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.
Apr 29, 2022

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence 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.

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 2022, including those best for:

partner programs

IHG® Rewards Program

on IHG One Rewards’ website

IHG® Rewards Program
Get exclusive benefits and earn points faster
World of Hyatt

on Hyatt's website

World of Hyatt
Enjoy free nights, member rates and more
logo image

on Alaska's website

Alaska Mileage Plan
Join Mileage Plan and Save $25 on your next flight
IHG® Rewards Program

IHG® Rewards Program

Wherever you go, however you stay, IHG One Rewards offers rewards for every one.

on IHG One Rewards’ website

Highlights:
  1. Cheers to new tiers: New tiers allow members to earn points faster.
  2. Piling on the perks: New members benefits that enhance every stay
  3. Milestone Rewards: Allows members to choose their rewards.
Highlights
  1. Cheers to new tiers: New tiers allow members to earn points faster.
  2. Piling on the perks: New members benefits that enhance every stay
  3. Milestone Rewards: Allows members to choose their rewards.

on IHG One Rewards’ website

World of Hyatt

World of Hyatt

With the World of Hyatt loyalty program, enjoy a world of rewards designed to revolve around you.

on Hyatt's website

Highlights:
  1. Earn points for things you already enjoy with Hyatt
  2. Use your points for free nights at more than 1,100 hotels around the world
  3. Three elite tiers to unlock exceptional benefits - room upgrades and more.
Highlights
  1. Earn points for things you already enjoy with Hyatt
  2. Use your points for free nights at more than 1,100 hotels around the world
  3. Three elite tiers to unlock exceptional benefits - room upgrades and more.

on Hyatt's website

logo image

Alaska Mileage Plan

Mileage Plan is Alaska's loyalty program for anyone who loves to travel and is free to join!

on Alaska's website

Highlights:
  1. Join Mileage Plan and Save $25 on your next flight
  2. Our members earn 30% more miles on average than other airlines
  3. You earn based on how far you fly, not how much you spend
Highlights
  1. Join Mileage Plan and Save $25 on your next flight
  2. Our members earn 30% more miles on average than other airlines
  3. You earn based on how far you fly, not how much you spend

on Alaska's website

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.