What Travelers Need to Know About COVID-19 Test Requirements

What Travelers Need to Know About COVID-19 Test Requirements

Note: Please visit the CDC website for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.

As the pandemic wears on, new variants like Omicron pose challenges for international travelers. In the last few weeks, countries that had just re-opened to international travelers have either tightened their entry requirements or closed their borders completely.

Regardless of vaccination status, travelers are now required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result taken anywhere between three days to one day of arrival in their destination country. This requirement has created new stress for travelers. VisitorsCoverage is here to help!

We’ve answered your top questions about COVID testing requirements and processes for international travelers.  For the most up-to-date information on Covid testing requirements please contact the CDC or the World Health Organization (WHO)

COVID-19 Tests: Frequently Asked Questions

The ever-changing Covid test requirements lead to new concerns and questions. This is especially true when it comes to travelers in general and international travelers in particular. Here’s a rundown of some of your top questions about Covid tests. 

 What Kind of COVID-19 Tests are Available?

Simply put, there are two main types of Covid tests. Rapid Test known as antigen test or RT-PCR Test. 

Rapid test:  Just like its name implies rapid tests have a quick turnaround time (usually within an hour). Though, they may not be as accurate as PCR tests. Depending on your destination country, a negative Covid result from a Rapid or Antigen test may not satisfy the entry requirements, so it’s always best to verify Covid requirements as part of your trip planning. 

PCR test:  These tests are administered using the same process as the rapid test but the results take longer and are more accurate. Most major tourist destination countries now require PCR tests for entry regardless of the visitor’s vaccination status.

What Type of Covid Test is Required for Travelers?

In most cases, what you’ll need for travel is a RT-PCR test. Certain at-home tests and rapid tests may be acceptable but these need to be proctored by a medical professional.  

Covid tests are available at many urgent care facilities and drugstore pharmacies across the United States. Some airports now have testing kiosks. 

What Are the Covid Test Requirements for US Visitors?

If you’re planning a visit to the United States, you should expect the following COVID-19 testing requirements:

  • Your test must be completed within one calendar day before your flight to the United States departs. 
  • If you have a connecting flight in the U.S. then your test must be completed within one calendar day before the first flight in your itinerary. 
  • You will need a viral test (NAAT or antigen test) to determine if you are currently infected with COVID-19.  
  • Please check with your airline to determine in what language results can be submitted. CDC requires air passengers to have a paper or electronic copy of their test result for review by the airline before you board and for potential review by public health officials after you arrive in the United States.
  • If your flight is delayed before departure, you will need to get retested if the delay causes your test to fall outside of the 1-day pre-departure testing period requirement
  • All air passengers age 2 and older need to provide negative test results. Children under the age of 2 do not need to provide negative test results. 
  • While some resorts are planning to offer testing, there is no guarantee you will test negative. The CDC estimates that 40% of all COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic. If you test positive you should be prepared to extend your trip for a few weeks at your own expense.  

What Are Some Tips for Travelers Regarding Testing?   

As countries like the United States require a negative test result taking within one day prior to arrival, travelers are left scrambling to get their tests in time. To help you avoid the stress, we offer these Covid test tips. 

Know the Covid Testing Requirements

As we’ve seen in the last few weeks, a country’s Covid entry requirements may change with little notice. It’s important to know what the testing requirements are for your destination country. Though, you should also keep up with your home country requirements, as you’ll need to meet those upon your return. Follow authoritative websites like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for Covid-related travel alerts. 

Base your Covid Test Window on Arrival, not Departure

Most countries now have a Covid test requirement in place for foreign visitors. Depending  on your destinations, you may be expected to provide a negative test result taken from a sample between 24 hours and 72 hours old. This timeline applies to arrival, not departure. This distinction is critical for countries like the U.S. that require all foreign travelers to produce a negative test result taken within 24 hours prior to arrival. If you have a long flight ahead of you, make sure you factor that in when you’re scheduling your Covid test. 

When in Doubt, Call the Travel Experts

The internet is a great resource but too often the information we find is either not to be trusted or difficult to understand. If you visit an authoritative site like the CDC or Google your destination country’s covid test requirements, you might not understand everything you’re reading. This is when it’s important to pick up your phone and call the experts. Find the contact number on the site you’re browsing and ask for clarification. Ensuring that you fully understand the protocol will help you avoid any unwanted surprises at the airport. 

Keep your Personal Information Consistent

International travel, in particular, requires a lot of documentation. Whether you need a visa, a passport, a Proof of Vaccine record, or all three, you’ll want to make sure your name and other personal information are consistent. If you use your middle name on one document, make sure you use them on all. You want to avoid any possible confusion. Some unfortunate travelers have had to pay upwards of $150 to be retested for COVID all because of a missing middle initial on their original Covid Test result document. So, when you book your Covid test, make sure the personal information you give them matches the information on your other documentation. 

Opt for Maximum Flexibility

As entry rules and restrictions change rapidly, travelers need the flexibility to be able to cancel their travel plans without financial penalty. After all, your trip is an investment. If you’re unable to get your Covid test results back in time for your flight, it would be nice to know that you can cancel all or part of your trip without losing prepaid expenses. That’s where trip insurance comes in. When you buy trip insurance with a Cancel For Any Reason benefit, you’re giving yourself the flexibility and freedom to cancel your plans for literally any reason and still recoup prepaid expenses like hotel and rental deposits. With CFAR you can save your travel money for a better time when you’re comfortable and confident to travel. 

If you’re traveling during the pandemic, you need to be prepared for the unexpected. Travel medical insurance offers Covid coverage you can count on should you contract the virus while traveling abroad. This coverage ensures that you’ll receive affordable medical care for Covid or any other new illness or injury. 

COVID testing requirements are likely to be part of travel’s new normal. But the more you know about the testing rules, procedures and results timeline, the more confident and comfortable you’ll be making your trip plans. If you’re worried about testing positive for Covid abroad, check out our guide on what to do. Keep up with the latest testing protocols at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO).

Please note: This is an ever-changing topic. Information presented in this article is generic and provided for your convenience. Information taken from various sources including govt. agencies, airlines and related authorities. With time they may update and change the requirements etc, Please check with applicable agencies and airlines to make sure, you have updated information according to your travel plan.