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I’ve been frequently travelling back and forth to the US for the past several months (some pretty high level stuff that you don’t have the needed security clearance to be briefed on) and as a result I’ve been in a unique position to try out a decent cross section of the private companies who offer the required tests for travel. I paid for all of them, and this in an unvarnished, unbiased review on how they shake out.
Domestic Terminal at YVR
$79 Antigen, $200 PCR
I like to call this place the YVR site that doesn’t want your business, because it barely registers on a Google search of YVR + Covid Test. It’s also located in a quiet part of the main floor of the domestic terminal near that odd liquor store and the even odder dry cleaner. But all these hurdles mean it’s rarely busy, and the process is very quick and streamlined with a quick result turnaround. The best choice for YVR.
US Departures at YVR
$79 Antigen, No PCR at YVR location
Remember all those nice things we said at Ultima—reverse them and you have CVR. They’re the first name that pops up in a Google search and they occupy the entire north end of the USA departures level. Notwithstanding this, they’re terrible. You’re required to wait even if you’ve prepaid and made an appointment, and it takes them forever to process people. Staff appear exhausted (so be patient—it’s not their fault their overlords understaff this operation). You’d have to be crazy to go here the day of your flight (I waited in line for 30 mins before my test). Turnaround was 25 mins after test. The worst choice for YVR.
$79 Antigen for 2 Antigen tests (must be an Aeroplan member)
If you’re a planner, this is the best option by a mile. Not only is its $39.50 per test rate the lowest you’ll find, you can do it from the comfort of your own home. Your order the pack online (it comes with 2 tests) and it arrives in a week. When you’re ready, you open the pack, assemble the kit (it looks the same as all those home rapid tests we were all doing around the holidays) and when you’re ready, you start a video call with a technician on your computer. You wait in virtual line for a bit—sometimes 2 mins, sometimes 15 depending on how busy they are—and then do the test yourself under the watchful eye of a health care provider. After you’ve done the test you hang up, wait 15 minutes and then take a picture of your test with QR code and get a formal result shortly thereafter. I did screw it up once—by somehow ripping not one, but two QR codes—and dealing with their help line took 90 minutes, but I think that was 98 percent on me. The only other proviso—it feels like it would be easy to hack if you were, you know, a dirtball.
750 Pacific Blvd (parkade at Plaza of Nations)
$99 Antigen, PCR $199, but frequently coupons on Instagram taking 10-15% off
Not the cheapest option, but other than Switch Health—which you need to order up to a week in advance—this is high on convenience. Here’s the deal: you pay in advance and then can pretty much show up when you want. You park you car, show your passport of order confirmation and the entire test is down with you in the driver’s seat. No muss, no fuss—and the results are quick as well.
A list of all/most of the spots offering tests in BC can be found here.