Passport, ticket… Covid-19 negative test result: How to navigate the new rules for travel in the coronavirus era
- Check to see if you need proof that you’re free of Covid-19 before travelling
- Free NHS tests are for those with Covid symptoms, not people going on holiday
- Some countries allow you to avoid pre-flight tests by having a swab on arrival
Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at an important holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: New rules for travel in the Covid era.
Passport, ticket, travel insurance – and a negative Covid-19 test result. The latter is fast becoming an essential item when packing for holidays. You now need to prove you’re free of Covid-19 before you can enjoy a trip to a growing number of holiday hotspots around the world, including Cyprus, Madeira, Bermuda, Barbados and Dubai. Here’s how to navigate the new system…
ONE: Before booking a trip, search ‘coronavirus entry requirements’ at gov.uk for the rules in 226 countries. Return to the site regularly as your departure date approaches because countries can change their rules overnight.
You now need to prove you’re free of Covid-19 before you can enjoy a trip to a growing number of holiday hotspots around the world, including Cyprus, Madeira (pictured), Bermuda, Barbados and Dubai
TWO: In most cases you need a negative result from a Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of your departure time. So, if you are flying at 10am on Sunday you shouldn’t take the test before 10am the preceding Thursday. And be aware that results can take at least 48 hours to get back to you.
THREE: The standard requirement is for a ‘PCR’ test to show if you have the illness. That’s the test that involves a throat and nose swab (it’s not as daunting as it sounds). The alternative ‘antibody’ blood test to show if you’ve had the illness in the past is not accepted for travel. It is normally only over-12s who need to take tests.
FOUR: Free NHS tests are for those with coronavirus symptoms, not people going on holiday. Many private firms and pharmacies offer ‘fit to fly’ tests for about £150. If you live close to a provider, staff can do the swab and send it to the official lab. If you have to take a DIY postal test, it should be ordered early so you’re ready to do the swab and send it off as soon as the testing window opens. Most services aim to email results within two days but do not guarantee it. This can make the run-up to travel tense.
FIVE: Print your negative result and put it in your passport to be shown on request. Some destinations, including Bermuda, require you to upload the result to a ‘travel authorisation’ system at least 24 hours before flying.
SIX: Some countries allow you to avoid pre-flight tests by having a swab on arrival and waiting in the airport (or self-isolating in your hotel) until a negative result comes through.
The risk is that if you test positive, you may be forced to stay in isolation (possibly at your own expense) for at least 14 days.
Some countries allow you to avoid pre-flight tests by having a swab on arrival
In some countries you may only be released from isolation after producing two negative test results. You may miss your return flight so will have to buy a new ticket home.
Repatriation doctor Ben MacFarlane says: ‘If you test positive on arrival and become ill while isolating, then you will have to rely on that country’s healthcare system, possibly for some time.’
He adds: ‘Getting a negative test before you leave can be complicated. But it’s normally the safest option.’
FINALLY: If a pre-trip test is positive you cannot travel and must follow NHS rules on self-isolation. Travel insurance from providers including Nationwide, Staysure and Trailfinders may offer refunds.
If your test isn’t returned in time, you may be unable to travel. Flexible terms on flight-only bookings from British Airways may let you cancel up to check-in time and get a voucher for a future trip.