“I’ve done pretty much every Covid test out there in Europe and North America. It has taken me hours of research to make sense of what’s out there. For me anyway, the best for travel was the LAMP test at Heathrow, because I could complete the test on the day of my flight. And the easiest test was in the US – there are pop-up booths that are quicker than clinics or a home kit.”

This is a quote from when I spoke to my friend, Jivan, before the latest national lockdown. I realised how many testing options were out there and how hard it would be to decide with confidence. That’s a problem, especially considering that the test results really matter. Another friend I spoke to needed a test result on time in order to complete her emigration to Australia which had been 3 years in the making. Not to mention other risks we’ve become familiar with.

Why is choosing and trusting a covid test so complicated?

Any product that involves scientific technology requires concentration to understand. It’s not as easy as buying a sandwich or a pair of shoes. A lot of the information is new and changing, meaning there’s a learning curve which can seem long, particularly if a new rule is announced by an organisation or government. Having said that, coronavirus testing technology is more established now than it was a year ago, which is hopefully a good sign if or when we need tests for work, leisure and travel.

Where to start?

Whilst it’s tempting to jump straight in by searching online for private test providers, we’d advise taking a step back by finding what’s required by relevant authorities. In the UK, this is found on the UK government’s website which explains testing rules for different situations. If there’s another authority involved, such as an airline for your flight ticket, a company contact for your return to a workplace, or an event owner for your sports match, be sure to read their website FAQs alongside government guidelines.

COVID 19 testing for traveling to and from the UK
Looking to travel to and from the UK? Explore your COVID 19 testing options first.

What am I looking for?

Remember you don’t need to choose a test provider until you know what you’re looking for. Comparing providers before you know what you need is a one way path to information overload. Instead, try to specify what you need using a form like this one:

Has the government specified what
type of test I need?
Yes / No PCR / LAMP /
Lateral Flow
Has another authority 
specified what type of test I need?
Yes / No PCR / LAMP /
Lateral Flow
Are free government tests available near
me for the type of test I need?
Yes
Besides the type of test, are there timing
requirements to my sample collection
and result?
Yes24 hours result
48-72 hours from
sample collection
Do I have personal preferences for how to
provide my sample?
YesI want to drive
I’d rather walk
I’d rather do it at home
I like the idea of a nurse

If there’s no information from the government or another authority on which type test you need, have a look at our explanation of covid test types for help. 

I know what I need. I want to compare Covid-19 test providers.

We’d suggest finding a shortlist of 2-3 providers so you have enough choice without needing to spend time on too many different brands. Whether you want a lateral flow test next to your office or a PCR test at home within 48 hours of travel, the basic ways to qualify your shortlist is

  1. Covid test type
  2. Timing of sample and results
  3. Preferred sample collection location and method

Once you’ve got a shortlist of providers that definitely offer the test you need, within the time you need it, at the place you want to do it, you can make a final decision based on the extra factors that may be important to you personally. To see these, read our in-depth comparison that we use internally to make sure our products are both clear and attractive to customers.