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Review: the ExpressTest PCR service at Gatwick Airport

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This is our review of the ExpressTest coronavirus test centre at London Gatwick Airport.

With Portugal virtually the only country on the Government’s green list to allow UK tourists in, we thought we would take a look at some of the ‘miles and points’ hotels that the country has to offer, in conjunction with Marriott Bonvoy.

Over the coming days you will see reviews of the brand new Moxy Lisbon City, the Ritz Carlton Penha Longa in Sintra as well as of Pine Cliffs, a Luxury Collection resort in the Algarve. Marriott provided our accommodation but Head for Points paid all of its other costs, including flights.

I’ll spare you the travelogue introduction about where Portugal is and what it has to offer – I assume most of you will be able to point at it on a map. I did want to outline the process of travelling there (and back) and what you can expect from a trip like this.

Testing requirements for travel to Portugal

Whilst the European Union has agreed to open its borders to vaccinated travellers, it will not publish its expanded ‘white list’ of countries for another two weeks. In the meantime, Portugal has opened its borders to UK tourists, provided you show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure.

The good news is that the cost of PCR tests is finally coming down in price in the UK, with tests available from as little as £44. There is still a huge variance in price, however, and you can easily find yourself paying £200+ and if you want a same-day result the price can be even higher. You can see a full list of Government-approved testing providers here.

In December, Rob reviewed the testing facilities at the Regenerative Clinic in London. This wasn’t very cheap or convenient for me, so I chose to use the ExpressTest facilities at Gatwick Airport.

How is ExpressTest at Gatwick Airport?

ExpressTest is the direct-to-consumer division of Cignpost Diagnostics and currently has 19 locations UK-wide, mostly at airports. ‘Fit to Fly’ tests, which are the ones many countries require to let you in, are available from between £60 and £80.

Whilst it is possible to find cheaper tests – Eurofins sells home delivery kits for £44, or £40 via British Airways – I couldn’t wait for Royal Mail to deliver so drove a Zipcar down to the drive-through facility at Gatwick Airport.

You can book your ExpressTest timeslot on the website here. The Fit to Fly test guarantees a result by 10pm the next day.

The testing facility is currently located in the long-stay car park of the South Terminal (remember all flights are currently departing from the North Terminal):

ExpressTest Gatwick Drive Through

It was exceptionally quiet when I went. I had no trouble booking a slot an hour in advance and could drive straight in, through the obstacle course of cones:

ExpressTest Gatwick Drive Through entrance

There are several lanes of testing, all under cover:

ExpressTest Gatwick Drive Through PCR

Once there, the staff scanned our QR code reservation, checked our photo ID and proceeded with the swab. Here is my nurse housemate modelling the process!

ExpressTest Gatwick Drive Through swab

All very easy and we were in and out within five minutes.

Whilst the staff tell you to expect you results by 10pm the next day, we got ours later that evening. I’m not sure if this is because it was a particularly quiet day or whether they try and turn around tests same day. I wouldn’t book a test expecting a same-day result, just to be on the safe side. Your test certificate is then checked at the airport.

Don’t forget that you also need to complete a passenger locator card for the Portuguese authorities after you check in for your flight. You can do so here.

Keep an eye on HfP over the next few days for my hotel reviews.

Comments (81)

  • Kevin D says:

    Hey Rhys. Hopefully your back to UK before next Tuesday mate? Or maybe Marriot will put you up for 10 days at a hotel of your choice? 😉

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