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This is the covid testing I needed to visit Gibraltar last week

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Slightly jealous that Rhys had got to spend a week in Portugal trying out five star resorts recently, I decided to see what the one remaining realistic Green List destination – Gibraltar – had to offer.

A series of reviews from this trip will launch this week.

Perhaps the most relevant article, however, is this one. It is a detailed story of the testing you need to enter Gibraltar and to return to the UK.

Coronavirus testing to visit Gibraltar

British Airways has just launched a new BA CityFlyer route from London City Airport to Gibraltar to add to the existing Heathrow service.

Because the City flights only operate on Monday and Friday, I chose to fly down from Heathrow on Wednesday – a sensible 11.15 departure time – and return on the 17.55 flight to City on Friday.

I booked the City flight to avoid any immigration delays at Heathrow. Post booking, the increased restrictions on Portugal flights and the move of Red List flights to Terminal 3 meant that I needn’t have bothered – Heathrow would have been empty too. A Heathrow flight leaves two hours before the City flight on Friday.

(EDIT: A reader who flew into Heathrow on Sunday said that she had a 2.5 hour wait to clear passport control, so it seems I was mistaken. Choosing the London City flights may well be a sensible idea.)

What covid testing is required to visit Gibraltar?

As we covered here, Gibraltar has recently stepped up its testing regime for anyone travelling from the UK. This change caught a lot of people on the hop, and my ‘sold out’ hotel had lots of availability within 48 hours of the announcement.

If you are not double vaccinated, you now need to arrive with a negative test. This requirement applies to anyone 12+, so if you have children aged 12-18 they will have no choice but to get a test done. See the website link above to see what tests are currently accepted.

The only upside is that there is no time gap required after your second vaccination. You are free to travel to Gibraltar as soon as the 2nd vaccination is showing in the NHS app, which is usually within 24-48 hours.

I am double vaccinated, so this latest restriction did not impact me. This meant I ‘only’:

  • had to complete the Gibraltar Passenger Locator Form (you cannot complete this until you have a seat number for your flight)
  • book a lateral flow test at Gibraltar airport for my arrival (free, but see below)
  • complete a UK Goverment Passenger Locator Form
  • book a ‘Day 0-2’ test for my return

Simple …..

Step 1 – complete the Gibraltar Passenger Locator Form

There is a link to the Passenger Locator Form on this page of the Visit Gibraltar website.

You need to upload proof of your two vaccinations. You can do this using the data in the NHS app if you live in England.

It wasn’t clear exactly what was needed. I contemplated taking a screenshot from the app, but it seemed more ‘official’ to download the PDF certificate and upload that, even though it contains identical information.

The rest of form was quick and easy to complete with my personal details. Note that you cannot complete the form until you have a seat number for your flight.

Gibraltar covid testing

Step 2 – take the free Lateral Flow Test on arrival

You need to pre-book a Lateral Flow Test for your arrival in Gibraltar. Pre-booking is essential, since you need to show the booking information to immigration in Gibraltar on arrival.

The test itself is free. You walk out of the airport and there are a number of testing huts next to the terminal to your right.

If you are returning to the UK within 72 hours, as I was, you can use this arrival test as your ‘fit to fly’ departure test to show at check-in.

However …. it is more complex than it needs to be.

My understanding was that I could book my free test and, on the spot, pay £30 to ‘upgrade’ to the ‘fit to fly’ test and receive the necessary paperwork.

I was wrong.

If you are returning within 72 hours you need to pre-book TWO tests, assuming you want to get it over and done with in one go.

You need to book the free arrival test AND a departure test, which costs £30, payable online. This meant I had to stand outside the testing hut and book a second test via my mobile phone for £30 before the test sample could be taken. This was, luckily, a quick process.

For clarity, you only take one test even though you have booked two.

It is a slightly odd set-up – you don’t go into the testing hut. You put your face near the glass and the nurse reaches out through the counter and sticks the swab up your nose!

The testing centre puts two bar codes on the sample and I received two text messages with my results approximately 45 minutes after taking the test. I also received one email containing the ‘fit to fly’ paperwork which BA would require to fly me home.

If you are returning to the UK more than 72 hours after arrival in Gibraltar, you will need to book a 2nd test nearer your return date.

However, you are given a 24 hour window to take your arrival test. If you were staying for three nights, you could delay your initial test by a day so that it is within 72 hours of your departure and so valid as your ‘fit to fly’ test. You will still need to pay the £30 but it reduces the number of tests you need to take to one.

Step 3 – book your ‘Day 0 to Day 2’ arrivals test in the UK

This is Step 3, and not Step 4, because you cannot complete your UK Government Passenger Locator Form without a test booking reference number.

There is a big misconception about the ‘Day 2’ test for arrivals from Green List countries. It is NOT a ‘Day 2’ test. It is a ‘Day 0, Day 1 or Day 2’ test. Nothing stops you taking it as soon as you step off your inbound flight.

I was returning to City Airport on the British Airways flight, which landed at 7.50pm.

Luckily for me, the Collinson on-site testing centre at London City is open until late on Fridays. Times vary on other days. Using code LCYTEST, I booked myself a PCR test for £66.

I could have done this slightly cheaper by ordering a test to take at home and then submitting it to a lab, but I wanted the process over and done with.

By using the Collinson facility at City Airport, I could clear immigration, be tested and be on my way home within 20 minutes of getting off my aircraft.

London City Airport covid testing centre

Step 4 – complete the UK Government Passenger Locator Form

Once you have your ‘Day 2’ test booking reference, you can go here and complete the UK Passenger Locator Form.

You can complete this from 48 hours before you are due to arrive back in the UK.

You will need your seat number and your ‘Day 2’ test booking reference.

Step 5 – take your ‘Day 2’ test (in my case, immediately after landing)

This could not have been more straightforward – as simple as the process in Gibraltar.

I walked off the aircraft, cleared passport control and walked down to the newly expanded Collinson test centre, which is just outside the terminal building.

Having done this, I strongly recommend it. Pay for an airport test which you can do as soon as you get off the aircraft and get the whole process out of the way. You can then arrive home and get on with your life. My result was emailed to me on Saturday, but it doesn’t matter how long it takes because you are not restricted.

Conclusion

This is, of course, a totally crazy process. Despite being double vaccinated and travelling to a destination where every adult was vaccinated by April, I was still required to take two tests for a total cost of £96.

The only upside was that the process was quick. It took me longer to complete the online forms than it took to actually take the two tests, and the disruption to my trip was minimal.

For me, travelling on my own and writing the cost off as a business expense, it was manageable. For a family of four planning a holiday, it mounts up.

If a family of four had two unvaccinated children aged 12+, you would need to add in the cost of two tests for your kids before you fly, even if the adults are exempt. You have reached around £500 of testing costs by that point, to visit probably the safest place in the world ….

These articles are also part of our Gibraltar series …. a review of the 5-star Sunborn Yacht Hotel (click here), and an overview of the other three acceptable Gibraltar hotel options – The Rock, Elliott and Holiday Inn Express.

Comments (185)

  • Tariq says:

    If you’d stayed longer then you would have needed 3 actual tests but the cost would still have been £96? You just would have paid the initial £30 later and only had the free test initially?

  • Anna says:

    Thanks Rob, this is all going to be really helpful!
    How did you book the arrival test, I’ve been trying to find out how to do it?
    Also from everything I’ve seen so far, the pre-departure test can be antigen or lateral flow (as long as it has the right specificity), which are both cheaper than PCR.

    • Anna says:

      Sorry, this is a link to book the arrival test.
      https://www.gibraltar.gov.gi/uploads/news/May%202021/20210517-Testing%20and%20Self-Isolation%20Requirements%20for%20Entry%20into%20Gibraltar_V2.1.pdf
      Also – if you’ve recovered from Covid and have proof of this, you don’t need the test before departure.

      • Joe says:

        How do you prove you have recovered from Covid – would a text message from the NHS saying you have tested positive be sufficient? Also does it have to be within a certain time frame, I had it at the beginning of January.

        • Anna says:

          You would need a letter from your GP – there is a timeframe for recovery, it’s on the Gib government website, can’t remember what it was. My nephew, who may be coming with us, had Covid in May so would fall under this.

    • Rob says:

      Website says PCR.

      • Anna says:

        https://www.visitgibraltar.gi/covid-19

        Says lateral flow here – I think it depends what colour rating Gib gives to where you are coming from, UK is classed as green (for now!)

        • Anna says:

          “The type of test you will need to buy
          The test you buy must meet standards of ≥97% specificity and ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.

          Suitable tests include:

          a nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests
          an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device, though many lateral flow devices may not meet the standards needed – you must check the test you buy meets standards of ≥97% specificity and ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml”

  • Rob says:

    If you ever needed reasons to sit tight on that holiday until 2022, they’re all there.

    • MikeL says:

      That’s what I was thinking but hat tip to Rob for continuing to provide 3 articles a day during lean (travel)times. I’ve been to Gibraltar twice – never again, especially after reading this. What a palaver. Booked Miami for next February using one of my 241’s – God, it felt so good booking it 😁. Remains to be seen whether we’ll get there or not.

      • Freddy says:

        If it was just me travelling I would think it’s a bit of a palava but add in another adult and potentially a child or two and it just sounds completely unattractive

      • Graeme says:

        I went on Saturday to Monday – it really wasn’t a palaver at all, and a very small cost (non-financial at least) in order to travel. We liked Gibraltar – we had low expectations, granted – but it was absolutely lovely to get away.

    • Simon says:

      Last year lots of people were saying sit that on that holiday until 2021, in the end travel last summer proved so much easier than this summer. Who knows what 2022 will bring.

    • Alex Sm says:

      We were supposed to be there this weekend for my partner’s birthday (courtesy of BA Holidays) but decided to postpone until 2022. The whole palaver with tests was one of the reasons

  • Yuff says:

    It just goes to show what a farce this whole mess is.
    What average family is going to go through this.
    3000 tests from amber list countries and 4 positive cases.
    We have had travel restrictions for the whole of 2021 but the Indian variant somehow managed to get in.
    Restrictions are not going to stop variants, that has already been proven.
    So instead of irritating a fair chunk of the population with stupid regulations why doesn’t Shapps do something sensible………..

    • ChrisW says:

      Shapps is spineless. He can’t stand up to Hancock and Patel.

  • Ian says:

    You’d only travel if you really need to until vaccines are accepted as the solution.

    Coming from HK to the UK and back again looks absolutely bonkers.

  • Simon Cross says:

    How do you get a seat number for the passenger locator forms if you don’t get allocated a seat until check in?

    Is this just another way to force people to pay for reserved seats?

    • Yuff says:

      You would have to complete the form after check in

      • Simon Cross says:

        But you can’t check in unless you have completed the passenger locator form.

        • Yuff says:

          You would have to do the locator form twice in that case.
          I didn’t complete the Spanish form until I was in the airport lounge and I completed my wife and daughter’s forms twice because I didn’t have their seat numbers but I was booking their tests.

    • mradey says:

      Just “estimate” your seat number.

      • meta says:

        If you are Bronze, you can select your seat 7 days in advance. If you’re Silver or above you can chose it at the time of booking. If you have no status, you can chose the seat 24-48 hours before (depending on the type of ticket) and before you check in.

    • Angela says:

      When I flew to Portugal BA allocated the seat number ahead of check in.

    • Kevin B says:

      When I flew to Portugal I had to make up my seat number. Crazy!

    • Alex Sm says:

      I filled in this form last week and the seat number was optional. But it asked me which islands (sic!) visited during my stay

  • The Lord says:

    Just let the vaccinated travel

    • J says:

      A desire for vaccinne status to determine travel eligibility could unwittingly leave a lot of the older UK population short changed. The US has not approved the AZ vaccine, so if they imposed a fully vaccinated only rule, those that had only had the AZ vaccine would likely not be admitted. This is already happening for some Broadway shows, where only those with the Pfizer, Moderna or J&J jabs are permitted.

      • John says:

        There are many other places to go than the US

      • Brian says:

        “The US has not approved the AZ vaccine, so if they imposed a fully vaccinated only rule, those that had only had the AZ vaccine would likely not be admitted. ”

        – this is not true…

        https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html

        ± This guidance applies to COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (J&J)/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines. This guidance can also be applied to COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization (e.g. AstraZeneca/Oxford).

  • Louise says:

    Really useful article. I had read somewhere that a lateral flow test with a fit to fly certificate could be used for entry into Gibraltar. Is only a PCR test result being accepted for entry into Gibraltar now?

    • Rob says:

      PCR only.

      It is Jersey that accepts lateral flow.

      • Louise says:

        Thanks for this. I just checked the Visit Gibraltar website and it seems to say that a nucleic acid test or an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device will be accepted. Is this no longer accurate? We are travelling shortly so don’t want to be declined boarding at check-in

      • Louise says:

        I just checked the Visit Gibraltar website and it seems to say that a nucleic acid test or an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device will be accepted. Is this no longer accurate? We are travelling shortly so don’t want to be declined boarding at check-in

        • Anna says:

          I’ll be in the same position next month, Louise, let me know if you get a definitive answer!

        • Rob says:

          Website also says PCR in the embedded image but I have clarified the text.

    • Anna says:

      This is from the Gibraltar government website. It seems quite clear that antigen/LAMP tests are acceptable if you are arriving from a “green” country, which includes the UK.

      “Pre-departure COVID-19 Testing Requirement
      You will need to buy a pre-departure COVID-19 test and take this test within 48hours of your
      arrival. This requirement does not apply to any fully vaccinated passenger who has not been to a
      country or territory in the Red List in the 10 days preceding their arrival in Gibraltar.
      When boarding your plane, you will need to provide proof that you have taken the test, and that the
      result of the test was negative. You will also be required to upload your test result on the Gibraltar
      Passenger Locator Form. You may also be asked to provide proof of a negative test when you
      arrive in Gibraltar.
      The type of test you will need to buy
      The test you buy must meet standards of ≥97% specificity and ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads
      above 100,000 copies/ml.
      Suitable tests include:
      • a nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative
      technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests
      *****• an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device, though many lateral flow****
      devices may not meet the standards needed – you must check the test you buy
      meets standards of ≥97% specificity and ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above
      100,000 copies/ml

      • Rob says:

        The image box on the website specifically says PCR, but I agree that the data above would seem to trump that.

        • Anna says:

          I interpreted it that PCR is the default requirement, however there are exemptions if coming from a green country – so vaccinated or recovered – no test required, unvaccinated – antigen or lateral flow test acceptable.

        • h2d says:

          We were in Gibraltar at the weekend (and actually saw Rob strolling through Casemates Square with his Costa) and confirm that a Lateral Flow / Antigen test (booked with Collinson at LHR just before departure) was perfectly acceptable. Aa above this is clearly detailed in Annex B on the official ‘Visit Gibraltar’ website Covid-19 page.

          • Louise says:

            Thanks h2d that’s really reassuring. Definitely didn’t want to turn up to the check in desk and find that our lateral flow test results might be rejected

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