EXCLUSIVE: The price of Covid tests – which many countries require before tourists from Britain can enter – are as high as almost £1,000 – the prices in the UK are among the most expensive in the world, says consumer organisation Which?
Jetaway Brits will come crashing down to earth after learning Covid tests DOUBLE the cost of their holidays.
Bookings to Portugal have soared since a “green list’ of 12 countries where UK travellers can go to was published on Friday.
Trips can be had for as little as £720 for a family of four.
That was the good news. The bad news – typical before-and-after Covid tests could add £960.
And that might price thousands of families out of summer breaks – while those flouting test rules face a £4,000 fixed penalty fine.
The situation is the same for Greece and Cyprus, set to join the green list next month.
There are also fears testing services will be overwhelmed and results delayed, meaning some won’t be able to board flights. Portuguese rules state anyone over two must show they’ve had a negative PCR test in the 72 hours before flying in. PCR tests are seen as the gold standard swabs because they can detect vaccine-resistant variants.
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But test prices in the UK are among the most expensive in the world at an average of £120, says consumer organisation Which?
Before returning to the UK from Portugal, another test must be taken up to 72 hours before travel.
This can be a lateral flow test, which is available free on the NHS and in most EU countries. But families will have to fork out for another private PCR test to be taken within two days of returning to the UK in case they’ve picked up the disease on their trip.
This element of the UK rule applies to those aged over five.
So a family of four, with two kids over five, would need eight tests.
Consumer affairs expert Martyn James, from Resolver website – run in association with Money Saving Expert – said: “I don’t think people appreciate test costs. For a good, cheap, package deal, you’re looking at doubling costs when you add in tests. I’ve seen tests go up to £180. Insurance doesn’t cover you for not having the right test. So if you get turned away at the gate for the wrong type, you won’t be covered.”
He called on travel firms to refund families who cancel because of the cost of tests.
The Sunday Mirror has found family trips to Portugal costing less than the tests in both the May half-term and summer holidays.
In late July, a family of four can head to Vale de Carros resort – in the Algarve’s Olhos de Agua – for £720 with Teletext Holidays. The firm also offers seven days at Ourasaol Cheerfulway complex, in Albufeira, for £768. On the Beach had a week in the Choro Mar, Albufeira, for £899 in the last week in July – while it was £937 at Silchoro Apartments.
Travel agents said Portugal bookings went “through the roof” – up 600% in some cases – after the green list came out.
UK rules state those who need PCR tests for travel must pay privately. Mutual travel with Portugal is set to resume on May 17. The remaining EU countries – currently on the amber list – are set to give the green light for travel from the UK next month.
But many are expected to continue to demand a negative PCR test before arrival, including Greece and Cyprus.
We found a raft of package trips to these countries which could, again, cost less than the bill for testing.
It’s better news in Italy and Spain, currently taking travellers who have had cheaper rapid tests before boarding flights. But industry chiefs are aghast at the extra costs for many travellers.
Chris Rowles, of the Association of Independent Tour Operators, said: “Fares are rising dramatically – once you add test costs, travel really will be only for the rich, not the masses.”
Some providers – such as Tui, British Airways, Jet2 and Easyjet, Thomas Cook – will provide testing kits as part of holiday deals but these could still cost as much as £210 per person.
12 countries incl Portugal, Israel, Iceland, Australia and New Zealand
Each country sets its own requirements, so the type of test you need before you fly will vary.
Portugal requires a negative PCR test 48 hours before travelling.
Travellers must take a test before coming back to UK – but this can be a (cheaper) lateral flow test.
No quarantine, but take a PCR test on day 2 back.
Including France, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and the USA
Each country sets its own entry requirements – so the type of test you need to take before boarding will vary depending on destination.
Arrivals must self isolate for 10 days upon arrival in the UK – but this can be done at home.
Travellers should take PCR tests on day two and day eight after return.
Leisure travel is currently banned to countries incl Turkey, UAE, South Africa, Brazil and the Seychelles
Emergency travel only – and each country will have their own rules.
Red list returnees have to pay £1,750 to see out their 10-day quarantine in a hotel designated by the UK Government.
You also must have PCR tests on day two and eight after return to the UK.
Easyjet, which has set up a partnership with provider Randox, to offer a £60 test, said: “The Government needs to make good on its promise to drive down the cost of testing otherwise they risk making travel too expensive for many.”
Thomas Cook said: “We’re introducing £60 tests and are encouraging the Government to review the need for a PCR test for vaccinated people and green list countries – just let these people take a lateral flow test.”
Government sources say officials are working with the private sector to cut costs and are considering pre-departure tests. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said “profiteers” face removal from a providers list. He said: “The cost should be cheaper. I’ll be driving that down.”
£1,200 tests for a family of five
Mum Karen Beddow, 43, faces paying £1,200 for tests for her break to Portugal with hubby Matthew and their three daughters.
Karen, from The Wirral, Cheshire, runs family travel blog Mini Travellers and rushed to book after the green list was announced.
She says: “Prices were rising by the minute so it ended up an expensive evening.
“The trip is costing around £3,500, but the tests will be at least another £1,200. We just decided to go for it.
“We have been homeschooling our 10-year-old daughter Lily and nine-year-old twins Isobel and Eve, so a break and some sun is very welcome. But I appreciate we are fortunate to be able to afford it.”
Footie nut Bill isHammered too
Footie fan Bill Horgan got a kick in the teeth after facing a £960 Covid test bill on top of a £3,000 all-inclusive holiday to Portugal.
The West Ham fan, 30, wife Danielle, also 30, and children Isabella, five, Oliver, three, and baby Franklin fly out for seven days next month. They will have to take eight PCR tests.
Headhunter Bill, from Meopham, near Gravesend, Kent, said: “It’s a lot but we live for holidays.
“Usually we go on six holidays a year but we haven’t been on any since October 2019. It’s expensive but we decided we would get away as soon as we could”
Bil urged the Government to scrap VAT on the tests, saying: “Surely they could waive tax on them like other countries have done.”
Firms hoard £500m refunds
Holidaymakers are still owed £500million from last year’s cancelled package breaks and flights.
Package customers are legally entitled to a full refund within 14 days. But many were offered vouchers towards future trips. Travel firms used their cash to cover overheads and pay loans as the sector was shut down.
Complaints handling website Resolver says tens of thousands of out-of-pocket families are owed an average £600 each.
Boss Martyn James said: “We’ve had well over 150,0000 travel complaints in the past year, and that’s the tip of the iceberg.
“There are loads of refunds still outstanding. The vast majority have been rolled into vouchers.
“The problem is many firms aren’t allowing people to cash them in if they can’t travel.”