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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)

  • Tracey says:

    Ironic that we visited Gibraltar summer 2020 with no testing required at all.
    Rates were higher in the U.K, no one had been vaccinated in GIB or the U.K., people were crossing the border in and out of Spain with no passport stamping…..

    • Anna says:

      I think the passport stamping is because of Brexit, not Covid, but agree it’s ridiculous how difficult travel is this summer compared to last year. I thought we were doing the “right thing” not going abroad last year but currently I’m feeling like “why did we bother”?!

      • Yuff says:

        It was so much easier last summer and it should be the opposite.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      I travelled test free to Italy and had a great time in Venice.

      We have #scariants now though.

  • Peter says:

    Thanks for a clear breakdown of the requirements. Straightforward (as much as can be) and non political.
    Wife has decided to cancel her trip to Berlin in September. She was planning on doing the marathon. With Germany not allowing UK in, it makes sense.

  • Freddy says:

    I’ve seen a couple of these articles outlining testing requirements but can someone explain what would you need to do if the arrival lateral flow test came back positive?

    Is it the case you would have to barricade yourself in your hotel room and explain that your there for the isolation period of X days. Rob would have had an extended trip presumably

    • Anna says:

      Yes – if you test positive at any point (there’s a day 5 test required if you’re staying a week or longer), you have to stay in your hotel room for 10 days, so there’s definitely an element of risk and you would need to make sure your insurance covered you for this eventuality.
      But at what point do you decide how much risk is too much?!

      • Freddy says:

        You would need to weigh up how likely a positive test result is and the consequences i.e being under house arrest rather then holidaying. The alternative is stay UK based and risk the British weather but the worst that will happen is to be rained on

    • TGLoyalty says:

      You would have to follow the rules in Gibraltar.

      In England you’d take a PCR test to confirm and isolate for 10 days or until the PCR came back negative.

      • Anna says:

        That requirement is for Gibraltar, although there’s obviously more information on their government website re testing etc. I have been checking all this stuff so we don’t get any nasty surprises!

        • TGLoyalty says:

          10 days isolation where all of the adult population (inc. migrant workers) are fully vaccinated seems overkill.

  • Sandgrounder says:

    How flexible are Collinson? Are you fine to rock up at the centre after a 2 hour flight or immigration delay and get tested straight away?

    • Rob says:

      As long as they are open, I assume you’re OK. It wasn’t exactly rocking at 8pm on Friday …

  • Jeffrey Silvers says:

    Very useful article, but Northern Ireland residents can’t use the NHS App to prove double vaccination…our Health department hasn’t even thought about it yet😞😞😞

    • fivebobbill says:

      Spot on Jeffrey, and not only that, 3 days into self isolation here and I’ve just had the Peelers at my front door (to check I wasn’t down at the pub presumably). When I asked why they were here they told me the rest of the UK had outsourced door checks, whereas the folks on the hill had left it to the PSNI. Yet another total waste of limited resources!
      All this on top of picking up random check ins from Bangladesh on the phone!

      • fivebobbill says:

        And I’ll say it again, the testing to travel is an absolute con.
        Nobody is running the numbers, find a Randox/Other test template online and stick your own name and passport number on it for pre departure, save yourself all the hassle and money, nobody cares, it’s all about the ££££

  • ayearinmx says:

    i really can’t understand the logic of “i’ll do my test at the airport, to save me hassle”…

    so you want to find the place, queue up, fill in forms and HAVE SOMEONE ELSE DO THE TEST and potentially get delayed at the airport… rather than do it in the comfort of your own home YOURSELF

    i’ve done enough of these things (and had others do to me) to know that i much prefer doing it myself, than to allow someone else the pleasure of shoving something too far up my nasal passage. Not to mention, you also get to use the post box excuse as a reason for leaving your house on day 2 if you’re returning from amber countries

    and it’s more expensive to boot, which seeing as you get ZERO benefit from these tests, makes no point spending more on

    unless collinson are paying for this advertising (fair enough… gotta make some money), then to say that it is less hassle just seems disingenuous

    • Memesweeper says:

      I’ve done home tests and, like Rob, I’d happily pay at the airport and have someone else do it for me.

      • Anna says:

        I agree, I’m a bit sceptical about what happens to a test if you send it off somewhere!

        • ayearinmx says:

          but you don’t need to care if you send it off somewhere….. it doesn’t matter….. you quarantine at home regardless for 10 days (amber), the result is essentially meaningless

          in fact, they are less than meaningless, because if NHS call up and tell you that you’ve been in contact with someone else who tested positive, then that overrides your 2/8 day test results and it doesn’t even matter if you’re negative, you have to quarantine for 10 days from the day you (supposedly) met that person

      • ayearinmx says:

        but why? there is no “set distance” that people put the thing up your nostril or down your throat…. so chances are, the person doing it, will do it further (and longer) than is comfortable for you… and if they don’t do it further, then why can’t you just do it yourself, seeing as it’s no problem?

        you don’t get anything out of paying more money for these 2/8 day tests….

        • Rob says:

          I could make my own lunch as well but I’ll stick to Pret.

          Pay the money, get it done in the airport, and know that when you get home you can get back to (in my case) sorting out my son’s birthday party for last weekend rather than messing about with home tests to save £20.

    • Rob says:

      You’re talking about two different things here. On Green List, you do the test on arrival and that’s it. Well worth the extra £20 vs a) ensuring someone is at home to accept a home test, b) worrying about it arriving on time, c) having to do the blinkin’ test and d) for Randox and some others, taking it to a nominated drop off point rather than a post box.

      You’ve got to be pretty desperate to save £20 to go through all the above rather than add 5 minutes to your trip through the airport on the way home.

      You’re talking about a 10 day home quarantine due to Amber. If I was doing this then, obviously, doing the Day 2 at the airport on arrival has no real value because I will be sat at home anyway.

      • ayearinmx says:

        a)no-one needs to be at home b)you don’t need to worry, its not your fault c)you still have to do the “blinkin’ test”… all that changes is that you’re paying someone £20 for the privilege (guess people pay a lot more in S&M places…) d)i made it clear i was talking about amber

        calling people “desperate” to save £20 and yet a family of four that is an extra £80… money is money and spending it unnecessarily, not to mention the extra time (5mins is 5mins… but can be 15mins) on a website that is ALL ABOUT saving both money and time, seems a little weird

        pay the money, do the test at home, get back to sorting out your son’s birthday party and feel happy that you’ve saved £20 that you can spend on Pret 😉

        • Rob says:

          Fair point for a family of 4, I agree.

          This is the future though, so get used to it. You come back from your ‘same day’ business trip to Frankfurt and go through testing on your route between customs and car parks / public transport. Difficult to see this going away for 2-3 years.

          The VERY BEST you can hope from the Government is that if you are vaccinated you can return from Green or Amber and just submit a Day 2 test with no quarantine. You’ll still be doing this in 2025.

          • Bagoly says:

            What a horrendous thought.
            Although given that the next election has to be by December 2024, I reckon Johnson would remove testing requirements if in any way justified, before voters go on their 2024 summer hols!
            Actually, reports of the EU having stopped testing for travel within the bloc by the end of this year might prompt him to do so very soon afterwards to avoid any suggestion that Brexit put the UK “behind”.

          • Rob says:

            The testing is a doddle though, so they won’t scrap it. Now I have a Collinson account set up, I can book a test at City in under 5 minutes and I can take the test in under 5 minutes. Yes, I need to hand over £66 each time but for most people it will be their employer paying it.

        • Reney says:

          I’m not actually sure this site saves you time. All the time spent managing many amex, staying up to midnight calling BA 355 days in advance etc etc. I feel like I spent time to save money… it’s not like I would be making money with the time I spent but still…

          • John says:

            People stay up until midnight / 1am so that they can sleep on the plane 🙂

      • TGLoyalty says:

        Since you don’t have to isolate regardless what’s the hassle? Just take it at home and post it off.

  • SammyJ says:

    Slightly confused by the bit about having to book your Day 2 (& presumably 8) test before you’ve even left the UK in order to fill out the PLF to depart – if you don’t know when you’re coming back, can you book it with no fixed date?

    I’ve booked Canaries flights end of July with 2 different return dates but won’t decide which of them to use until we get there and see how things are and whether it’s green or amber by then. Any idea how this will work?

    • Sam G says:

      You fill in the PLF from 48hrs before you come home

      Gibraltar has their own PLF they don’t need the 2+8 details

      • SammyJ says:

        Thanks, that’s how I understood it, but my reading of the article gave the impression that I needed a PLF with booked tests before I left the UK.

        • fivebobbill says:

          That’s what you’re supposed to believe Sammy, but believe me when I tell you that you do not, and nobody is checking that you have.
          It’s all about the ££££££…

  • Olly says:

    I don’t know what the situation is now for travellers who have both jabs but previously the issue that has put us off foreign travel by plane is that regardless of the fact that you are covid free, if there is one person on your flight tests positive on arrival then everyone on that flight has to lose their holiday by going into quarantine. Does anyone know if the rules are different now for vaccinated travellers bearing in mind that the jabs might only prevent hospitalisation, not necessarily infection and still can be a carrier?

    • Rob says:

      That’s not how it works. It is everyone within a couple of rows of you. Minimal issue if you’re in 1C 🙂

      • Tim says:

        Not to say you’re wrong Rob, but I’d love to know your source on this. I’ve been told to self isolate at home for 10 days twice now, from using the LHR-MAN service to return home from work. The last time I was one of maybe 20 people on the plane and no one was near me. I think they isolate the whole aircraft.

        • Rob says:

          It’s how I understood it worked. There is no published guidance of course. If you look at any of the studies about disease spread on aircraft, and we have published one on here, the impact does not go beyond 2-3 rows.

          • Tim says:

            That’s interesting, had no clue it was widely published. All I can say is that my experience with UK test and trace is very much spray and pray. The first self-isolation I was informed by any agent that *any* travel by plane requires 10 days isolation. I don’t get the feeling they really know or are interested in caring.

    • Anna says:

      In theory, everyone on your flight should be double jabbed, immune, or in possession of a recent negative test. I can’t see how much further the risk could actually be reduced, unless you just don’t travel at all!

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