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Everything You Need to Know About COVID-19 Testing for Travel

travelers looking at a map
Allianz - travelers looking at a map

Many popular destinations are opening the gates to visitors — as long as they can show proof of vaccination or a recent COVID-19 test that proves they’re free of infection.

We’ll cover the basics of getting a COVID-19 test for travel and planning your trip accordingly. Please note that this information is current as of August 2021. Requirements and restrictions are changing rapidly, so check the latest guidelines for your destination before you go. Use our interactive map to see current information on travel requirements and entry restrictions for international destinations, including COVID-19 testing, vaccination policies, necessary travel documents and quarantine periods.

Most importantly, make sure you have a travel insurance plan you can trust! Allianz Global Assistance is currently offering certain temporary accommodations for COVID-19 related claims. Also, many of our travel insurance plans now include the new  Epidemic Coverage Endorsement, which adds covered reasons to select benefits for certain losses related to COVID-19 and any future epidemic. (Benefits vary by plan and are not available in all jurisdictions).

To see if your plan includes this endorsement and what it covers, please look for “Epidemic Coverage Endorsement” on your Declarations of Coverage or Letter of Confirmation. Terms, conditions and exclusions apply. Benefits may not cover the full cost of your loss.  All benefits are subject to maximum limits of liability, which may in some cases be subject to sublimits and daily maximums.

Read more: Travel Insurance and COVID-19: The Epidemic Coverage Endorsement Explained

How Do I Get a COVID-19 Test for Travel?

First, read up on your destination’s testing requirements. Use a reputable, updated source, like the U.S. Department of State’s COVID-19 Country Specific Information. (For information on risk levels, visit the CDC’s COVID-19 Travel Recommendations By Destination site.)

Getting the correct type of test is important. Antibody tests, which only show past virus exposure, aren’t typically accepted. Instead, you’ll need a PCR test, or a rapid molecular or antigen test.

Then, you’ll have to figure out where and when to get tested for travel. You may have to take your test within 48 to 72 hours before departing the U.S., depending on your destination’s requirements. Don’t assume you can just walk into a local pharmacy or clinic; it’s best to make an appointment several days in advance. Find COVID-19 testing sites near you.

You can order a test you take at home and then mail back to a lab, but first make sure this type of test will be accepted by your destination.

Ask how long it’ll take to get results! You don’t want to delay your trip because you’re waiting for the lab to give you the all-clear. It usually takes at least 2-3 days to get results from a PCR test. A rapid molecular test can return results in less than an hour.1

Many airports are now offering test sites: some that charge travelers for rapid and PCR tests, and some that offer complimentary screenings for travelers.2 Rapid-result tests can be pricey, costing up to $250, and often aren’t covered by health insurance.

You’ll need a negative COVID-19 viral test to re-enter the United States as well. All airline passengers to the United States ages two years and older must provide a negative test taken within three calendar days of travel, or documentation from a licensed health care provider showing you’ve recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel.

COVID testing for travel gets complicated, doesn’t it? If you need to get tested in a hurry, or you’re not sure what you need to do to satisfy your destination’s testing requirements, contact our expert Assistance team! Allianz Travel Insurance customers get 24-hour access to Assistance, via phone and the TravelSmart app, for help with urgent travel questions and dilemmas.

Which Destinations Require a COVID Test for Travel?

This isn’t a comprehensive list of countries, but rather a selection of popular vacation destinations that are allowing U.S. tourists to enter with proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test. Some nations have additional requirements as well. Rules are changing rapidly, so always double-check your destination’s COVID requirements before traveling.

In the Caribbean, most destinations have reopened to American tourists who meet the requirements, which typically include proof of a recent, negative COVID-19 test.3

These include:

  • Aruba requires visitors to provide proof of a negative COVID test, as well as other health information and a mandatory Aruba Visitors Insurance plan.
  • The Bahamas requires a Travel Health Visa for visitors, which includes taking a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test no more than five days before arrival. Fully vaccinated travelers are not exempt from COVID testing. Unvaccinated travelers ages 12 and older must also take a rapid antigen test on day four (if staying longer than five days) and fill out a daily health questionnaire.
  • Dominican Republic is not requiring a negative COVID test for travelers, instead relying on temperature checks, affidavits and random testing for incoming tourists. The country is also offering free or low-cost viral antigen testing for U.S. visitors to get proof of a negative test before re-entering the United States.
  • Jamaica requires U.S. visitors aged 12 and over to get tested within 3 days of traveling.

In Europe, many nations are open to vaccinated American visitors — but that may change. The European Union maintains a list of countries for which COVID-19 travel restrictions may be lifted. As COVID-19 cases rise in a country (such as the U.S.), it may be dropped from the “safe” list.

In some countries, you may need to provide proof of vaccination and/or a negative test or certificate of recovery from Covid-19 to enter a restaurant, hotel or attraction.4

The United Kingdom requires U.S. tourists over 10 (vaccinated or not) to provide a negative test taken within three days of your flight departing, and complete a Passenger Locator Form before arriving in the UK.

In North, Central and South America, American tourists can visit countries including:

  • Belize, as long as you show a negative PCR test taken within 96 hours of travel, or a rapid antigen test taken within 48 hours before travel. Vaccinated travelers are not exempt from this requirement.
  • Costa Rica, where no COVID test is needed. Other requirements apply, including having travel insurance if you’re not vaccinated. Learn more about visiting Costa Rica now.)
  • Mexico, if traveling by air. No test is required, although tourists may be subject to health screenings.

Within the U.S., people who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely, the CDC says.5 Most states have lifted their requirements for a negative COVID test and/or quarantining upon arrival.

The most notable exception is Hawaii, which requires unvaccinated travelers to have a negative test result within 72 hours of beginning the final leg of their trip to the islands. Unvaccinated visitors without a negative test result prior to departure must quarantine for 10 days upon arrival. To be exempted from quarantine/testing, your vaccination record document must be uploaded to Safe Travels and printed out prior to departure; you must also have a hard copy when arriving in Hawaii. Also accepted are vaccine records that are digitally validated by Digital Health Pass Partners (AZOVA, CLEAR and CommonPass).

Kansas has put in place a quarantine requirement for unvaccinated people who have traveled to specific destinations within specified time periods. Check those requirements here.

Maine says that if a particular state sees a spike in cases of highly contagious COVID-19 variants, Maine will apply testing/quarantine requirements to travelers to and from that state.

Puerto Rico requires proof of vaccination for travelers staying at hotels and short-term rentals. Unvaccinated visitors must present a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours of the beginning of their visit. If you’re staying longer than one week, you must take a test weekly. Travelers arriving by air must also complete the Travel Declaration Form and upload your vaccination proof.

One last thing to remember: While COVID testing can make travel safer, it’s not a guarantee. Be a responsible traveler: Wear a mask, follow the rules, and don’t travel if you think you may be sick, or if you’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. If you have questions about how your travel insurance plan protects you, contact us!

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