Need A PCR Test To Travel? How Much Of A Hassle Is It?

I’ll admit, the timing of this piece probably isn’t the best. At the moment, nobody in the UK can travel, due to the lockdown. But once things get going again, how easy is it to get a PCR test in order to travel?

It’s something I have recently had to do in order to fly to St. Lucia.

It did sound like it would be a bit of a hassle to begin with. However, now I have done it, travelled and returned I thought I would share my experience.


Finding A Location

Probably the biggest issue I had to begin with was finding somehwere that actually provided a PCR test. Would an NHS test be sufficient? No idea! Besides, with the news reporting shortages of these, it wouldn’t be overly responsible to send off for one of these.

Secondly, with St. Lucia and many other destinations requiring the PCR test to be taken within a certain time of arrival (St. Lucia was 7 days, Barbados is 72 hours), there was no guarantee that the NHS test would come back in time anyway.

Depending on your airline, some have set up deals with companies to offer a slight discount.

British Airways have teamed up with Nomad Travel and CityDoc. Where as Virgin Atlantic have teamed up with Screen4 and binx health.

Who did I go with? None of the above! I googled local PCR test and found one that way. I did pay a little more for the PCR test itself. However, I was able to take the test at a surgery local to me. Taking out the cost of travelling into Central London, the difference probably wasn’t that much.

How Much Does It Cost?

If you go with the companies who have arranged a deal with the airlines, then you’ll be paying in the region of £100. However, most other private services seem to be in the region of £150-£200.

Does It Hurt?

It’s not a pleasant experience, that’s for sure. Although I wouldn’t say they PCR test hurt.

The first part is having a swab taken from the back of your throat. That’s about as pleasant as it sounds. The second part involves the same swab being inserted into your nose. Imagine the moment you’re about to sneeze – but it lasting around 10-15 seconds and the sneeze not coming out.

As I mentioned, not painful as such, but not the most pleasant experience. Once its over, that’s it. My eyes watered for a minute or so, but that was that. By the time I left the clinic, I felt the same as when I walked in.

How Long Does It Take To Get The Results?

I suppose that depends on where you go. In my case, the appointment was at 17:00. The results dropped into my inbox at around 11:00 the following day.

What Do You Do With The Results?

The results then have to be sent off to the relevant authorities. Along with a few other health declarations.

This was the case for St. Lucia. I suspect its much the same procedure for everywhere else that requires a negative PCR test to be provided.

Is That It?

For the moment. Again, the case for St. Lucia was that a few days later, a travel authorisation was emailed. This had to be printed, along with a few other forms and taken with you.

How things are done elsewhere, I couldn’t comment.

What Happens At The Airport?

This confused me a little. When checking in online, I was able to get a mobile boarding pass as usual. However, as I was checking in a bag, I went to the check in desk. Before they would issue me a boarding pass, they needed to see my negative PCR test result and appropriate cover letter.

No doubt if I had gone straight through security, the paperwork would have been checked at the gate instead. It’s not in the airlines interest for them to fly you somewhere, only to have to put you on the same plane back again when you’re not let in. Or worse still, have to go into quarantine down route at your own expense.

What Happens On Arrival?

Upon arrival, almost as soon as leaving the plane, it was into a temporary tent. Before you’re allowed into this area, you have to sanitise your hands. After this, you will have your temperature taken. If this is all clear then you will head through to be processed.

The authorities will check the paperwork (and keep hold of it, so make sure you print it). If everything is in order, you are given a wristband to show that you have been checked and sent through the usual channels. Passport control, baggage claim, customs etc.

From this point onwards, everything is as per usual.


This was my own personal experience for travelling to St. Lucia. Results and procedures may (and likely will) vary between destinations.

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