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We are two Europeans (EU/Schengen area) visiting Canada for two weeks (Nov 21st - Dec 06th). We are fully vaccinated.

To visit Canada, we have to take a PCR Covid-19 test before boarding the plane from here in Europe. Now, when in Canada, we’d like to take a weekend trip to the US (by land). If I got it right, from November 8th onwards, we’ll be able to enter the US without any testing, since we are vaccinated. Now I’m wondering if getting back to Canada after that short trip will be just as easy. Will we need another PCR test to re-enter Canada after being in the US for a short amount of time? Even if it were just a day or a few hours? Or are the rules any different if you’re coming from the US rather than Europe, or are there any exemptions for short stays that you are aware of?

Thank you!

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Unfortunately there's no exemption for testing yet, but luckily the testing infrastructure is currently developed enough that its easy to travel back and forth without too much pain. Your options are:

  1. Get a free PCR or NAAT test in the US in a place like Walgreens or CVS. Most of them have a turnaround of about 24 hours, though it's not officially guaranteed. The free test is accepted from cross border travel as long as it's not an antigen test. The test is valid for 72 hours, so for a short trip I'd start by taking a test first and then doing the rest of your sightseeing, hoping that it would arrive back by the end of the weekend.
  2. Purchase a self-administered RT-LAMP test kit in Canada and do the test in your hotel 72 hours before coming back to Canada. You would need to have this test shipped in advance to your hotel in Canada, so make sure you can receive mail there if you go for this option.
  3. Get a paid PCR test with guaranteed turnaround. For about $250 you can get a same-day result in most cities. This could be your backup option in case the free test fails to arrive on schedule.
  4. If you're a Canadian citizen or PR holder (probably not applicable, but adding this for future readers), you're eligible to take the test in Canada for trips lasting less than 72 hours. The Canadian test is valid for 72 hours, so you'll need to be back at most 72 hours after your nose has been swabbed.

Also see: Is a day trip US to Canada currently practical?

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There are no exemptions for short stays. Since the tests can be hard to get quickly in the US, Canadians going for trips of less than 72 hours get a test in Canada before leaving and use that test when returning to Canada. However, visitors can't do that.

Here is a CBC article about how people would like there to be exemptions for short trips or for people who are fully vaccinated, but it's not happening at the moment.

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    Only Canadian citizens/PR holders are allowed to take the test in Canada before leaving. As a fun fact this is probably the most nonsensical policy ever created, as a test in Canada definitely won't be able to pickup any viral infections that someone would get while in the US :-)
    – JonathanReez
    Nov 7 '21 at 6:20
  • thanks, edited (and agreed that it's pointless, but then again if you did catch it in the States, you wouldn't test positive until days after you came home, so it's not like a test in the States would have any value either.) And of course if 3 day visits were exempt, some people would hop back and forth to spare themselves repeated testing on a longish trip. Nov 7 '21 at 11:34

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