If you are fully vaccinated and travelling with proof of vaccination, you must be tested at least 3 days before your flight to the USA. If you are not fully vaccinated and are 2 years and older, you must get tested at least 1 day before your flight to the USA. If you are NOT fully vaccinated, get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip. A pre-entry molecular test is required for all travellers.
A rapid antigen test is not accepted. Testing is much more accessible now than in the early stages of the pandemic. As more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, some countries have waived the testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers. However, depending on where you plan to travel and how the highly transmissible delta variant spreads, a negative COVID-19 test result may be required, especially if you are unvaccinated or travelling with unvaccinated children.
If you need a COVID-19 test for your trip, you may be wondering where to get it, what kind of test to take, how long it will take to get an appointment (and wait for the results), and how much it will cost. To help you prepare, we’ve researched where you can get tested in 25 major cities. We found that some tests are completely free, while others require a co-payment or are covered by insurance. Some require full cash payment when requested for travel (rather than based on symptoms or exposure).
Some destinations require a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which must be done within a certain time frame, usually 72 hours before departure. Many facilities can provide results between 48 and 72 hours, but this is not always the case. Also bear in mind that some testing sites transmit results by phone, which is probably not suitable for boarding a plane or entering a country. If you took a COVID-19 test during the pandemic, you may have been confused by the sheer number of options.
Keeping track of which COVID-19 test you need can be daunting. Not all COVID-19 tests are the same and not all are suitable for international travel. The tests that often don’t help you when you travel are antibody tests, blood tests that can determine if a previous COVID-19 infection has caused your immune system to produce COVID-19 antibodies. Some countries also do not accept rapid antigen tests, which detect proteins on the surface of the virus.
These tests are popular because of their quick turnaround time, but they are less accurate than PCR tests and are not allowed in some countries, such as Canada. If you are in a place where there are not many COVID-19 tests available, you can also check at a drugstore near you. On the list of COVID-19 test providers, you will find several major drugstore chains, including CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid. All of these pharmacies often offer PCR testing at no additional cost if you have insurance or if you fall under some government programs for people without insurance.
Passport Health also has a nationwide network of clinics in over 100 locations, especially for people who need a negative PCR test to fly or go to school. Even better, you can make these appointments online, saving you valuable time instead of waiting in a long line. Many of these facilities also offer on-site testing, which requires you to swab yourself and not leave your vehicle. In addition, several third-party providers work with major cities like Houston and San Francisco to offer widespread testing.
These companies, such as Color and Curative, offer results within one to three days. Many destinations have waived testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers. However, for vaccinated adults travelling with unvaccinated children, different travel requirements apply in some cases. However, many countries (including those with strict vaccination requirements) accept proof of a negative COVID-19 test for children who may not be vaccinated.
If you need a COVID-19 test for your child, many nationwide drugstores are available for younger patients. CVS and Walgreens cater to patients 3 years and older, while Rite Aid offers tests free of charge to anyone 4 years and older. But now some children can bypass COVID-19 testing if they can be vaccinated, which can make the journey far less stressful. Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has been officially approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for children ages 5 to 11.
The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are currently only available for people 18 years and older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this spring expanded the testing programme for international travel to the United States so that airlines will now accept immediate home testing that includes remote monitoring. This is good news for the US. You can use a self-test (sometimes called a home test if it is a NAAT or antigen test with Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) from the US).
The test must also have a telehealth service that provides real-time monitoring. Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 home test is approved by the CDC for travel to the US. Each test comes with two tests per box, and the company recommends taking two swabs within three days, with at least 36 hours in between. There is a second rapid test from Abbott that you can buy at the drugstore, but it is not tested and not suitable for travel.
Another test for home use, the COVID-19 Test Collection Kit DTC from Amazon, has received the EUA from the FDA. There are many providers that offer COVID-19 tests by mail or at home. Some are not valid in certain states, and some are not available in all situations. Most do not bill your insurance, with Pixel being an exception to this general rule.
Some mail order tests are nasal swabs, others are saliva samples. Some are only valid for adults, others require a Zoom appointment. But all of these tests are the gold standard of PCR tests and are considered very reliable. Some of these companies work with various airlines and the State of Hawaii as approved providers, so this can be a legitimate testing option for travel to the state.
If your airline has a mail testing partner that is valid for your destination, we recommend using that partner’s system as it may give your specimen priority in the lab’s testing order. Most states or countries that require a negative COVID-19 test for entry (or entry without quarantine) use a 72-hour window from the time of testing to the time of your departure or arrival at your destination. However, sometimes the time window is even shorter. While there are exceptions, one to three days for COVID-19 test results seems to be standard across the country.
If the arrival of test results can make or break your trip, look for PCR testing sites that promise same-day results or offer rapid PCR tests that are analysed on-site. Several facilities on the list below have already reported delays in test results due to increased demand. Airports offer COVID-19 rapid testing for passengers or travellers who are on specific flights or to specific destinations. This is a good option if you can travel to the airport to get tested a day or two before you travel.
Pre-travel testing is becoming more common at hotels, as dozens of hotels and resorts now offer on-site testing. If you are travelling back to the United States from abroad, you must present a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding. Vaccinated passengers must submit to a viral test within three days of departure. Even if you have been vaccinated against COVID-19, you must present a negative test before boarding.
There are several exceptions to this rule. Territories, travellers entering through a land border such as Mexico or Canada, and flight crew members do not have to present a negative COVID-19 test. However, the White House has tightened the rule even further and now requires unvaccinated travellers to show a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one day before departure. This significantly narrows the window of opportunity for testing and requires unvaccinated travellers to seek COVID-19 testing earlier than vaccinated travellers.
As the delta variant spreads in the US, travellers who want to eat indoors must show proof of vaccination, and New York City was the first city in the US to make vaccination mandatory.
Unvaccinated New Yorkers can no longer participate in many indoor activities, including indoor dining, indoor fitness and indoor entertainment. And now that a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the FDA, some businesses nationwide are mandating vaccination and even penalising employees who don’t get vaccinated. As we reported earlier, United Airlines requires employees to be vaccinated.
Delta Air Lines has no requirement, but has higher health care costs for unvaccinated employees. Southwest has abandoned a plan to put unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave with outstanding exemptions. American appears to be encouraging unvaccinated employees to apply for an exemption. Travellers can use digital health or vaccination passports to enter certain countries or be exempt from strict testing and quarantine requirements.
However, vaccination passports should not only contain COVID-19 vaccine data. They can also be used to check negative COVID-19 results. For example, New Yorkers can use the Excelsior Passport if they have had a negative PCR test in New York within three days or have had a negative antigen test in New York within the last six hours. Clear’s Health Pass feature is used to verify negative tests required at some sports arenas and to allow tourists to travel to Hawaii quarantine-free.
CommonPass is an independent app that captures a user’s COVID-19 status and verifies their identity. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) also works with dozens of airlines worldwide on its Travel Pass app, which includes verified testing and vaccination information. Depending on your location in the US, it can be difficult to find a reliable place that offers PCR-COVID-19 testing for travel with quick results. There are hundreds of testing sites in New York City, and you can also find mobile testing sites in the five boroughs.
Not all of these facilities provide COVID-19 test results quickly enough to be suitable for travel. Also, the turnaround time quoted may no longer be accurate. For Newark residents, there are several free COVID-19 tests that do not require an appointment or insurance. Anyone 18 years of age or older who lives in Sacramento County can get tested for COVID-19 for free after completing an online screening.
The COVID-19 test will then be scheduled. Although it has generally become easier to obtain a COVID-19 PCR test for travel purposes in some locations, processing times can still vary. That said, if you need COVID-19 PCR test results before a tight travel deadline, it is safest to choose a provider who can guarantee same-day or next-day service. Some providers who originally guaranteed results within 24 or 48 hours have increased their turnaround times, in some cases to as much as seven days.
However, these rapid PCR tests cost extra and are not yet widely available. Some providers have also indicated that some insurance companies do not cover COVID-19 testing for travel purposes, so you may have to pay out of pocket. At some destinations, you may be quarantined upon arrival until your test results are available. If you test positive (whether you are asymptomatic or not), be prepared to remain in quarantine at your place of stay for at least two weeks.
If you have qualified as a fully vaccinated traveller at the border, you should not receive any further emails or notifications from ArriveCAN. If you are not fully vaccinated, there are additional recommendations to follow before, during and after travel. Dependents over the age of 18 who are not vaccinated due to mental or physical limitations may enter the country but must comply with all testing and quarantine requirements, even if accompanied by parents or guardians who are considered fully vaccinated travellers. Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated adolescents aged 12 to 17 are subject to the 14-day quarantine and all testing requirements prior to entry, upon arrival and on Day 8, whether or not they are accompanied by travellers who are considered fully vaccinated travellers.
The expected cost of the medical examination and test is the deductible for those insured by public health insurance. If you have already been vaccinated with COVID-19, you may continue to test positive even after you have recovered and are no longer contagious. Citizens and foreign nationals who are fully vaccinated should carry proof of their vaccination status to show their airline before entering the United States. See Close Contacts and Quarantine for more information on what to do if you have had close contact with a person with COVID-19, including quarantine.
All travellers arriving in Canada are required by Canadian law to answer all questions truthfully. Airlines will refuse boarding to travellers who cannot provide a valid negative molecular test result or proof of a previous positive molecular test result dating back between 14 and 180 days.