Where Can You Get A PCR Test For Travelling Abroad?

As the world begins to breathe a collective sigh of relief following the release and now widespread application of the Covid-19 vaccine, people are starting to resume their routines. This means we’re looking to expand our horizons and connect with people and places that have been off-limits. If you have been considering traveling, some restrictions remain in place for many different states and countries. Before you break out the passport, make sure that you understand what you’ll need, including whether you need a PCR test for travelling abroad.

What kind of travel restrictions can you expect?

The Covid-19 travel restrictions were initially put in place when there was no vaccine available. Many travelers have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, two separate sets of criteria have been made available by the CDC.

Testing before your trip

Many international destinations require a negative PCR test for travelling abroad, such as before you enter a new country. Some even require a test before you enter a travel hub, such as an airport, train, or bus station. It is essential to check your initial and final destination requirements to ensure that you have the proper paperwork.

However, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) does not require a Covid-19 test for travel exiting the United States. As of January 12, 2021, the CDC announced an order requiring all passengers entering the US from a foreign country to be tested three days or less before their travel. Additionally, you must present documentation of a negative Covid-19 test before you board your flight. As of this writing, the January 12, 2021, order is still in effect.

This order applies to every air passenger entering the United States that is two years old or older. Additionally, this order applies to US citizens and permanent residents. However, this order only applies to air travel that enters the US.

There are a few different types of tests that are acceptable under the CDC order. However, the PCR test is generally the most accessible and easy to use test for travelers.

When you need to provide documentation of your test, make sure that your test has these five specific factors listed on your results.

  • Type of test (Antigen or PCR test)
  • Which entity issued the results of your test
  • The date the specimen was collected (must have been collected within three days of travel)
  • Identifying information for the individual who took the test that matches the traveler
  • The results of the test

Understanding the types of tests available

Two basic test types are widely available for potential travelers to use. The first is called the antigen test. This is also sometimes referred to as the rapid test. The second testing method is the PCR test.


The antigen test currently meets the requirements of the CDC travel restrictions, but these tests may not be accepted overseas. Even if you receive a negative antigen test, there is a potential that you are currently infected with the Covid-19 virus as the results are known to be less accurate.


The RT-PCR test is conducted by using a nasal or throat swab. This approach can be used in individuals who may or may not have symptoms of the virus. While the wait time is slightly longer than the antigen test, the higher accuracy often leaves little doubt that passengers are healthy and ready to travel.

The RT-PCR test is designed to detect the virus’ RNA. Once the test is conducted, the sample is sent to a lab. Medical professionals convert the RNA into DNA at the laboratory and then replicate the DNA to allow for proper identification. This process has to be conducted on an individual sample and takes a few hours to complete rather than just a few minutes. While the additional wait time may seem like an inconvenience, the results are nearly 100% accurate, making the PCR test for traveling abroad a superior option.

Protecting your travel plans

While fast results may tempt many passengers to take a lower accuracy test to increase the odds that they can board their flight, you should consider the long-term effects of a false negative test. The incubation period of Covid-19 generally takes between five to six days, although it can last up to fourteen days. Taking a highly accurate test before you board your flight will allow you to travel with certainty that you’ll be able to complete all of the activities that you have planned.

If you get a false negative but then develop symptoms shortly after you arrive at your destination, you’ll likely be sent into an immediate quarantine until you can be medically cleared. If you are traveling for work, that may mean that you miss critical meetings or appointments because you are in isolation. Additionally, you may not even have adequate internet coverage where you are being quarantined. Reduced coverage can impact your ability to communicate with the outside world.

If you are on a personal vacation, you may risk having yourself, and any other travelers with you quarantined until you are medically cleared. For shorter duration vacations, this may mean that you have to increase the amount of time you are traveling (and increase associated expenses) just so that you are stuck in a room.

In contrast, a properly identified positive case can postpone their trip to isolate in the comfort of their home with access to their regular medical providers. A postponed trip allows you to reschedule and enjoy the entirety of your trip at a slightly later date.

Ways to get an in-home PCR test for traveling abroad

During the first few months of lockdown, there weren’t any options for individuals who suspected they might have Covid-19 to get tested in their own homes. Instead, people had to travel to a testing site. Some medical facilities had limited availability of tests. Fortunately, there are now a variety of different options for individuals to get tested for Covid-19. This includes the use of the PCR test in your home.

You can purchase an at-home test kit either over the counter or with a prescription from your doctor. These tests are only helpful in detecting a current infection of the virus. It is crucial to make sure that you understand your specific test requirements because the instructions for each product may vary.

There are two different types of specimens that tests can collect. One uses saliva from your mouth, while the other approach requires a nasal swab. Additionally, a nasal swab can require a nasal mid-turbinate swab or an anterior nasal swab. Knowing the difference between the two is critical to ensure that you get accurate results.

Using a DIY testing kit

Read all the packaging and labels that come with your test kit before opening sealed packaging. This will help to ensure that your specimen does not get contaminated before you take the test. If you believe that you may be sick, it is essential to quarantine until you get a negative finding. Additionally, to meet the travel restrictions, you must quarantine in advance of your travel to eliminate or reduce the potential of contracting the virus before your trip.

When you receive your results, give them to your healthcare provider or the state or local health department. This step is critical to ensure that your local area has adequate tracking of positive and negative cases in the area and helps professionals track the potential spread of Covid-19 in your community.

If your at-home test results in a positive finding, you do not need to seek an additional test to confirm sickness. Instead, let your healthcare provider know that you have had a positive test and quarantine immediately.

If you have been quarantining while you wait for your results, you may end quarantine once you get a negative result. However, this does not apply to individuals who are traveling. Instead, continue to maintain your quarantine until you begin your travel. Many airports require the use of masks while in the airport and on the airplane. Make sure that you come prepared.

Getting test results quickly

Current travel restrictions often require individuals to be tested within three days of their travel. While the three-day window frequently allows individuals to perform an at-home PCR test and get the results before their flight, some people need faster results. If you find yourself without as much time, you can consider completing the rapid antigen test in your home with a DIY kit. Again, you will want to check that this test is accepted by your international destination.

If you want to make sure that your test is as accurate as possible, consider having your test completed by a medical professional. Concierge MD offers in-home RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests if you don’t feel comfortable leaving your home. Our friendly staff can help you identify which testing strategy you should use. Additionally, you will get the most accurate results possible so you can enjoy your travel without worry.

Planning your return

Many travelers only consider the need for a PCR test for travelling abroad before their trip. However, be sure that your travel plans also include testing on your return home. The same general policies may be in place. This means that unless your trip is short, that you may be prepared to show proof of a negative Covid test. Additionally, the nature of your travel may require you to get tested after your initial leg of travel, regardless of the total length of your trip.

Even after your travel is complete, you may be required to get an additional Covid test and isolate until you get a negative test result. Testing upon arrival depends mainly upon foreign government, state, or local requirements. Make sure that you check all the available information for appropriate travel information. Typically, if you have multiple travel legs, you will not be required to test while temporarily in another airport or country.

Final notes and vaccinations

Of course, the best solution to ensuring that you stay healthy and free from Covid is getting the vaccine. Currently, all people 12 years of age and older are eligible for vaccination in the United States. While there are almost no instances when doctors recommend that their patients do not receive the vaccine, you can check with your doctor if you have underlying health conditions.

Getting vaccinated has never been easier than it is right now. The availability of the vaccine now allows many individuals to receive their first dose without an appointment. However, you can also contact your medical provider in advance to guarantee an appointment. Regardless of your approach, the vaccine is the best protection against the Covid-19 virus, including the emerging Delta variant.

Many international destinations or events require that travelers are fully vaccinated. However, it is always important to practice good hygiene whenever you are traveling. This includes avoiding crowds, maintaining a social distance of 6 feet, washing your hands, or using hand sanitizer frequently.

While you are at your destination, you may also consider activities or local travel that help to reduce your risk of infection or transmission. This can include renting a car for personal use instead of using the train, bus, or taxi services. If you have options for your flights, select the option with the fewest layovers. Additionally, many people opt for vacations where they avoid flight altogether and are traveling by personal car or RV instead.


Contact Us For Your At-Home Covid-19 Testing Needs

If you need to receive proof of a negative Covid-19 test before you travel, call Concierge MD today. Our friendly staff can come directly to your home and help you select the best test to ensure your travel plans remain safe. Our medical professionals conduct house calls in Los Angeles and select cities throughout the US.

We can help ensure that you receive the best treatment options without ever having to leave your home. Our staff comes equipped with options for a rapid antigen Covid-19 test or the more accurate PCR test for travelling abroad so that you can start your journey with ease. Call today to schedule your appointment so you can continue traveling!

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