How to get a COVID-19 test certificate for international travel

With some airlines and countries requiring a 'negative' coronavirus test before travel, here's how to get your test certificate.

By Chris Chamberlin, September 22 2020
How to get a COVID-19 test certificate for international travel

While most international travel from Australia remains suspended, those holding a government-granted departure exemption have cleared only the first of several hurdles to exit the country.

Even if suitable return flights can be found despite the government’s caps on international passenger arrivals, many airlines and destinations also require proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test result.

Skip this important step and you won’t pass the check-in desk, so here’s what you need to know about coronavirus testing ahead of your international flight.

COVID-19: Who can get tested in Australia?

Anybody in Australia can undergo a test for COVID-19, including those with imminent travel plans who believe they’re healthy and aren’t exhibiting any symptoms of the virus.

However, free tests are normally only given to those with symptoms, those who have been referred for testing by their GP, or those who meet certain criteria for no-cost testing in their state or territory, as determined by local authorities.

Other tests, such as for healthy would-be travellers, are normally user-pays at private clinics or collection centres.

Do I need a COVID-19 test to travel?

Whether you require a negative COVID-19 test will depend on the requirements of your airline and your destination country, as well as any country that you’ll transit through as part of your journey.

As these requirements continue to change, contact your airline for further information.

That said, at the time of publishing, both Emirates and Etihad are among the airlines that mandate COVID-19 testing prior to travel.

Before your flight to or through the United Arab Emirates (Dubai or Abu Dhabi), you’ll need to be tested for COVID-19 no earlier than 96 hours before your flight’s scheduled departure time, and you’ll need to have a certificate verifying your negative test result.

Etihad Airways advises that this test can be completed “at any government accredited medical facility,” with Emirates similarly confirming that the test “can be carried out at any COVID-19 clinic” – in Australia, at least.

Remember, your testing provider will need to issue you with a negative testing certificate after your results come back, so a text message, phone call or voicemail message with your test results won’t be sufficient evidence to travel.

Where to get COVID-19 testing for Emirates flights

Although Emirates advises that tests can be conducted at any 'COVID-19 clinic', the airline maintains a roster of suggested locations for its Australian passengers, as linked via its published Approved Laboratories list.

Whether your Emirates flight departs from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth, you can search online for a clinic – or visit any other accredited Australian medical facility that can similarly provide a negative testing certificate.

Here are just some of the eligible testing centres across Australia, as can be booked via Emirates' suggested channel, Pure Health:

  • New South Wales: Many Laverty Pathology and 4Cyte locations, some QML facilities.
  • Victoria: Many Dorevitch Pathology and 4Cyte venues.
  • Queensland: Many QML and some 4Cyte locations.
  • Western Australia: Listed Western Diagnostics locations only.
  • South Australia: Abbott Pathology in Adelaide (the only location).
  • Tasmania: TML Pathology (one venue in each of Hobart and Launceston only).
  • Australian Capital Territory: Listed Laverty Pathology venues.
  • Northern Territory: No testing centres available via Pure Health.

While no suggested testing venues are available in the NT, and with limited 'suggested' locations in some of the other jurisdictions, travellers may prefer to choose their own clinic, provided a printed negative testing certificate can be issued.

If you’re taking a return trip, you’ll need to get another COVID-19 test prior to your journey back to Australia.

Depending on your departure country, you may need to visit a specific COVID-19 testing facility or clinic in order to have the airline recognise the results and allow you to board.

You can browse a full list of "authorised COVID-19 test laboratories" around the world via the Emirates website.

How much does it cost to get a COVID-19 test?

As those travelling overseas should be healthy and not displaying symptoms of COVID-19, tests enabling international travel would generally be on a user-pays basis.

This includes tests undertaken at facilities 'suggested' by Emirates which are booked online in Australia or otherwise arranged overseas.

While fees in other countries will vary, expect to pay AED379 (approximately A$141) for a COVID-19 test in Australia booked via Emirates’ provider, Pure Health. This fee includes both the test, and the certificate you’ll need to board your flight, once your test results are known.

Other companies offer similar pricing, such as Healius, which charges $150 per test. This includes a printable certificate sent by email upon a negative result, but check whether your airline and destination will accept this.

Why can’t I get a free COVID-19 test for travel?

Put simply, government-funded testing for COVID-19 is generally reserved for those who have symptoms of the virus or are otherwise believed to be at risk, such as having been in contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or having visited a known ‘hotspot’.

Of course, these are people who shouldn’t be contemplating immediate travel.

With a few exceptions, government-funded testing isn’t offered for those who merely need a negative test result to enable their international journey – particularly if the person wouldn’t have otherwise been in a category recommended for testing.

It’s also worth noting that most ‘free’ tests provide the results via text message or phone call: so even if you’re able to get tested at no charge, you may not have the appropriate paperwork accepted by your airline or destination, if required.

Rapid pre-flight COVID-19 testing

Many in the aviation industry believe that rapid testing for COVID-19 could help re-open borders, create travel bubbles, and bring about a ‘new normal’ for international travel while vaccines remain under development and testing.

Earlier this month, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce noted that rapid tests can help establish ”whether you’re exposed to COVID-19, which means if you pass there’s no need to be in quarantine at the other end.”

Those tests are “potentially super-fast, 15 minutes or so,” Joyce recounted, and would enable travel between countries “that have like levels of transmission – New Zealand, maybe Japan, maybe some counties in Asia."

Currently, it takes 1-3 days to receive a result from a COVID-19 PCR test – the type airlines such as Emirates are presently requiring for travel – although if rapid testing were to be more widely adopted and with greater accuracy, passengers could be tested at the airport prior to check-in, with results promptly known.

Also read: Could airport COVID testing replace quarantine?

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 192

Interesting how Emirates and Etihad choose to interpret and comply with UAE rules regarding transit through their respective hubs in the kingdom.

Travellers should be warned that some labs appears to slow down in processing and reporting during weekends (as evident in usually lower numbers announced on Sunday and Mondays) so if there is a long weekend involved in the 96 hour testing window, they may need to make sure the lab tech process their swab as urgent rather than routine, even though normally it should take at most 24 hours to come back

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2011

Total posts 149

NSW provide results via email if you link it with Services NSW. They are also available to view through the Services NSW app.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 509

I know people who have been trying to get a Serology (Antibody) Covid test and this isn't available in Australia from what anyone tells myself. I'm sure if this test was done there would be a lot more people showing up as having had Covid and wouldn't these people be able to travel within Australia and Oversea more easily.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2019

Total posts 3

In New Zealand it is possible to get the test for NZ$250.  

As this article which appeared in the UK's Telegraph, many people may already have immunity.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

14 Apr 2013

Total posts 333

Does the United States (US) have any Covid-19 requirements for Australians entering? I have been trying to find information on line but have not found anything.

20 Apr 2015

Total posts 15

The US has entry conditions based on origin country not country of nationality. Note that if travelling from Australia you won't be able to leave the country unless you get approval (or meet the other departure requirements)

that's today but not after Dec 17, 2020

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Mar 2017

Total posts 6

Chances are the border closure will be extended again, as they've done twice already. At current rate of increasing infections in Europe and no slowing down in the US, I don't see our borders opened anytime soon. 

21 Dec 2016

Total posts 38

There are no Covid-related entry requirements if you are coming from Australia, providing there is no transit in a third country that the USA has designated as high risk.  For Australians, that probably just means China, but Brazil is another; and Europe is a third.

You are no longer required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in the US; but if you are coming to New York, for example, you may be required to self-isolate on arrival if you are connecting from a flight in a state that is considered "high risk" . That list can be found here: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-travel-advisory

03 Jan 2012

Total posts 97

You cannot enter unless you're a Citizen of USA or a Green card Holder.

07 May 2020

Total posts 62

As I understand it, Singapore Airlines does not require a covid test for transiting via Changi. When purchasing a ticket out of Australia you have to factor in the additional $150 required by some airlines. I wonder how long airlines like Emirates will want to be uncompetitive with Singapore Airlines on the way to Europe.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 192

@GoRobin

It’s a UAE requirement for transit pax and ironically it appears that Emirates’ arrangement meant its slightly cheaper (AUD141) than some other Australian labs which is reported as AUD150++.

Before somebody screams unfair pricing, I looked up some English speaking destinations, Singapore is SGD200, UK minimum £130, whereas US is USD100++ but suspect the cheap end is an antibodies test not a PCR test.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

31 Aug 2017

Total posts 5

Hi GO ROBIN, I have a flight auckland - changi end november on SQ an naturally i will do a civis test via my GP unless someone her can direct me to a testing facility in auckland as on 02 dec i have a flight to Yangon myanmar on myanmar airlines international an d i realise that upon arrival into Changi 28 Nov, I need to do a rst thee does anyone her know if I do reaquire an ATP to arrive sgp or an air travel Passan I have read this on SQ online pages.thanks to all

24 Sep 2020

Total posts 1

I just want to point out that while Laverty, 4Cyte and Dorevitch are recommended collection centres if you live in Australia you are not limited to those companies exclusively. If there's a different clinic/collection centre that's closer to you that provides COVID-19 testing they'll also be able to provide the test you need (as long as it uses the PCR – polymer chain reaction method and the test is performed 96 hours before you fly).

The Purehealth application provides a good list of available labs in Australia, but it's not comprehensive. If you check the documentation provided by Emirates they state 'You can either use the recommended laboratories in the list or any trusted and certified laboratories in your country of origin to get your COVID-19 PCR test.'

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Aug 2014

Total posts 215

These spurious "rapid testing" kits are a dismal solution to pre-departure screening. They have a consistently documented high rate of false negatives (up to 29%), meaning COVID positive travellers will board flights with misplaced confidence, and won't quarantine on arrival at their destination. I think Alan Joyce needs to tread very carefully when advocating for such arrangements, which -- while certainly convenient -- are not sufficiently reliable.


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