Are NHS Covid Tests Accepted For Travel?

Information correct as of 27-07-2022

The short answer is no, most countries will not accept NHS COVID-19 tests for travel. 

However, you can use your NHS vaccination to help you gain access abroad. 

To best prepare for travelling abroad from the UK, you should get your COVID-19 vaccinations up to date, including any boosters available.

No matter your vaccination status, you will usually need a private COVID-19 test in order to enter foreign countries from the UK. The reason is you need written evidence that you are COVID-free at the time of travel, and an NHS test does not provide this.

The following article is a summary of current COVID-19 travel guidance. You should check the Foreign Travel Advice page for your destination country’s latest entry requirements. 


What COVID-19 test do I need to travel abroad?

These days you need a COVID-19 “Fit to Fly” certificate, also known as the “Fit to Travel” certificate. This certificate comes along with a private PCR or antigen (lateral flow) test that shows you tested negative for COVID-19.

You may be able to use a proof of vaccination or proof of recovery certificate, depending on your destination. See the “Country-specific travel guidance” section below for more details.

Remember, if you are travelling through other countries to get to your destination country, you must be able to meet the COVID-19 standards for each country along the way. 

Need a COVID-19 test to travel abroad? View our private test centre locations.


What about the NHS COVID Pass?

You can get an NHS COVID Pass if you test positive on an NHS PCR test. It is then valid for 180 days. This pass can help gain access to international travel, but it is not always sufficient on its own. 

The NHS COVID Pass is convenient because the owner can access a digital copy. This means you can download it, send and store it by email and keep it on the NHS app on a smartphone. If you are forgetful or worried your phone may run out of battery in the airport, it may help to send a digital copy of your pass to a trusted travel companion. 

You may also print the pass if you prefer to have a physical copy. If you do not own a printer, it is easy to send a copy of the NHS COVID Pass to an email address and print it out at a friend’s house or a public library.

Now, if you intend to rely on an NHS COVID Pass for travel abroad, you will also need an NHS COVID Pass Letter. You can apply for the NHS Covid Pass Letter online. It should arrive within seven working days and it is valid for 180 days.


Country-specific travel guidance


Adults over age 18 can enter Spain if they can prove they:

  • Have had a booster (at any time)
  • Have had two doses of an approved two-dose vaccine (at least 14 days ago, but no longer than 270 days ago)
  • Have had one dose of an approved single-dose vaccine (at least 14 days ago but no longer than 270 days ago)

Accepted vaccines are authorised by the European Medicines Agency or World Health Organisation, including: BioNTech and Pfizer; AstraZeneca; Moderna; Novavax; Janssen-Cilag; Valneva; Sinovac and others


If you have recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months and can produce a medical certificate or official recovery record. You can get this from a medical health provider such as Local PCR. It is valid for 180 days.


If you are not vaccinated or recovered as above, then you can show proof of a negative COVID-19 test:

  • A PCR taken within 72 hours before departure
  • An antigen test taken within 24 hours before departure

Check the rules here.


There are no COVID-19 entry requirements currently in place for Portugal, including Madeira and the Azores.

Check the rules here.


People aged 12 and over can enter France if they can show proof of full vaccination. You cannot use your NHS appointment card from the vaccine centre. However, you can use the NHS COVID Pass.

Full vaccination counts as:

  • A booster jab (any date)
  • For adults aged 18 and over: two doses of a vaccine (no more than nine months since the second)


You can enter France with:

  • A negative PCR test (within 72 hours of departure)
  • A negative antigen test (within 48 hours of departure)

Check the rules here.


There are no COVID-19 requirements currently in place for travellers heading to Italy. 

Check the rules here


Travelling abroad during COVID-19

Even though it seems complicated to travel right now, we hope you can see there are plenty of options to travel abroad. 

While it is possible to leave your preparation down to a last-minute antigen test, this may be more stress than it is worth. Although it seems like the cheapest option, you will end up paying more to rearrange your holiday. 

Your best option may be to gather your vaccination evidence, a certified PCR test or a recovery certificate instead. These are solid proofs of COVID safety and are currently accepted by most countries. 

Remember, it is your responsibility to check if the entry requirements have changed in the days leading up to your trip. 

We wish you a happy holiday abroad.



1. Are NHS COVID-19 tests accepted for travel?

No. You cannot rely on a COVID-19 test from the NHS to travel abroad because it does not come with written documentation. Many countries currently accept a negative antigen (lateral flow) test taken within 48 hours of departure, but only those that come with the “Fit to Fly” certificate.

2. Can you use the NHS PCR test for travel?

No, unfortunately it is not enough to rely on a PCR test from the NHS in order to travel abroad from the UK.

3. Can you use NHS rapid antigen tests for travel?

No, you will need a COVID-19 test from a private provider according to UK government advice. Unfortunately it is too easy to pick up a test and swap it with someone else before they travel. For that reason, travellers need a certified medical “Fit to Fly” certificate along with a rapid antigen test for many countries.

4. Can you use NHS lateral flow tests for travel?

No this is not an acceptable form of COVID-19 testing for international travel. The lateral flow test is another name for the rapid antigen test, and must be accompanied by official medical paperwork. You can get an acceptable lateral flow test from an approved private medical provider. Make sure you check the entry requirements of your destination country to find out what kind of test will be accepted.

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