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UPDATED: Day 2 tests to get into the UK are cheaper and easier if you know this trick

Sign for testing centre in airport terminal
Sign for testing centre in airport terminal   -   Copyright  AP Photo
By Sarah Palmer  & Ruth Wright

Many people aren’t travelling at the moment because they just don’t want to deal with all the hassle and expense of COVID-19 tests. The UK’s rules can be confusing, especially as the government often changes them at short notice.

But don’t let that stop you from getting away for a last-minute autumn break. Read on to make sure you know the rules, and how to follow them.

What you need to know about day 2 tests

Everyone arriving into the UK, whether they are vaccinated or not, must do a day 2 test. Note that the green and amber lists were scrapped on October 4th 2021.

This must be a PCR test. There were plans to switch to just requiring lateral flow tests. However due to a shortage of lateral flow tests, these plans have been put on hold for now.

The trick must people don't know about

But, despite the name, you can actually do the test on or before day 2. This rule is stated on the UK government website here.

This means that you can get tested as soon as you land in the UK. Most airports have testing centres, and getting it done when you arrive means you don’t need to worry about doing it on your actual day 2. You could also do it on the way home from the airport, or the next day.

Don’t forget: day 0 is the day you arrive into the UK, then the next day is day 1, and so on.

Wherever you do the day 2 test, you must book it before you travel, as you’ll need your booking reference for your Passenger Locator Form.

You can find government-approved testing providers here.

Who carries out day 2 tests?

There are lots of different companies that you can book a test through. But not all test providers are created equal.

Not so long ago, the government came under fire for tests being ‘expensive and unreliable’. Since, the cost of NHS Test and Trace tests for international arrivals has been cut by £20 (€23) and a review of private providers has been launched to crack down on "excessive pricing or misleading claims".

In terms of private providers, some companies offer at-home options sent by mail, or in-person testing. The government has a handy guide about which test might be right for you here.

Man being tested by a medical providerCanva

Which testing companies should you avoid?

There are company you might want to avoid, for now at least.

On September 24th, the UK Competition and Markets Authority revealed they are investigating Dante Labs for not delivering tests or test results on time or at all, not responding to customer complaints, refusing or delaying to pay refunds and having unfair terms and conditions. The results of their investigation will be revealed in due course.

Don't worry, however, if you are already in the process of using Dante for testing. Your results will still be accepted as valid.

The other testing company under investigation is Expert Medicals.

They are similarly being investigated for not sending out tests and results, not responding to customer complaints and refusing to issue refunds when due.

You can find the list of government-approved testing providers here.

Who do I contact for more information?

The UK’s Citizens Advice Bureau can provide support via their website.

You can also email for more advice.

Frequently asked questions

Many of our readers have questions about the UK's travel requirements.

We put these questions to the government departments responsible for the rules. Their answers are below.

I wasn’t asked for proof of a negative test, PLF or day 2 test booking when I arrived in the UK. Who is responsible for checking this?

According to the government, airlines are responsible for checking that passengers are following the guidance.

What am I supposed to do with the results of my day 2 test if they are negative?

"There is no specific guidance on reporting as this is done by laboratories, but passengers must self-isolate for 10 days if they receive a positive test result," says the spokesperson.