There are numerous options for getting a ‘fit for travel’ or ‘fit to fly’ COVID test certificate in London—and the tests are becoming faster and more streamlined. There’s even a 1-hour turnaround test at Heathrow Airport, although it’s currently available only for people flying to Hong Kong.

As of 21 December 2020: More than 30 countries have banned passenger flights from the UK amid concerns of a new variant of COVID-19. Be sure to check that your destination country is allowing flights from the UK before you make travel plans and spend money on a fit to fly test.

COVID testing clinics in London

CompanyLocationTurnaround timeCostSample typeDiagnostic testHome visit optionCustom requestsNotes
Better2KnowAt-home test24 hours + postage time£245Throat swabPCR
Chelsea MedicsChelsea72 hours PCR YES
24–48 hours£150Saliva or NasopharyngealPCR NOReduced service at weekends
Corona Test CentreHammersmith,
24 & 48 hours guaranteed£175NasopharyngealPCR YES
Up to 70 hours£134 + £5 for cert.NasopharyngealPCR YES
48 hours£149Throat swabPCRYES
Fleet Street ClinicFleet StreetSame day/
24 hours
£495NasopharyngealPCR YES
Heathrow Airport
(Collinson Group)
Heathrow Airport:
Terminals 2 & 5
1 hour£80SalivaLAMP Only available for Hong Kong flights
London Doctors ClinicChelsea,
Covent Garden
5–7 days (3 days London)£214 London,
£150 Manchester
Medical Express ClinicMarylebone24 hours£195 + £50 for cert.NasopharyngealPCRYES
Pheonix Hospital GroupMarylebone24 hours£240NasopharyngealPCR YES
Private Harley Street ClinicLondon
20-48 hours£250NasopharyngealPCR YES
London General PracticeMarylebone24-48 hours£315NasopharyngealPCR
Walk-in ClinicLondon
48-72 hours£165NasopharyngealPCR YES
Wren HealthcareChiswick24 & 48 hours£145Throat swab (nasopharyngeal on request)PCRSuspended during lockdown Weekdays only

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.

You can legally travel to medical appointments in the UK during the lockdown. People using public transport must observe the latest safety guidelines (wearing a mask, etc.).

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.

Check the UK foreign office guidance on foreign travel. Current guidelines states you need to arrange a private test for travel.

Departures board during early Covid-19 - fit to fly covid certificate in london
Back in March when it all began | Photo by Chris Kirkland

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.
A quiet Heathrow on a mid-November afternoon. | Photo by Chris Kirkland

What types of COVID-19 tests are there?

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.

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Filed under: Lifestyle

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