The UK announced that Germany is being added to the UK’s green travel list, easing quarantine rules for anyone arriving from Germany.
The new rules come into force at 4am on Sunday August 8th. It applies to England, while the devolved Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales governments have confirmed they will also apply it.
What it means
All passengers, including children over the age of 10, will have to take a PCR or lateral flow test within three days of their journey to England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, as well as a PCR test on or before ‘Day Two’ after their arrival.
After the new rules take effect, the Day Two test will mark the end of their Covid travel requirements, assuming it comes back negative.
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.
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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.
And, yes, even if your stay is a short one, before you travel you will need to book and pay for tests for Day Two.
How to book a test
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. Other sources and anecdotal evidence from frustrated travellers including The Local France editor’s Emma Pearson, however, suggest waits of 72 hours and beyond.
The cost of individual PCR tests varies between £50 and £250 – though many providers offer a range of packages at different prices based on the number of tests required, where you are coming from and how quickly the results are needed, according to the Covid Testing Network website.
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.
What’s a real pain is that you also have to book individually for each passenger that requires a test.
Compare this to Germany, which does not require vaccinated travellers to take a test either before or after arrival unless they are coming from a virus variant area.
Meanwhile, antigen tests are free to everyone (at least at the moment) – even tourists. PCR tests vary in costs, but can often be found for around €40 to €50.
The Local Germany’s editor Rachel Loxton also found the testing system in Scotland frustrating when she travelled there recently.
In short for anyone used to the mass testing system in Germany, the UK set up will appear completely bonkers.
Confusing official list
The Westminster government lists test providers in England and Northern Ireland here.
But it is long and bewildering, and many firms listed are new and relatively unknown reflecting the rapidly shifting Covid-19 market. Unhelpfully, there’s little indication of where clinics are located, even after a search is regionalised: Yorkshire and the Humber, for example, covers quite a large area.
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.
Better to look elsewhere
Travel firms and airlines, eager for your business, are increasingly offering discounted tests to customers who use their services, and may include links to certain suppliers on their website. They are worth a look as this may help you find a cheaper test.
It may also be worth checking the Covid Testing Network’s price comparison site, which shows provider prices for at-home and in-clinic tests within a radius of your location in England. Helpfully, it also includes a customer satisfaction score, as well as price, allowing users to make a reasonably informed decision.