A comprehensive guide to COVID tests for travel

Fully vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents are now able to travel overseas without an exemption. Here’s what you need to know about pre-departure COVID tests when leaving Australia.

You’ll need to provide evidence of your vaccination status when you check in at the airport. 

If you aren’t eligible for vaccination (such as those under 12 years of age) or can’t be vaccinated due to medical reasons, you’ll be treated the same as a vaccinated person.

If you’re not fully vaccinated, you still need to apply for an exemption to leave Australia.

It’s your responsibility to ensure you meet the entry criteria of the country you’re travelling to. You need to be aware of what documentation and requirements are needed, including:

  • any necessary COVID testing
  • a valid passport
  • a visa
  • any compulsory insurance, and
  • proof of vaccination.

Read: Post-COVID travel preparation

International COVID vaccination certificates
You can get an Australian-issued International COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC) that proves your vaccination history. To get a certificate you will need to have your passport details on hand.

Pre-departure COVID testing requirements
The Australian government currently mandates that before you can board a plane bound for overseas travel, you need to provide evidence of a negative PCR test from a laboratory taken 72 hours or less before scheduled departure. This is necessary even if you are fully vaccinated.

What type of pre-departure test do I need to have before boarding my flight?
At check-in, you must give proof of a negative COVID polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result provided by a laboratory. PCR is a common and simplified way to describe reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing. Test results that state ‘PCR’ or ‘RT-PCR’ as the testing method are acceptable for pre-departure testing.

You can’t head to your local pop-up testing clinic for a free test; this is not sufficient for overseas travel. If you try to present an SMS showing a negative result, you will not be given the necessary travel documents and be denied boarding. 

PCR testing is the only accepted form of testing for travellers and is the gold standard worldwide, accepted by all airlines and governments.

Do I need to book a PCR test?
Tests have to be taken within 72 hours or less, so book accordingly. Registered travel agents can organise this for you when you’re booking the rest of your travel and can build it into your itinerary.

Read: Avalon airport first to introduce COVID testing kiosks

Do I still need to have a pre-departure test if I have had a COVID vaccine?
Yes, you still need to give evidence of a negative COVID PCR test result. If you have been vaccinated, you should also carry your vaccination certificate with you while travelling.

I have had my COVID PCR test and received my negative test result certificate. However, my flight has been delayed outside of the 72-hour window. What should I do?

If your flight is delayed, you have met the pre-departure testing requirements. You do not need a new test.

However, if your flight has been rescheduled or cancelled, you will need to provide evidence of a new negative COVID PCR test result, taken no more than 72 hours before the rescheduled or newly booked flight.

Are COVID PCR tests for travel covered by Medicare?
No, they are at the expense of the traveller and no Medicare rebate is available. They typically cost around $100 per traveller.

For example, Sydney a drive through testing service by COVID TEST by Blue Powder Travel will cost you $109. A home testing service by them will cost $139.

How do I get my results?
The results are typically emailed to you in the form of a certificate. Depending on the time of collection, a result may be available later the same day, or on the next day.

Read: Why Aussie rapid COVID tests are heading overseas

Are there any exemptions from the pre-departure testing requirements?
Yes. Exemptions from the pre-departure testing requirements include:

  • children aged under five years (four years and younger) at the time of check-in for the scheduled flight departure
  • people with a medical condition (who can give a medical certificate)
  • international air crew.

Do you have any other questions about COVID PCR tests for travel? Please let us know in the comments section below.

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -