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What to Do If You Test Positive for Covid while Traveling

What to Do If You Test Positive for Covid while Traveling

Testing positive for COVID-19 is a realistic concern for travelers, and it’s an unfortunate reality for some. The stress of being sick while away from home  in a foreign country is compounded by the realization that you’ll have to delay your return flight home, quarantine for at least five days and confront a lot of unknowns.

If you’re fully vaccinated and boosted, you may not suffer severe symptoms or any symptoms at all. Nevertheless, you’ll still be required to quarantine before resuming your travels or returning home. Read on to discover our top tips on what to do if you test positive for Covid while abroad. 

Basic Covid Testing Requirements

Note: For the most up-to-date testing requirements, be sure to check the website of your destination and home country.

Before we get to the tips, let’s rundown the basic Covid test requirements. In general, travelers aged 2 and older will be expected to take a Covid test within 24 to 72 hours of their flight. The acceptable time window varies by destination. For example, in the U.S. it’s 24 hours. If you’ve recently recovered from the virus, showing evidence, such as a physician’s note, can also satisfy this requirement.  

Given that many countries require visitors to test prior to entry, it’s likely that many travelers will, unfortunately, test positive for Covid. In addition to this, many public events or private gatherings you might attend while abroad could require testing as well. Considering these possibilities, the anxiety of testing positive is a reasonable concern. If you do test positive, you need not worry. With careful planning and research, you’ll be able to navigate your way through the ordeal. Here are our tips for how to handle a positive Covid result while abroad.  

If You Test Positive: A Traveler’s Guide to Covid

Be prepared to test positive for Covid

Your contingency plan for what to do should you test positive for Covid while abroad begins before you even leave your home. As you make lodging arrangements and book your flights, ask the respective representatives about their Covid protocols, including testing resources and quarantine restrictions. Familiarize yourself with the points on your itinerary at which you will likely have to take a test. Since quarantine requirements vary by destination, determine what the specifics are for each destination on your itinerary. Often the only major restriction might be that you can’t board a flight until you can produce a negative test. Once you know what to expect you can begin to plan and pack accordingly. As a rule, pack and prepare for your trip as if you’ll be faced with an extended stay due to quarantine. This could entail: 

  • Establishing contact with a potential physician at your destination country, or connecting with your own doctor at home
  • Making a list detailing the medical information and needs for each member of your party 
  • Packing extra clothes and extra medication
  • Pack sufficient quantity of masks
  • Packing a few covid home test kits ( if possible) 
  • Budgeting extra finances for an extended stay
  • Ensuring that your children and pets will be looked after for the duration of your stay, even if it’s extended due to quarantine

Since testing positive for Covid is a real possibility while traveling, one of the most important steps to take is to purchase a suitable trip insurance or travel insurance. That way if you have to cancel your trip due to a positive result, or have to extend your travels due to unexpected quarantine, you’ll be financially protected. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to buy a policy, as coverage might not be guaranteed. The ideal time to purchase travel insurance is just around the time you book your flights and make your hotel or vacation rental accommodations. 

Get tested if you feel sick

At the first sign of sickness, request a PCR test as opposed to a rapid test. PCR tests are considered much more accurate than the rapid tests. In some cases, travelers might test negative through a rapid test but positive via a PCR test. This is likely due to the virus not being potent enough to be detected through a rapid test.  Learn more about your testing options and accuracy of each. 

Inform the relevant parties

As soon as you test positive, you’ll want to get in touch with anyone you’ve been in contact with, including the members of your party as they will also need to get tested right away. You will also need to inform your lodging accommodations and follow their Covid protocols carefully. This might involve being moved to a separate room away from the other guests until you test negative. If you test positive upon entry into a country, a physician might be in touch with you to assist you and to initiate content tracing. 

Wear a KN95 or N95 Mask for 10 full days after testing positive

Even once you leave quarantine, wear a KN95 or N95 mask when you’re around other people. Simple cloth coverings are not as effective, and in fact, many airlines are no longer accepting them as suitable protection for air travel. 

Isolate yourself

Though most countries require visitors to be fully vaccinated, and therefore your chances of contracting a serious case of Covid that requires hospitalization are low, you might be tempted to let your guard down. Remember, though, even if you’re asymptomatic, you could transmit the virus to people who may have a much more severe reaction. This is why you should isolate yourself from others as soon as you test positive or show symptoms. If you’re entering a country and test positive for Covid, quarantine will likely be mandatory. But if you’re already within the country’s borders, you should self-isolate for at least five days in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines. If you’ve purchased trip or travel insurance before initiating your travels, you’ll be financially protected in the event that mandatory quarantine extends your trip unexpectedly. Some trip insurance plans have quarantine coverage for Covid as a specific benefit, while others include it in their trip interruption or delay coverage. 

If traveling via car, book a hotel room

Whether you’re an American taking a road trip or an international traveler touring through Europe, if you’re traveling via car, testing positive for Covid comes with specific concerns. The most important thing to do is to separate yourself from everyone else in your party. Check into a hotel room that has content-free check-in procedures, or, if possible, return home. Again, even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms, you want to minimize your risk of transmitting the virus to someone who might have a more severe reaction. 

Consider Telehealth

Should you test positive for Covid while abroad, one of the lesser-known resources on your side is telehealth. And it is often included in many travel insurance plans. Just like it sounds, telehealth means connecting with your doctor back home or a physician in your destination country by video.  Whether you need medical advice due to an infection or want to secure an acceptable proof of recovery so you can head home or continue your trip, telemedicine can help. 

Testing positive for Covid while abroad is rightly one of the top concerns today’s travelers have. But preparation and careful, well-researched planning can go a long way to calming your nerves should you contract Covid while traveling. While these tips won’t prevent you from contracting the virus, they’ll certainly make it easier for you, if you do. 

Happy (and safe) travels!

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