COVID-19 testing has become an important development to open destinations and to keep both travelers and locals safe. Many countries and some jurisdictions within the United States require proof of a negative COVID test for entry. A frequent question we receive is “How to get a COVID test for travel?” 

Our travel experts have gathered resources to help you find COVID testing for travel. We answer your questions and provide our best advice for travel COVID testing. Requirements change rapidly, as do testing options, so please consult your Adventure Specialist for the most up-to-date information. For additional insights into travel during the pandemic, view our COVID-19 Information for AdventureSmith Travelers resource page.

Local COVID Test For Travel

The easiest and most affordable option is to obtain a COVID test in your community. Check the GISCorps COVID-19 Testing Sites Locator to find a testing location near you.

Not everyone has a COVID testing option in their community. And in many communities, testing results are not fast enough to satisfy the requirements of a COVID test for travel. In this case you may need to consider other testing options.

Nationwide COVID Testing Options

Several major drugstore chains now offer COVID-19 testing that may satisfy requirements for travel. CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens all offer PCR testing in many locations. A DM COVID-19 Test will send a clinician to your home, anywhere in the United States, with next-day test results for $299. Passport Health also offers COVID tests for travel in many of its clinics. Turnaround time can vary by retailer and location, so check before you sign up to make sure your results are ready in time for travel. 

Mail-In COVID Testing For Travel

Many of our clients find mail-in options to be the easiest. Quick turnaround times and convenient at-home procedures make mail-in travel COVID testing our preferred option. All of these suppliers offer PCR tests:  

SUPPLIERRESULT TIME FRAMEAGESMETHODFROM PRICE
Picture GeneticsWithin 48 hours of sample receipt4+Nasal swab / Limited tests available per day.$119 
The COVID ConsultantsWithin 24 hours of sample receiptAll agesNasal swab or saliva sample$219 
ImmunitiRxWithin 24-36 hours of sample receiptAll agesSaliva sample$225
EverlywellWithin 24-48 hours of sample receipt18+Lower nasal swab$109 
Pixel by LabCorpWithin 24-48 hours of sample receipt18+Nasal swab$119 
Quest DiagnosticsWithin 24-48 hours of sample receipt18+Nasal swab$129
Azova (available at Costco)With Video Obs. = Within 12-48 hours
Without Video Obs. = Within 12-72 hours
All agesSaliva sample / Video observation option available$139 – $149

Some airlines, cruise lines and other organizations require testing to be done under observation to verify who is taking the COVID test. Some options above offer video observation. 

Return to US Test

There are currently COVID-19 testing requirements for all travelers entering the United States from abroad, including U.S. citizens, regardless of vaccination status. Beginning on November 8, 2021 all travelers 2 years or older entering the United States are subject to the following COVID-19 testing requirements:

  • Travelers fully vaccinated against COVID-19 must get a COVID-19 viral test no more than 3 days before a flight’s departure to the U.S.
  • Travelers not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 must get a COVID-19 viral test no more than 1 day before a flight’s departure to the US.
  • If you recently recovered from COVID-19, you may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19 (i.e., your positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).

View the CDC guidelines.

AdventureSmith can arrange COVID tests for all our travelers in all destinations to meet the return to US requirement.

Self-test options are available for travelers who wish to purchase a test, bring it with them, then self-test prior to return to the United States. We recommend the BinaxNow Covid-19 Ag Card Home Test or the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test. These tests can be purchased directly, at local drug stores or on Amazon. 

What Type of COVID Test do You Need?

There are many types of testing for Coronavirus. You will want to ensure that the type of test you take satisfies the requirement you are trying to meet.

The most useful COVID test for travel is a PCR test (polymerase chain reaction). These tests are highly reliable and detect active COVID-19 infections. They are the current gold standard of COVID travel tests. This type of test is currently required by a number of countries such as Ecuador and Belize.

For entry or reentry into the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires a “viral test” that could be either an antigen test or PCR test. Antigen tests are sometimes referred to as rapid tests because they can provide results more quickly than a PCR test. Antigen tests are also less expensive but can be less reliable than PCR tests. All of the COVID travel testing suppliers noted above offer PCR tests.

Antibody tests are blood tests that identify if a person previously had COVID-19. They do not test for active infection. As such, antibody tests are not useful for travel purposes.

Timeline For COVID Travel Test

When meeting COVID travel testing criteria, you need to consider the timeline for ordering the test, taking the test and receiving the results. Some subtle but important differences:

Testing Timeline: Hours vs Days

A day-based testing requirement provides more flexibility for travelers to test and travel within a certain number of days. For example: With a 3-day test requirement, if the flight to your final destination departs on Friday (anytime), then you must take your test no earlier than the previous Tuesday (anytime).

An hour-based testing requirement is a bit more stringent as the clock starts ticking at the time you take your test. For example: With a 72-hour test requirement, if the flight to your final destination departs at 10:00am on Friday, then you must take your test no earlier than 10:00am on the previous Tuesday.

Results Due: Prior to Departure/Travel vs Prior to Arrival

Testing prior to departure/travel means you must show proof of a negative test when you check in for your flight to your final destination.  

Testing prior to arrival means you must show proof of a negative test when you arrive at your final destination (which is often many hours or even a full a day after your first flight). Ideally, you’ll want your results before you board the plane. Indeed, many airlines may require this.

Will Insurance Cover My COVID Test For Travel?

Local tests are often free, but when requested for travel, most tests require payment in full. Generally, tests are covered by insurance when they are ordered due to symptoms or exposure.

Return to U.S. Testing Requirements

There are currently requirements for U.S. citizens returning to the United States from abroad. On January 12, 2021, the CDC announced an Order requiring all air passengers arriving to the U.S. from a foreign country to get tested no more than 3 days before their flight departs. Travelers must present the negative test result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight. Air passengers will also be required to confirm that the information they present is true in the form of an attestation. This order applies to all air passengers (2 years of age or older) traveling into the United States, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

AdventureSmith Explorations is working to assist our clients with this “return to the U.S.” testing requirement. We have partnered with trusted concierge labs in many international destinations. We can assist our clients with making an appointment to obtain a qualifying test prior to their return flight. These concierge services can perform the test right in your hotel room, often returning same-day results. Your Adventure Specialist will assist you in all aspects of planning your qualifying COVID-19 test prior to your return flight.

What if I Have Been Vaccinated?

Congratulations—you received your vaccine and are ready to travel. We encourage travelers who are able to do so, to vaccinate before they travel. The CDC recommends that you wait to travel until 2 weeks after getting your second vaccine dose, as it takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination.

Vaccination is required for entry into many countries and many tour operators require travelers to be vaccinated. In many cases caccination or antibody status does not eliminate COVID travel testing requirements. Vaccination passports are being discussed and may become a reality in the coming months.

Vaccination or antibody status does not eliminate COVID travel testing requirements.

What to do if Your Travel COVID Test is Positive

If you have taken a COVID test for travel and the results are positive, do not attempt to travel. People should self-isolate and delay their travel until they have recovered from COVID-19. Contact us immediately if you test positive. Many (but not all) operators have flexible terms allowing travelers to rebook their arrangements in the event of a positive test.

Travel Insurance & COVID

We highly recommend travelers consider protecting their investment with a policy from our partners at Travelex Insurance. Travelex Insurance protection plans can provide coverage if you, a traveling companion, family member or business partner tests positive, or are diagnosed by a physician, for the Coronavirus before or during your trip. This means you may be eligible for benefits such as trip cancellation, trip interruption, medical evacuation and emergency medical fees.

Summary of COVID Testing For Travel

Every month it has become easier to obtain COVID-19 tests for travel. But the changing landscape of destination recommendations and requirements can cause confusion.

We are here to help our clients. We work personally with each traveler to identify current requirements and put together an adequate testing plan. Book with AdventureSmith for a dedicated Adventure Specialist to help you navigate these continually changing travel COVID test requirements. 

This information was updated on 10/7/2021. Please note that guidance on COVID-19 testing for travel is subject to change. Contact one of our Adventure Specialists for the most up-to-date information and personalized testing advice for your trip.