How to Get a PCR Test in Arusha

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Before reading any further, please note (we cannot reiterate this forcibly enough): you need to attend the clinic at least 3 days before your flight - not 2 days before your flight.

Many travellers think that they must attend the clinic within 3 days of their flight, ie. less than 72 hours before their flight. If you do this your results will probably be late and you will be unable to board your flight. 

But what about the 72 hour validity rule?

We constantly get calls from people we have never spoken to previously, and who are about to travel to the airport - telling us that they attended the clinic two days ago and they still haven't received their results and they are worried they are going to miss their flight. When we sympathetically (but admittedly, somewhat uselessly) tell them they would have needed to have attended the clinic three days ago, not two days ago, they ask how then their results would still be valid if they were "tested" more than 72 hours before their flight?

The answer is that that within Tanzania the current working definition of the word "test" refers to the process that happens at the laboratory in Dar es Salaam (usually) the day after you provide the sample. And while this definition may appear to run counter to the logic of the various authorities worldwide wanting to ensure that within the arbitrary time period of 72 hours prior to boarding your flight you didn't have COVID, nonetheless, the Tanzanian authorities are required to adhere to this definition, otherwise it would usually be administratively impossible to comply with the 72 hour requirement.

Information on PCR Testing in Tanzania

Since the onset of COVID-19 and the immediate and dramatic subsequent loss in booking numbers suffered by tour operators as a consequence of travel restrictions imposed both by governments worldwide, and initially, the Tanzanian government itself, it has been surprising to Utopia Safaris that the Tanzanian government has not made more effort to make information available to prospective travelers explaining how to go about ensuring that they are able to comply with their own country's travel requirements on returning from their Tanzanian safari or Kilimanjaro climb 

This following information is provided to reassure prospective climbers that there is a straightforward way to enjoy the incredible tourism and adventurous opportunities that Tanzania offers, while ensuring that returning home afterwards is stress-free.

What does it cost?

  • $ 50 or $ 100 per person for residents, non-residents and citizens (the Tanzanian government raised the cost nationally on 4th January 2021
  • free of charge for licensed Tanzanian safari and mountain guides 

Simplifying the test procedure

Since 4th January 2021 in principle you now need to register to be tested by providing your passport number and mobile phone number on the official test site: https://pimacovid.moh.go.tz. However, we have received frequent feedback that patients are not receiving SMS messages that contain the payment control number and which notify them that the testing is complete and that they should now pay via Mpesa. This situation can create unnecessary stress at the end of an otherwise restful and enjoyable holiday in Tanzania.

To combat both the issues of uncertainty related to communication with the hospital, and the challenge of reported confusion navigating the sample submission procedure at the hospital, we have trained a guide to assist travellers and oversee the whole process, and to liaise with the senior doctor in charge of testing. We hope that using our guide will eliminate most of the stress and hassle.

To use the services of our guide, we recommend a total payment of USD 20 per person paid directly to the local guide, with USD 10 of this paid once the samples are submitted, and the outstanding USD 10 paid once you're in receipt of your certificate.

If you wish to use our guide please contact us on WhatsApp and let us have your full name and passport number, details of the hotel you're staying at in Arusha, and your return flight date and time. We'll then arrange for the guide to visit you at your hotel at an agreed time. Your guide will then assist you in going to the clinic, submitting your sample, paying for the test, and receiving your results.

How long does it take to get the result?

72 hours. The fastest results we have witnessed have been delivered in 52 hours, but since the certificate is a vital addition to travel documentation for some countries, we strongly recommend allowing 72 hours.

Why does it take so long to get a result?

Once clients are tested, the sample is sent, usually the following day, by road to a laboratory in Dar es Salaam - a journey of 620km that takes more than 10 hours.

Within what times can I get tested?

  • Monday to Saturday: between 08:00 and 13:00
  • Sunday: between 09:00 and 13:00

What should Utopia Safari clients do while waiting for the result?

Of course, the notion of finishing your Safari or Kilimanjaro climb and then having to wait around for 3 days in Arusha is an unacceptable waste of time. Our recommendation therefore is for us to transfer you to Mount Meru hospital either the same day your climb ends or the morning after your climb.

Depending on tour interests and available budgeting, climbers may either consider a 3 days safari, or a succession of day trips within or near Arusha.

This safari is a popular way to spend 3 days. And here are some ideas for some day trips from Arusha.

Important to remember

Please don't organise any activities following your receipt of the test results as most airlines and immigration officials need to see that the results of your test were obtained within the last 72 hours and a further day's delay may mean that more than 72 hours has elapsed before you reach your home border.

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