Ask a Travel Nerd: What COVID Test Is Required for Travel?

Whether you need a negative diagnostic COVID test to travel depends on your vaccination status and destination.
Carissa Rawson
By Carissa Rawson 
Edited by Meg Lee

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Note: Certain regulations mentioned below, including the CDC's requirement of a negative COVID-19 test to enter the U.S., have changed since publication. Check the CDC's news page for the most up-to-date information.

So you’re looking to get back into traveling — but things have changed since the last time you hopped on a plane. From new testing requirements to quarantine concerns, the experience of travel is different from what it once was. It can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

Let’s take a look at what COVID tests are required for travel and where you can get them.

The different types of COVID tests

Not all COVID-19 tests are the same. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are two major types of COVID tests: diagnostic tests and antibody tests.

  • Diagnostic tests can show if you have an active COVID-19 infection. These tests can be further broken down into molecular and antigen tests, both of which detect an active COVID-19 infection.

  • Antibody tests look for the presence of antibodies against the coronavirus in your immune system. Since it can take days or even weeks for antibodies to develop, antibody tests aren’t good at testing for active COVID infections.

Plenty of countries require a negative diagnostic COVID test for travel from outside their borders, including the U.S. and many countries within the European Union.

Where can I get a COVID test for travel?

Whether you need a COVID test to get where you’re going depends on your destination. Thankfully for travelers based in the U.S., there are many COVID testing centers located around the country.

Where to get a COVID test for international travel

As already mentioned, different countries may or may not require a COVID test. Before scheduling your testing, check the regulations for your intended destination.

Once you’ve found the travel requirements for that locale, make an appointment for your test. It’s simple to find COVID test locations online; the easiest method is by doing a search on your local pharmacy's website. You may also want to go through your health insurance if that’s an option.

Be aware that each country has a validity period for accepting COVID tests. Israel, for example, requires that a test be taken within 72 hours of departure.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Restrictions vary by country, but some will allow you to enter without a COVID test if you’re fully vaccinated.

Where to get a COVID test for travel to the U.S.

If you’re already overseas and want to return home, you also need to take a COVID test. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, beginning Dec. 6, 2021, you need to have a test completed no more than one day prior to your air travel back to the U.S. if you're vaccinated. Unvaccinated travelers must complete a test within one day of their flight. If you’ve recently been infected with COVID-19, you can also opt to show proof of recovery.

This requirement is for all air passengers at least 2 years of age.

The U.S. will accept several different COVID tests for reentry, and many countries have COVID testing readily available. You can check U.S. embassy websites to see if a given country has tests available for U.S. citizens. It's also a good idea to check directly with the hotel you're staying at. It may have on-site COVID testing available or a list of local providers.

Alternatively, you can take advantage of a virtually proctored at-home COVID test (one that's done over a video call with a health professional) in order to satisfy U.S. requirements. Just confirm beforehand that a lab report is provided and the test is FDA-approved. These tests are highly convenient; you can purchase them before traveling and bring them with you. There are a few different at-home testing options available, including some in a multipack if you’re traveling with family.

If you need a COVID test to travel

Travel in the COVID-19 era isn’t quite as straightforward as it used to be. However, preparing now can save you a headache down the line. Do your research, figure out your destination’s requirements and schedule your COVID test to make your travel as simple as possible.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.


Intro offer


Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.


Intro offer

Up to $300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.


Intro offer


Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

See more travel cards
Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.