After having “non-rev” privileges with Southwest Airlines, Christy dove into the world of points and miles so she could continue traveling for free. Her other passion is personal finance, and is a cer...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Now that travel restrictions are starting to ease, you might be planning for a trip. Whether you are traveling domestically or internationally, you will possibly be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test in order to travel. Some are free (with or without insurance), while others might require you to pay a fee. Some countries even build COVID-19 testing fees into their entry requirements.
In addition to cost, something else to consider is that your results are time-sensitive, meaning that you need to have your test completed during a certain amount of time prior to arrival or departure. We’ve pulled together some common locations that offer these COVID-19 tests and take these requirements into consideration so that you can get back to traveling as soon as possible!
There are many different types of tests for coronavirus, but which test do you specifically need for travel?
Antibody tests are blood tests that can identify if a person has COVID-19 antibodies, meaning that they have already recovered from the virus. These tests aren’t regularly used for travel since antibody tests can’t be used to diagnose an active COVID-19 infection.
Diagnostic tests can show if you have an active COVID-19 viral infection and whether you might need to take steps to quarantine or isolate yourself from others. There are 2 types of diagnostic tests — rapid and PCR tests.
Rapid antigen tests can show an active COVID-19 infection by detecting specific proteins on the surface of the coronavirus. These rapid tests are popular for their quick turnaround times but are rarely accepted when it comes to travel due to the high number of false-positive results. These are normally used at airports in addition to the traveler providing PCR test results, so it may still be important that you can find a rapid COVID-19 test near you.
The other common option is a Polymerase Chain Reaction (or PCR) test. These PCR tests are the most reliable option for detecting active COVID-19 infections as results are sent to a lab to be confirmed. Due to this, a negative PCR test is what is typically required to travel. Our guide will specifically note sites that are providing PCR tests.
Effective December 6, 2021, if you’re a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (over the age of 2) traveling back to the U.S. from abroad, the CDC now requires that you provide a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 1 day of departure (regardless of vaccination status). According to the CDC, “Rapid tests are acceptable if they are a viral test that meet the requirements under the Order.”
If you are traveling from abroad and are not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you must be fully vaccinated and provide a negative test within 1 day of departure. You are allowed to travel with a child that has been unvaccinated, but they must also provide a negative test taken within 1 day of departure (if they are over the age of 2).
Without this information, you will be prohibited from flying to the U.S.
There are several exemptions to this rule:
There are a number of locations within the U.S. where having either a COVID-19 test result or evidence of completed vaccination can help you to avoid a quarantine (self or supervised) period upon arrival.
You must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test if you have not been fully vaccinated to visit the following locations:
Each country has its own requirements related to COVID-19 testing. These requirements relate to what tests are acceptable and what tests will be required before arrival vs. upon arrival, as well as how recently you must have taken the test. Be sure to check out our guide to where Americans can travel internationally for more information about these country-specific requirements.
COVID-19 tests are available at no cost nationwide at health centers and select pharmacies. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act “ensures that COVID-19 testing is free to anyone in the U.S., whether or not you have insurance.”
If you choose to get your test at a location outside of these supported locations, COVID-19 PCR tests can cost anywhere from $20 to $1,419 per single test (according to recent studies) but these costs are usually covered by insurance unless noted otherwise.
If you are traveling internationally and are required to get a PCR test upon arrival at your destination or prior to your return trip to the U.S., you will need to refer to that country’s COVID-19 embassy site to determine your cost.
Most states or countries that require negative COVID-19 tests for entry or to avoid quarantine use a 48- to 72-hour timeframe. This can start with either the time of your departure or arrival at your final destination. Depending on the distance of the location, this may be extended to accommodate travel time. Knowing this, it is clear that it is important to find a location that can provide timely results.
Results vary greatly depending on where you are located, but generally take 1 to 7 days to be returned per the FDA. Ultimately, the best way to find out how long it will take in any particular area is to go to the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) website and look at the option by state. The facilities listed may include the expected wait time to receive the results.
Once you’ve received your negative test result, what do you do with it? Most airlines have partnered with a third party or created a system to upload your test results. This means that you will either upload an electronic result or even take a photo of your negative test in the case of some rapid tests.
Here are a few examples:
Other airlines, such as Delta and Hawaiian Airlines, are allowing you to upload test results to their websites directly. At the end of the day, be sure to check with your airline directly to see how to upload your negative test result.
Airlines are partnering with other companies to make it easier for travelers to get tested for COVID-19.
Alaska Airlines offers multiple options for getting your COVID-19 PCR test.
Alaska Airlines is working with Costco Wholesale to offer an at-home testing option for travelers ages 5 and up. These tests cost $114.99 each and you must also complete a video appointment with a doctor. Once completed, you ship it back via UPS overnight and results are available in 24 to 48 hours.
Alaska recommends that you purchase these tests at least 1 to 2 weeks before your trip to ensure that you can confirm a video appointment slot.
Alaska Airlines has partnered with Carbon Health to offer in-person testing for Alaska flyers. These Carbon Health tests cost between $150 and $165, and you must schedule your appointment in advance.
You’ll receive the same or next-day results at all of their testing sites in the following cities:
American Airlines uses VeriFLY, a mobile app, to help streamline test results and other AA preflight travel requirements. There are also many options offered for COVID-19 testing.
American has partnered with LetsGetChecked for at-home PCR tests. American recommends purchasing your test at least 5 days before departure. Passengers flying to all of the international locations that American Airlines currently serves can use these test kits.
You will have results within 48 hours of receipt, but you will also need to complete a virtual visit with a medical professional. This kit costs $119.
You can also order a testing kit through eMed if you have a roundtrip flight. You will receive a rapid test for departure and 2 rapid tests to bring along with you on your trip. You can mail these in without having to find a lab in the country that you visit. Tests cost $150.
American Airlines has partnered with over 150+ CareNow clinics that offer testing at $139. Results are available within 15 minutes.
GoHealth is another option for in-person testing. You can get a test at any of over 150 locations with results in 15 minutes. Testing is conducted through your insurance or at rates available upon request.
Passengers can use FlyReady to upload their COVID-19 test results to ensure acceptance of results for entry.
Delta has partnered with AZOMA to offer the Ellume COVID-19 test so that passengers can test themselves and upload the results before departure and pack another test to take before returning back to the U.S. Test kits are $50 and come with a video observation to validate results.
Delta offers a list of in-person providers that it recommends using based on your location.
Hawaii is one of the only states requiring evidence of vaccination OR evidence of a negative test to avoid a 10-day mandatory quarantine.
Hawaiian Airlines is going through Vault Health to provide any at-home tests for $119. Results are available within 24 hours after receipt.
Hawaiian Airlines has partnered with Worksite Labs to provide drive-through nasal swab appointments at Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), and San Francisco (SFO). Each test costs $90 with results provided within 24 hours or $150 for results within 12 hours.
Travelers originating from Seattle (SEA) and Portland (PDX) can schedule an appointment with US BioTek Laboratories. If you need results within 36 hours, tests will cost $90 to $105, but if you need results within 24 hours, your test will cost $90 to $165.
For travelers originating from LAS, you can receive a nasal or throat swab test at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. Tests cost $130 per person for results within 36 hours.
JetBlue has a few options for international travelers.
Like Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue has also partnered with Vault Health to provide at-home test kits for travelers to Aruba, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, or Mexico. Each kit costs $119 and results will be provided within 72 hours.
JetBlue offers many in-person location options through XpressCheck.
Locations are available at:
Southwest Airlines has recommended partners for those travelers heading to Hawaii.
Southwest has partnered with Vault Health for COVID-19 testing. This test costs $119 and you will receive results within 24 hours after its arrival at the lab.
United has multiple options for testing.
United is using ADL Health to provide at-home PCR test kits for flyers at their request. If you’ve already booked a trip, visit the Travel-Ready Center to find more information about the test and order one.
Travelers must mail their test back 72 hours before travel and get the results 24 to 48 hours before their flight. Each test costs $119.
United has partnered with Color to offer both day-of and drive-through testing for travelers flying from San Francisco (SFO) to Hawaii and Canada. Eligible passengers will receive information and a sign-up link via email 1 week before departure.
These tests cost $105 at the United Technical Operations parking lot at SFO. You must make an appointment for approximately 72 hours before travel, with most results coming back within 48 hours.
United has partnered with XpressCheck at many airport locations (which we’ll list in more detail below).
The following airports are offering COVID-19 testing. Keep in mind that the types of tests vary based on how quickly you need the test results and what type of test you get, and some locations are only allowing passengers traveling on certain routes to obtain a test.
|Anchorage (ANC)||Free||Testing is available 24/7. Travelers are encouraged to preregister for a test online.|
|Bradley (BDL)||$125||The airport has partnered with Genesys Diagnostics to conduct testing 7 days a week between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m.|
|Boston (BOS)||$75 to $250||XpresCheck is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (or later) for online appointments and walk-in customers.|
|Chicago (MDW)||$120 to $145||Simple Laboratories offers COVID-19 rapid antigen tests ($120) with results available in 20 minutes and PCR tests ($145) with results available within 72 hours.|
|Dallas (DFW)||$79 to $249||Collisions Group is offering 3 testing locations, all within Terminal D.|
|Denver (DEN)||$75 to $250||XpresCheck is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for online appointments and walk-in customers.|
|Fort Lauderdale (FLL)||$69 to $99||Nomi Health of Utah operates daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m, but you can register for appointments online. You are required to show proof that your flight is in or out of the FLL. A rapid antigen test (with results ready in 30 minutes) is available for $69 or a PCR test (with results ready within 48 hours) is available for $99.|
|Grand Rapids (GRR)||$75 to $125||TACKL Health offers both PCR testing and rapid antigen testing. Your PCR test results will come back in 2 to 3 days, on average. The rapid antigen test results come back in 15 to 30 minutes, on average. Tests are offered from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.|
|Hartford (BDL)||$0 to $125||Genesys Diagnostics provides PCR testing with results typically available within 3 to 10 days. You must have a flight to get access to this testing. Time slots are available between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m every day, but reservations are strongly recommended. The test is free with insurance; otherwise, the cost is $125.|
|Honolulu (HNL)||$125||Tests are available to adults and children over the age of 5. No appointment is needed and the site is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Results are available within 3 to 6 hours.|
|Houston (IAH)||$75 to $250||XpresCheck is open daily, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for online appointments and walk-in customers.|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||$80 to $199||Clarity Labs is providing testing in Terminals 2 and 6, as well as the International Terminal. Cost varies depending on the type of test and how quickly you need the results. Appointments can be booked online.|
|Minneapolis-Saint Paul (MSP)||$0 to $94||Testing at this site is free for Minnesotans and $94 for out-of-state residents. Results are available after few days via email. The testing site is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for online appointments and walk-in customers.|
|New York (JFK)||$0 to $250||XpresCheck is open daily, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. for online appointments and walk-in customers. JetBlue also offers free walk-in PCR testing daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Results are typically made available within 48 hours.|
|New York (LGA)||Free||The testing site is free for all passengers, and no insurance is required.|
|Newark (EWR)||$75 to $250||XpresCheck is open daily, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for online appointments and walk-in customers in Terminals B and C.|
|Oakland (OAK)||$140||The North Field location is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can schedule an appointment 3 days or less prior to your flight at the CityHealth website.|
|Orlando (MCO)||$65 to $175||AdventHealth is offering rapid test results Thursday through Monday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The rapid antigen test is $65 and the rapid PCR test is $175.|
|Philadelphia (PHL)||$70 to $130||Rapid tests ($70) or PCRs ($130) are offered with results ready in 2 to 3 days. This facility is not able to bill insurance. Testing is available from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and appointments are available, though not required. Those interested can preregister online.|
|Phoenix (PHX)||$75 to $250||XpresCheck is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for online appointments and walk-in customers.|
|Portland, OR (PDX)||$135 to $165||Carbon Health offers COVID-19 testing at PDX for all travelers in need of a travel clearance. Visit the Carbon Health website to learn more and schedule an appointment.|
|Salt Lake City (SLC)||$75 to $200||XpresCheck is open daily, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for online appointments and walk-in customers.|
|San Diego (SAN)||$135 to $165||Carbon Health offers COVID-19 testing at SAN for all travelers in need of a travel clearance. Visit the Carbon Health website to learn more and schedule an appointment.|
|San Francisco (SFO)||$119 to $250||United passengers heading to Hawaii and Cathay Pacific passengers can get tested through Dignity Health-GoHealth Urgent Care. It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m and results are ready in less than an hour. XpresCheck is also open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for online appointments and walk-in customers.|
|San Jose (SJC)||$135 to $165||Carbon Health offers COVID-19 testing at SJC for all travelers in need of a travel clearance. Visit the Carbon Health website to learn more and schedule an appointment.|
|San Juan (SJU)||$110||PCR tests with guaranteed results electronically within 24 to 48 hours are available from Terminals A, B, or C. Testing is available daily from 6 a.m. to midnight.|
|Seattle (SEA)||$250||Discovery Health MD has made PCR testing available to ticketed passengers (both inbound and outbound). Appointments must be made in advance online up to 72 hours prior to travel. The clinic is open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. XpresCheck is also open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for online appointments and walk-in customers.|
|Tulsa (TUL)||$70 to $125||Alpha Medical Laboratory is conducting COVID-19 testing. The site is located inside the B Terminal baggage claim area. Testing services are offered on a walk-in or appointment basis, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.|
|Washington D.C. (DCA)||$75 to $250||XpresCheck is open daily, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for online appointments and walk-in customers.|
|Washington D.C. (IAD)|
Here are some notable international airports offering COVID-19 testing options. This list is not all-inclusive, so be sure to check your destination airport to see if tests are available to you.
|Anguilla (AXA)||Included in $50 entry application fee|
|Athens (ATH)||€60 (~$72)|
|Abu Dhabi (AUH)||Free|
|Amsterdam (AMS)||Free at designated testing centers (through October 1, 2021)|
|Cancun (CUN)||Mex$290 to Mex$2,000 (~$14 to $99)|
|Dublin (DUB)||€49 to €89 (~$59 to $107)|
|Düsseldorf (DUS)||€59 (~$71)|
|Edinburgh (EDI)||€50 to €99 (~$60 to $120)|
|Frankfurt (FRA)||€59 to €139 (~$71 to $168)|
|London (LHR)||£50 to £99 (~$70 to $138)|
|Hong Kong (HKG)||HK$499 (~$64)|
|Keflavik (KEF)||€52 to €65 ( $63 to $78)|
|Mumbai (BOM)||£40 (~$56)|
|Nassau (NAS)||B$50 to B$150 ($50 to $150)|
|Paris (CDG or ORY)||Free|
|Singapore (SIN)||SG$196 (~$147)|
|Toyko (NRT)||¥39,800 (~$365) with an appointment, ¥46,500 (~$426) without|
|Vienna (VIE)||€35 to €120 (~$42 to $145)|
|Zurich (ZRH)||CHR195 (~$214)|
Offering COVID-19 testing at hotels is also becoming more common as a way to draw travelers back by offering convenient testing options. Testing is common at many resorts throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. A few examples include:
Hot Tip: Many resorts are offering these services for free or a discounted fee, so it would be a good idea to inquire about the procedures before booking your stay.
If you’re looking for other options, know that tests are available at no cost throughout the country at health centers and some pharmacies.
Private clinics and academic labs are available for COVID-19 tests and will bill your insurance provider directly. If you don’t have insurance, you may have to pay the full amount. You can get a COVID-19 test at:
To find a place to get a rapid or PCR COVID-19 test near you, you can contact your primary care doctor or search the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website.
Neighborhood drugstores often offer PCR testing at no additional cost if using insurance or if you fall under some federal programs for those without insurance.
Pharmacies that may offer COVID-19 testing include:
Something else to consider is that many countries are now allowing evidence of vaccination in lieu (or in addition to) a negative COVID-19 test.
We have an article detailing all the different options for standardized immunity passports and how this might be implemented, but for now, each country has its own requirements as to what is required for Americans to enter.
Getting a negative COVID-19 test in order to travel will likely be the new normal for the foreseeable future. Making sure you know which test is required and when is the first step that needs to occur. The next step is finding a good place to get your test.
There are many options that provide this testing — ranging from your local pharmacy to airports, and even hotels at your destination. Between all of these options, the hope is that travel can be safe once again.
A rapid test is also known as an antigen test. This test detects protein fragments specific to the COVID-19 that show if you have an active case of the virus. Results are usually back in as little as 15 minutes, but often have a high number of false positives. The more reliable option is known as a PCR test, but these results usually take longer to arrive (between 1 and 3 days).
American Airlines does not mandate COVID-19 testing, but it does enforce requirements based on where you are traveling to. Be sure to check out AA’s COVID-19 travel page for current requirements based on your destination.
If you are traveling domestically, you may want to get tested to avoid quarantine, period. In addition, Hawaii requires proof of a negative COVID-19 result or evidence of completed vaccination.
If you are traveling internationally, it is likely that you will have to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test or completed vaccination to enter, but be sure to check travel requirements here. Additionally, you will need to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test to return to the U.S.
While it is not required to have a COVID-19 test to travel domestically, you may still want to get one. If you fly to certain locations within the U.S. that require a quarantine, like Hawaii, it may come in handy. If you have evidence of a negative COVID-19 test, you could avoid either a recommended or mandated quarantine.
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