Got a positive COVID PCR result while traveling? Our Guatemalan experience on what to do next

While traveling in these pandemics times can be a bit challenging, it is still totally worth to do and brings some big advantages also. Even though you got your COVID vaccine unfortunate events might still happen and you need to be ready to deal with this uncertainty. Here is what you need to do in case you need a PCR test for your onward travel and in case this result turns out positive. But first, let us introduce you to a bit of context.

7th of August 2021, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala: sad that we will soon leave Guatemala, but very excited regarding the new country to discover and seeing our host in the city again, we started our chicken bus trip from Panajacel to Antigua. A few hours later we got to Antigua and headed to the clinic for taking the necessary PCR test before boarding the bus to Nicaragua

7th of August 2021, 23:00: with the itinerary ready and all the accommodation bookings and bus reservation confirmed for 8th of August, the e-mail mailboxes let us know we got the test results. 1 is NEGATIVE and 1 is POSITIVE. Both of us vaccinated. No symptoms whatsoever, not now, not in the past days/weeks. Both very careful throughout our journey, used correctly the surgical mask (never the reusable ones) and disinfectant gel all the time. You can imagine what kind of a shock that was

8th of August 2021, 11:00: bust tickets cancelled, booking reservations for Nicaragua cancelled, new booking for our quarantine apartment in Antigua done (for the next 2 weeks)

This is how we got the news that changed our plans for the next few months in a second. And so unexpected. And this is our adventure from that point on. While the information below applies specifically to travelers located in Guatemala, the course of action is more or less similar all over the world and can be a starting point for anybody that gets into a similar situation elsewhere:

  • PCR testing centers: as of August 2021 in Antigua there is only one option for having your PCR to be used for travel purposes (in the absence of any sympthoms), BlueMedical.  You can find them inside the Hotel Camino Real and the test costs 645 GTQ. You will get the results in maximum 8 hours on your email regardless of the day/time you did it.
  • If you get a POSITIVE PCR result, you should know that the result is sent by the lab to the Ministry of Health, but our conclusion is that this happens for statistical purposes only. Nobody checked on us, nobody asked any questions at the border when exiting the country 2 weeks later. What to do next:
  1. Quarantine for 14 days: although some doctors in Antigua told us the quarantine can end after 10 days, it is actually 14. Do not expect to be checked on by any authority in the region, probably it is not the case here. There are several options of home delivery from both the Bodegona supermarket and local restaurants, easily reachable by asking Google. Moreover, at least 2 pharmacies in town offer the same home delivery service, so you will be covered for the meds also
  2. In case of any symptoms contact the Emergency Room at Hospital Pedro de Betancourt, as they are a COVID support hospital for now
  3. At the end of the quarantine you will need a medical letter for your onward travel. All the options that we found require you to take another test(PCR or Antigen), so these are the 2 best options we got:

– Take a free Antigen test at Centro de Salud (Monday-Friday, 07:00-10:00 AM) then take the negative result with you at the Private Hospital Hermano Pedro, where a doctor will be able to give you this letter for 189 GTQ (the appointment price, not a bribe haha). You can do all of this without any prior appointment

– Schedule an appointment at Centro de Especialidades Medicas (map here) where you will need to take an Antigen test and if negative you will get the medical letter. The price will be 450 GTQ.

It is important to note that in order to make use of it, the medical letter needs to be released by the same country you got your positive test in. Moreover, the there are high chances you will still be tested POSITIVE by taking another PCR 3 months after you got cured, thus it is advisable not to repeat it during this timeframe and only take Antigen tests if necessary. Although the doctors we talked to know this fact, some still insisted they need to apply a PCR to give you the letter, and not Antigen test (it still makes no sense to me).

Unfortunately for us Nicaragua does not accept the proof of being cured of COVID instead of the PCR test, thus we had to take a flight out of Guatemala to the next destination we had in plan (pura vida, Costa Rica!).

Our journey continues and we strongly encourage you to follow your dream and keep traveling (responsibly though) even during this pandemic time. It is not impossible, hard or wrong to do that as some might say, but you just need to keep an open mind, be flexible and ready to adapt to unexpected news 🙂

Safe travels ahead!

Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint in Antigua, Guatemala

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