Traveling and COVID-19: Understand the Testing Requirements

Over the last year, traveling has slowed for many people within North and South Carolina and even for those around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on airlines and the travel industry. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), air travel fell by 60 percent in 2020.

Now, perhaps for work, vacation, or possibly even an emergency, you are packing up to fly off somewhere. Each state and country has established rules and regulations to ensure the safety of travelers and residents.

Whether you are gearing up to travel across the state, across the country, or around the world, you may be wondering about the current traveling restrictions and testing requirements.

Should you get tested for COVID-19 before traveling?

Do you need to delay travel if you are waiting for a COVID-19 antibody test result?

What do you need to do if you test positive for COVID-19 prior to travel?

What documentation is needed for traveling?

How soon after traveling should you get tested?

Read on for these answers and more as we explain the current updates on COVID-19 testing requirements for traveling.

Travel Requirements and COVID Testing

Traveling follows many of the same CDC guidelines as general activities within your community. Face masks or facial coverings are required on airplanes, buses, trains, subways, and other forms of public transportation. This includes traveling within and out of the United States. 

Maintaining social distancing is hard, if not impossible, while traveling. To protect travelers and to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, testing before and after may be recommended.

Unless otherwise noted, the following information mostly pertains to requirements for air passengers. The CDC currently recommends that all travelers avoid going on cruises. This is due to the ease of disease transmission within the close quarters of cruise ships. If you do choose to travel by ship, COVID-19 testing requirements still apply.

Should You Get Tested for COVID-19 Before Traveling?

Every state and country maintains its own list of testing requirements. Be sure to check the destination requirements well in advance so you have time to get tested if it is required. If COVID testing is required, you will need to obtain a viral test no more than 3 days prior to your flight. Keep your negative test results or proof of recovery (positive test result and note of recovery from your doctor) with you.

If you are traveling within the United States, check your local and state testing requirements. At this time, North and South Carolina do not require COVID-19 testing for traveling.

For international travelers, every country has its own entry requirements. Some are still limiting entry for US passengers. Additionally, the United States requires all passengers, including US citizens, to have a negative COVID-19 test result prior to entry back into the country. 

Do You Need to Delay Travel If You Are Waiting for a COVID-19 Antibody Test Result?

Prior to traveling, you may need results from a viral COVID-19 test which checks for an active infection. Testing must be done 1-3 days before you travel. If you are still awaiting results, you must delay your trip.

What Do You Need to Do If You Test Positive for COVID-19 Prior to Travel?

You cannot travel if you test positive for COVID-19. The CDC can restrict travel for individuals who pose a threat to public health.

If you do test positive, quarantine yourself from others to prevent the spread of the disease as you recover. Once you have recovered, contact your health provider. If you plan to travel, you will need a note stating that you are cleared for travel. The letter must be written on an official letterhead.

What Documentation Is Needed for Traveling?

Keep your COVID-19 testing documentation with you while traveling. You may need to show proof of your negative test results or your positive results with your letter of recovery. If you require a letter of recovery, it must be written on an official letterhead by a health care professional or public health official.

How Soon After Traveling Should You Get Tested for COVID-19?

The CDC recommends that all travelers get tested 3-5 days after traveling. Travelers should also quarantine for 7 days regardless of test results. If you choose not to get tested, the recommendation is to stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days.

Understanding the COVID Tests

With various types of tests available, how do you know which COVID-19 test you need? 

The Rapid Antigen Test, Rapid RT-LAMP, and RT-PCR test show current infections. The antibody tests show evidence of a previous infection.

How Are People Tested for COVID-19?

COVID-19 tests include rapid testing, molecular testing, and antibody testing. Rapid antigen testing provides results onsite within 10 minutes through a nasal or throat swab. This test is not accepted for travel. 

Molecular testing is considered the most accurate and is also performed through a nasal or throat swab. Results are analyzed by a laboratory and are available within 24-72 hours.

Antibody testing is done with a blood test through a simple finger prick. Results are usually available within minutes. 

What COVID Tests Are Used for Traveling?

The COVID-19 testing requirements for air travel to foreign countries or domestic travel include the use of a viral test. This shows if you have an active infection. Viral tests include the rapid test and molecular test. 

Currently, results from the Rapid RT-LAMP and RT-PCR are accepted for travel. Results are available within 24 hours with the RT-LAMP test and within 24-72 hours for the RT-PCR test. RT-PCR test results often have roughly a 24-hour turnaround time with weekday testing and roughly a 72-hour turnaround time with weekend testing.

COVID-19 Testing at Carolina Pharmacy

Carolina Pharmacy offers diagnostic COVID-19 testing throughout the greater Charlotte area including Greenville, Rock Hill, and Lancaster, SC. Rapid Antibody Testing is only available at the Arboretum location. Please call 704-909-4700 ext 0 for more information or you may walk in for an appointment. 

For patients who are traveling, we will provide you with the full laboratory results to ensure you have the appropriate documentation.

Concierge Travel Services

Carolina Pharmacy provides concierge travel planning to help you safely plan your trip. Simply email covidtesting@carolinapharmacy.com and let us know where you are traveling. Our team will respond back within a few minutes to an hour. Based on your destination, we will provide you with information regarding what test(s) to choose, when to book your test, and what the results will look like.

You can focus on your packing for your trip while we take care of the COVID-19 details. Let us take the stress out of your travel plans.

Schedule Your COVID Test Today!

Contact Carolina Pharmacy today for more information on COVID-19 testing for traveling. Schedule your Rapid COVID-19 test today!