This time last year, travel felt like a distant possibility, but this year has seen an uptick in international movement, with countries managing their borders through various combinations of testing and vaccination requirements. Although it can be confusing, it is currently possible and this Christmas and New Year many people are keen to get away, to visit family or to spend their break somewhere warm.
With the recent appearance of the new Omicron variant, most countries have taken measures to tighten their entry requirements, with many top destinations now requiring testing before entry.
On top of this, the UK has recently increased the arrivals testing requirements, meaning all entering passengers need to do a PCR test on or before day 2 after arrival and to isolate until they receive their result, as opposed to carrying out an often cheaper (and faster) lateral flow test. This means that you might find yourself needing to book Covid-19 tests in the days up to and following Christmas.
But what should you consider before booking?
Will testing providers and labs operate over the holidays?
When it comes to PCR tests, opening times for labs will vary. Some testing providers and labs may decide to close or limit the number of tests available over the holidays, but many will still be processing tests regardless. It’s important you check that your chosen provider can deliver and process the tests you need, when you need them, before booking your test.
Can I book a home Test during the Christmas season?
For many travelers, taking a home test can be a low hassle option for meeting testing requirements, especially when it comes to your Day 2 test. On average, it can also be cheaper than visiting a clinic. A provider will send you a kit in the post for you to self-swab and, in the case of a PCR test, you must send the kit back to the lab for processing using the provided return label. In many cases, this will be via a Royal Mail priority post box.
Over the Christmas period, Royal Mail are pausing all collections and deliveries between 25th December and 28th December inclusive and 2nd January to 3rd January. If you are travelling near or on these dates, be aware that your test won’t have any way of getting to the lab via a Royal Mail option.
Some home test providers will offer their own drop off and pick up service, provided you are close enough to their locations. They may also be able to organise for a private courier to pick up your test.
For antigen home tests, you may be in luck. As you don’t have to send the test kit back to a lab, you may still be able to use these tests over the holidays, as long as you receive the kit before deliveries stop. You will also need to make sure that the provider you choose will be operating a telehealth or photo checking service during your chosen dates, in order to verify your result and provide you with a certificate for travel.
Will clinics be open during the holidays?
To avoid the stress of missing the last postal collection or delivery, booking a test slot in a clinic may be your best option. Many clinics will be working on reduced hours over the Christmas period, but there will still be a number of options available. Make sure to check for Christmas opening times on your chosen provider’s website before booking. It’s advisable to book as far in advance as possible to ensure that you secure an appointment on the day you choose.
At CTN we present guidance for arrival and pre-departure testing (including tests in clinic) as you work through our comparison tool:
Will UK public holiday hours impact how I book my pre-return test to the UK?
To enter the UK from abroad, you must take a Covid test before you start your journey. This can be either a PCR test or an Antigen test and you must take the test up to 2 days before the service on which you will arrive in England departs.
You can purchase a Pre-Arrival test from a UK based private provider and take the kit abroad with you. This means you can take the test before travelling back to England (self-swabbing is sometimes overseen via a video call) without the worry of working out the testing system in another country.
If you choose to take this test while you are abroad, be aware that the country you are in may not have the same public holidays as in the UK. Make sure to check which days are likely to have closures to ensure you can book an appointment.
Written by Maeve Sally
Published on 16/12/2021
Maeve heads up the Provider Listings and Delivery Team handling all things operations, research and logistics as well as project managing website developments.
Information about testing requirements, entry requirements to the UK and travelling abroad during Covid-19 is CTN’s understanding of the requirements from multiple sources including the UK Government website at the time of publishing - always check full requirements including mandatory documentation and quarantine rules before you travel! By using our site, you confirm that you accept our user terms and conditions and you agree to comply with them. We amend these terms from time to time. Every time you wish to use our site, please check these terms to ensure you understand the terms that apply at that time.