What’s it like to take the Covid-19 test in Cozumel, Mexico?
Surprisingly easy! And, considering we did so on January 25th of 2020, the day before having a negative test result in order to fly back to the United States became mandatory, it should only get better. Just as we left the clinic in San Miguel de Cozumel, we saw a mobile testing station being set up, think Covid-test truck. Should have stopped to take a picture!
Back to the beginning. Originally, our short getaway to Cozumel, a new to me Mexican destination, was scheduled to conclude on January 25, 2020. But, after a schedule change at school, and the new order taking effect, I figured why not extend our trip and experience first-hand what it is like to go through those new steps.
Even on a small island than are more testing options than you may think
Firstly, I researched local Covid-19 test options online, but then figured, why not reach out to our hotel, the Intercontinental Cozumel Resort (one of the few not-all inclusives on the island).
A member of the concierge team responded quickly, and informed me as follows: “Greetings from paradise! Thank you for contacting us in advance. Regarding your question about the COVID-19 test, we do work with a private hospital called CMC. The test that is required is called PCR and has a price of $2,500.00 Mexican pesos or in US$130.00 per person. The results are within 24 to 48 hours. We can make an appointment for you directly at the hospital or if you wish for them to come here, an additional $350.00 pesos per person will apply.”
PCR or Antigen Test?
Now considering the cost of two PCR tests being roughly the cost of another night, I did hesitate at first, but then remembered from my original research that taking the antigen test was another option. A follow-up note to the hotel resulted in this update: “The hospital also is offering that test, but you need to check with your embassy or airline if they accept that test, the results are the same day. The procedure is called Nasopharyngeal exudate, results provided are Qualitative ‘Positive’ or ‘Negative’.
The price is $999.00 pesos or 50 USD.”
Understandably, the hotel/team cannot assume any responsibility as to which test is acceptable, so I did additional research and also reached out to my colleague, friend and personal travel advisor Jennifer at Nonstop Travel. She confirmed, that it didn’t need to be the PCR.
Antigen is cheaper, faster and accepted
Additionally, American Airlines’ new tool Sherpa was also helpful. I compiled a few screenshots below, but recommend to look at these and other resources (see conclusions as well):
CDC Website Requirement for Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery from COVID-19 for All Air Passengers Arriving in the United States
With the help of the Intercontinental Presidente Cozumel Concierge team, we did get an appointment the day before our travels (well within the 72 hour window the test needs to be taken).
Bring your Passport(s), but not your nice(st) Purse or Murse
Since we had a rental car, we drove to our appointment and located street parking close by. Upon arrival at the Costamed hospital which is on a major road in the city center of San Miguel de Cozumel, but accessed via a smaller side street, (just follow the arrows on the sidewalk to the entrance which is next to a white tent set-up for waiting and a blow-up bubble arch), we were greeted by a friendly staff member and asked to please step back under the arch for “disinfecting”.
In retrospect, I should have left my nice purse in the car or back at the hotel, as before entering the hospital we did indeed get sprayed/rained on with a generous amount of disinfectant — oh well. Later on, we also saw people waiting in the tent for their turn. Since we were appointment number two of that day, after checking our temperature, and using hand sanitizer, we were asked to wait inside.
Fast forward through double checking our passport information (the hotel has previously asked for our passport picture pages to confirm the appointment) and advising how to best reach us with the results (we opted for getting them emailed), the next stay was paying (yes, credit cards are accepted, I used Visa) followed by a nurse swiping our nostrils.
The part of this private hospital — which seemed to cater to Scuba Divers — we got to experience was very clean, very modern and also very quiet at the time. The examination room was cleaned between tests, and we entered one by one. Everyone we encountered was very friendly, helpful and kind. The staff did speak good English, although appreciated it when we practiced our Spanish. Our appointment was at 8:30 am, and while there was a short delay due to the couple before us having additional questions, we left after less than 20 minutes. My negative test result arrived at 10:45 am via email. I did have to follow up twice to get our daughter’s too, but that was likely connected to the fact that I used the same email address for both.
All the checking happens at the departure airport, at home it was business as usual
The next day, we went to the airport with the printed tests pdfs in hand, the result uploaded on the Verify app, but unable to locate the CDC form that seemed to be another requirement.
Upon arrival at CZM airport, AA staff checked our paperwork and asked us to complete a form which I later realized was the Passenger Attestation, however in an abbreviated form. The form was collected before we passed through security — not sure if they made it on our flight.
There were only 15 travelers on the Cozumel-Charlotte American Airlines flight on Day 1 of the new order in effect. Once at CLT Charlotte International, international arrivals was business as usual, just a lot emptier than I have ever seen it — with only one more flight scheduled to come around the same time. Both Thea (12) and I falsely assumed there would be temperature checks, sanitation stations of some sort, but nothing. We went to little family owned coffee shops while on Cozumel that, at first glance, had more Covid procedures in place than our US home airport.
No Temperature Checks upon Return
Sadly, that has been my experience since all of this started. I recall getting my temperature checked already almost over a year ago when flying in Rome FCO, Italy, alongside with very visible alerts to take precautions. In my opinion, we still have a long way to go here in the US, but I am happy to see steps in the right direction. I believe more information is better, plus more needs and can be done. Some fellow travelers didn’t wear their mask nor kept distances in the baggage claim area.
To summarize: Traveling in these days is definitely different and while I always encourage anyone to do their research, this is even more important now than ever before. I realize there is a debate about the accuracy of the antigen test, and after having taken the PCR previously for travel to and from Germany (it was not required, but we figured to do it anyway), it was a new and admittedly significantly cheaper option. Since we had no symptoms and been very diligently following the Covid-19 recommendations, especially physical distancing and wearing mask, we felt it was the right test for us at this time.
During our travels, I did not have an easy time finding the declaration (Passenger Attestation), but it was provided to us at the airport by local authorities. Here is the link and I recommend to print it ahead of time and then complete upon receipt of your results. Since it was collected from us before going through security, I didn’t take a picture which I should have as the verifly app asked for it as well. Our flight attendants had no knowledge of that form, but again, this was all on Day 1 of the new order going into effect.