around half of my days in quarantine. The format was always the same: they deliver a set script, check you understand you are meant to be quarantining and remind you what the symptoms of Covid are.

To be frank, I could have answered those calls anywhere and I don’t think it would have made a difference. The callers didn’t seem concerned at all about my answers – you’re just another number on a list that they have to get through. I asked one how many times a day they have to say the same thing and they estimated at 45-50.

To my knowledge, no one came to the house.

Let’s get travelling…

The UK Government have made travelling unnecessarily difficult and expensive, but there are promising signs.

Lateral Flow Tests seem likely to replace the more expensive PCR tests and VAT might be removed from both.

So while I appreciate there is an extra cost and complication to travelling, please don’t let it put you off.

Let’s get travelling again.