Texarkana Gazette

What travelers need to know about getting a virus test in Mexico


BY NATALIE B. COMPTON | THE WASHINGTON POST With coronaviru­s cases still on the rise, and a faster-spreading variant causing heightened concerns, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new order requiring Americans to get a coronaviru­s test before returning home from trips abroad.

For American travelers, the new order means new complicati­ons to trip planning. Some have opted to cancel their trip altogether, worried that they wouldn’t be able to comply with inbound testing requiremen­ts or it would be too costly.

While both the CDC and State Department websites recommend Americans rethink travel plans to Mexico because of coronaviru­s risks, they also outline exactly what the new order means for travelers.

We spoke with Mexico tourism insiders to find out how Americans can get a coronaviru­s test in Mexico, which one they need to get home, how much it will cost them and what happens if they test positive.

What does the new rule require?

Beginning on Jan. 26, those traveling back to the United States by plane will be required to test negative for the coronaviru­s no more than three days before their flight home, and show proof of their negative result (or that they’ve recovered from COVID-19) before boarding.

Travelers can get either a PCR test — considered the gold standard, which can cost more and takes a few days to process results — or

an antigen test, a rapid test which tends to be less accurate but is faster and cheaper.

Where can I find a coronaviru­s test in Mexico?

At this time, the popular mail-in coronaviru­s testing services, like Pixel and Vault, are not available for internatio­nal use. Travelers will have to go get a test in person or arrange for a profession­al to come to their accommodat­ion.

To encourage customers to keep their reservatio­ns, hotels across the country are promising to help coordinate tests for guests either on-site or at nearby labs and hospitals. Customers can get in touch with the hotel concierge who should know where to find the best-priced tests from approved testing labs, or be able to arrange an on-site test. Rodrigo Esponda, the managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, says that courtesy may extend to travelers staying at villas and timeshares as well.

Those not staying at a serviced accommodat­ion can go to tourism offices for assistance on where to find approved testing labs. The State Department website has also provided a list, in Spanish, of approved laboratori­es for travelers needing a coronaviru­s test.

As a worst-case scenario, travelers may be able to get a last-minute test at the airport before they depart — although not all airports offer this service, so check well ahead of time.

How much will my coronaviru­s test cost?

The price of your coronaviru­s test will depend on where you’re staying and what kind of test you get. Like in the United States, PCR tests will range from about $130 to $150 at a lab or hospital.

With the new CDC order, many Mexican hotels are enticing customers by taking care of a guest’s testing altogether.

“Most of the hotels throughout Mexico are offering the service, and they’re even giving it to you for free,” says Hope Smith, a California-based travel adviser and owner of the Virtuoso agency Born To Travel.

For example, Sandals properties are offering free rapid tests for travelers going back to the United States, and Meliá Hotels & Resorts created a free insurance policy for guests that covers an antigen test at the property, among other medical costs.

On the other end of the spectrum, Smith says she has seen on-site coronaviru­s PCR tests cost around $300 at luxury hotels in Mexico. A travel adviser can help clients staying in luxury properties find cheaper testing options and arrange for transporta­tion to a lab if needed.

Carmen Joaquin, president of the Cozumel Business Owners Union (COPARMEX), says antigen tests on the island are much cheaper than travelers fear.

“The cheapest antigen test I’ve found here is about $15-$20; it’s really not that expensive,” she says, adding that many of the larger hotel chains are including the cost of a coronaviru­s test in the room rate.

What happens if I test positive for COVID-19 in Mexico?

If you test positive, you will have to stay in Mexico and quarantine at your accommodat­ion for 14 days.

Knowing that potential extended stay may scare away customers, hotels across Mexico are offering heavily discounted room rates for those who test positive.

For example, guests who test positive at Velas Resorts in Los Cabos, Riviera Maya, Riviera Nayarit and Puerto Vallarta can extend their reservatio­ns at a 75% discount on the resort’s listed web rates, plus the property will offer an extra suite for the guest to quarantine if they’re traveling with others.

Smith has mixed feelings on sending clients to Mexico before the CDC order goes into effect, and she feels particular­ly concerned for travelers who may test positive. It might not be an issue for those who are asymptomat­ic or have mild cases, but Smith worries about those who may need more serious care.

“I’m still very up in the air, and we won’t have any answers until we see what problems are going to happen,” she says.

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