With so many Covid-19 test providers available with varying product offerings, it can be difficult to know which providers fit the requirements you need for your travel destination and can be relied upon to deliver the tests you need.
We’ve broken down some key steps to identifying the best Covid-19 provider for you.
Check that providers are government-listed
The UK government has published lists of providers who offer Covid-19 tests. The lists are: General Testing (for Fit to Fly tests as well as peace-of-mind testing), Test to Release (for England only), Day 2 and 8 PCR, Day 2 PCR and Day 2 antigen (lateral flow).
In order to appear on the lists, providers must declare they meet certain minimum standards by submitting a questionnaire, meaning the information can quickly become out of date or inaccurate. Many media outlets have highlighted that pricing is often not applicable to the majority of the market i.e. the lowest priced tests are only available at geographically dispersed locations.
All providers featured on our website appear on one or several of the gov.uk list of providers at the time of listing, and we provide additional features that help you choose the right test such as easy postcode search, detailed turnaround times and customer satisfaction scores.
At CTN we present guidance for travel testing as you work through our comparison tool. You can find out more about testing requirements by following the button below:
Find out whether you need an accredited provider for your destination
Some countries (such as Singapore, Jamaica or Barbados) ask that the tests you take before travelling comply with certain accreditations related to Covid testing.
UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) and ISO (International Organization for Standardization) are two organisations that issue accreditations for a variety of products.
These and other countries may require that the test provider meets a specific ISO standard (such as ISO15189 or ISO17025), or that the test provider is validated by an accrediting body in the country of testing. In this case, the UK accrediting body is UKAS. You can also find a list of laboratories that have been accredited by UKAS for Covid testing here.
However, it is important to note that providers do not need to have these accreditations in order to be able to sell and process Covid-19 tests. You should only check if a provider has these accreditations if the country you are travelling to requires them.
If you do need a provider with these accreditations, the provider’s website is a good place to start. They will usually have logos at the footer of the page showing their accreditations, or they will explicitly detail their accreditations on the test details page.
Use our simple comparison tool to find out the testing standards required for your destination.
Research your provider thoroughly before you make a purchase!
Other things you might want to check on a provider page before you decide to go for them are the following.
Similar to accreditations, some countries might ask that the test certificate contain specific information, such as the doctor who validated the test’s name, or the genetic targets of the test. Most providers will let you know the information present on their test results, but if it’s not explicit, ask them before buying the test to avoid disappointment.
Make sure they don’t have any hidden fees: delivery costs and admin fees associated with the test processing should be included in the price but some providers may present these as add-ons once you go through to checkout.
Check what their results timing really means: some providers’ advertised turnaround time will start from the moment you take the sample, whereas others only start counting from when the sample reaches the laboratory, meaning that you will need to take postal/courier delivery timing into account. It is important that you check this to avoid disappointment, especially for Fit to Fly tests. Do also make sure that the promised turnaround time is actually guaranteed or if it’s just presented as guidance.
Make sure you fully understand their refund and/or replacement policy. For example, if a test kit is broken, is not delivered or gives an inconclusive or invalid test result, the provider might offer a replacement kit, but this is not always the case.
Many countries ask that the tests be taken or supervised by a professional. This is especially important when it comes to Fit to Fly tests, as certain countries will not accept unsupervised or self-tests. We have written a handy guide to understanding what supervised v. unsupervised means here.
We know travelling during Covid-19 can be a stressful experience. We want to make things easier for you, so we have written a pre-travel checklist.
Written by Isabel Barrios Pérez-Coca
Published on 18/01/2022
Isabel is a Data and Research Specialist and is involved in the operation, research, data management and logistics of running the website.
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.