Mass confusion, headache, and hassle; these seem all-too-familiar with international travel these days. But ever since the newly announced stricter COVID-19 testing requirements to enter the United States went into effect, the headache dial has been seemingly turned up to a 10.
As the world slowly returns to normality, COVID-19 tests have become an inherent part of our lives. In fact, almost every country now requires COVID-19 testing for entry. We’ve successfully navigated these restrictions firsthand in over 40 countries everywhere from West Africa to the Caribbean to South America and more since early 2020.
But the updated American travel requirements are different – and this could pose a threat to your next international trip. Here’s why.
What are the latest changes to travel restrictions in the USA and how do I meet them from ANY country?
Most countries require COVID-19 tests to be completed within the last 72 hours for validity – and almost all require RT-PCR tests, forbidding antigen ”rapid” tests.
However, the United States has taken a different route; requiring COVID-19 test results within one day of departure – even for returning citizens and residents. The main difference (and only saving grace) is that antigen ”rapid” tests are allowed.
The intent is good; these antigen tests are cheaper and tend to be easier to find around the world. They also usually provide results within 15 minutes. However, as we found out the hard way in our travels around the world, not every country has equal access to rapid Covid-19 testing.
Because most travel restrictions around the world require more accurate and sensitive RT-PCR COVID-19 tests, some countries with limited resources, as we experienced in Guinea, don’t even offer antigen tests. Period.
So what do you do if you’re traveling to the US from one of these countries that doesn’t have antigen COVID-19 testing capabilities?
How can I travel from a country without rapid COVID-19 test results to the United States under the new 1-day restriction?
There are two different methods you can use to meet the new CDC travel requirements from any country. One requires a working internet connection and the other one a different kind of connection; at an intermediate stop on your way to the United States.
At-home COVID-19 test kits and why they are not the perfect solution to the new CDC travel restrictions
From thepointsguy to CNN, it seems like everyone is touting approved at-home COVID-19 test kits as the solution to the new travel restrictions.
And while these are handy, especially in a tight spot, they’re not perfect.
- COVID-19 At Home Test Kits require a solid internet connection for videoconferencing – this isn’t always a guarantee internationally
- Some of these tests could produce higher incidences of false positives. On Oct. 1, Ellume voluntarily recalled more than 2 million tests, citing “higher-than-acceptable false-positive test results”
- These tests have expiration dates which are at times unclear
- People have reported bugs with the apps they use to obtain their results after testing
- There are very similar test kits sold at pharmacies that are not approved for travel
As you can see, though these approved at-home test kits are a great idea, they’re definitely not a perfect solution.
The other solution to getting a Covid-19 test before flying to the United States: Airport Testing Centers
In response to very high demand (and a lucrative market), testing centers have sprouted out at airports around the world, delivering a solution to this new facet of our lives. Almost all of these cater to passengers in a rush, offering antigen results in 10-15 minutes and some PCR results just as fast.
The solution here is quite simple; fly to an intermediate airport that has rapid antigen or PCR testing.
The CDC’s official policy allows for testing at an intermediate stop. According to the FAQ, “You also have the option of getting tested en route during one of your connections.”
However, your airline might not be familiar with this policy. Politely show them the official website – or simply purchase two separate tickets to avoid any hassle.
You will need to meet the (visa and travel restrictions) requirements of the intermediate country – which still leaves plenty of options, as you’ll see next.
In This Article:
- How to find the Latest Travel Restrictions
- International Travel Restrictions and Testing Centers (results <24 hours):
- Austria France Germany Hong Kong Iceland Ireland India Italy Japan Philippines Russia Singapore Turkey UK
- Other Testing Options:
- At-Home Testing Options (all within 24 hours)
Where Can I Find the Latest COVID-19 Travel Restrictions to see which countries I can visit for my test?
As cases rise and fall, new mutations are born, and travel opens up, travel restrictions change. As these are constantly in flux, my personal go-to for the latest in travel restrictions is Delta’s interactive travel map:
For example, if you click on a country and hit “see more info”, you’ll get a popup with everything you need to know:
You can even see state-by-state guidance with requirements as they pertain to testing, quarantine, and required forms to fill. Plus, you can select guidance by origin and destination to see how it pertains to your particular trip.
Delta even has a list of “things to do”, with information on restaurants, non-essential shops, tourist accommodations, museums, as well as location health regulations.
Out of everything I’ve seen, Delta’s online tool seems to be the most comprehensive and easy to use.
Major International Hubs/Airports Providing COVID-19 Test Results in Less than 24 hours
Because the latest entry restrictions for the United States require a Covid-19 test within one day of departure (not 24 hours – just has to be the day before at any time), you will need to take your COVID-19 test somewhere with rapid results.
If the country you’re visiting (or live in) does not offer COVID-19 testing with results in 24 hours, you can fly to an intermediate country that has looser travel restrictions (e.g. results in 72 hours) and get tested there – right at the airport.
Luckily, your options are large and growing. Here are great places you can connect to get past this restriction. You’ll notice that most of these are conveniently right at the airport.
Austria: Antigen and PCR
Austria currently allows the entry of vaccinated travelers without quarantine (except from southern Africa) and unvaccinated travelers with a negative PCR test within 72 hours (with quarantine).
Vienna (VIE Airport) COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: € 69.00 (PCR), € 25 (Antigen)
- Location: Health Center at Vienna Airport
- Results: Within hours (PCR), 30 minutes (Antigen)
- Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 2:30p.m.
- Must register at the office ahead of time (not by phone/e-mail)
Belgium: Antigen and PCR
Belgium has travel restrictions. Most vaccinated passengers won’t need a Covid test to enter, but make sure to check the official website.
Brussels International Airport: COVID-19 Testing
Cost: €67-135 (PCR), €55 (Antigen)
Location: Departures level just outside the terminal
Results: 24 hours or less (PCR), 1 hour (Antigen)
Hours: 3.30am to midnight, 7 days a week
France: PCR and Antigen
France is open to vaccinated travelers and some unvaccinated, tested travelers.
Paris Orly Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: 50 € (PCR), 30 € (Antigen)
- Location: Orly 3, Arrivals, Door 32A & Orly 4, Departures, Door 42D
- Results: 48 hours (PCR), 1-2 hours (Antigen)
- Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 6:00pm at 32A, 7:00 p.m. at 42D (appointments get priority)
Paris CDG Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: 50 € (PCR), 30 € (Antigen)
- Location: Terminal 2E, Above TGV Station
- Results: 48 hours (PCR), 1-2 hours (Antigen)
- Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (appointments get priority)
Germany: Antigen and PCR
Restrictions are in place for entry into Germany from a large number of countries. Moreover, persons arriving from some countries are obliged to self-isolate for a period of 10 days. Here was my experience flying into Germany.
Frankfurt Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: € 69 (24-hour PCR), € 129 (3-hour PCR), € 279 (35-minute PCR), € 29 (Antigen)
- Location: Pedestrian bridge connecting Terminal 1 and the inter-city train station (The Squaire)
- Results: 30 minutes (Antigen), 35 minutes to 24 hours (PCR)
- Hours: 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (walk-in, see live wait times on website)
Munich Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: € 69 (PCR), € 41 (Antigen)
- Location: T1 Departure C/D (Level 3)
- Results: 3-24 hours (PCR), 30 minutes (Antigen)
- Hours: 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (walk-in or pre-register)
Düsseldorf Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: € 69 (PCR), € 29 (Antigen)
- Location: Departure level, area A
- Results: 24 hours or shorter for $ (PCR), 30 minutes (Antigen)
- Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (walk-in or pre-register)
Berlin Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Now closed
Hong Kong: PCR Testing
Only Hong Kong nationals and residents are permitted entry.
Hong Kong #1 Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: HK$499
- Location: Service counter: Counter A03, L5, Terminal 1 (across Arrivals Hall A)
- Results: Same-day
- Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (must book appointment)
Hong Kong #2 Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: HK$388
- Location: 6T104, L6, Terminal 1 (accessed by elevator near L7 departures level Aisle A)
- Results: 24 hours
- Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. (book through “Raffles Connect” app)
Iceland: Antigen Testing (Non-Airport)
Most passengers coming to Iceland must be vaccinated and tested before and after travel, though some countries are exempt from the vaccine requirement. My experience traveling to Iceland last summer was fantastic.
Keflavik (Downtown) COVID-19 Testing
COVID-19 rapid antigen tests are available at:
Results are available in 15–45 minutes.
Ireland: Antigen and PCR (Airport)
Passengers arriving to Ireland from overseas are required to complete a COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form. Unvaccinated, unrecovered passengers need an antigen test within 48 hours or RT-PCR within 72 hours.
Dublin Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: €95 (PCR), €49 (Antigen)
- Location: Green Car Park
- Results: 24 hours (PCR), 1 hour (Antigen)
- Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (Must book appointment)
India: PCR Testing (Airport)
Travel to India for tourism and most other short-term purposes is still not permitted, and there is no indication that this will change in the short term.
Kempegowda Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: ₹ 2,400 (Rapid-PCR), ₹ 800 (PCR)
- Location: Arrivals
- Results: 13 minutes (Rapid-PCR), 2-3 Days (PCR)
- Hours: 24 hours (Must book slot)
Italy: Antigen and PCR Testing
Italy has re-opened for tourism. Non-EU: Only vaccinated and tested passengers are allowed to enter.
Rome (Downtown) COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: $20 (Antigen), $70 (PCR) on average
- Location: Many
- Results: 15 minutes (Rapid/Antigen)
Japan: PCR Testing (Airport)
Travel for tourism and most other short-term purposes is still not permitted, and there is no indication that this will change in the short term. Visa-free travel is suspended.
Haneda International Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: 38,500 JPY (PCR)
- Location: Terminal 3
- Results: 2 to 4 hours
- Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (must make appointment)
Narita International Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: 32,500 (with appointment), 46,500 JPY (no appointment) (PCR)
- Location: 3rd floor, Central Building, Terminal 1 -or- 1st floor, Terminal 2
- Results: 2 hours
- Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Terminal 1), 24 hours (Terminal 2)
Philippines: Antigen and PCR (Airport)
The following may be allowed entry privileges to the Philippines under the Republic Act No. 6768:
- Filipino citizens’ foreign spouses and children, regardless of age, who are traveling with the Filipino citizen;
- Former Filipino citizens, including their spouses and children, regardless of age, who are traveling with the Filipino citizen.
Manila Downtown: Antigen testing
- Cost: $15 USD (Antigen)
- Location: at home or at the Heart and Lung Diagnostic Center, Diliman, Quezon City or Ever Gotesco Commonwealth, Quezon City
- Results: 30 minutes
- Hours: 0900–1600
Mactan Cebu International Airport: Antigen and PCR Testing
- Cost: PHP 3360.00 (PCR), 960 (Antigen)
- Location: Terminal 2 Arrivals
- Results: 2 to 24 hours
- Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (must book at least two days ahead)
Russia: PCR Testing (Airport)
The Government of the Russian Federation banned the entry of foreign nationals, including American citizens, with a few exceptions.
Sheremetyevo International Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: 2750 ₽ (PCR)
- Location: Many
- Results: 2 hours or 24 hours
- Hours: 5:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.
Singapore: PCR Testing (Airport)
The Singapore border remains open to all Singapore citizens and permanent residents. Permanent residents must present a valid re-entry permit during check-in to enter Singapore. All other travellers who wish to enter Singapore must obtain prior approval from relevant authorities.
- Cost: S$196 (only for arriving passengers)
- Location: Done on arrival after immigration but before customs
- Results: 1 to 4 days (PCR)
- Hours: On arrival
- Cost: available on Raffles app
- Location: Terminal 3, Basement 2
- Results: 24 to 36 hours (PCR)
- Hours: 24 hours (must book ahead)
Spain: Antigen and PCR (Airport)
You must show proof of vaccination to travel to spain (unless you are a resident from and traveling through an approved country). Read more detailed information on the Spain Ministry of Health’s website. You will have to complete a Health Control Form. If coming from a high risk country, you’ll need negative RT-PCR results within 72 hours of arrival.
Madrid Bajaras International Airport: Antigen, PCR, Rapid PCR Testing
- Cost: 60€ (12 hour PCR), 95€ (35 minute PCR), 25€ (15 minute antigen)
- Location: Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas (T4 and T2)
- Results: 15 minutes (Antigen), 35 minutes to 12 hours hours (PCR)
- Hours: M-F 8AM-8PM
Turkey: Antigen and PCR (Airport)
All unvaccinated international passengers age 6 years and older traveling to Turkey are required to have taken a COVID-19 PCR test with a negative result within 72 hours prior to their flight. Passengers must submit their test results to the airline at the time of check-in. You must fill out a Health Locator Form (HLF).
Istanbul (Airport) Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: 300 TL (PCR)
- Location: Arrivals Hall, near Entrance 14
- Results: 20 minutes (Antigen), 2 hours (PCR)
- Hours: 24 hours
United Arab Emirates: PCR Testing (Airport)
All travelers entering the UAE are required to have negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test results taken within 72 hours of departure, with stricter requirements for many countries.
Dubai Airport (DXB) Airport COVID-19 Testing
- Those flying Emirates can receive a free ticket to attend the Dubai Expo 2020, and this ticket enables a free PCR test on arrival at DXB with results in about 4 hours
United Kingdom: COVID-19 Testing (Airports)
If you visited somewhere that is not on the list in the 10 days before your arrival in England, you will need to self-isolate. Visiting includes making a transit stop. Restrictions have recently changed due to Omicron.
London-Heathrow COVID-19 Testing
- Cost: £59-129 (PCR), £85 (LAMP), £25 (Rapid/Antigen), £40 (Antibody)
- Location: Terminal testing centre (Terminal 2, Terminal 5)
- Results: 3 hours (£129 PCR), next day 10PM (£59 PCR), 90 minutes (LAMP), 30 minutes (Antigen)
- Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. (must book ahead)
London-Gatwick (4 available COVID-19 Testing providers)
- Cost: £59 (PCR), £35 (Antigen/“Lateral Flow”)
- Location: Drive through facility, South Terminal Long Stay Car Park
- Results: 24 hours (PCR), 30 minutes (Antigen)
- Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (must book ahead)
London-Stansted PCR and Antigen Testing
- Cost: £55-80 (PCR), £35-40 (Rapid/Antigen)
- Location: Centre of the main departures concourse (beside WH Smith newsagents)
- Results: 3, 12, or 24 hours (PCR), 1 hour (Antig
- Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (must book ahead)
At-Home COVID-19 Tests
If you’re not able to find a testing center with adequate return times for results (or at all), there are always at-home tests you can take. Please note that not all countries accept results from at-home tests Make sure to check the specifics before your travels.
Abbot At-Home COVID 19 Kit (Next day shipping, 15 minute results) – $150 (6-Pack, Antigen)
Ellume’s COVID-19 Home Test (only at local pharmacies, 15 minute results) – Pharmacy cost + $20 for video call
Qured Covid-19 Antigen Test (2 hour results) – $45 (2-Pack, Antigen)
Make sure to follow the instructions thoroughly, as the worst thing to happen right before your travels would be to have an incomplete test.
Conclusion: Yes, you can travel to almost any country and still meet the new 1-day requirement
Between at-home kits and the mass availability of COVID-19 testing centers at major hubs around the world, it’s still totally possible to fly to far-flung places on the globe – and make it back to the United States.
And if you live in a country with limited options, the same solution applies.