What is the difference between PCR, RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests?
PCR tests look for viral RNA inside a sample. In order for this to happen, the sample needs to be sent to a lab for analysis. Results are usually turned around from 24h to 72h.
A RT-PCR is a type of PCR test. Most Covid PCR tests are RT-PCR, as it is the standard method used for detecting the genetic material of the virus. There is not an agreed naming convention for PCR tests, which means that some providers might shorten it to PCR even if the method used is RT-PCR.
Rapid antigen tests look for a certain protein and work a bit like a pregnancy test. Antigen tests do not need to be sent to a lab and results are provided in around 30 minutes. Antigen tests are considered to be less sensitive than PCR and therefore not all countries accept them for entry.
When do I need to take my test?
That depends on where you are flying to, as different countries have different timing requirements. You can check the requirements for the country you are visiting by following our question flow:
Turnaround times will vary depending on the provider. Our 'more details' page has more information around what turnaround times each provider offers. For further information, please make sure to check the turnaround time guarantees on a provider website before booking your test.
How long will test results take?
Turnaround times will vary depending on the provider. PCR tests can take anything from 6 hours to 72h and the price will vary depending on which option you choose. The standard is usually 48h-72h. Rapid antigen tests provide much faster results and you should be provided with these the same day of your test. For further information, please make sure to check the turnaround time guarantees on a provider website before booking your test.
My test kit/test result has not arrived. Can you help me?
You will have to reach out to the provider you booked the test with directly. All test bookings are made directly with the test provider, under the terms and conditions of that provider and as such we cannot enter into communications regarding any individual test booking. We do not have access to any personal information relating to test bookings. The test provider shall be solely responsible for providing an end to end service to you in respect of the provision of all tests and results and we shall have no responsibility or liability in this regard.
If you want to have a backup plan, see other providers here.
Do I need to buy all my tests from the same provider?
No, you can buy the tests you need through different providers. Some of them do offer testing packages at a reduced price. We do not offer testing packages on our website, so you will need to check in providers’ websites directly.
Written by Maeve Sally
Published on 29/12/2021
Maeve heads up the Provider Listings and Delivery Team handling all things operations, research and logistics as well as project managing website developments.
The information within this article is accurate at the time of publishing.
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.