How to get a COVID test while on holiday?

How to get a COVID test while on holiday?

by Janine Avery April 08, 2021

The situation regarding travel is changing all the time with governments constantly updating their legislation in terms of travel restrictions. If you plan on travelling during the pandemic then its likely that no matter where you go, you will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test before entering the destination you are visiting and also upon returning home. That means, getting tested abroad. 

This, its important you research the testing options available before embarking on any trip. Make sure you know the country rules before booking your flight. In addition to getting a test, some places may require you have a vaccine or even undergo a mandatory quarantine period. 

Presenting your negative test results

If the country you are travelling to or returning home to requires a negative test, it won't be enough just to say you are negative. You will likely have to present proof of your test with a validity of 72 hours in most cases. Your test certificate will need to display the testing facility, your result and the date it was administered. Its a good idea to travel with a photo of this certificate, the original print out as well as a copy. When travelling, these results will be viewed by an official who might also require you to complete a pre-screening form, have your temperature taken, and sometimes, you may also have your blood oxygen levels tested. Some destinations may require you to do a secondary test on arrival.

How to find a COVID testing centre

While certain countries will allow you to test upon arrival, this can be an expensive option as not only do you have to pay for the test but also your quarantine accommodation while you await the results. Thus, it is best to try and do the test before you travel. 

Your embassy or state website will be able to provide information regarding testing sites in your destination. Certain countries only accept tests from approved facilities so be sure your testing centre is on the list. Your hotel, guide, or tour operator will also be a helpful resource in this regard with certain hotels or resorts even offering testing options on site.

The one thing to also check is the turn around time of the testing facility. While some centres offer a quick turn around, others may have a 24 or 36 hour waiting period before you receive your results. You may also need to make an appointment online before testing. 

What to expect when getting tested

The actual set-up of testing sites can vary a lot from hospitals, to clinics, outdoor tents and drive-throughs. The one thing however that is consistent throughout is the nasal swab, with this being the preferred method for testing around the world. In order to minimize your waiting time, its advisable to arrive with your ID and a copy thereof, details of any medical coverage and conditions, and your appointment booking. The earlier you arrive in the day, the quicker you are likely to receive your results with tests done after lunchtime only processed the following day at some facilities. 

What type of test will I need?

There are two types of COVID-19 tests that you can get. These include rapid antigen tests and PCR tests. Antigen tests give results almost immediately however as they are considered to be less reliable they are not normally accepted for travel purposes. Most governments require that travellers present a negative PCR tests which is more sensitive and specific than the antigen test but does require some time to process as the sample needs to go to a lab.

Its important to note that just because you have been vaccinated for COVID-19 doesn’t necessarily mean you are exempt from providing a negative test. Each destination has specific requirements in this regard.

Janine Avery
Janine Avery


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