International travel requires meeting stringent country specific criteria for testing before travel. There are two tests that are widely used for testing before you travel. One is the Antigen Test, also called the Rapid Test, and the other is the PCR test. The Antigen test detects protein fragments specific to the Coronavirus while the PCR test detects Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) that is specific to the virus. The PCR test uses nasal or throat swabs from the person with or without symptoms. The wait time for results is longer and it also has higher accuracy as well.

 After the test has been taken, the sample is sent to a lab where it converts the virus’s RNA into DNA. It then makes millions of copies of the DNA, which allows for the identification of the organism. This process can take hours as it is typically done one sample at a time. Although it is a time consuming process, it delivers results that are almost 100% accurate.

Testing before and after travel can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Testing does not eliminate all risk. However, when paired with a period of staying at home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer.

Mandatory pre-departure testing for all passengers is key to restoring global air travel connectivity. This will give governments the confidence to open borders fully and possibly eliminate the need to quarantine arrivals. With all this information, when is the right time to get tested for Covid-19 before traveling? 

According to the CDC, here’s what you need to do: 

  • Get tested 1-3 days before your flight.
  • Get tested 3-5 days after travel and stay home for 7 days after travel.
  • Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days.
  • If you don’t get tested, it’s safest to stay home for 10 days after travel.
  • Delay your travel if you are waiting for test results.
  • A negative test does not mean that you were not exposed or that you will not develop COVID-19. Make sure to wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from others, wash your hands, and watch your health for signs of illness while traveling.

On average, symptoms of the virus develop five to six days post exposure, but the incubation period can be as long as 14 days. Some people never develop noticeable symptoms, hence the recommendation to self-quarantine and self-monitor for a full two weeks after any likely exposure.

Travelers with a known exposure to COVID-19 should delay travel, quarantine themselves from other people, get tested, and monitor their health. You may have been exposed to COVID-19 on your travels. You may feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can be contagious without symptoms and spread the virus to others. You and your travel companions (including children) pose a risk to your family, friends, and community for 14 days after you were exposed to the virus.

Watch your health, look for symptoms of COVID-19, and check your temperature if you feel sick. is a useful link to calculate when you need to be tested to meet international travel criteria for Covid-19 PCR testing.

CDC has listed some Covid-19 travel recommendations by destination for those who are planning a holiday. It recommends that people can travel to places where the Covid-19 infection rate is very low like Cayman Islands, Fiji, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and a few others. Most countries have reported very high rates of Covid-19, hence travel to them should be avoided. Since the U.S. is currently the most affected country in the world, you need to find out which countries are welcoming U.S. tourists. At the moment, travel destinations like The Bahamas, Aruba, Dubai, Jamaica, The Maldives, Mexico and a few others are open to welcoming U.S. tourists. The U.S. Department of State has also issued Covid-19 traveller information to those who want to travel abroad or those who are already outside the U.S. Some of the information includes reading guidelines for prevention, travel restrictions and how to keep workplaces, homes, schools and commercial establishments safe.

Check the Buckhead Medicine website and read our blogs for more information about Covid-19. Read our blog on how long you need to isolate if you are exposed to Covid-19 and about insurance coverage for Covid-19 testing.