Experimental testing of physical turbines, often at a smaller scale, is an essential tool for engineers to investigate fundamental design parameters such as power output and efficiency. Despite issues with scaling and blockage which are caused by limitations in size and flow velocity of the test facilities, experimental tank testing in laboratory environments is often perceived as offering more control and thus trustworthier results than field testing. This paper presents field tests of a tidal turbine, performed using a self-propelled barge in real tidal flow and still water conditions, that are compared to a towing tank test. Factors influencing the performance characteristics, such as the choice of velocity sensor, vessel handling and data processing techniques are investigated in this paper. Direct comparison with test results of the exact same turbine obtained in an experimental test facility further confirms that field testing with robust data analysis capabilities is a viable, time and cost efficient alternative to characterise tidal turbines.