Using At-Home Covid Tests to Enter US from Costa Rica

Last Updated: June 15, 2022

Covid testing is a requirement to get back home for many people. Although Costa Rica has labs and clinics around the country that can do testing, many people prefer the convenience of an at-home test. In this post, we’ll explain the requirements for using at-home/self-tests to reenter the US. We will also cover something essential to know about using at-home tests in Costa Rica.

IMPORTANT UPDATE

As of June 12, 2022, the United States no longer requires a negative Covid test to fly into the country. The CDC has eliminated the requirement for everyone, regardless of citizenship or vaccination status. You can find more information on the CDC’s website.

We have edited this post to take out all information about US Covid testing requirements, since there are none anymore. We left in general information about self-testing and testing positive for those who still need to get a Covid test for their country of origin.

Using At-Home Test Enter US from Costa Rica

How Self-Testing Works

Basically, what you will do is order your at-home test before your trip and bring it with you. At-home tests have only recently been approved in Costa Rica and are hard to find.

You’ll follow the manufacturer’s instructions on registering your kit and scheduling a test time.

A proctor will help you administer the test at the scheduled time. You will need an internet connection and webcam.

They will then give you the results. Results are provided immediately or within a couple of hours, depending on the test you use.

You will present this digital test result to the airline when you check-in for your flight departing Costa Rica.

We have been hearing from many people who have successfully used an at-home test to get back home after visiting Costa Rica, so don’t worry, they are being accepted.

Specific Tests

Here are some tests that people have been using. They are rapid antigen tests.

Qured

Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test – can buy on eMed or Optum 

CityHealth’s RapidReturn Test Kit

Available on Amazon: iHealth Self Test for ages 2 and up.

*A reader recently pointed out that they used the iHealth test for travel back to the US. iHealth now offers Covid test services that meet CDC requirements (i.e., you will have a virtual meeting with an iHealth proctor). This is separate from buying the test and costs an additional $20. You have to sign up online through the iHealth website

iHealth Covid test entering US from Costa Rica

If you purchase a Covid test kit from Amazon, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Young Children

Some of the tests are authorized only for children ages 4 and up (e.g., Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test). So keep that in mind if you are traveling with young children. The iHealth Self Test is valid for children ages 2 and up.

At-Home Testing in Costa Rica and Testing Positive

In Costa Rica, the government does not recognize at-home tests for purposes of confirming a positive case. For a test to be recognized, it must be done in an authorized lab or medical center.

This has very important implications for visitors who are using at-home tests.

If you test positive on an at-home test in Costa Rica, you will need to go to a lab or clinic for an official test. Only then will your mandatory quarantine period begin.

You will want to start your quarantine as soon as possible so that you can get recovery documentation that allows you to travel. According to the CDC, you can continue to test positive for up to three months from your first positive test. So, you wouldn’t want to wait and retest yourself with another at-home test. 

The way it works is the Costa Rica lab or clinic that administers your test will send a report to the Ministry of Health about your positive result. The Ministry of Health will then issue you a sanitary/quarantine order by email (typically for seven days). The start date is usually the date of your positive test at the lab. That’s why it’s so important to get to a lab for an official test if you test positive on an at-home test and think you have Covid.

Covid Testing Center Jaco
A private clinic in Jaco that does Covid testing

We have been hearing from people who have waited to go to a lab after testing positive on a self-test. They are often frustrated because the Ministry of Health will not base the start of their quarantine period on the date of their at-home positive result. So they end up spending much more time quarantining in Costa Rica than was necessary. You can avoid this frustration by getting to a lab or clinic for an official test ASAP if you test positive on a self-test.

If you need an official test on your visit, here is a link to our post, Where to Get a Covid Test in Costa Rica. It gives testing options by town all around the country.

Conclusion

At-home tests are an inexpensive and convenient way to meet testing requirements. As long as you know what test you’ll need, you can bring it with you and get it done quickly the day before your flight. Hopefully yours won’t come back positive, but if it does, now you’ll know what to do to get that quarantine period started.

Have a question about at-home testing? Leave us a comment below.

Looking for more information to plan your trip? Check out these posts:

Testing Positive in Costa Rica: Learn more about what happens if you test positive in Costa Rica. Quarantine requirements, what to do to get back home, and people’s experiences.

Traveling to Costa Rica During Covid-19: Get current requirements to enter Costa Rica for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.

Travel Insurance: Getting travel insurance that covers Covid can be a good idea even if you’re already vaccinated. Read our article for recommended companies to use.

22 Comments

  1. As of 2/11/22 are at home proctored tests allowed to leave Costa Rica to travel back to the US? There is conflicting information. Would hate to rely on it and then be told at airport that is not accepted. Seems like US does not have a problem with them but maybe Costa Rica does??

    1. Hi Leslie, This was the whole point of the article. We just published it this week so all the information is updated and valid. Lots of people are using at home tests to travel from CR to the US every day. In the article, we give links to the tests that the airlines recommend. They are the ones reviewing the test results so any of those are accepted. Yes, Costa Rica does not recognize at home tests. That only matters if you test positive. Go back and reread the article for more explanation. That section is at the end.

  2. If you test positive on a proctored self test (like eMed) is that info sent to the Ministry of Health?
    In the article you say that the quarantine order doesn’t started until you get a local PCR test – but I don’t quite understand why you’d want to alert the Ministry of Health that you tested positive.
    What happens if, for example, you test positive on a self-test, don’t get a PCR test, wait a week until you test negative (on another home test) and try to leave the country with that negative result?

    1. Hi Amanda, The Ministry of Health does not get notified of positive results on at home tests. But if you test positive on one and think you have Covid, it’s in your best interest to go get the official test done so that your quarantine period can start. Rapid antigen tests seem to have a very low false positive rate so it’s likely you will test positive again on the next test. Once you have Covid, they say you can keep testing positive for months, so you wouldn’t want to keep trying for a negative test. You would want to start the necessary quarantine ASAP and then travel with recovery documentation and the positive test result from the lab.

  3. We used CityHealth on January 2, 2022. Everything went smoothly. I did have to initially wait about 40 minutes for a health care worker to join me virtual but my husband only wait 3 minutes. Everything went fine both leaving Costa Rica and entering the united states. At $75 a test and not having to make an appointment I highly recommend them!!

    1. Hi Shelly,
      So if you have a family of 5 do we each have to call separately or can it be one call to wait for a health care worker?

      1. When you set up your account, you register the first person, and then add the rest of the family as dependants. The tests can then all be done in the same call.

  4. All of our family has had COVID 19 before our trip to Costa Rica, We read on the US CDC site that if you had prior positive test results and you have a note from your doctor that you have fully recovered, you do not have to take the rapid test prior to leaving Costa Rica. Have you heard of this being the case for others?

  5. Thanks so much for this information. It’s very helpful to know that rapid tests are accept for return to the US. I just ordered tests for my family from Qured. They were $35 each.

  6. Thank you so much for this content! We are traveling to CR mid-April. If one of our kids does test positive and my husband or I stay behind and are negative, I assume we (parent) have to test again the day before the flight to the US? So it’s possible we need to be in CR for 2 total extra weeks (assuming 7 days per) if our positive child transmits it to us?

  7. Thank you so much for this super-helpful article. I wanted to mention that I got my IHealth at-home tests on Amazon and then signed up for the proctoring on the IHealth site. The whole thing cost under $40 and I even have an extra test to spare! (the sell sets of two tests on Amazon).

    I did the test right from my hotel room by the beach. The whole thing took about 25 minutes and I didn’t have to go anywhere.

  8. We purchased at home kits to use before returning home. We had a bit of trouble scanning the QR codes on the test devices (that is how you connect with the Telehealth nurse.) We finally were able to get it to work, but it took awhile. One other piece of advice. Do not insert the batteries in the device until you have the Telehealth nurse on the line. There is a limited amount of time for the devices to work after the batteries are inserted, so if you have trouble with scanning the QR codes or other delay, the devices could malfunction. We bought the kits because we didn’t think there were tests sites in Tamarindo, but there were several clinics doing testing.

  9. If one spouse tests positive and the other negative but they both remain during the quarantine period can they share a hotel room or do they need twp rooms? Is the positive person allowed to leave the room with a mask on for fresh air or anything?

    1. I think officially you are supposed to have separate rooms but in practice, family members are sharing rooms. You can’t leave the room if you test positive and are issued a quarantine order.

  10. We tested for reentry to US on March 29. My family of 6 used eMed and it was Binax now tests using eMed to proctor the test. Because there were so many of us, it did take a bit, but way easier than going to a test site and paying the larger fees. If I did it again, I would use both my husband and my phone and get two proctored tests going at the same time. I think we wanted to make sure we were doing everything perfectly right so that we didn’t have any issues. It took nearly 3.5 hrs running them back to back and coordinating kids, etc.

    One thing to note is that there were small labels on both ends of the box that were supposed to be in tact in order to use the test. Our test kits were in our luggage and damaged. Luckily, only one of the 6 proctors had us show them the tabs/labels and that one was ok. I would take more care in packing these boxes knowing this.

  11. The CDC website has an attestation form (attachment A) for returning to the US. It looks like you attest that your Covid test was negative (without a proctor). Has anyone done this? I have iHealth test kits but their website shows that they are sold out so you can’t pay for and make an appointment for the video proctored Covid test right now.

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