Where to get a COVID-19 test for travel - CNET

Where to get a COVID-19 test for travel - CNET
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As more and more people get their vaccinations, the desire to travel grows stronger, fueled largely by the declining cases of COVID-19. The world is starting to feel a little bit safer. 

If you’re preparing to cure your cabin fever, don’t forget that you need proof of a negative COVID-19 test to travel to many destinations — and to get back into the US, if you plan on traveling abroad

Though COVID-19 tests aren’t in short supply anymore, some places still won’t test you if you don’t have symptoms or known exposure. That said, there are plenty of locations you can get tested for COVID-19 before traveling, as detailed below.

Community testing centers

Chances are, there’s a park or parking lot near you reserved for drive-through COVID-19 testing. Some community testing sites are managed by state or local governments, others are managed through private companies and others may be a partnership between the two.

Color, for example, is a medical testing company that has several community testing sites across California.

To find community testing sites near you, check your local department of health website. If you can’t find a testing site that way, a quick Google search of “COVID-19 testing near me” or “COVID-19 testing in [city]” should do the trick. 

You may have to pay for a test at a community testing center, because tests are generally reserved for people who have symptoms (and recreational travel is still not encouraged). However, some testing sites may offer free tests even if you don’t have symptoms. 

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A drive-through test might be the most convenient option.

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Urgent care

Most urgent care centers offer both PCR and rapid antigen COVID-19 tests. You can check the website of local urgent care centers or call to find out if testing is available. Most cities have multiple urgent care centers, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a test this way. Again, whether or not you pay depends on each urgent care center’s particular policy. 

Doctor’s offices and clinics

Your primary care provider may be willing to test you for COVID-19 if you don’t have symptoms, although your insurance may not cover the test or the cost of the office visit for this purpose. It can’t hurt to ask. 

Passport Health, a travel medicine and immunization agency with clinics across the US, offers COVID-19 testing specifically for travel. The agency has locations in 33 states.

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Your primary care provider may offer you a COVID-19 test for travel.

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Pharmacies

Most large pharmacy chains offer COVID-19 testing for travel, but you’ll probably have to pay out of pocket. Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid all have COVID-19 tests available for travel. The exact cost you incur may vary, but out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 tests generally hover between $100 and $150.

Kroger and Walmart pharmacies also offer COVID-19 testing in some states, and the same rule applies: The test is free if you have symptoms, but you have to pay for travel, recreation or simply peace of mind. 

If you go to a local pharmacy (not a chain), give the location a call to see if they offer COVID-19 testing for travel. There’s a good chance they will have tests available, but it might cost more to get one from an independent business versus a large corporation. 

Medical labs

Cut out the middleman and head straight for a medical laboratory for your COVID-19 test. Quest Diagnostics, the lab where many tests go for processing anyway, offers drive-through COVID-19 testing. The lab requires you to pay for the test if you aren’t showing symptoms. 

Curative is a new medical lab that was founded in January 2020 to develop a new type of sepsis test. The company quickly pivoted to making COVID-19 tests that March, and it now offers COVID-19 testing at more than 10,000 locations throughout the US. Curative processes all of its tests at its labs in San Dimas, California; Pflugerville, Texas; and Washington, DC.

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Hotels

Some travel destinations offer COVID-19 tests for guests. Call your destination to see if they offer return testing — that is, the test you need to get back into the US. Keep in mind you still need to arrange your own test to get to your destination.  

Airports

Many airports offer travel COVID-19 tests for passengers. Whether or not it’ll cost you depends on a number of factors, including what entity, exactly, is providing the test; whether or not they bill health insurance; and whether people showing symptoms are prioritized. 

To find out if the airport you’re flying out of offers COVID-19 testing, search the airport’s official website. You may also have some luck checking the website of your preferred airline. Delta has a handy tool where you can find a list of airport testing locations based on the country you’re traveling from. United has information specific to certain cities and countries. 

Just keep in mind that some airports might not offer rapid tests, which means you shouldn’t wait until the day of your flight to get your test. Not only could you miss your flight due to a long line, but if you can’t get rapid results, you may not be able to board at all.

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You may be able to find a COVID-19 test at the airport, but don’t bank on getting your results immediately before your flight.

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At home

If you have some time to spare, consider buying an at-home COVID-19 collection kit instead of venturing out for a test. 

There are more than 10 at-home COVID-19 tests available for people without symptoms or known exposure, including those from Everlywell, LetsGetChecked and Picture from Fulgent Genetics. 

You can even order one on Amazon or call your local drugstore to see if they’re stocking the new over-the-counter COVID-19 test from Ellume

From the time you order one of these tests, it’ll take five to seven days to get your results, so this option is best for people who plan ahead. 

At home with a health care professional

Ready, a new urgent care telehealth platform backed by GV, Google’s investment arm, offers in-home rapid COVID-19 testing. Book your appointment online and a qualified health professional will show up at your door to administer the test. You can also mail-order a test and take it while a health care worker supervises via a video call.  

BeeperMD offers a similar service, but only in Florida at this time. 

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At-home kits are a good option for people who have time to spare before their trip.

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When to get your COVID-19 test for travel 

Time — or more accurately, timing — is of the essence when it comes to getting a COVID-19 test for travel. The exact guidelines you need to follow will vary based on where you’re going, where you’re coming from and whether or not you’re visiting multiple locations. 

In general, it’s a good idea to take your COVID-19 test so that you receive results within three days of travel. This means you can take a rapid antigen test 24 to 72 hours before traveling or you can take a PCR test four to six days before travel. PCR tests usually take 24 to 72 hours to process.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.