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.

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.

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.

CompanyLocationTurnaround TimeCostDiagnostic TestNotes
Next day (by 5:00pm)£49PCRSame day £64, by midnight
Collinson groupO2 arena + airports24 hours£40PCR£59.99, end of same day. Reccommend for flights to Japan, £44.99.
Pheonix Hospital GroupMarylebone1 – 2 working days£89PCR
Fleet Street ClinicFleet Street48 hours£95PCR24 hours £195. Within 5 hours £295. 90 minutes £395
Corona Test CentreHammersmith,
Results within 3 hours£99PCR£250.00, results delivered within 3 hours of appointment for urgent travel.
48 hours£99PCR
London Doctors ClinicChelsea,
Covent Garden
4-6 hours £199£99PCR4-6 hours £199
Walkin ClinicLondon
8pm next day£99PCRSame day by 10pm £139, must test by 10am
Wrenhealth careChiswick6:30pm next day. 9:30pm next day if tested on a Sunday£99PCRNext day 5am, £159
n/an/aPCRstopped covid testing
Chelsea MedicsChelsea24 hours (typically)£115PCR
Private Harley Street ClinicLondon
24 hours£139PCRSame day £179, must test in the morning. £395, express results in 90 minutes.
The London General PracitseMaryleboneSame day£195PCRMust test in the morning for same day. 3-4 hours £465
Better2KnowAt-home test48 hours + postage time£69PCRDIY 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.

Heathrow airport covid testing centre sign at terminal 3
If you’ve left things to the last minute, there’s testing at the airport. | Photo by Chris Kirkland

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.

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?

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.

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Filed under: Lifestyle

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