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 (see our primer on the latest United States entry requirements). 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:
|SUPPLIER||RESULT TIME FRAME||AGES||METHOD||FROM PRICE|
|Picture Genetics||Within 48 hours of sample receipt||4+||Nasal swab / Limited tests available per day.||$119|
|The COVID Consultants||Within 24 hours of sample receipt||All ages||Nasal swab or saliva sample||$219|
|ImmunitiRx||Within 24-36 hours of sample receipt||All ages||Saliva sample||$225|
|Everlywell||Within 24-48 hours of sample receipt||18+||Lower nasal swab||$109|
|Pixel by LabCorp||Within 24-48 hours of sample receipt||18+||Nasal swab||$119|
|Quest Diagnostics||Within 24-48 hours of sample receipt||18+||Nasal swab||$129|
|Azova (available at Costco)||With Video Obs. = Within 12-48 hours|
Without Video Obs. = Within 12-72 hours
|All ages||Saliva 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.
U.S. Entry Requirements by Air
Currently, all travelers entering the United States by air (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) must meet testing requirements put out by the CDC. AdventureSmith Explorations can assist our travelers with arranging for this testing. Our Adventure Specialists stay up to date so that we may provide the latest information. Read our United States Entry Requirements primer for the latest.
Many other countries, including Canada and the European Union, also have COVID entry testing requirements. Be sure to understand the requirements for your destination so you have the proper testing completed before departing for home.
Self-test options (meeting these criteria) are available for travelers who wish to purchase a test, bring it with them, then self-test prior to return to the United States. Note: you’ll need an internet connection to conduct the telehealth service portion of these tests. We recommend two options:
- BinaxNow COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test: order on eMed (2-pack & 6-pack) or Optum (2-pack)
- Ellume COVID-19 Home Test: order the video portion (& find a pharmacy) online, then buy the test kit in person.
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.
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 12/3/2021. 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.