It can get confusing understand the different types of COVID tests, especially for travel. In this blog we’ll answer a question we frequently get asked by clients – what’s the difference between PCR tests and Lateral Flow tests?

PCR Test Vs Lateral Flow Test – What’s the Difference?

The key differences between these test types is in how your swab sample is analysed. Both require a sample from the throat & nasal passage, but how the swab is handled and tested for infection, and the time that this process takes, is different. These differences produce results with different levels of accuracy, which is why some countries will only accept certain types of test.

How PCR Tests Work

PCR tests require your swab sample to be sent to the laboratory for analysis, ensuring a highly accurate result. As PCR tests are shown to be more sensitive and accurate, some destinations will only accept PCR tests for entry. Your swab sample must be packaged and delivered to the laboratory to be processed and analysed before they supply your test result documents and any relevant certificates.

At Nomad, we offer both self-test PCR kits to complete at home, and in-clinic PCR testing where a clinician will collect your swab sample.

How Lateral Flow Tests Work

Lateral flow tests, also known as LFD tests, are affordable, simple to use at home and give quick results. Lateral flow tests are especially good for people who do not have symptoms to regularly self-test. As they are not as accurate, some destinations do not permit entry with results from LDFs. Lateral flow testing uses a small device to achieve rapid results. Your swab sample can be taken at-home and is then immediately processed using the provided testing kit that you can use yourself following included instructions. You will apply your sample to the testing device and wait just 20 minutes to get your results.

We offer a range of Lateral Flow tests to meet various travel restrictions. We can supply both Fit-To-Fly LFD tests for outbound journeys and return testing for journeys ending in the UK.

PCR Test vs Lateral Flow Test – Which Do I Need?

Which type of test you require depends on your travel plans and vaccination status. It’s really important to check the latest entry requirements for both your destination and the UK. Confirm both your outbound and your return journey testing requirements with your airline or travel agent well in advance and keep yourself up-to-date as your travel dates approach as regulations are subject to change at any time.

How to book COVID testing

Check out the full range of COVID-19 tests for travel available at Nomad. We have PCR tests and lateral flow tests for travel that meet entry requirements for any destination. Our range includes at-home self-test options and in-clinic testing completed by a Nomad clinician – find out more.

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