How travellers from France to the UK can book that ‘cheaper’ Day 2 test

Arrivals into the UK must pay for a Day 2 Covid test.
Arrivals into the UK must pay for a Day 2 Covid test. Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP
The UK government has published its list of 'cheaper Covid travel tests' for arrivals into the UK from countries including France, but don't get too excited . . .

Since removing France from its ‘amber plus’ list in August, the UK has also relaxed the rules on testing, meaning that fully vaccinated arrivals from France no longer need to take a pre-departure Covid test.

Travellers do, however, still need ‘Day 2’ tests on arrival – but from October 24th these can be antigen tests (known in the UK as lateral flow tests) rather than PCR tests, with the new tests on sale from Friday, October 22nd.

READ ALSO What changes in October if you’re travelling from France to the UK

Travellers have been complaining for months about the extortionate prices and terrible service afforded by the Day 2 testing system, and the switch to lateral flow tests should make these cheaper – in theory.

You do still, however, have to use a test provider from the list of approved government suppliers and the test must be booked and paid for before you leave France.

While broadly similar, Covid-19 travel, quarantine and testing rules are slightly different if you’re heading to Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland

What it means

All passengers, including children, have to take a test on or before ‘Day Two’ after their arrival in England. But – crucially – this Day Two test must be booked before you leave France.

The passenger locator form, required for all arrivals into England, cannot be completed without a reference number from a test, booked through one of the UK government’s approved list of suppliers.

For fully vaccinated travellers, the Day Two test marks the end of their Covid travel requirements, assuming it comes back negative.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about travel between France and the UK

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See also on The Local:

ALSO READ: Reader question: If I arrive in the UK from France before Sunday 4am, do I still have to quarantine?

Unvaccinated travellers from France, however, must quarantine for 10 full days and take another test on or before Day Eight of their stay.

It is important to note that for test and quarantine purposes, the day of arrival is counted as Day Zero. The following day is Day One, the day after that Day Two, and so on.

Proof of purchase of the second test must be included on the passenger locator form, which everyone over age 18 must complete and submit within the 48 hours before they travel. Anyone who fails to take this Day Two test faces a fine of up to £2,000.

How to book a test

Tests must be booked from a company on the government’s list of test providers in England and Northern Ireland here.

Before October 24th

The test must be a PCR test, but PCR tests in the UK may be carried out at home, or by going to a clinic. Prices vary based on how many tests you require and how quickly you need the results – and many clinics offer a range of packages.

According to the government website, you’ll have a wait of 24 to 36 hours to get your test result.

However social media and the British media are awash with stories of people waiting considerably longer than that, never receiving their results or never receiving the tests in the first place.

On or after October 24th

From this date, the test can be a rapid-result antigen test, known as a lateral flow test in the UK, which travellers do at home with no need to send the sample to a lab.

However, this must still be booked in advance and from one of the approved government suppliers.

The UK government published its updated list including lateral flow tests on Friday, October 22nd and initially this looked good, with several tests listed at £20 or under.

However when we tried to book one on Friday lunchtime, none of the sites listing tests at or around £20 were actually selling them at that price – some sites said they had no tests available, while others only listed options to purchase the considerably more expensive PCR tests.

It remains unclear whether this will change in the days to come.

The new system should, however, eliminate the problem of long waits for results.

Companies

The world of Day 2 testing is an infuriating one.

You’ll find the companies offer packages depending on the status of the country you are travelling from, in other words green or amber. Even though the tests are the same. Some companies confusingly list products only for “UK vaccinated”.

Some we found appear to have minimum spends so even if you find a cheap test you can’t buy it, while others seem cheap, but once you get through the final ordering stage extra charges bump up the total.

The UK government says that it does not endorse companies on its list, and some firms have been removed for failing to provide a reasonable standard of service. However, many remain on the list despite being the subject of multiple complaints.

You also have to book individually for each passenger who requires a test – so if you’re travelling as a family of four you will have to go through the booking process four times.

Compare this to France, which does not require vaccinated travellers to take a test either before or after arrival. Tourists in France are changed a flat rate €22 for an antigen test and €44 for a PCR. Travel tests are free for vaccinated residents and can be accessed by simply popping into the local pharmacy or booking online with a medical lab.

In short for anyone used to the efficient testing system in France (particularly at pharmacies), the UK set up will appear completely bonkers.

Short stays

So, what if you’re staying in the UK for less than two days? You still need the Day 2 test, because the passenger locator form cannot be completed without the booking reference, and you cannot enter England without the form.

So you must pay for a test even if you will no longer be in England when the time comes to use it.

Fully vaccinated

Also be aware that the UK government’s definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ is not the same as the French government’s.

You need to have been vaccinated with a UK approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson – and be at least 14 days from your final dose.

After much confusion, the UK has finally agreed to recognise as vaccinated people who had a ‘mixed dose’ – ie one AstraZeneca and one Pfizer.

But while in France, people who previously had Covid are counted as fully vaccinated after a single dose of the vaccine, this is not the case in the UK

READ ALSO I had Covid and a single vaccine dose in France – what are my travel options?


Member comments

  1. I booked my day 2 test earlier today with Zoom. One of the first few on gov list. 30 pounds (20 but 10 extra for free return deliver from any postbox). Simple and straightforward and the booking code accepted on passenger locator form. Travelling with an under 18 year old from France to England and didn’t need a test for him.

  2. I am traveling to London from Paris on November 5-6 for only 28 hours. Do I really have to pay for a test that I will not have to take? This sounds pretty oppressive.

  3. “The government is quick to insist it does not endorse one test provider over another – but it does say that it ‘closely monitors’ performance. All private providers of Covid tests are required to meet certain standards. If they fall short they can be removed from official lists.”

    I have requested, through the Freedom of Information Act, for the NHS monitoring data on the private labs (and other data). I will report the data provided to The Local as soon as received.

  4. I was back in the UK for two days last week. There is no way that the UK Gov can verify that you have actually done the day two test, other than that you have to have completed a valid number on your passenger locator form. However, be aware, although I had already returned to France, I received a phone call from NHS track and trace on day 5 telling me I was a contact case because of the inbound flight and must self isolate for 12 days from arrival in the UK, irrespective of whether the day two test comes back negative or not. Expert Medical, day two test in the post £28, no issues.

    1. The UK govt has not been joining the dots at all – they have no idea what your results are or if you really did them or the lab, they just know if you paid for them…to get the number on the PLF…I looked your company up as the price seemed so reasonable and then also found they are being investigated : ) caveat emptor – they are all a bunch of profiteering chancers…I’ve been reporting several of them since March ’21 and only recently are they actually investigating – the ridiculously random 24th date is to please school holidaymakers and the govt’s core voters and to allow these labs to make even more money given the announcement of lateral tests to come was a month ago… aherm. Yours cynically…

      https://www.gov.uk/cma-cases/pcr-travel-tests

  5. Don’t be put off traveling if fully vacinated.
    We’ve travelled from France to UK under the Day 2 regime twice and booked PCR tests direct with Randox.
    You can buy multiple tests in one order and you get a seperate reference code for each to include on the passenger locator form.
    Cost £48 ea without discount code £43 ea if you click and collect at the time of writing.
    We did the home pcr test early on day 2 and then drop off at a randox collection point before 4 p.m.
    Every time we’ve had txt confirmation of receipt at the lab (in N.I.) by the next morning (often by 3 a.m.) and the results later that same day by email.
    Whilst this price is more expensive compare to France it’s not too much more and nothing like some of the rip-off companies out there (most of whom use Randox for testing labs anyway)
    So don’t be too put off.
    What is annoying is that the UK has the nerve to demand tests when the infection rate is far higher than France!

  6. Need to go to England for a funeral. Will arrive and depart the same day and funeral does not appear to be near any testing sites. Does anyone have any experience of day 2 tests being sent to a relative, arriving on day 1 (after our return to france) and being returned unused to testing provider with a note to say no longer in uk. I do not want to cause any problems for relatives or for potential future visits.

  7. I can report having a good experience with AssuredScreening.com.
    I arrived in U.K. on Sat, the kit was delivered around 9am Sun and on Mon when leaving the U.K. via Eurostar I could drop the specimen collection tube at a convenient location off York Way at the side of Kings Cross Stn. It was about a 15 mins round trip detour on foot from St Pancras. Negative results emailed to me 26 hours later on Tuesday.

    Cost was £55 . I had chosen them as they were the second cheapest but with a very good rating on the comparison site provided by The Local. So thanks to them too! Will use them on my next trip.

  8. I used Randox Health drive through at Stansted airport (stn.randox.com) for our day two test. It is a PCR test and cost £60 per person. I couldn’t find a provider at the exit from Eurotunnel and had to drive 2 hrs to get there but fortunately it was not too far out of my way that day.

  9. Don’t know if you were looking to the future, as we’re nearly a month on from your query, but yes, fine to get into UK from France with antigen test, it’s the day 2 test which has been the problem here. They have created a never ending muddle. Even when they say one thing they add “but we prefer you to…” do the other.
    If one former tory MP can call the PM a charlatan then I’ll endorse that.

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