TESTING companies are charging desperate holiday makers £399 for a Covid PCR test that usually costs £48.
But how do you avoid getting ripped off?
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As the government eased restrictions on travelling back in May, many Brits saw a glimmer of hope for their long awaited summer holiday.
Countries were split into three groups: green, amber and red, depending on each location’s Covid levels.
Keen holiday makers found themselves having to navigate the different rules and regulations for each country depending on which group it was in.
But almost all countries require travellers to take either a “gold standard” PCR or rapid flow Covid test before they travel, or on arrival – while the UK system requires Brits to take tests before and after they return home.
Thanks to the different rules in each country, sunseekers could find themselves having to fork out for as many as FIVE tests per person to reach popular destinations such as Spain, Italy and Portugal.
While the government provides a list of different test providers you can use, some charge much higher prices than others.
In an extreme case, the Mayfair GP Clinic is offering just one day two PCR for £399 – a test that other providers like Randox offer for £48.
Booking an amber-list home test package, along with two ‘Fit to Fly’ tests and a test to end quarantine early via the Mayfair GP Clinic could cost you a hefty £932.
Now, experts are speaking out against the eye-watering prices holiday-makers are being charged to receive Covid tests.
Aviation analyst Alex Macheras told the MailOnline: “We are being exploited by these companies.
“Many European countries offer pre-flight tests for free. Instead, here we’re being forced to pay extortionate prices.”
Here’s how to avoid being scorched by test charges if you are planning your trip abroad.
Watch out for claims of the “cheapest price”
On the government’s website, testing companies can be arranged by price, which should show what one test would cost per person to visit a green or amber list country.
But many companies list their cheapest option, in fact offering a range of different tests when you arrive on their website.
Often, the first ‘cheapest’ price displayed is for an “on site” test, involving visiting the company’s clinic to do your own self swab test – but this is not helpful if you live far away from the company’s testing site.
Analyst Alex Macheras says: “In many cases, the prices of these tests are not what they first appear.
“It may say one thing on the website, but by the time you get to checkout you are paying far more.
“Companies know how essential these tests are to customers, so make it as difficult as possible for people to make a good assessment.”
Instead of going for the first “cheap” option, taking the time to look at the different companies and what they offer can help you make an informed decision.
If you’re visiting an amber country, you will have to take a test before leaving and before returning, as well as a test to be taken on day five after returning home to end your quarantine early.
All this should cost around £150, while tests to visit a green list country should come to under £100.
What are the different tests you can take?
NHS Test and Trace has made rapid lateral flow antigen testing available alongside standard lab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
These tests play a different, but crucial role in the fight against the coronavirus in the UK.
PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are the more thorough ‘swab’ tests offered to Brits for more than a year.
The swab can be taken at a drive-through centre or at your home.
It is sent to a laboratory where a lab technician looks for genetic material of the virus using highly specialised equipment.
Results are given in up to five working days by text or a phone call.
The PCR tests are much better at finding very small amounts of the virus, especially early during an infection.
Rapid testing (lateral flow testing) means results are available “on the spot” within just half an hour.
They work in a similar way to the most commonly known lateral flow rapid test strip – pregnancy tests.
A positive result is seen as a dark band or a fluorescent glow on the test strip, with a result in about 30 minutes.
The lateral flow Covid tests are mostly used by people who don’t have coronavirus symptoms (asymptomatic).
A Covid lateral flow test uses a swab from a patient’s nose or throat to quickly determine if they are infected with the virus.
About one in three people who have Covid in the UK never show
Check out the options with airlines
Many airlines have teamed up with test providers to offer reduced packages on the necessary tests.
Often, you don’t need to have booked flights with the airline to use their discount codes for booking tests.
British Airways, for example, is offering 15 per cent discounts with 11 test providers, offering discount codes to apply at the check out.
While easyJet is giving 20 per cent off tests with Collison – but be aware that tests must be done at the company’s sites, located at all major airports.
This means an extra trip to the airport days before your flight.
Similarly, most major UK airports, such as Heathrow and Gatwick, have cheaper drive-in test sites which you can pre-book.
Just be aware that these tests will mean an extra trip to the airport 48 hours before departure.
If you can’t find a good deal via airlines, some hotels such as Hilton and Sofitel, along with travel company Tui are also offering packages for those who book rooms or holidays through them.
What about private firms?
While the government does not ‘endorse’ test providers for the different packages, it does make sure they “meet the minimum required standards”.
This means, companies can “self-declare” that they meet UKAS requirements, due to the exceptional circumstances during Covid.
Companies must have a medical director or healthcare scientist, along with “trained and competent staff”.
But not all private companies are equal.
Some travellers have reported test kits arriving late or other difficulties with their arrangements.
And from June 30, UKAS will start carrying out inspections on companies.
There are four main labs that process PCR tests: Randox, Oncologica, Nationwide Pathology and Nonacus.
If travellers buy directly from one of these labs, they will pay £48 for a single PCR test – but smaller clinics could charge much bigger mark-ups.
Again, make sure you assess all your options before settling on a provider.
And remember smaller clinics may not always be the cheapest.