Many countries require COVID-19 tests in some way, shape or form before travelling to them this winter. This includes when you return to the UK from your holiday. There are several different types of tests available, and different countries will require different combinations of these.

This guide is meant as a rough overview – where brands or companies are named, they are detailed as examples only and are not endorsed by the Ski Club. For detailed, up-to-date testing requirements, please see each country’s individual COVID Information page or the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s travel advice pages.

 

Test Types

There are two main types of testing regularly used and referred to throughout the UK and Europe. These are Antigen and Polymerase Chain Reaction (better known as PCR) tests.

                    -          PCR tests offer consistent and accurate results, but the sample must be processed in a laboratory, often extending the time required to process results

                    -          In contract, Antigen tests offer a result in a significantly shorter time and without the necessity of processing the sample at a laboratory, but do not offer the same consistency or accuracy.

     o   Free Lateral Flow Tests (LFT) issued by the NHS in the UK are one example of an Antigen test.

The Ski Club strongly recommends using PCR tests over Antigen tests wherever possible. This is to ensure swift compliance with any changes to international travel where necessary.

 

Testing Before Departure

Many countries now require a negative COVID-19 test taken within a set period of time before arriving in that country to allow entry. Before travelling this winter, you should check carefully what your destination country requires:

                    -          Check whether you need a PCR or Antigen test, as some countries will only allow entry with a PCR test.

                    -          Check the timeframe permitted before travel in which you can take this test – this will range from anything from 24hrs to 72hrs

                    -          Check carefully whether this timeframe runs from the time of your departure to your destination country, or your arrival there. This is an important distinction to make, especially if you are travelling long haul or transiting via a different country.

Your airline or travel provider may enforce different rules than that of your destination country. This includes, but is not limited to, enforcing the rules of a country you are transiting through, for example if you are flying to Geneva (Switzerland) and then travelling on to France. Please ensure you follow the appropriate regulations for travel providers and all countries you are travelling through to avoid all doubt. The Ski Club recommends using PCR tests where you can to avoid any confusion.

 

NHS Tests

Different countries have different rules regarding which testing procedures are acceptable. As a general rule of thumb, the Ski Club strongly recommends using tests that meet the following criteria:

                    -          PCR tests must be laboratory verified.

                    -          Antigen tests must not be self-administered unless supervised by a testing centre employee/medical professional.

                    -          Must generate a “Fit to Fly” certificate, providing full details of the passenger, details of the test in question and the result.

For the above reasons, the NHS does not administer testing for travel, either using their PCR testing system – does not generate a “Fit to Fly” certificate – or their free Lateral Flow Test scheme – unsupervised self-administered.

 

Booking Your Test

You will therefore need to book a private test to travel this winter. Private testing centres can be found in a range of locations in the UK, with services offered by a range of providers, including at gyms, shopping centres and major event sites.

Please see the below list for testing facilities located at major points of international departure.

COVID-19 Testing at major departure points

The details below are provided for reference only; the Ski Club does not endorse or recommend any of the below testing providers. For more information, please contact your travel provider.

Major Airports:

Heathrow

Gatwick

Stanstead

Manchester

Luton

Edinburgh

Birmingham

Bristol

Glasgow

Belfast Int.

Liverpool John Lennon

Newcastle

Aberdeen

London City

East Midlands

Leeds Bradford

Southend

Doncaster Sheffield

Southampton

Cardiff

 

Railway Stations:

London St. Pancras Intl.

 

There are no or limited private testing facilities available for passengers at either Ebbsfleet International or Ashford International. Please contact Eurostar for more information.

 

Ports:

There are no or limited private testing facilities available for passengers at major ports in the UK. You should contact your ferry operator for more information on testing.

Timing Your Test

Different testing providers will be able to offer different turnaround times for their tests. Antigen tests are normally turned around in under an hour, making them suitable for testing on the same day as travel.

The quickest same-day PCR tests are normally around 3hrs – note that the shorter the turnaround time, the more expensive the tests will be. You should check carefully with your test provider the standard turnaround time on their tests, and whether short turnaround testing packages are available.

Be aware that posting your sample on to your test provider will incur a delay is it processed through the postal system. Please consider this factor when arranging your tests.

 

 

Testing Whilst Abroad

Testing facilities are available in a variety of locations whilst abroad. These include antigen testing from local pharmacies or medical practices, and PCR tests at dedicated testing centres.

In some locations, such as France, PCR testing is only available at dedicated medical centres operating on behalf of private labs – this means PCR testing may be limited. In some smaller resorts, PCR testing may not be available at all. The Ski Club strongly recommends booking in advance.

Switzerland and Austria offer PCR and antigen testing at pharmacies, medical practices and at on-street testing sites. You may not need to book in advance.

All major alpine nations will charge between 30€ and 50€ for tourists and those without national health insurance.

 

 

Returning to the UK

Please be aware of any regulations that may be in place for any countries you are transiting through on your return to the UK. If you have been away from the UK less than 14 days, you may have to follow the same rules when transiting countries as you did on your outbound journey – this is because some countries still consider travellers as a risk if they have been in “high risk” countries in the previous couple of weeks.

Fully vaccinated passengers returning to the UK now only require one test to meet government regulations.                   

                    -          A PCR test taken any time between your arrival in the UK and the end of day 2 following your arrival, known as your “Day 2 Test”

Your Day 2 Test must be pre-booked in advance, from a list of Government-approved suppliers, available here. You will need to provide the booking reference number as part of your Passenger Locator Form (see Returning to the UK here) – note you do not have to carry this with you or have it delivered to your address, only booked when completing your form.

From 4am on 11th February 2022, the Day 2 testing requirement will be scrapped for fully vaccinated arrivals from non-Red List countries. You must continue to complete a Passenger Locator Form after this date, no more than 48hrs before your arrival in the UK.

Different rules apply if you are not fully vaccinated or are travelling from a Red List country – for more details, please see our Returning to the UK page here.