Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

4am Tuesday is the start time for PCR tests and compulsory isolation

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

One fact missing from Boris Johnson’s announcement yesterday about the reintroduction of PCR tests and self-isolation for UK arrivals was the start date.

The requirement for the Government to publish a Statutory Instrument, and to give the testing companies some time to prepare, has caused a delay.

The following message has now appeared on the Passenger Locator Form website:

From 04:00 Tuesday 30 November 2021 testing and isolation requirements will change for all arrivals into the UK.

If you are arriving into the UK after 04:00 Tuesday 30 November 2021 then please return to complete your Passenger Locator Form after 04:00 Monday 29 November as the system is currently being updated.

If you are arriving into the UK before 04:00 Tuesday 30 November 2021 please continue to complete your Passenger Locator Form now.

After 04:00 Tuesday 30 November 2021 lateral flow tests will no longer be accepted and all travellers arriving into UK will be required to book and take COVID-19 PCR tests.”

The original text is here.

This will hopefully provide some leeway for anyone who needs to return to the UK.

Remember that you will need to self isolate from the time you arrive in the UK until you receive your test result. You may only leave home to take your test and to buy food if no-one else can buy it for you.

Comments (195)

  • G says:

    I’m really struggling on the clarity of one thing…the PCR test can be done as late as day 2. So if I have guests visiting the U.K. for say 5 days, they can freely roam around on day 0, day 1 and day 2 up until they do the test? And then they self isolate while awaiting the result on day 2. But up until that point they do not have to isolate? It doesn’t seem to make any sense if the idea is to stop virus spread but this sounds like it is how it works.

    • Scott says:

      You’re supposed to self isolate after you enter the UK, and until a negative result.
      If you enter Tues, you isolate.
      If you take the test on Thurs, you are expected to still be isolating from Tuesday until the result comes through, which could be late Friday.

      Whether anyone will check beyond a phonecall, no idea.

      • Andy says:

        When we arrived back from Portugal in the summer we had 2 visits. The first one was from the guy who delivered our Morrisons order the day before

      • Roy says:

        I really don’t understand why they insist on calling it a day 2 test, when you’d be crazy to take it on day 2 rather than day 1 (or day 0 if logistics allow) since delaying means unnecessarily prolonging your self-isolation.

        • Paul Pogba says:

          I assume it’s meant to be undertaken on Day 2 (and not Day 0 or 1) so as to allow the viral load to build up to sufficient levels to be detected. If you do it on Day 0 you may as well not bother.

          • TGLoyalty says:

            No it’s just before day 2.

          • Roy says:

            Maybe that was the original intention at some point in the distant past, but that’s not how it’s worked in the recent past, not how it will work from Tuesday (as far as we understand at the moment).

            You have to take it some time between arrival and the end of day 2.

        • Paul Pogba says:

          I’m wrong – it says “on or before day 2” apologies.

    • Can says:

      No you self isolate until you get a negative result. It is then in your best interest to take the test asap

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Doesn’t make any sense because you completely mis read the rules

      Enter the U.K. and self isolate at all times until you get your result. Not just between taking the test and getting a result.

    • Mike says:

      G – nope your guests must self isolate from arrival to results of the test !! And if they are your guests they must self isolate from you

  • ADR says:

    Appreciate this comment is not entirely relevant to this feed but Switzerland has just announced 10-day quarantine from UK (in addition to having a negative test / vaccination cert) Hopefully rescinded by February so I can hit the slopes.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      They’ve announced a complete ban for non Swiss residents/citizens from U.K.

    • GeorgeJ says:

      That now only applies to Swiss nationals. If you are British you cannot enter Switzerland at all.

      • ADR says:

        Thanks, I misread. It looks like a week at the Sandown Park dry slope then.

        • GeorgeJ says:

          Yes, though I am still hopeful that Austria will let me in. No doubt we will have multiple permutations of restrictions by the New Year.

    • Anna says:

      Yet they’re still allowing Belgians and Austrians who have also detected cases?!

      • Anna says:

        Looks like they’ve banned all non-Swiss nationals/residents, not just UK ones.
        Back in the UK, Nicola Sturgeon puts the English on notice of being banned from Scotland again 🤦‍♀️

  • ee says:

    Any experience of Randox Golden Drop Boxes for PCRs? On the face of it it looks like you can click and collect the tests for £35 and if dropped at the Golden box by 1pm results by 9am the next day.

    • JeffJ says:

      Used once. Randox service was quick and efficient.

      • ee says:

        Thanks we’ve booked it as availability for Heathrow and other central London collection points seems to have evaporated and lakeside is workable for us with the gold box at grays.

    • Emma says:

      This is my plan for a USA trip in the next few weeks. Click & Collect test for £35, land in the UK at 9.15am on a Thursday, Randox golden drop box 20 mins from Heathrow, hopefully all clear by 9am Friday!
      I may be in the minority, but have only ever had good experiences with Randox over the past year including 6 PCR test results returned by midday the day after drop off (standard drop box). .

      • Paul Pogba says:

        If you land on Thursday you can’t take the test until Saturday (Day 2) so as to allow an incubation period. The virus needs to have built up in your body after exposure for the test to be able to detect anything.

      • Paul Pogba says:

        I’m wrong – it says “on or before day 2” apologies.

      • Marie says:


      • Polly says:

        We are planning the exact same for our Thursday arrival Dec 9th in T5.

    • David Bentley says:

      If you take your PCR test… is it ok to take the test to the drop box yourself. My nearest one is in a chemist 15 miles away. I’m travelling 11th-18th December

  • JeffJ says:

    My experience with Collinson customer services was horrific. Utterly hopeless. Even worse than chronomics. If you want a refund be prepared to put in lots of time and effort.

  • Anna says:

    And I’m back to formulating Plan B’s! Got 3 nights in Edinburgh then 1 in Durham after Xmas, but going to book a back up in the NE in case Ms Sturgeon can’t resist wielding power over the English again. Choices on IHG points are Staybridge Suites or CP in Newcastle – is one better than the other? Stayed at the Indigo previously and didn’t like the location that much TBH.

    • David says:

      I’d say the location of the CP in Newcastle is better than Staybridge, which is quite a long way out of the centre surrounded by student accommodation blocks. When i have stayed at the CP Spire recognition hasn’t been great

  • Tom says:

    Quarantine upon arrival is essentially a travel ban for all practical purposes. Twice vaxxed and boosted — cancelling my mid-Dec UK holiday. Stuck with a non-refundable Eurostar ticket 🤨

    • Rob says:

      Why does taking a test at Heathrow, with the result in 3 hours, constitute a ban? By the time you’ve unpacked you’ll have the result.

      • Steve says:

        Heathrow isn’t so convenient if you’re taking the Eurostar (as the comment suggests?). Indeed I’m keen to find somewhere with ~ 3 hour turnaround coming back on the Eurostar on Sunday evening – so far I don’t see anything close to this.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Collinson do tests at St Pancreas. Unfortunately it’s probably more like 18 hrs but still not the end of the world. Though they got told about this the same time as us so give them a couple days for them to get their head round it and propose some expedited products.

      • Mart says:

        Link to the 3 hour day 2 Heathrow pcr test Rob?

        • Andrew says:

          Currently only for departures, but I’m sure they will begin offering for arrivals too.

        • Polly says:

          Am sure as soon as they announce it, Rob will let us know, or someone fast on the button here will. We hope we can use it as a 1st choice option in T5 on arrival.

      • Track says:

        Rob, any country with a mandatory test on arrival is not convenient for a holidaymaker/business/short-term visitor.

        In case of a positive test, they are stuck and hotel prices in London are astronomical for the most. If you are at home that’s fine, if you are at friend’s you are putting them at risk and loss of income.

        UK is actually sensible in that regard that you can break isolation to travel out. (But can you break quarantine though and would you with a positive PCR test on hands?)

        For PCR to become negative again, anything from 10 days to 4 weeks is reasonably needed (reasonable area under the probability curve for most people).

      • Steve says:

        Good luck getting an appointment corresponding to your arrival time. Most of the Heathrow test centres also close at 7 – before my flight from Maldives arrives tomorrow.

        Frankly it’s a joke

  • Fred says:

    After some advice please. Currently in Mumbai and land into London a week today i.e. Sunday. Family and I then flying to New York on Tuesday evening. Am I right in saying unless my negative PCR comes back before Tuesday I won’t be allowed to travel because technically have to self isolate??

    • TGLoyalty says:

      No it’s been covered a few times.

      Normally onward travel is a permitted reason to leave this type of isolation (obviously not if someone had tested positive and you were self isolating as close contacts etc)

  • Grimz says:

    I arrive back in the UK from USA on Saturday 4th December and have a connection up to ABZ at 12.15. I have booked a PCR with Chronomics for a 2 day test and have cancelled my LFT test that I originally booked hopefully for a refund from Chronomics. Am I free to take my connecting flight to ABZ? Would I be better asking Chronomics to test us at Heathrow during our stopover? The difference in price of the tests is surely reimbursed via your travel insurance.

    • Graham says:

      You are connecting so as long as you have it booked some way it will be fine. Why would your travel insurance reimburse you? Testing costs are presumably only taken into account if you cancel the trip for a non excluded reason?

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.