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COVID-19 Travel Testing – What do I need to know?

Most countries currently require some form of test – whether you’re vaccinated or not – before you can board an aircraft or clear customs. That’s where the easy part ends. At GenePace, we’re going to try and help you make sense of all the different requirements so you can concentrate on what matters most – getting to your destination safely.

Traveling Time Frame

Countries generally require a test performed between 48-72 hours prior to your departure or arrival. We recommend consulting the airline or the country you’re traveling to and see if they specify a difference between departure and arrival. While the airline can be a good starting point, most countries have a dedicated website concerning requirements for entry.

Types of testing

This has been another source of confusion we have seen. The most common requirement is an “RT-PCR”. This stands for reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. This uses RNA as a template and, after amplification, reverse transcribes it into complimentary DNA. One of the reasons this test is required by certain countries is it’s very high sensitivity and specificity. Some countries don’t specify RT-PCR and other methods may be acceptable. Be very careful with this requirement as we have heard from many people turned away at the airport because they didn’t have an RT-PCR.Rapid antigen testing is another type of test we have seen accepted by some countries. Also known as a “rapid test”, this detects a specific protein or “antigen” in a lateral flow cassette and typically takes 10-20 minutes. The benefits of a rapid test include cost, convenience, and time. The downsides to a rapid antigen test are mostly sacrifices in sensitivity and/or specificity when compared to a PCR. Always pay very close attention to the type of test required. If requirements simply state “a negative COVID test”, a rapid antigen test will usually be acceptable. However, we strongly recommend confirming this before booking.

Unusual requests

This part has been the trickiest. We have seen some require a QR code on the test result, other documentation to fill out, or a specific type of swab (e.g. nasopharyngeal swab) be used and documented on the result. GenePace can typically accommodate these requests and we will work with you to ensure you meet the requirements mandated by the country you’re traveling to. 

Does my insurance cover my test for travel?

Generally, no. Insurance or the federal government will cover a COVID test if you’re symptomatic, have been exposed, or believe you were possibly exposed. Insurance will usually decline reimbursement for a test used for travel purposes. Because of this, we won’t ask for your insurance card when you need a test for travel and you can avoid the possibility of an unexpected bill.

What else do I need to know?

We believe the above has covered the basics and we realize this “new normal” can seem overwhelming. We don’t see ourselves as just a testing provider. We take a consultative approach and will work with you to figure out or clarify any unusual requirements. In short, call or email us! Our phone number is 463-999-0558 and email is We encourage you to visit our website to book your test and look forward to seeing you at one of our locations in Indianapolis, IN or Arlington, VA!

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