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Updated 20 July 2021

What would air travel be like post-pandemic? Experts and industry players have their guesses, but one thing’s for sure: testing will be a fixture in the travel process for a while. In some countries, quarantines and tests are already requirements for arrivals, even.

Do I need a COVID test to fly?

If you’re looking to travel internationally, more and more countries are requiring travellers—particularly tourists or non-residents— to submit a negative RT-PCR test report from an accredited or approved laboratory conducted within a specific time window. 

Similarly, travelling domestically means adhering to rules that may or may not be less stringent depending on which country you’re in and the policy of the individual airlines themselves.

So to reiterate, the need for pre-flight COVID testing depends on where you are and where you’re travelling to. You can learn more about Covid Test For Travel In 2021 (All Countries) if you have a particular destination in mind.

To find out if you’re required to take a pre-flight COVID test, please consult the following:

Middle East & North Africa

Africa

Asia

Europe

North America

South America

Oceania

Some countries allow for quarantine-free travel experience provided travellers arrive with a negative COVID-19 test result. Learn more about Quarantine Guidelines For Travel In 2021 (All Countries) on our dedicated page.

What kind of COVID test should I take?

The most common and reliable form of testing is the RT-PCR (Real-time Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction) test. While rapid antigen tests along with antibody tests are also available, they may not be accepted due to issues with false positives/negatives occurrences.

As of now, the primary method is a nasopharyngeal swab, which is a swab through the nose and the back of the throat. However, some tests are being developed so the test can be administered using saliva sample.

Where can I get tested?

You can get tested in a number of places including pharmacies, clinics, hospitals and even airports. However, in most cases, contacting your healthcare provider is the recommended course of action as they would be able to provide you with the latest local information on testing and what you would need to do in order to acquire the negative certificate required for flying.

For a comprehensive list of all testing centers in the UAE, please do refer to the following.

How long until I get my result?

If you’re planning on flying somewhere, do take into account the fact that most domestic and international destinations allow a 72-hour window from the time of testing until the time of arrival.

That said, turnaround time varies depending on the method of testing where you took the test. While an RT-PCR test is notoriously fast and is capable of producing results within 30 to 40 minutes, it may take a day or two for the results to be available and delivered.

All in all, the time needed to complete a COVID test on average should be between a few days and a week.

How much does a COVID test cost?

It’s a good idea to check with your airline for COVID test prior to flying as airlines usually have partnerships established with labs and clinics allowing for discounted rates.

Etihad Airways

Etihad is offering discounted COVID-19 tests in Abu Dhabi. If you’re flying from Abu Dhabi, you can save on the cost of your COVID-19 PCR test with discounted testing at G42 and LifeDx clinics across the UAE. If flying in First or Business class, you can also arrange for your sample to be collected from home.

You can inquire about the cost of COVID tests arranged with LifeDx here and arrange a test with G42 by calling 02 205 5999

Emirates Airline

Emirates has expanded its medical partnerships to offer all passengers exclusive home or office COVID‑19 PCR testing rates at the following centres:

Al Tadawi Medical Centre

  • Located at Al Masood building, Airport Road, Port Saeed area, Deira.
  • The test costs AED 130 per person. Home or office testing within Dubai costs AED 240 per person. Test results will be available within 24 hours.

Prime Medical Centres

Locations in Dubai:

  • Al Qusais Branch, Damascus Street
  • Premier Diagnostic and Medical Center, Salah Al Din Street
  • Prime Corp Medical Center, Salah Al Din Street, Deira
  • Sheikh Zayed Branch, Sheikh Zayed Street, near Noor Islamic Bank
  • Prime Specialist Medical Center Sharjah Branch, King Faisal St, Al Majaz
  • Ajman Branch, Grand Mall, Sheikh Khalifa St

The test costs AED 150 per person. Home or office testing within Dubai for a minimum of two passengers is also available at AED 240 per person. Test results will be available within 24 hours.

Flydubai

Flydubai has partnered with Aster DM Healthcare and NMC Healthcare to offer passengers PCR testing at special rates. These special rates are available at select Aster and NMC facilities.

To take advantage of these special rates, passengers must be able to present a valid flydubai booking confirmation along with their Emirates ID or passport copy. The fee will need to be paid at the time of testing which passengers are encouraged to arrange in accordance with their flight schedule to ensure the test report is valid at the time of their departure.

For Aster DM Healthcare, flydubai passengers are eligible for PCR testing at a special rate of AED 150 per test with the test report being issued within 24 hours of testing.

For NMC Healthcare, flydubai passengers are eligible for PCR testing at special rates. Certain facilities offer an AED 85 per test rate while other facilities offer AED 150 per test. Test reports will be issued within 24 to 48 hours of testing.

Please consult flydubai’s special testing rate page here.

 

Will I need to get tested if I’ve been vaccinated?

As clarified by the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA), unvaccinated individuals may have to face strict restrictions on their movement. So in the coming years, vaccination certificates will be irreplaceable if you want to travel internationally hassle-free, without having to undergo testing and quarantine.

Emiratis can now download their vaccination card on the Al Hosn app, which will act as UAE’s national COVID vaccine registry.

You can also download and share your official vaccination reports in PDF format on the app via email or message. The information is presented in both English and Arabic on official letterheads.

For now, there haven’t been any official rulings on whether or not vaccinated travellers would be exempted from getting tested prior to flying out. However, in a bid to encourage more and more people to take the jabs, several businesses and institutes in the UAE are handing out incentives to holders of the vaccine card. Some of which include restaurants and hotels discounts, complimentary taxi rides as well as driving lessons discounts.

PCR tests are also mandatory if symptoms of Covid-19 are present.

As the UAE COVID vaccine cards become more and more widespread, there’s always the chance that the perks being offered will eventually extend to no-testing flights somewhere down the line.