Bookings to Portugal have skyrocketed since the publication on Friday of a “green list” of 12 countries that British travelers can visit.
Trips can be taken for as little as £ 720 for a family of four.
It was the good news. The bad news – typical before and after Covid tests could add £ 960.
And it could cost thousands of families a summer vacation – while those flouting the rules of the test face a fixed fine of £ 4,000.
The situation is the same for Greece and Cyprus, which are expected to join the Green List next month.
There are also concerns that testing services may be overwhelmed and results delayed, meaning some will not be able to board the flights. Portuguese rules state that anyone over the age of two must show that they have had a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their flight. PCR tests are considered reference swabs because they can detect vaccine-resistant variants.
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But UK test prices are among the most expensive in the world, averaging £ 120, according to consumer organization 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, available free of charge from the NHS and in most EU countries. But families will have to fork out for another private PCR test within two days of returning to the UK in case they contract the disease on their trip.
This part of the UK rule applies to people over the age of five.
So a family of four, with two children over the age of five, would need eight tests.
Consumer expert Martyn James of the Resolver website – run in association with Money Saving Expert – said: “I don’t think people appreciate the costs of testing. For a good, inexpensive package, you plan to double the costs when you add tests. I’ve seen tests go up to £ 180. Insurance does not cover you if you do not have the correct test. So if you are refused at the door for the wrong guy, you will not be covered. ”
He called on travel agencies to reimburse families who cancel because of the cost of the tests.
The Sunday Mirror found that family trips to Portugal cost less than testing during the May and summer holidays.
At the end of July, a family of four can travel to the seaside resort of Vale de Carros – in the Olhos de Agua in the Algarve – for £ 720 with Teletext Holidays. The company is also offering seven days at the Ourasaol Cheerfulway resort in Albufeira for £ 768. On the Beach spent a week at Choro Mar, Albufeira, for £ 899 in the last week of July – up from £ 937 at Silchoro Apartments.
Travel agents said bookings in Portugal had “exploded” – up 600% in some cases – after the publication of the green list.
UK rules state that those who need PCR testing to travel must pay privately. Reciprocal travel with Portugal is expected to resume on May 17. The rest of the EU – currently on the Amber List – are expected to give the green light to travel from the UK next month.
But many are expected to continue to demand a negative PCR test before they arrive, including Greece and Cyprus.
We found a slew of package tours to these countries that could, again, cost less than the bill for testing.
That’s better news in Italy and Spain, which are currently taking travelers who have undergone cheaper rapid tests before boarding flights. But industry leaders are dismayed at the additional costs for many travelers.
Chris Rowles, Association of Independent Tour Operators, said: “The fares go up dramatically – once you add the testing costs, the trips are really only going to be for the rich, not the masses.”
Some vendors – such as Tui, British Airways, Jet2 and Easyjet, Thomas Cook – will provide test kits as part of the holiday deals, but these could still cost as much as £ 210 per person.
12 countries including 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 travel.
Travelers must take a test before returning to the UK – but it can be a (cheaper) lateral flow test.
No quarantine, but take a PCR test on the second day.
Including France, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and the United States
Each country sets its own entry requirements – so the type of test you need to pass before boarding varies depending on the destination.
Arrivals must self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival in the UK – but this can be done at home.
Travelers must take PCR tests on the second and eighth day after returning home.
Leisure travel is currently banned in countries such as Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Brazil and the Seychelles.
Emergency travel only – and each country will have its own rules.
Red List returnees must pay £ 1,750 to have their 10-day quarantine in a hotel designated by the UK government.
You must also take PCR tests on the second and eighth day after you return to the UK.
Easyjet, which has partnered with supplier Randox, to offer a £ 60 test, said: “The government has to keep its promise to lower the cost of testing or it risks making travel too expensive for many. . “
Thomas Cook said: “We are introducing £ 60 testing and encouraging the government to look at the need for a PCR test for those vaccinated and greenlist countries – just let those people do a lateral flow test.”
Government sources say officials are working with the private sector to cut costs and are considering pre-departure testing. Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said “profiteers” were being removed from a list of suppliers. He said, “The cost should be cheaper. I will reduce that. ”
£ 1,200 tests for a family of five
Mum Karen Beddow, 43, has to pay £ 1,200 for tests for her break in Portugal with husband Matthew and their three daughters.
Karen, from The Wirral, Cheshire, runs the family travel blog Mini Travelers and rushed to book after the greenlist announcement.
She says, “The prices were going up minute by minute, so it ended up being an expensive night out.
“The trip costs around £ 3,500, but testing will cost at least an additional £ 1,200. We just decided to go.
“We taught our daughter Lily, 10, and our twins Isobel and Eve, 9 at home, so a break and some sunshine are welcome. But I appreciate that we have the chance to be able to afford it. “
Bill is also a soccer nut
Soccer fan Bill Horgan was kicked in the teeth after facing a £ 960 Covid test bill on top of a £ 3,000 all-inclusive holiday in Portugal.
West Ham fan, 30, his wife Danielle, also 30, and children Isabella, five, Oliver, three, and baby Franklin are flying off for seven days next month. They will have to pass eight PCR tests.
Headhunter Bill, of Meopham, near Gravesend, Kent, said: “It’s a lot but we live for the holidays.
“Usually we go six vacations a year, but we haven’t been since October 2019. It’s expensive but we decided to leave as soon as possible”
Bil urged the government to remove VAT on testing, saying, “Surely they could waive tax on them like other countries have done. “
Companies rack up £ 500million refunds
Holidaymakers still owe £ 500million on canceled packages and flights from last year.
Plan customers are legally entitled to a full refund within 14 days. But many have been offered vouchers for future travel. Travel agencies used their cash to cover overhead costs and repay loans when the area was closed.
The complaints website Resolver says tens of thousands of private families owe an average of £ 600 each.
Boss Martyn James said: “We have received over 150,000 travel complaints in the past year, and that is the tip of the iceberg.
“There are still a lot of outstanding refunds. The vast majority have been turned into coupons.
“The problem is, a lot of companies don’t allow people to cash them if they can’t travel.”