Information on COVID-19 testing while traveling

Can you test yourself?

While home (self-administered) antigen tests can provide initial screening and reassurance for travelers, they will not meet CDC requirements for re-entry into the country. (See our article for more information on home testing.)

For an at-home test to meet CDC re-entry requirements, it must be an FDA-cleared SARS-CoV-2 viral test (antigen test or nucleic acid amplification test) or the government of the country where these. The prueba also must have a telehealth component approved that provides supervision in real time, for which a good wifi connection is necessary to consult with a medical professional of the prueba manufacturer, who will confirm your identity, you will be vigilant to administer the prueba and confirmará the results.

And the test must produce approved documentation to provide to airlines and customs officials. CDC-approved back-to-travel tests available online include Abbott’s BinaxNOW Ag Card home test ($70 for a two-pack), which will give you results in 15 minutes. The Qured video-supervised rapid test ($45) is similar, with two tests included: the first is done under video surveillance; the second, taken unattended 24 to 36 hours later, will confirm the result.

For frequent travelers, Cue Health has introduced its own test device with a membership service. It is priced at $474 for one device plus three trials, or monthly service starting at $50. To return to the US after international travel, you’ll need the Cue+ Complete subscription, which costs $90 per month.

What if you just want peace of mind knowing you don’t have COVID-19 before traveling to visit family and friends in the United States?

In this case, you can use over-the-counter tests in pharmacies. But there has been a severe shortage of these quick and easy tests that provide results in less than 15 minutes, as the spread of omicron has led to a surge in demand.

While many countries have over-the-counter tests available for purchase once you arrive, it may be a good idea to bring test kits with you (if you can find them). They can give you peace of mind if you develop symptoms and save you time searching pharmacies for test kits (or a potentially expensive trip to a clinic in your destination). Again, these over-the-counter tests alone will not get you approved for return to the United States unless they include the certified telehealth component.

What happens if you test positive for COVID-19?

Regulations for travelers who test positive vary widely from country to country. If you don’t have symptoms, you usually need to self-quarantine – either in a government-established location or one of your choosing – for at least a week, and a negative test result is needed to get out. of quarantine. Some countries cover the cost of food and accommodation in quarantine, many do not, and the costs can add up quickly.

This is when you should consider purchasing travel insurance and choosing COVID-19 specific options in your policy. Read the fine print carefully. Given the recent rapid spread of the omicron variant, it would certainly be a good idea to consider relevant travel insurance options for any international trip.

Some additional tips:

Stay current with CDC guidelines. Before you travel, be sure to confirm the latest requirements on the CDC website and with your airline. You don’t want to be denied access to your return flight for using an unapproved test or lack of documentation.

Check testing requirements where you travel. Vaccination and testing standards in other countries vary widely, but many require visitors to provide negative COVID-19 test results within three days (some within 24 hours) of travel, with PCR tests or approved antigens.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on December 21, 2021. It has been updated with new information.

Bill Fink is an award-winning travel writer who has covered cultural travel for Lonely Planet, Frommer’s, the San Francisco Chronicle and many other ways.

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