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How much will a private Covid-19 test cost for arrivals to England?

How much will a private Covid-19 test cost for arrivals to England?
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Travelling back to England from 15 December 2020? You might not need to isolate for 14 days if you pay for a private Covid-19 test. But how much will a private test cost, and who should get tested? Here’s everything you need to know.

What are the rules?

The general rule is that you must isolate for 14 days after returning to England from certain countries, such as Spain, Italy and France.

However, from 15 December 2020, you can book a private Covid-19 test after five days. If the result comes back negative, you’re free to leave quarantine early. The result? You’ll hopefully only spend six or seven days in isolation if you pay for a private test. 

Why are the new rules in force?

Well, there are three main reasons:

  1. It might encourage more people to travel if they don’t need to quarantine for so long when they get home. This is good news for travellers and the travel industry. 
  2. It’s sometimes hard for people to get NHS tests because the demand is so high. 
  3. Many people don’t isolate for the full 14 days if they don’t have any Covid-19 symptoms. Reducing the quarantine time might encourage more people to stay home, at least for a full five days.    

How much will a private test cost?

The costs vary, but right now, before the new rules come in, you’ll pay at least £100 per test per person. So if you’re testing, say, a family of four, it’s at least £400 all in.

How much will a private test cost from 15 December? Well, tests should cost between £65 and £120. However, there’s still a chance that some private firms will charge more than this, so it’s important that you shop around before booking a test.

Are the rules the same around the UK?

No, they’re not. The rules only apply if you’re travelling to England and that’s your final destination. So, for example, if you land in England from Spain but you’re actually heading to Scotland, a private test won’t let you cut quarantine. 

That’s not to say you can’t get a private test if you want one, but it won’t make any difference to your quarantine time. You still need to self-isolate for 14 days. 

How much will a private test cost if you’re taking it outside England? Again, it varies, but you probably won’t pay less than £100. 

When should I get a private test?

There’s no ‘right’ answer to this question – it really depends on your personal circumstances. But here’s what you should be thinking about:

  • Work: can you work from home? If not, it might be a good idea to pay for a test.
  • Support: do you have anyone to help you access essentials like food and medicine? If the answer’s no, a private test might be worth it. 
  • Money: what will cost you more – staying home for 14 days, or paying for a private test? Look at your budget and weigh up the pros and cons of both options. 

So, for example, a tradesman might want to pay for a test so they can return to work quicker. On the other hand, someone who works from home and shops online might prefer to just isolate for a fortnight.

Where can I get tested?

So where should you get tested if you decide it’s right for you?

Well, there are a few options:

  • Pharmacies such as Boots and Lloyds offer private Covid-19 tests. You’ll find instructions for making an appointment on their websites. 
  • You can check out private clinics, such as the Harley Street Clinic.
  • Some places send out home test kits you can use yourself – check out companies like Assured Screening

You might need to wait a day or so to get your test results.

What if I don’t want a private test?

If you don’t want a private Covid-19 test, you’ll need to quarantine for 14 days. For many people, this might still be the best option – don’t feel pressured into paying for a test you can’t afford. 

Worried that you can afford to isolate? Consider applying for financial support to help you through the quarantine. 


A private Covid-19 test can help you get back to ‘normal’ sooner rather than later. That said, it’s not for everyone, and you need to decide if the expense is worth it. 

One final thing: once you book a test, stay home until you get your results. If you test positive, you should isolate for at least 10 days from the test date. 

What next?

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