‘Could not be any simpler’: Canadian on getting free COVID-19 tests in the U.S.

By Monika Gul and Claire Fenton

As many call on the Canadian government to lift its costly COVID-19 testing requirement, a Canadian travel blogger says he has found a way to get the tests for free.

Currently, Canada requires a negative molecular test – often in the form of a PCR test, which can cost $200.

Andrew D’Amours, who runs Flytrippers.com, says he has gone to the U.S. three times this year, including this past weekend, and each time came back to Canada without the added expense.

D’Amours says he has been getting the molecular Rapid Diagnosisic Test (ID NOW), and has received his results back in about an hour.

The test is different than a PCR test, but is still accepted in Canada under its list of accepted molecular tests as a nucleic acid amplification test (NAATS).


He says there are several places which administer the tests for free. Among them is Walgreens, which is a major pharmacy with locations throughout the U.S., including more than a dozen in Washington state.

Walgreens is among the places where D’Amours says he has been able to get a free test, which he then used to get back home to Quebec by air each time.

“It’s very surprising in a way but it’s a good microcosm of tips of travel in general. If you don’t know about these tips than you think paying whatever price is really normal,” he said.

The Walgreens website says it does free drive-thru COVID testing for those aged three and up. It says people will be asked to show a valid state ID, and an insurance card or voucher.

Walgreens also offers free PCR tests, but D’Amours says he has not been getting those as the result times may vary and didn’t want to risk it.

D’Amours says he was asked for ID once out of all of the tests he took. He says many Canadians have told him they have also had success with this method, and haven’t been asked to prove anything.

“It could not be any simpler,” he said, but cautions it’s important to book ahead of time.


“They do ask me a couple questions, in my case they asked me if I had been outside the U.S. in the last 14 days. Which was the case because I had arrived from Canada. By clicking yes they give you an appointment, it’s completely free. They do require a U.S. address, so basically I just put in my hotel address.”

He says you can then say you don’t have insurance, which bills the U.S. government instead of billing your Canadian insurance company.

But he does caution things could change and not every pharmacy or clinic is offering free testing.

“It’s not like it’s a guaranteed right to get those free tests. If there’s too many Canadians crossing the land border, for example, now that it’s open maybe some Walgreens will decide like ‘hey we are really going to ask for U.S. [proof].’ They can make their own rules right?”

D’Amours has not crossed yet by land but anticipates it would be very similar.

We have reached out to Walgreens for comment.

Last week, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the testing requirement is being looked at, but so far, there has been no move to lift it.

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