There are numerous options for getting a ‘fit for travel’ or ‘fit to fly’ COVID test certificate in London and beyond. Most places offer a fast turnaround or next-day or sooner, and you can even get a 2-4 hour test at Heathrow Airport (but do allow extra time for this option – it’s independent of any airline so there’s no departure time matching). Also with a recent government crackdown on infalted pricing of private PCR tests, prices have dropped to more wallet friendly levels. There’s a huge amount of choice though, so to save you the time, we’ve done the research for you on the cheapest fit to fly PCR test in London.
How Much Does a Fit To Fly Test Cost?
In the early days of the pandemic some people where being charged up to £2,000.00 for a PCR test, but thankfully prices have come down to more sensible levels. The cheapest ‘Fit to Fly’ PCR test in London is just under £50.00, but prices can be as high as around £200.00 for standard testing. If an antigen test will suffice, you can get a rapid turn around test for just £39.00. You will likely have to pay a premium for next-day and same-day results, but there are still speedy options under £100.00 . You can likely shave 10%-20% off the cost of your test by looking for a discount code before you book – more on that below. You can also save money if you don’t need a same day result, but be sure to check the requirements of your destination as to how much time in advance a test will be accepted.
List of recommended fit to fly PCR test providers in London
Here’s our list of PCR test providers, but before you book, scroll down and check our tips on getting a discount off your fit to fly test.
|Company||Location||Turnaround Time||Cost||Diagnostic Test||Notes|
|Next day (by 5:00pm)||£49||PCR||Same day £64, by midnight|
|Collinson group||O2 arena + airports||24 hours||£40||PCR||£59.99, end of same day. Reccommend for flights to Japan, £44.99.|
|Pheonix Hospital Group||Marylebone||1 – 2 working days||£89||PCR|
|Fleet Street Clinic||Fleet Street||48 hours||£95||PCR||24 hours £195. Within 5 hours £295. 90 minutes £395|
|Corona Test Centre||Hammersmith,
|Results within 3 hours||£99||PCR||£250.00, results delivered within 3 hours of appointment for urgent travel.|
|London Doctors Clinic||Chelsea,
|4-6 hours £199||£99||PCR||4-6 hours £199|
|8pm next day||£99||PCR||Same day by 10pm £139, must test by 10am|
|Wrenhealth care||Chiswick||6:30pm next day. 9:30pm next day if tested on a Sunday||£99||PCR||Next day 5am, £159|
|n/a||n/a||PCR||stopped covid testing|
|Chelsea Medics||Chelsea||24 hours (typically)||£115||PCR|
|Private Harley Street Clinic||London
|24 hours||£139||PCR||Same day £179, must test in the morning. £395, express results in 90 minutes.|
|The London General Pracitse||Marylebone||Same day||£195||PCR||Must test in the morning for same day. 3-4 hours £465|
|Better2Know||At-home test||48 hours + postage time||£69||PCR||DIY test at home. £199, Priority service, 24 hours + postage time.|
Where To Get A Fit to Fly Test In London
If you’ve left it to the last minute, you’ll may be okay using one of the airport testing centres, but not all airport testing centres promise same day turn around. Collinson test centre at London City for example, promises “next day”, although you may still get the results sooner. But hopefully you’re not reading this at the last minute and you have time to plan ahead, if so then your best bet is to use the table above to find the cheapest or most convenient location for you and book with plenty of time ahead of your flight so any delays won’t cause stress.
If travelling to one of the test sites is inconvenient, you’ll be pleased to know many of the providers now offer “self administered” tests – they’ll post you a kit, book a video call with you to surpervise your self test and email you your certificate once they’ve received your swab back and processed the result. These do take extra time as you’ll need to post the test kit to their lab, so be sure you can meet any testing time requirements for your destination country.
Heathrow Airport Covid Testing Centre
As you might expect, there’s also testing facilities at most London airports, usually close to or inside the terminals. It is still be prudent and cheaper to get tested a day or two earlier (should you test positive, you’ll have more time to change flights and plans), but if you left things to the last minute you may still have enough time. The testing centres at Heathrow airport (terminals 2,3 and 5) currently offer 4 hour PCR and 2 hour LAMP test options, so provided you can still get to the airport a few hours earlier than normal, you should still be able to get tested in time. If you’re reading this well in advance, we’d advise against Covid-19 testing at the terminal on the day of departure, since you’ll have little time for plan B should anything go wrong (delayed test result, void or positive test, a printer or computer not working etc).
How long do pcr fit to fly test results take?
For the PCR test for travel options we reviewed, the normal turnaround time is usually “end of next day” after you take your test – or the text result is received by their lab (for DIY PCR tests). Most places allow offer a premium fast turn around service, from as little as 90 minutes (although costing hundreds of pounds!) to same-day
and next-morning. In practice many places usually provide results faster than advertised as demand for testing is lower than in previous months.
Getting a Discount On Fit To Fly Covid-19 tests
Covid-19 tests & certificates can be a bit pricey, with the average price still being way over 100 pounds, so saavy Cheapos will of course be on the lookout for a discount coupon. We’ve found airlines to be a good source of discount codes (as well as guidance on current restrictions and proceedures).
For example British Airways has a handy Covid guidelines and test discounts page. Some of the discounts are contingent on showing a boarding pass, so be sure to hold on to your boarding pass slip.
Before booking a ‘fit to fly’ COVID-19 test
Although the turnaround times on tests can be very fast, you need to make sure you can get an appointment. Depending on demand, it can be difficult to book a test at short notice. If you have time, book a week or more in advance to be safe.
Many clinics will have experience with requirements for certain destinations, you must check the specific requirements that you will need need to enter a country and/or board the plane with the relevant embassy and airline. As a regular traveller to Japan, I’ve been using the Collinson group for my fit to fly tests, as they provide the preformated Japan MOFA form with the certificate.
You’re not allowed to use the NHS testing service for ‘fit for travel” COVID tests. Plus, they may not be sufficient for the border requirements at the destination country anyway.
Some providers also offer self-test kits via post, however you’ll have to be extra careful with timing and allowing for postage time as some destinations are very strict around test timing.
Check the UK foreign office guidance on foreign travel. Current guidelines states you need to arrange a private test for travel.
Clinic checklist: Things to confirm before you book a test
- Does the lab/clinic have the correct accreditation for your requirements (usually UKAS)?
- Do you need an original copy? Many labs give you results digitally only.
- Do you need additional custom forms/information? Some clinics are able to accommodate custom requests.
What types of COVID-19 tests are there?
Test Type – PCR VS Anitgen VS LAMP
As mentioned above you’ll need to check carefully with your destination country’s testing requirements. Usually the PCR test is the higher accuracy gold standard, so if you’re not sure this is likely the test type required (and most widely offered). PCR testing usually takes longer to process than LAMP and Antigen tests, but many of the Fit-to-fly test providers offer quick turnarounds.
Test Sampling Method
In some cases (notably Japan) you may need to check the testing method meets your destination country’s requirements.
Nasopharyngeal – This test is where they stick a long swab up your nose. It’s not as bad as it sounds, but may make your eyes water. This test may also include a throat swab. This is the original and most common sampling method for PCR testing in the UK.
Throat swab only – Some places only take throat swab samples. This is a lot easier on the patient, but note it may not be sufficient for some destination countries with rigorous standards (like Japan).
Saliva – This test is where you spit into a tube for the newer rapid LAMP tests (like the 1-hour test at Heathrow Airport).
Top tip: Read our guide on the fastest and cheapest ways to get between central London and Heathrow Airport.
This post was originally published in Autumn 2020. Last updated: June 10, 2022.