If you’re planning to take an international trip from the U.S. anytime soon, you’ll most likely need a COVID-19 test for travel, apart from travel insurance with Covid-19 coverage.
The FDA recommends molecular Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 testing for travel, as it’s currently the most commonly available and the most accurate. This is the test that involves retrieving a test sample with a cotton swab up the nose and the one that they are going to ask you for in most countries where Americans can travel to right now.
Furthermore, most fit-to-fly travel certifications (also known as “travel clearance certificates”) require molecular preflight coronavirus tests for U.S. travelers. This guide will tell you where to get a COVID-19 test for traveling from the USA.
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Before we start, it’s worth noting that antigen or rapid tests are gaining traction, as they can produce results within an hour. However, these rapid tests are more expensive and less reliable than molecular PCR tests, and most countries require the official PCR COVID test for travel with the corresponding fit-to-fly travel certificate.
It’s also worth noting that free coronavirus tests typically apply to those for medical reasons. If you’re getting a test solely for travel purposes, your insurance may not cover it, but this is something you must look into on a case-by-case basis.
Where to get an in-person PCR COVID-19 test for US travelers
Depending on where you live in the United States, your proximity to testing locations may vary. This section will help you find a PCR COVID-19 test near you based on the most common nationwide and local centers.
COVID-19 test for travel – Nationwide (United States)
There are currently four major centers offering in-person PCR COVID tests for travel. CVS, Walgreens, Passport Health, and QuestDiagnostics operate nationwide in the USA.
Some urgent care centers offer COVID tests for travel purposes, but most do not, so it’s the last option we recommend. Some clinics provide fit-to-fly COVID travel certificates with a negative test result, but others don’t. Large clinics like CVS and Passport Health provide travel clearance certificates, but it’s best to call ahead to wherever you’re going to make sure.
CVS has over 4,100 testing locations across the United States. While these MinuteClinics accept all major insurance, if you want to get a quick COVID test for travel, it’s considered a non-essential test. Therefore, you’ll have to do the self-pay option, which costs $139. You can also get a fit-to-fly travel certificate with your test at no added cost.
These PCR test for travel produce results in 2-3 days, although rapid testing is available at some locations. You can go here and enter your zip code to find a MinuteClinic near you. You’ll have to answer some pre-screening questions to see if you’re eligible for a test, and appointments are required.
Walgreens offers COVID-19 testing for American travelers. On their website, they note that these tests are available at no cost to eligible individuals who meet the CDC criteria. To see if you’re eligible, you have to complete a quick screening survey and, if you’re eligible, you’ll be able to make your appointment.
The tests are in partnership with the PWNHealth network and LabCorp. Three tests are available: the PCR test, Antigen rapid test, and NAAT rapid point-of-care test. However, Walgreens doesn’t provide travel certificates.
The COVID test for travel at Walgreens is generally free, but in some locations, your insurance could be billed by LabCorp, so check this with your Walgreens location before your test. Many American travelers have gotten the PCR test for travel at Walgreens to travel to Hawaii and other international destinations like Aruba.
You can check here to find additional information and a location near you.
*Note: Walgreens doesn’t provide an official fit-to-fly certificate, but an email with the result of the test. This is valid for traveling to Hawaii and other locations, but it might not be valid for all international destinations.
3. Passport Health
Passport Health is a nationwide travel medicine and immunization provider, and they’re offering pre-travel testing for Americans at most of their clinics.
Passport Health has locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington D.C. You can check for clinic locations that provide PCR testing here.
Keep in mind that Passport Health focuses on individuals who need to get a coronavirus test before traveling for work or school.
QuestDiagnostics is another nationwide lab that offers COVID tests for travel. The lab does active infection swab tests, antibody blood tests, and COVID-19 + flu tests.
You’ll have to talk to your doctor to see if you’re eligible for the PCR test. If you are, you can choose between an in-person test or an at-home testing kit.
The in-person test costs $119, and you can take it at any of the 2,200 QuestLab locations across the country. You can see a complete list of locations here. The in-person tests aren’t available in Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, or Oklahoma. The at-home nasal swab kit costs $129. Quest Labs will FedEx the kit to you, along with a prepaid overnight label.
For both tests, a physician fee of $9.30 applies. QuestDiagnostics doesn’t provide travel clearance certificates at this time.
5. Urgent Care centers
There are Urgent Care centers across the United States offering COVID-19 testing for American travelers. You can look up Urgent Care in your city and check out the clinic’s website for more details about PCR tests for travel.
This is the last option we would recommend because there are more convenient ways of getting a coronavirus test for travel, such as the options above.
*Bear in mind that most urgent care centers and hospitals are overwhelmed, attending and testing people with COVID-19 symptoms, so it might not be as easy to be tested there for COVID-19 solely for traveling purposes.
Best nationwide labs to get a quick in-person PCR COVID-19 test for travel
Results turnaround time
Official travel certificate
WHERE TO GET A COVID-19 TEST FOR TRAVEL IN THE UNITED STATES
The list of labs offering COVID-19 testing for travel in the US is growing every day, so we’ll keep updating this list as new centers start testing for traveling purposes.
Best places to get a COVID-19 test for travel – State by state
To help you get quick COVID test results for travel, here’s a list of available clinics across the country. If your state isn’t listed here, try checking for a CVS or Walgreens in your area.
- Alcala Labs has pop-up testing sites across the state, with results in 2 days. They accept all major insurance and require it if you’re getting tested for travel purposes.
- Med2u Inc. does home and office visits across the Los Angeles metropolitan area, with results in a day. The cost is $200, but travel fees may apply.
- Illinois Department of Public Health does COVID testing for travel purposes at the Arlington Racetrack in Arlington Heights, with results in 2-3 days. Most major insurance is accepted, but out-of-pocket costs may apply.
- The IDPH has mobile sites serving the Chicago area at Lincolnwood Town Center, with results in 2-3 days. Most major insurance is accepted, but out-of-pocket costs may apply.
- Central City Integrated Health does COVID testing for travel Monday-Friday in Detroit. Major insurance is accepted, and results come within 3 days.
- Cherry Health offers coronavirus testing in Grand Rapids, with results in 2-3 days. Major insurance is accepted, and patients don’t need a doctor’s referral.
- CareCube has five locations for COVID testing for travel in Brooklyn and the Bronx, with results in 12-24 hours. Tests cost $200, but CareCube accepts most major insurance.
- OpenClear does home and office visits in the New York area as well as Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, with results in as little as 12 hours. Tests cost $499.
- PrimaryOne Health does free COVID tests for travel on Wednesdays and Fridays in Columbus, with results in 2-3 days. The test requires pre-screening to determine eligibility status.
- Euclid Hospital has partnered with the Cleveland Clinic to offer drive-up and on-site testing, with results in 1-2 days. The center requires pre-screening to determine eligibility status.
- Sayre Health Center has partnered with Penn Medicine to offer free COVID testing for travel with results in 2-3 days. Testing is free for the insured and uninsured.
- MedExpress has several locations in western PA. Most major insurance is accepted, although the co-pay ranges from $119-$139. Results come in 2-3 days.
Best places to get a mail-in PCR COVID-19 test for travel in the US
There are some reasons to take a mail-in instead of an in-person test. Maybe you live far from one of the main labs that offer COVID tests for American travelers, or you don’t want to be exposed to the risk of visiting a lab.
In any case, there are many labs offering mail-in COVID tests for traveling purposes all around the country.
If you want a mail-in COVID test for traveling, there are a few options.
- The COVID Consultants have an in-home COVID test for traveling. It costs $219, and clients can expect results within 24 hours of the specimen returning to the lab. The testing kit can be overnighted to you, depending on where you live.
The kit includes a prepaid FedEx overnight shipping label so you can get it to the lab as soon as possible. The testing kit is FDA-approved and accepted by major travel authorities in the U.S., Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
- Pixel by LabCorp mails in at-home COVID testing for travel, and the results come within 3 days. Those who are taking it for non-essential travel will have to pay the out-of-pocket cost of $119. It’s partnered with LabCorp and is also FDA-authorized. Eligibility requires a pre-screening survey.
- Everlywell offers a mail-in testing kit for $109, with digital results in 24-48 hours. It takes about five days to receive the kit after placing an order. You get an itemized receipt for insurance reimbursement.
However, the lab is only open Monday-Friday, so keep that in mind when planning. The kit is available in all states except Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.
Best US airports to get PCR testing before your trip
Some airports in the U.S. do pre-flight covid-19 tests, although they each have specific policies. Check out the airports with COVID-19 testing for American travelers below.
XpresCheck started offering COVID-19 testing for American travelers at JFK Airport. The testing facility is in Terminal 4 at pre-security. PCR tests cost $75, with same-day results.
Newark Airport has an XpresCheck COVID test for travel at Terminal B pre-security. The PCR test costs $75, with same-day results.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey established a testing site at LaGuardia Airport in partnership with NYC Health & Hospitals. It’s at the Terminal B parking garage and is open daily for walk-in appointments. Major insurance is accepted, and results are delivered by phone with 48 hours.
SF Intl Airport employees can get tested at the International Terminal. So can United Airlines passengers going to Hawaii. They’ll receive the results within 48 hours, but they have to book in advance. Tests cost $250.
The airport teamed up with Dignity Health–GoHealth Urgent Care to extend testing to nearby locations.
Select American Airlines flights are eligible for pre-travel Covid-19 test options. Travelers can go to a CareNow Urgent Care center for a PCR test ($150) or do an on-site test at DFW International Airport ($249) for results within 15 minutes.
BayCare is working with the Tampa Airport to conduct preflight coronavirus tests for travel for $150, and results take about 48 hours.
Alaska’s airports offer free COVID-19 testing for travel, as long as you’re an Alaska resident. Non-residents must pay $250 for testing at Juneau International Airport, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, and Ketchikan Airport.
American Airlines has been working to set up COVID-19 testing for American travelers to Jamaica, although the pilot program is still underway.
Best tips to get quick pre-travel Covid-19 testing for Americans
- Plan ahead to ensure you get results at the right time. Too early, and the result may not be accepted at your destination. Too late, and you won’t have the results in time for your trip.
- If you don’t want to run the risk, schedule your PCR test for travel with different labs so you can have the Covid test results ready before your trip.
- If you can, try a mail-in Covid test to avoid exposure to others.
- Stick to the molecular PCR test for the most accurate results. This is also the test most countries require to have a valid fit-to-fly COVID certificate.
- Check ahead to see if your insurance covers the test. Or plan what you’d have to pay out-of-pocket.
- Double-check the testing protocol with the airlines you’re traveling with. Some airlines offer airport tests, while others don’t.
- Check if your destination requires a negative test in order to travel, which type of test, and if they require an official fit-to-fly COVID-19 travel certificate from the lab. You can check countries that are open to tourism and entry restrictions here.
- Look into a pop-up site if you’re in a pinch.
- Be prepared to present the proper paperwork. The travel clearance certificate for COVID-19 must be presented in paper in most countries, and only a few accept digital certificates.
- Budget enough time to quarantine before your flight, if necessary.
F.A.Q – Where to get a COVID-19 test for American Travelers
If you still have some questions about getting a quick COVID-19 test to travel in the United States, check the FAQ below or leave a comment and I will be happy to help.
The molecular PCR test detects the presence of genetic material related to the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19). This is an entry requirement in many countries for American travelers.
Those who are experiencing COVID symptoms or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 should get tested. Moreover, if you plan to travel, be aware that most countries require a negative PCR test to accept travelers.
You can find a clinic near you to get an in-person test for travel (CVS, Walgreens, etc.) or order a mail-in kit from one of the clinics that offers this service.
Most countries require a travel clearance certificate. However, not all clinics provide this certificate, so double-check the clinics near you.
Most countries require the molecular PCR test, not the antibody or rapid test. Each country has different entry requirements, so you should check with the country that you are visiting before your trip.
Pricing varies depending on your insurance coverage. Keep in mind that many insurance companies won’t cover a non-essential test, so plan accordingly for out-of-pocket costs. Tests can range from $100-$400.
The four major clinics offering COVID-19 tests for travel in the US nationwide are CVS, Walgreens, Passport Health, and QuestDiagnostics. There are also many clinics operating at the state level.
Also, there are some labs offering mail-in PCR tests for travel like Everlywell or Pixel.
Lastly, some airlines also offer COVID testing at different international airports.
I hope you feel better prepared to get a PCR COVID-19 test for travel after reading this article.
Remember to plan accordingly and follow proper safety precautions before, during, and after your trip. Getting travel insurance with Covid-19 is also a good practice wherever you go, so check here our comparison chart of best travel insurance with COVID-19 coverage (testing and treatment.)
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If you have any other questions about where to get a covid-19 test for traveling in the USA, leave a comment, and I’ll help as much as I can.