Boy do we get a lot of questions about COVID-19 tests for travel! But actually, it’s not really that complicated if you understand the basics. I’ve now done 20 of them in order to explore the world. In short, yes it sucks… but tests are not necessarily a reason to not travel.
But today let’s take a look at the full list of the 19 different types of COVID-19 tests that are accepted for entry into Canada, since many still believe the myth that only PCRs are accepted.
Basis of COVID-19 tests
It is very important to understand that we are just talking about the test required to enter Canada.
Other countries may also require tests to enter (but not necessarily — there are 47 countries open without any tests at all, including the one we’re going to on Thursday ourselves) and the types of accepted tests they accept are all completely different of course! People often mix up all the rules together, but everything is always separate.
The thing is, there are 2 main different types of COVID-19 tests:
- Molecular (often called “PCR”… but there are plenty of other ones besides PCR)
- Antigen (often called “rapid” tests… but there are “rapid” molecular tests too)
For a lot more useful basic info, you should definitely read the introduction to COVID-19 tests for travel by the way.
Basics of the testing requirement to enter Canada
In short, to enter Canada, all travelers 5 years and older must have either a:
(These links give you pretty much all the details you might want to know.)
Basically, in both cases, your test absolutely must be a molecular test to enter Canada.
NOT an antigen test.
(And the negative test must be done outside of Canada; that’s relatively new.)
Confusion between molecular test and PCR test
Many people mistakenly believe that the only molecular tests that exist are PCR tests. This is false (as is 90% of what people believe about travel regulations unfortunately — which is why you should really ignore everything you hear or read).
Yes, the vast majority of molecular tests are PCR tests, clearly. Which is why the term “PCR” has come to be used to describe all molecular tests (this phenomenon is called a synecdoche if you’re interested)…
And even the major media outlets keep saying that you need a PCR to enter Canada, which is not true.
Well, in practice, almost all the tests you will find while traveling around the world will be either:
- PCR or NAAT tests that ARE accepted by Canada
- Antigen tests that ARE NOT accepted by Canada
But many more exist and they could be available too.
There are a total of 19 different types that are accepted by Canada, not just the well-known PCR.
And many people have asked us for the complete list.
List of the 19 types of tests accepted to enter Canada
So here is that list:
- PCR: Polymerase chain reaction
- NAT/NAAT: Nucleic acid test or Nucleic acid amplification test
- RT-LAMP: Reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification
- RT-PCR: Reverse transcription real time PCR
- qPCR: Quantitative PCR
- ddPCR: Droplet digital PCR or digital droplet PCR
- TMA: Transcription-mediated amplification
- RNA: Ribonucleic acid
- Ct: Cycle threshold
- Isothermal amplification
- NGS/WGS: Next generational sequencinh or whole genome sequencing
- LamPORE: Oxford Nanopore sequencing
- Detection of the N gene
- Detection of Orf1a/b
- Detection of the S gene
- Detection of the E gene
- Detection of the RdRp gene
Like all the information about pandemic travel that Flytrippers shares with you, this obviously is taken from official sources. In this case it comes from the list of accepted tests on the official government website.
List of collection methods
One of the most common questions we get about testing is whether or not a saliva test is accepted.
Canada does NOT have any restrictions on the method of collection for the test, as long as it is one of these 19 types of tests listed above (and as long as you have valid proof of course, I’ll get to that in a second).
So the test can be done as a:
- Nasopharyngeal (NP) swab
- Nose swab
- Saliva sample
List of mandatory information on the proof of test
Finally, whether you use a negative or positive test to enter Canada, I want to remind you of this very important detail.
The report you use as proof must include all of these elements:
- Name of the laboratory/clinic/facility that administered the test
- Civic address of the laboratory/clinic/facility that administered the test
- The date on which the test was taken
- The type of test taken
- The test result
- Traveler name
- Traveler date of birth
All tests done for travelers include this info by default, no worries (but as we explained this weekend, the proof you got after a test done by the public healthcare system here in Canada is not designed for travelers… and it may not have all the info).
But if you decide for whatever reason to do one of the more obscure types of tests, make sure that the report explicitly includes the name of that type of test so that airport employees and/or customs officials will accept it… they sure don’t see the other types of tests very often.
Step-by-step guide on how to meet the requirement
So anyway… it may sound complicated, but it really isn’t that bad.
Read our ultimate guide to Canada’s pre-departure testing requirement for a very simple step-by-step account of how to comply with this requirement, with all the relevant details.
Want to get all our coronavirus updates for Canadian travelers?
Canada accepts only 1 of the 2 main types of COVID-19 tests, molecular tests. But there are 19 different versions of this type of test that are accepted, not just the PCR tests (but those are by far the most common, of course).
What would you like to know about the types of COVID tests accepted by Canada? Tell us in the comments below.
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Featured image: ID NOW brand of NAATs being performed (photo credit: Abbott)
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