How Does an Antigen Test Work for Travelling?

How Does an Antigen Test Work for Travelling?

As the world slowly returns to normality after the tumultuous period of lockdowns and travel bans caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, testing for the virus has become mandatory for travelling between states and countries. 

While some countries only accept the results of PCR tests, others accept negative test results of any kind. One such test that has gained acceptance is the antigen test, which is quick and easy to administer. 

Antigen tests are quick and are approved by several countries to confirm if travellers are infected with the virus before they are allowed to enter the country.

In this article, we will delve into what is an antigen test and when is the best time to get tested before travelling. 

What Is an Antigen Test?

An antigen test is a diagnostic test that detects specific proteins, called antigens, on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. While countries like Belize and Jamaica require PCR tests, many accept rapid antigen test results. 

A lateral flow test lets you self-perform the test using a nasal swab from your nose. Lateral flow testing results are as fast as 15 minutes. They are considered less accurate than PCR tests but are still useful for identifying people with active infections who are most likely to spread the virus to others.

Do You Need a Rapid Antigen Test to Travel?

It’s important to note that COVID-19 testing requirements for travel are constantly changing, so it’s essential to stay up-to-date on the latest guidelines for your destination. Some countries may require a negative antigen test for travel, while others may only accept proof of vaccination or antibodies. 

Check the travel requirements for each country here

If you are travelling from a non-red list country like England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland, you may not need a test certificate, but getting tested before you travel is still a good idea. 

Additionally, while the legal requirement to isolate in case of a positive test result has been lifted in some countries as of March 18, 2022, it’s still recommended to self-isolate for at least five days if you test positive. Be sure to check the official government website for the country you plan to visit to ensure you have the correct documentation. 

When to Do an Antigen Test Before Travelling?

When travelling internationally, planning backwards from your departure date is important to ensure you have enough time to get a COVID-19 test within the required timeframe. 

The timeframe for testing before departure can vary depending on the country you visit, so be sure to check their specific requirements. 

Some countries may require testing 48, 72, or 96 hours before departure, so it’s important to factor that into your planning. 

Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that weekends may impact testing availability and results, so take the test as early as possible within the required timeframe to ensure you have enough time to receive the results.


An antigen test is a quick and easy way to test for COVID-19 before travelling internationally. The test detects specific proteins on the virus’s surface and can provide results in as little as 15 minutes. 

It’s important to check the specific requirements for the country you’re visiting and plan accordingly, as some countries may require testing within a certain time frame before departure. 

Understanding how the antigen test works and planning accordingly can ensure a smooth and safe journey.

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