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Earlier this year, the United States began requiring all travelers flying to the U.S. To show proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding. The only travelers exempt from this rule are those flying to U.S. Territories or arriving via a land border like Mexico or Canada.
But COVID-19 tests can be expensive, particularly if you don’t have insurance or are traveling with a family. And in some places in the U.S., approved tests for travel can be hard to find. This question from TPG reader Patricia Mattheiss is one that I’m sure travelers are wondering now that Canada has reopened for travel.
Do I need two COVID-19 tests — one in the U.S. Before we go into Canada and one in Canada — before we return to the U.S.? Will the test we take to enter Canada suffice as our return test?
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The U.S. Is pretty flexible in terms of what tests are allowed for entry and accepts PCR, rapid antigen tests and even certain take-home tests.
The testing mandate only applies to air travel, so travelers arriving in the U.S. From Canada by car don’t need to bring a negative coronavirus test. However, it’s important to note that the rules differ for travelers reentering the United States by land or air.
When I visited Niagara Falls earlier this month, my negative COVID-19 test was checked at the Canadian land border. Upon returning to Buffalo, the border agent simply checked my passport and waved me along.
The Points Guy Cole Burston/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Travel got slightly more complicated when Canada reopened to fully vaccinated U.S. Citizens on Aug. 9. Unlike the U.S., travelers have to take a test within 72 hours of departure regardless of whether they’re driving or flying into Canada.
So, yes, when you get a COVID-19 PCR test to enter Canada before leaving the U.S., that same test will get you back into the country as long as it’s been three days or less. That means you wouldn’t need to take two tests.
If you’ll be out of the country for longer than three days, you’d need to take another test before flying back to the U.S.
And remember: Right now, PCR tests are still considered the “gold standard” of COVID-19 tests. They are the only type of test suitable to enter Canada.
Government leaders in the U.S. And Canada first announced the border closure in March 2020, and it had been extended on a near-monthly basis until Canada announced its reopening. However, while Canada is open to fully vaccinated Americans, the United States has not yet reciprocated.
The U.S. Extended the closure of the land border with Canada to nonessential travel through at least Sept. 21, 2021.
Featured photo by Victoria Walker/The Points Guy
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We started the summer full of optimism and enthusiasm thanks to the rollout of vaccines and the return of travel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rolled back warnings on travel in the spring, so we planned vacations and reunited with loved ones. Everything was on the upswing — until it wasn’t.
“We were so close we could see the finish line,” says Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Were it not for the extremely low vaccination rates in the middle of the country, we probably wouldn’t be seeing a delta surge like this.”
The surge of the delta variant has brought back the need for early pandemic precautions such as mask mandates and travel restrictions. But what about testing for travel?
Last year, the CDC recommended testing before a trip, sometimes after you arrived in your destination, and again when you returned home (although, they preferred people would quarantine).
I have been getting coronavirus tests to travel throughout the pandemic, both when it was required (i.E., to go to Hawaii and to go to France) and when it wasn’t. It has given me peace of mind — even after getting vaccinated — and alleviated some guilt about traveling this year.
To find out if this is a worthwhile endeavor, especially amid delta, I talked to health experts for their takes.
What to ask yourself before traveling during the delta outbreak
27 people test positive for coronavirus on Carnival cruise ship The case for getting tested to travel
Brandon Brown, an epidemiologist and an associate professor of public health and medical ethics at University of California at Riverside, says testing is important before and after travel for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
“It’s useful to be aware of those and be sure not to unknowingly bring virus back into your home and those living with you,” he said in an email.
Brown also says the spread of delta reiterates the importance of, “getting tested if you suspect you could have been exposed since you can still spread the virus even if vaccinated.”