USA covid travel tips

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NOTE: This page is a daughter page of: Travel


Warning: This page was last updated April 22, 2022. Please use the official links in this section to see what may have changed.


Traveling to the United States from overseas used to be relatively easy.

"All travelers entering the United States from all other countries need a passport upon arrival (regardless of their country of citizenship). Permanent residents and foreign nationals may also need a U.S. visa. You must apply for a visa before you start your trip."

-- Source (usa.gov)
-- PS: For ~40 countries including the Australia and UK you may not require this under the Visa Waiver Program).

Now sadly you also have to worry about COVID.


Traveling to the USA During Covid

As of April 22 2022 (when I last updated this) the smartraveller.gov.au and cdc.gov websites says that:

  • If you're aged 18 and over you must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination to travel to the US by air, unless you're a US citizen, US permanent resident, or qualify for one of the exceptions to this requirement.
  • If you plan to travel internationally, you will need to get a COVID-19 viral test (regardless of vaccination status or citizenship) no more than 1 day before you travel by air into the United States. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight.
  • If you recently recovered from COVID-19, you may instead travel with documentation of recovery from COVID-19 (i.e., your positive COVID-19 viral test result on a sample taken no more than 90 days before the flight’s departure from a foreign country and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).

Srolling into the FAQ section they talk about what types:

  • You must be tested with a viral test to look for current infection – these include an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT).
  • ... Available NAAT tests include but are not restricted to: ... PCR, NEAR, LAMP, HDA, CRISPR, SDA
  • ... Rapid tests (RAT) are acceptable if they are a viral test that meet the requirements under the Order. (?!?)


... Rapid tests are the fastest, and in most places can be done in 15 minutes, instead of rolling the dice on a free PCR or paying huge money for a overnight PCR, but unfortunately the wording "if they are a viral test that meet the requirements" is really vaigue.

Traveling from Australia to the United States During Covid

RAT (Rapid) Tests > (Should be Supported)

It's still not clear to me if a ~$40 supervised rapid test is sufficent, because the wording on the CDC website is unclear.... also I wish the CDC specifically clarified what "more than 1 day before you travel" means exactly, because I assume it means "no more than 24 hours before the first leg of your flight to the US" and to many this distinction could made a big difference. Here's some places to call around that might help though:

  • Terry White Chemist - the ones in Cairns didn't do test, but bigger cities might.
  • Priceline Chemist - the ones in Cairns did tests for $42, you can call ahead to book.
  • Chemist Warehouse - I never called them, but someone else said they might do supervised RAT tests.

PCR Tests > (More Accuate, Very Expensive)

at least in Queensland, is pretty lacking in good PRC tests, you usually need a GP approval (a physical visit to your doctor which takes time + visit fee but is needed for bulk billing) and won't guarentee you get your results in 3 days, let alone under 24 hours.

So in other words you might have to go private. In my case, in Cairns, Queensland I had two places I was told to call:

It sucked balls, but I had to pay the $275 for the QML (I found a "flthacks" discount code that worked by $20 off doesn't reduce the sting by that much). That's daylight robberly, but at least QML sent me a 2 page password protected PDF which I had to print off, then took to the clinic at 23 hours before my flight. In capital cities, they might have some fairly affortable rapid tests avaiable at the airports, meaning that country folk often have to stay overnight at big cities to get their test results before a flight.


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