PCR Test: looking to get a COVID-19 test in Cartagena? We provide advice and information on places and prices for getting a COVID-19 test in Cartagena.

Coronavirus show no signs of going away in Colombia. Many Medellin Guru readers have asked about COVID-19 tests and particularly about PCR tests needed for international travel.

Note the U.S. requires a COVID-19 test for travelers to the U.S. starting on January 26, either a PCR test or an antigen test.

Whether you need a PCR test for travel, have symptoms or have been in contact with someone infected, we provide information about obtaining COVID-19 tests in Cartagena.

We have a popular article about how to get a COVID-19 test in Medellín and also about how to get a COVID-19 test in Bogotá. But many readers aslo have asked where they can get a test in Cartagena. So, we now have this article. 

Do You Need a Test?

Many people don’t necessarily need to be tested for coronavirus and can avoid putting strain on the medical system. If you’re traveling to another country you may need to get tested, depending on country.

If you’ve had contact with infected people it’s probably a good idea even if you don’t have symptoms. However, you can simply self-isolate for 14 days. The most common symptoms include: fever, dry cough, loss of taste and/or smell.

The second decision is whether you want to leave the house or not. You may find it hard to get around, or you may be worried about infecting others as you travel. EPS insurance providers generally recommend home visits for tests, private clinics may offer home service at a small cost. Waiting for a home visit reduces infection chances, but will increase overall time.

The U.S. Requires a COVID-19 Test Starting on January 26

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on January 12 issued an order that will require a negative COVID-19 test from all air passengers entering the United States starting on January 26 — a move it says may help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

To enter the U.S., you will need to be tested no more than three days before your flight to the U.S. departs. Make sure to be tested with a viral test (PCR or antigen test) to determine if you are currently infected with COVID-19.

This used to be 72 hours but the CDC has since clarified what it means by its three-day policy. Their explanation makes the requirement more straightforward for travelers:

The 3-day period is the three days before the flight’s departure. The Order uses a 3-day timeframe instead of 72 hours to provide more flexibility to the traveler. By using a 3-day window, test validity does not depend on the time of the flight or the time of day that the test was administered.

If you have had a positive viral COVID-19 test in the past 3 months and you have met the criteria to end isolation, you may travel to the U.S. instead with documentation of your positive viral test results and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official that states you have been cleared for travel. The positive test result and letter together are referred to as “documentation of recovery.”

Airlines will not permit you to board on flights to the U.S. starting on January 26 if you do not have a required test or documentation of recovery.

On April 2, 2021, the CDC announced that a COVID test is no longer needed for domestic travel in the U.S. if fully vaccinated. Some readers were confused by this thinking they can travel internationally to the U.S. without a COVID test if fully vaccination. According to the CDC on April 2:

If you plan to travel internationally, you will need to get tested no more than 3 days before you travel by air into the United States (US) and show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight, or be prepared to show documentation of recovery (proof of a recent positive viral test and a letter from your healthcare provider or a public health official stating that you were cleared to travel).

A PCR Test is No Longer Required for Travel to Colombia

According to El Tiempo, the Minister of Health, Fernando Ruiz, explained on Wednesday the guidelines of resolution 777 of 2021, which sets the criteria for the economic and social reactivation of the country.

In an interview with Caracol Noticias, Ruiz revealed that Colombia will no longer request the requirement of the PCR test from travelers, both Colombian and foreign, who enter the country. Also, the CoronApp requirement will be removed.

The bottom line is it will no longer be necessary for travelers to present a negative PCR test upon arrival in the country. This measure began to take effect on June 1, 2021, as confirmed by the Minister of Health, Fernando Ruiz.

What is a PCR Test?

The two most common are PCR and antigen (antígeno), with antibody testing coming a distant third.

The first type of test, RT-PCR is a molecular test that is considered the gold standard and is used by Colombia for most of its test. PT-PCR stands for reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test, which tries to find genetic sequences of the virus by deploying primers – chemicals or reagents which are added to test if a reaction occurs – that attach to the targeted genetic sequences.

The PCR test and antigen tests are performed with nasal swabs and are usually the most reliable in the early stages of the disease.

  1. A PCR test is typically needed for travel and is a more accurate test, especially in the early stages of coronavirus. However, this test is more expensive and takes longer to return results.
  2. The antigen test is quicker and not always as reliable as a PCR test. This test is typically recommended only if you have symptoms or seven days after you’ve had contact with someone who’s tested positive.
  3. The antibody (anticuerpo) test is another option, although much less useful. This test is a rapid serological test that relies on detecting antibodies in a blood sample, usually obtained through a simple finger prick. These tests do not require special equipment to process the results.
Rafael Núñez International Airport in Cartagena, photo by Martin St-Amant

Rafael Núñez International Airport in Cartagena, photo by Martin St-Amant

Getting a COVID-19 Test at the Rafael Nuñez (CTG) Airport

HealthCars handles the COVID-19 testing at the Rafael Nuñez International Airport (CTS), which is fast. They offer a guaranteed 24-36 hours for processing a PCR test and just one hour for the antigen test.

Website: https://healthcarssas.com/index.php

  • PCR test cost – 350,000 pesos
  • Antigen test cost – 150,000 pesos
  • Antibody test – 110,000 pesos
  • Appointment – No – they also do home testing
  • Time for PCR test results –36 hours or less. Or one hour for an antigen test at the airport (if they aren’t busy)

Getting a COVID-19 Test at Private Clinics in Cartagena

You can obtain a COVID-19 test at private clinics in Cartagena. We recommend Clinica MediHelp, based on the experience of two Medellin Guru readers.

Test Location – Bocagrande Carrera 6a. # 5 -101

Website: https://www.clinicamedihelp.com/

  • PCR test cost – 400,000 pesos
  • Antigen test cost – 170,000 pesos
  • Antibody test costs – 140,000 pesos
  • Appointment – No
  • Time for PCR test results – up to 24 hours, antigen 3 hours=

Getting a COVID-19 Test at Private Labs in Cartagena

There are several labs in Cartagena which offer COVID-19 tests. Two Medellin Guru reader reported a good experience at Synlab Colombia, Synlab has locations in several cities in Colombia including Barranquilla, Bogotá, Cali, Cartagena and Medellín.

Test Location – Centro de Salud y Negocios Ronda Real Local 226C , Dg. 31, Cartagena, near the La Castelllana Mall.

Website: https://www.synlab.co/

  • PCR test cost – 280,000 pesos
  • Antigen test cost – 150,000 pesos
  • Antibody test costs – 60,000 pesos
  • Appointment – yes – You can schedule a test here.
  • Hours – Monday to Friday: 7 am to 11:40 am and 1 pm to 2:40 pm
  • Time for PCR test results (slower than their airport location) – 48 hours or less. Or up to 24 hours for an antigen test.

Another reader recommended Laboratorio Lorena Vejarano in Cartagena.

Test location: Santa Lucia near Bomba el Amparo

Website: https://lorenavejarano.com/web/

  • PCR test cost – 210,000 pesos
  • Antigen test cost – 90,000 pesos
  • Antibody test costs – 75,000 pesos

Getting a COVID-19 Test Using EPS Insurance

Since all EPS insurance providers are different, prices will vary, possibly dramatically. Two Medellin Guru readers used SURA EPS to obtain a PCR test.  They couldn’t get at test at a SURA medical center, but had to schedule a visit to their home. Scheduling can vary, for one reader it was the same day and the other in three days.

EPS call centers may avoid appointments for tests if you don’t have symptoms and may ask you to self-isolate instead of taking a test. Also, processing times are longer than private hospitals and labs.

  • PCR test cost – free or low cost
  • Antigen test cost – free or low cost
  • Antibody test cost – free or low cost
  • Appointment – needed
  • Time for test results – 72 hours or longer
Computer generated image of COVID-19, photo by Felipe Esquivel Reed

Computer generated image of COVID-19, photo by Felipe Esquivel Reed

Medellin Guru’s Coronavirus Series

Medellin Guru has a series of articles about the coronavirus pandemic and the impacts in Colombia: Also, these articles are being kept up-to-date, as this is a fast-moving topic:

The Bottom Line: How to Get a COVID-19 Test in Cartagena

Many Medellin Guru readers have asked about how to obtain a PCR test or COVID-19 test in Cartagena. So, we provided this guide.

We also have a guide about how to get a COVID-19 test in Medellín and how to get a COVID-19 test in Bogotá.

It is possible to obtain a PCR test in Cartagena for cheaper than in the U.S. Many readers have reported they paid from $150 to $250 for a PCR test in the U.S. For example, one reader recently reported they paid $200 USD for a PCR test in the U.S. And you can obtain a PCR test in Cartagena for less than $100 USD.

However, one reader also reports that it is possible to get a free PCR test in Texas, Kansas, D.C., Arizona and South Carolina from gogettested.com with results reportedly within 48 to 96 hours.

There are many places that offer a COVID-19 test in Cartagena and we provide information about several testing paces in this article that Medellin Guru readers have reported success and good service.

If readers have experienced success with other COVID-19 testing places in Cartagena, please let us know about the testing place including the cost and processing time in the comments below. We can add to this article.

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Editors note: updated on June 5, 2021 with information that a PCR test is no longer needed to travel to Colombia.

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