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Travellers Can Get Free COVID-19 Tests In The US & Some Canadians Are Using Them To Get Home

They're saving hundreds of dollars, but there is a catch.👇💰

Trending Editor
Travellers Can Get Free COVID-19 Tests In The US & Some Canadians Are Using Them To Get Home

Some travellers are finding ways to avoid spending hundreds of dollars on Canada's COVID-19 testing requirements, thanks to free services in the United States.

As of November 8, fully vaccinated Canadians are not required to take a COVID-19 test to cross the land border into the U.S. However, the same does not apply when returning home.

All land and air travellers aged 5 and up — regardless of their vaccination status — must take a molecular COVID-19 test in the 72 hours before entering Canada.

The rule even applies to Canadian travellers stopping in the U.S. for a matter of hours, although they are able to take a pre-entry test in Canada prior to leaving.

In all cases, rapid antigen tests are not accepted.

How are travellers avoiding the costs?

To avoid paying up to $200 for a molecular test to return home, some Canadians are utilizing free testing services at stores and pharmacies in the U.S.

On their websites, companies like Walgreens, RiteAid and BeeperMD say they offer free COVID-19 testing.

RiteAid's site promises that its drive-thru testing "meets requirements for travel to Canada."

While the services are funded by the U.S. government, in some cases they are being used by Canadian travellers who want to avoid forking out hundreds of dollars.

CBC News reports that thousands of Canadian travellers, including snowbirds, have received free PCR tests from BeeperMD, while others say they were able to get tested for no cost at Walgreens locations.

Canadians who'd skipped paying told CBC that they were able to access the services despite having a Canadian driver's licence and no American medical insurance.

Although free testing is available, there are usually no return-time guarantees for non-paying customers. Not getting test results on time could mean being unable to return to Canada as planned.

What if you take your own test?

Self-administered PCR tests, which can be taken by the traveller during their trip, cost anywhere from $120 upwards.

Rexall Pharmacy sells a take-home test starting at $200, while Costco sells do-it-yourself PCR tests for $120. Air Canada has their own version, starting at $149.

Canada's testing requirements have been a point of contention since the U.S. announced it would be fully reopening its borders as of November 8, as molecular COVID-19 tests are more expensive and harder to come by than rapid antigen versions.

Speaking on November 5, Canada's top doctor revealed that officials were actively looking at the country's entry requirements and said the rules may need to be "re-examined."

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.

    Helena Hanson
    Trending Editor
    Helena Hanson is a Senior Editor for Narcity Canada's Trending Desk focused on major news. She previously lived in Ottawa, but is now based in the U.K.
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