Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)
To say that taking a ridiculously long series of COVID-19 tests was shaping up to be the least anticipated part of my trip to England and Greenland would be something of an understatement. I can’t say that there’s anything I enjoy about having a long swab stuffed up my nose — but the real pain was figuring out how to organize time for all these tests.
Because I’m fully vaccinated, I wasn’t required to quarantine, nor did I need to take two COVID-19 tests after arrival into the United Kingdom, my first destination. Instead, I just needed proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test before travel, and one test within two days of arriving in the country.
To leave for Greenland, I’d need a COVID-19 test within two days of departing England. As I learned the hard way, those two tests cannot be the same thing, since they’re evaluated by different folks. That’s all fine and good.
Because there aren’t a vast number of COVID-19 testing centers or supplies in Greenland, we were asked to bring our own COVID self-test kit, which you can schedule for pickup at most COVID-19 testing centers. We then had to take that test in order to leave Greenland for England.
Once back in England, I needed (you guessed it) another test within two days of arriving. I then needed a test within 72 hours of departing.
After getting back to America, a COVID test will be recommended for me, but it’s totally optional. Considering that it’s free, I see no point in not taking it just to make sure I’ve stayed healthy on my trip.
In case you weren’t aware, though, COVID-19 tests come at a cost in England. They aren’t free, and they’re not covered by insurance like they are in America. Here’s a breakdown of the costs, converted to USD:
- Swab before travel to England: Free
- Swab after arriving in England: $96
- Swab before travel to Greenland: $274
- Swab after arrival in Greenland: $53
- Swab before returning to England: $53
- Swab after returning to England: $111
- Swab before returning to America: $274
- Swab after returning to America (optional): Free
That is a grand total of over $860.
I will be honest, though — the UK has things truly sorted out. When trying to book my COVID-19 test prior to leaving America, I found that I had two options: I could use an at-home self-test kit, or I could go to a clinic where the wait was 1-2 days for results. I booked my test at the clinic, since I thought I’d likely have a better shot at getting results back than having to wait around for things to filter through the mail. I was wrong. After shoving a swab up my own nose until I was distinctly uncomfortable, the kind woman administering the test through the drive-through told me that wait times have gotten longer in Texas, so I could actually be looking at a 3-5 day wait for my results. Cue 36 hours of panic until I got my results the morning of my departure.
In England, things are different. There are a lot of different options available. There are fit-to-fly travel tests, which provide you with a travel-ready certificate and take about a day to process. There are also rapid tests, four-hour tests, 12-hour tests, and 24-hour tests that you can choose from. And the test itself doesn’t require a nose jab; instead, you swab the inside of your mouth and both of your nostrils. No need to prod at your own brain.
As I wrote before, planning these tests definitely takes the spontaneity out of international travel, but at the same time, it is nice to verify several times that I’m not sick and that I won’t be passing the virus on to others. A small price to pay for the ability to get back into the swing of things.