Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing before you travel to England

You may need proof of a negative COVID-19 test to travel to England from abroad.

Applies to England

If you do not qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England, you must take a COVID-19 test before you travel to England from abroad.

If you do qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England, you do not need to take a test before travel.

Read the Travel to England guidance to check if you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England.

Some people, including children aged 17 and under, are exempt from taking the test.

When to take your test

You must take the test in the 2 days before your service to England departs.

For example, if you travel directly to England on Friday, you could take a test any time on the Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. The test result must be available for boarding.

If your journey to England is a multi-leg journey, you can take the test in the 2 days before the start of the first leg.

Type of test

The test must meet performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.

This could include tests such as:

  • a nucleic acid test, including a PCR test
  • a LAMP test
  • an antigen test, such as an LFD (lateral flow device) test

You must check with your test provider that the test meets the standards. You may not be able to travel if it does not.

The test could be either:

  • a face-to-face or in-person test
  • a self-administered test

If you have recently had COVID

If you have recently recovered from COVID but are no longer infectious, you should use a lateral flow device (LFD) test. LFD tests have a lower sensitivity than PCR or LAMP tests, so they are less likely to return a positive result from a historic infection. The LFD test must meet the minimum performance standards as set out above.

Where to take your test

You will need to find a private test provider to take a test.

You can choose to take a test:

  • in the place where you start your journey
  • in another country on your way to England, if you are travelling through another country

Where possible, the government travel advice pages provide information about finding a testing provider.

Taking a test on your journey to England

If your journey to England is long, and will involve stopping in another country on the way, you should try to take a test in the country you’re travelling through. This is so you take the test in the 2 days before you board the final service to England.

For example, if you’re driving from Germany and you stop for a few days in Belgium, you should take a test in Belgium.

If your journey to England is a multi-leg journey, you can take the test in the 2 days before the start of the first leg. However, where possible, you should get a test within 2 days of your final departure point to England.

Check that you will be able to get a test

If you plan to take a test in a country on your way to England, you must make sure that this is possible before you set out. Some countries have entry restrictions in place, which mean you may not be able to get tested there.

If you do not have proof of a test because you planned to get tested on your journey, but you were not able to do so because you were not able to enter the country in which you planned to get tested, you will be allowed to board. But you may be fined £500 on arrival in England because you do not have a valid test result.

Taking your test in the UK before travel

If you are returning to the UK within 2 days, you can use the result of a COVID-19 test that you take in the UK before you travel. You must use a private test provider for the test and not an NHS test.

The service on which you will arrive back in the UK must set off for the UK within 2 days of when you took the test, or within 2 days of the start of the first leg of your journey for multi-leg journeys.

Positive test results

If your test result is positive, you must not travel. You must follow local rules and guidance for positive coronavirus cases.

If the result is inconclusive, you must take another test.

British nationals who need consular assistance should contact the nearest consulate, embassy or high commission.

How to provide proof of a negative test result

Proof for EU residents or citizens

If you are an EU resident or citizen, you can use the EU Digital Covid Certificate (EU-DCC) to provide proof of your test result. This can be in either digital or paper format.

If you are not an EU resident or citizen, you cannot use the EU-DCC to provide proof of your test result.

Proof for non-EU residents and citizens

You must provide the original test result notification. Your test result must be in either English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted.

Your test result can be provided as:

  • a printed document
  • an email or text message you can show on your phone - make sure your device is charged

It must include the following information:

  • your name, which should match the name on your travel documents
  • your date of birth or age
  • the result of the test
  • the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
  • the name of the test provider and their contact details
  • confirmation of the device used for the test, or that the test was a PCR test

If you do not have proof of a negative test result

If you do not present proof you tested negative, you may not be able to board your transport to England.

If you arrive in England without proof you tested negative, you could be fined £500.

NHS tests

NHS tests cannot be used for the purpose of pre-departure testing before travel to England.

You cannot take an NHS test abroad with you to use on yourself before you return.

Exemptions – people who do not need to take a test

Children

Children aged 17 and under do not have to take a COVID-19 test before travel to England.

Read more about children and COVID-19 travel tests in the Travel to England guidance.

Children who have been in a red list country or territory

Children aged 11 and under do not have to take a COVID-19 test before travel to England.

Children aged 12 to 17 who have been in a red list country or territory in the 10 days before they arrive in England must take a COVID-19 test in the 2 days before travel to England.

Job and medical exemptions

You do not need to take a test if you are travelling to the UK:

  • for urgent medical treatment or are accompanying someone who is travelling for urgent medical treatment, and it is not reasonably practical for you to obtain a negative COVID-19 test in the 2 days before departure
  • if you have a medical condition which means you cannot take a test – you must present a note from a medical practitioner at check in and to Border Force staff on arrival in England

Some people are exempt from some or all of the requirements because of the job they do

Travel from some countries

You do not need to take a test if you began your journey to England from:

  • Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey or Guernsey
  • Falkland Islands
  • St Helena or Ascension

This applies even if you do not qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England.

People who qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England

You do not need to take a COVID-19 test before travel to England if you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England. Check the Travel to England guidance to see if you qualify as fully vaccinated.

Passenger locator form

You must complete a passenger locator form before you travel to England.

Testing and quarantine after you arrive in England

The rules for testing and quarantine after you arrive in England are changing at 4am, 11 February 2022.

Read separate guidance to find out more about testing and quarantine when you arrive in England, including the new rules.

Published 13 January 2021
Last updated 24 January 2022 + show all updates
  1. The testing and quarantine rules for international travel to England will change 11 February 2022.

  2. If you qualify as fully vaccinated for travel to England, you do not need to take a COVID-19 test before travel to England.

  3. Changes to rules for fully vaccinated people travelling to England from 4am 7 January 2022.

  4. People who arrive in England from Ethiopia after 4am Thursday 16 December will need proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

  5. People aged 12 years and over must take a COVID-19 test before they travel to England from abroad.

  6. From 4am, Tuesday 7 December all people aged 12 years and over must take a PCR or LFD COVID-19 test before they travel to England from abroad.

  7. Ethiopia added to list of countries or territories where you do not need to take a COVID-19 test before travel to England.

  8. EU citizens and residents can use the EU Digital Covid Certificate to provide proof of a COVID-19 test before travel to England.

  9. People who qualify as fully vaccinated under travel to England rules no longer need to take a COVID-19 test before travel to England.

  10. Changes to amber list rules on quarantine and testing.

  11. From 4am 5 July 2021, you will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test to travel to England from Myanmar.

  12. Myanmar added to list of countries where you do not need to take a coronavirus test before travel to England.

  13. Information about new testing, self-isolation and quarantine rules from 15 February.

  14. Travel corridors suspended.

  15. First published.