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My experience getting a COVID-19 test at the airport in Canada

Aug. 16, 2021
7 min read
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Earlier this week, I traveled to Canada to cover the country's reopening to fully vaccinated American tourists. The entry process was easy — all you need is proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 PCR test and the ArriveCAN app on your smartphone. You can read my full entry story right here on TPG.

I returned from Canada two days later and had to get a COVID-19 test to reenter the U.S. As a refresher: The U.S. government requires a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before your flight to the U.S. departs. This can be a rapid test, PCR test or approved at-home tests.

This time, I traveled to Canada without an at-home test in hand — largely because of ongoing issues with getting an appointment. So, I looked for an appointment in Montreal and found a testing center at Montreal Trudeau International Airport (YUL). I'll walk you through the process of booking an appointment and getting tested prior to my return to U.S. soil.

Let's take a look at how it went.

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How to find and book a COVID-19 test in Canada

COVID-19 testing in Canada is harder to find than here in the U.S., but it's easy enough if you know where to look. (Photo by Bob Hilscher/Shutterstock.com)

Since I was returning to the U.S. from Quebec, I looked on the Quebec government's website to find a local testing center. This proved to be less than helpful. In short, it showed me local testing centers that are generally not for travel purposes. So, I then looked specifically for travel COVID-19 tests with a quick Google search.

Finding a COVID-19 test for travel in Canada

Here, I found a couple of different options. One was with Sante Medic — a local immediate care clinic. This company offers both PCR and antigen testing. You can purchase a PCR test for $199 CAD or a rapid antigen test for $150 CAD, equal to roughly $159 USD and $120 USD, respectively.

The other option was Biron, a Canadian healthcare company that runs a COVID-19 testing clinic at Montreal airport. You have three different options with Biron. The first is what most travelers to the U.S. will choose: a $149 CAD ($119 USD) rapid test with 15-minute results. You can also opt to get a PCR test with one-hour results for $299 CAD ($239 USD) or 48-hour results for $250 CAD ($199 USD). Of course, I opted for the rapid test.

Booking a COVID-19 rapid antigen test with Biron

I booked an antigen test online two days before my flight back to the U.S. I booked my test on Biron's website and selected the "Rapid antigenic" test, which promised 15-minute results. The sign-up process is pretty straightforward — start by picking the date you'd like to be tested and you'll move to a sign-up screen.

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(Screenshot courtesy of biron.com)

Here, enter your airline, destination country and the time you'd like to take your test. Biron recommends you pick a time that's at least 3.5 hours prior to departure. This should give you more than enough time to take the test, get results and head through security. In reality, it was more than enough time.

(Screenshot courtesy of biron.com)

After this, follow the on-screen prompts to complete the booking process. You have to prepay for your test online and all tests are charged in Canadian dollars. Make sure you pay with a card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card that earns 2x miles on all purchases.

Also remember that you'll need a PCR test to enter Canada, even if you're fully vaccinated. Check out TPG's full guide to getting a COVID-19 test for travel for more information on where to get one.

Related: Forget free breakfast: The hottest hotel amenity is a nasal swab

Getting a test at Montreal Airport

Actually getting the test was remarkably easy. Montreal airport has a single terminal, and the testing center is located near door 4 in the departures area. This is in-between the domestic and U.S. trans-border gates. If you're taking a taxi or Uber, ask the driver to drop you off near the door so you don't need to walk through the terminal.

(Photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy)

There's a sign right near door 4 that directs you to the COVID-19 testing location. Follow the signs to the back of the terminal to find the testing center. The walk took less than a minute from the door.

(Photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy)

Once there, I approached the check-in counter 10 minutes before my test was scheduled. The check-in representative directed me to sanitize my hands and proceed to another check-in desk. Here, another representative asked to see my passport and order confirmation email. The email states that the confirmation should be printed, but the agent didn't have a problem reading it off of my iPhone.

I then made my way to the testing booth and was immediately tested. The swab wasn't as deep as I've experienced with other tests and was completely painless. The person who tested me directed me to sit in a waiting area across from the testing booth until my results were available.

(Photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy)

Roughly 20 minutes later, my name was called and I walked to another table where a Biron representative scanned my passport. She then handed me my test results (thankfully negative) and I was on my way.

(Photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy)

Oddly enough, my test was never checked during the check-in, U.S. preclearance or boarding process. I wouldn't count on this being the case for all travelers, though. I like to think that this was an early reopening mishap.

(Photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy)

Related: Going on vacation soon? Make sure you have the right COVID-19 test

Bottom line

All in all, it was easy to get a COVID-19 test in Canada, albeit expensive. But if you're traveling back to the U.S., there's no easier way to get tested than at the airport. For reference, you'll also find on-site COVID-19 testing at other major Canadian airports like Toronto (YYZ) and Vancouver (YVR). Just make sure to secure an appointment ahead of time so your preferred time doesn't get booked up.

Feature photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy.

Featured image by (Photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023