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Review: ExpressTest ‘Day 2’ arrivals testing at Heathrow Terminal 5

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HfP in the Balearics

This is our review of the ExpressTest ‘Day 2’ covid testing service at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5.

After six fabulous nights in the Balearics it was time to come home …. and that meant more testing.

(If you are planning on travelling to the Mallorca or Ibiza then you may like to read our reviews of the St Regis Mardavall, Sheraton Mallorca, Castillo Hotel Son Vida or the W Ibiza.)

ExpressTest invited us to try out their ‘test on arrival’ facility at Heathrow Terminal 5. ExpressTest will soon be the exclusive on-site testing provider at all Heathrow terminals so it is worth being familiar with how it works.

ExpressTest Heathrow T5

The key thing to remember is that what is commonly called a ‘Day 2’ test is actually nothing of the sort. You can take the test on Day 0 (your arrival day), Day 1 or Day 2. It is perfectly acceptable to do it within minutes of getting off your aircraft.

Remember that you need to pre-book your test before your arrival in the UK, as you need to use the booking reference when completing your Passenger Locator Form. You will not be allowed entry to the UK otherwise.

Tests can be booked on the ExpressTest website here. They are currently able to process more than 20,000 tests at Heathrow a day, which gives you a sense of the scale of the operation.

When I booked there were slots available pretty much all day. A Green or ‘fully vaccinated Amber’ arrivals test costs £69, which is competitive for in-person PCR testing.

ExpressTest Heathrow T5 entrance

ExpressTest is currently landside on the Departures floor at Terminal 5. From Arrivals you just take the lift up. It is located behind the check-in desks in Zone G:

There weren’t many arrivals into Terminal 5 when I landed so the testing facility was quiet.

It is based on a one-way system. You check in at the desks with your booking confirmation QR code. You then proceed to one of the 10 booths where a staff member will take the swab for you.

The entire staff were lovely throughout – very chatty and friendly. Here I am getting my nostril swabbed ….

ExpressTest Heathrow T5 nose swab

I always find having someone else do it is much better than doing it myself. I’m never sure if I’ve swabbed deeply enough or long enough, but these people have been trained specifically for this purpose. I also find it much easier not inflicting the awful nose-tickling on myself!

The whole process is over within seconds. The swab is then processed:

ExpressTest Heathrow T5 staff

…. before being taken to a lab on the Heathrow premises for testing. ExpressTest guarantees the results by 10pm the next day, although this is less important as an arrival. I got my results pretty much on the dot – thankfully I was negative.

If you are departing you can also opt for a fast-track test. I imagine this is mostly used by people who forget or don’t realise they need a test to enter their destination country.

Conclusion

I recommend getting your Day 2 test out of the way as soon as you arrive in the UK. Whilst I tried an at-home postal kit when I arrived from Portugal in May, popping into the ExpressTest facility saved the hassle of having to swab myself and post a kit back. I was able to leave the airport and move on.

ExpressTest pricing is competitive with the vast majority of providers. £69 is very reasonable compared to most ‘in person’ tests, especially given the location. You can find out more on their website here.

Comments (155)

  • Michael says:

    Do you have a recommendation of the best way to take a “pre-departure test” for coming back to the UK? I think the NHS LFTs are not good enough. Anyone have experience with any that you can take with you on a trip? Thanks

    • Rob says:

      We have review the Qured test if you do a search.

    • Linda Leeds says:

      You cannot use a NHS LFT, not only is it not allowed you do not get the fit to fly certificate which is required. We had no problem getting tested to come back when staying in The Algarve. Google was our friend 😉

  • Jayne says:

    I am due to arrive at LHR and 1&1/2 hour later Fly LHR to MAN.
    Will I be fast tracked to enable me to catch my connecting flight ✈️ does anyone know?

    • ChrisC says:

      Without knowing where you are arriving from, which airlines are involved and if this is all on the same ticket it’s hard to answer properly.

  • HB13 says:

    Hi Rhys – what happens if you have a flight delay or you end up waiting at passport control for much longer than anticipated and end up being late for your appointment. What do you do in this situation?

    • Rob says:

      Unless the site actually closes the night, it won’t be an issue. If you are delayed then obviously other people have been delayed too so there will be slots there.

      These sites are also running at nowhere near capacity, to put it mildly.

  • Linda Leeds says:

    We used Express Test in Leeds in June. Tested at 17:33 and PCR results and fit to fly certificate were back at 19:10 the following day. Certificates and Passenger Locator Forms were requested and reviewed at LBA when checking in. Then given a note to confirm this for Border Force/Police check.
    On our return our fit to fly certificates and Passenger Locator Forms were checked at Faro airport at checkin. Our tests were 25€ each.
    We used Randox for our day 2 and 8 tests which was straight forward.
    The testing companies do send the results to PHE, I would think that only a positive test would result in any action.
    The test and trace agents on international arrivals are not employed by PHE, are not clinically qualified and will just be given a list of arrivals to call, they just read a script. We were called every day and at different times.
    Going back to Portugal on Monday, this time I have booked an in person pre departure LFT and fit to fly certificate at LBA on Sunday morning (£39) and I have booked a Randox day 2 PCR test for when I am back (£43). The cost of tests has definitely reduced in the past month or so.

  • Tom says:

    Can I use this ExpressTest before my departure for my return fit to fly certificate?

    Use case: I’m only away for 2 days and the return flight test can be up to 72 hours so my thinking is i take the pre departure at the airport for my return to UK test seeing as it’s a short trip. Then book a second for my arrival.

    Any reason why that wouldnt be allowed?

    • Rob says:

      Don’t see why not. I was going to do something similar for Gibraltar before the Government started making you test on arrival anyway.

  • JO says:

    Might sound a daft question, but can you get a Fit to Fly Letter with a Day 2 arrival test with ExpressTest at Heathrow?. Its just that I’m coming in from Spain and taking the Day 2 PCR test and then Flying to the USA 2 days later from Heathrow, so the test result will still be valid for my departure. Surely I dont need to do a whole new set of tests the same day to get a letter?

  • SB says:

    So I’m confused…your photo/description shows the Day 2 testing as being on Departures Level at T5. The online booking form that has finally gone live for Day 2 Amber arrivals testing only gives the location option of Heathrow T4 Long Stay Car Park Drive Through. User error on my part?

    • SB says:

      Update: looks as though the form has been updated overnight, lots of locations to select from now.

  • David says:

    Hi, is anyone able to advise best course of action:

    I fly LHR to Geneva on 10th Aug, returning on the 11th. Amber list and I’m U.K. double jabbed.

    Ignore the Swiss rules – from a U.K. perspective am I right that I can do a test (“Test 1”) on the 8th or 9th in London (3 days prior) that would qualify as my pre-flight test for Geneva to London on the 11th? And then do the Day 2 arrival test (“Test 2”) at LHR on 11th per Rhys.

    Assuming so, any suggestions as to cheap and easy place to do Test 1 (I work in Mayfair / live SW London).

    Thanks!

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