Tourist Information Guide

How And Where To Get A Free COVID-19 Test in Barcelona

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This page will cover the two different ways of getting a free coronavirus test in Barcelona.

We will explain where you can get tested for free, the criteria you need to meet, the type of COVID-19 tests that you can get for free and the time needed to get your test results.

We will also explain when you should get a free COVID-19 test and when you should instead get tested in a private lab of Barcelona. I also share my own personal experience of getting tested for COVID-19 for free.

Free coronavirus test in the Public Health System of Barcelona

You can get tested for free in the public health system of Barcelona if you meet the following two criteria:

1. You must have COVID Symptoms which are defined by the Spanish health Ministry and any or all of the following: fever, cough or breathing difficulties. The doctors of Public Health system will only prescribe you a free COVID-19 test if you have COVID-19 symptoms and/or have been in close contact with an infected person. It will be considered that you’ve been in close contact with an infected person if you’ve been standing less than 2 metres away from that person during more than 15 minutes without wearing a mask and within 48 hours before you had the first COVID symptoms. If you don’t have COVID-19 symptoms and have not been in close contact with an infected person you won’t get a prescription for a free coronavirus test in the Public Health system.

2. You must be registered as a Spanish Resident and be registered with Spanish social security OR hold valid up to date European Health Insurance Card.

If you are a UK citizen, note that you won't be able to use your European Health Insurance Card after 31 December 2020. Therefore UK Citizens will need to arrange a test from a private clinic or private lab if they are not registered with the Spanish social security.

If you meet both points above you can receive a free public health COVID-19 test.
If you need to get a PCR test to travel, you shouldn’t go to the Public Health System but to a private lab.


Why you can’t get tested in the Public Health system to travel

  • The doctors of Public Health system will only prescribe you a free COVID-19 test if you have COVID-19 symptoms and/or have been in close contact with an infected person.

  • You won’t know when you’ll receive your coronavirus test results. With the Public Health system you might have to wait several days until you get an appointment with a doctor, until you get tested and until you get your COVID-19 test results.

  • You won’t be able to specify the type of COVID-19 test you want.

  • You’ll get your test results in Catalan. You will need to get them translated to English or any other accepted language by your country of destination if you need a negative COVID-19 test travel certificate.

Free coronavirus test with the COVID-19 public testing campaigns in Barcelona

Another option to get a free COVID-19 test in Barcelona is through the COVID-19 public testing campaigns in Barcelona. These free testing campaigns are generally carried out in municipal halls to detect as many symptom-free people infected with the COVID-19 to stop the coronavirus transmission and are carried out for free if you meet the following criteria:

1. You are at least 18 years old
2. You are symptom-free
3. You are registered as a Spanish Resident and with the Spanish social security

You can find more details about the free COVID-19 test campaigns on the official website of the town hall of Barcelona, which is available in Spanish and Catalan.


Why you can’t get tested for free with the COVID-19 public testing campaigns to travel

  • You don’t know which COVID-19 test you’ll get until you register for the free coronavirus test and ask. This means you could get a test type that is not suitable for you to travel which require a specific type of COVID-19 test, normally a PCR test, however some destinations may have other testing requirements.

  • You don’t know when exactly you’ll receive your free COVID-19 test results.
    When I got tested during a free testing campaign, the staff told me I would receive the results within the next few days but couldn’t tell exactly when. Please continue reading to read my personal experience about the free COVID-19 tests.

  • Certain time slots are reserved for people with a test appointment, however it’s not easy to know how you can book your test appointment in advance. So you might not be able to get tested on the day you wanted if that day or time slot it was reserved for people with COVID-19 test appointments.

  • Test results are provided only in Catalan. You will need to get them translated to English or any other accepted language by your country of destination if you need a negative COVID-19 test travel certificate. You might want to avoid looking for an official translator that can translate your test certificate in record time just before you travel.

  • The free COVID-19 test campaigns are carried out from time to time, not every day like private labs. You’ll need to get tested within 72 hours of your arrival time at your destination so knowing the exact opening times of the lab is very important so that you can get tested within the allowed period of time before you travel.

The free testing campaigns are designed to test as many symptom-free people as possible to stop the spread of the coronavirus, not for you to get a PCR test for travel.


I participated in the free testing campaign that was held in one of the municipal halls of the city of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, next to Barcelona in mid-December 2020 and got the antigen test and the PCR test at around 17:00 on a Thursday.

I couldn’t choose the COVID-19 tests I would get, I was informed when I registered that the doctors were performing both tests one after another to everyone.

Upon arrival at the hall, you will be asked for your identity card or NIE number, which will enable the Public Health IT system to automatically identify you. The assistant will verify your name, address and phone number.

Then, the assistant will explain you where to wait in the hall before a doctor takes you to a sort of cabin made of curtains to isolate you from the other cabins and people waiting in the hall to get tested. I got the free antigen test first, followed by the free PCR test. Both were nasal swabs.

Then, I had to wait in a waiting room for the results of the antigen test. The results of the antigen test were provided orally by a nurse within approximately 15 minutes.

The waiting room at one of the municipal halls of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat
The waiting room at one of the municipal halls of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat

 

On the day after, I received my free PCR test results by text message at around 11:00 so within less than 24 hours. The text message was in Catalan. The message also provided the link of the Meva Salut website where you can download your antigen and PCR test results.

The Meva Salut website is a Public Health System platform where you can access your public health information including your antigen and PCR test results. You can easily sign up with your Social security card number and personal details.

The antigen and PCR test results were provided in Catalan only.

I was lucky as when I arrived at the municipal hall, there was only one person before me and only had to wait five minutes before I could register for the free COVID-19 tests. However after I got tested, there was a long line to get tested.
A friend of mine had to wait for almost two hours later that day before he could get tested and another friend who came the following morning was told to come back in the afternoon after queuing for more than one hour. It turned out they were only testing people with appointments until 12:00. Unfortunately that was not indicated at the entrance of the hall so my friend queued for nothing and couldn’t even come back in the afternoon.

If you go for a free COVID-19 test, I recommend you ask details in advance to the staff or people around you before you start queuing if there is no information available.


COVID-19 test in a private lab of Barcelona

What are the benefits of getting a COVID test at a private lab in Barcelona:

1. You don’t need to be registered with the Spanish Social Security or to be a resident in Barcelona, anyone can get a COVID-19 test in a private lab: from locals to expats and tourists.

2. You’ll be able to book your coronavirus test in your own language: in English, Spanish and French. This is important because you may have specific questions and you can feel rest assured that you will have your questions answered to your satisfaction.

3. You’ll be able to choose the COVID-19 test you need: PCR test, antigen test, antibody test. Having the right COVID test and certificate is essential for travel.

4. You’ll be able to get tested whenever you want during the opening days and times of the labs. This is also very important because COVID test need to have a date no later than 72 hours before your arrival time at your destination to be valid.

Some private labs are open all day, even on Saturday and Sunday and some testing centers are also open 24 hours a day. It therefore gives you more flexibility, especially if you need to get tested on a specific day and time range to travel and get your test travel certificate before you take your flight.

5. Depending on the PCR test travel certificate delivery period you select, you’ll get your coronavirus test results within 2 to 48 hours, which you’ll be able to consult online.

6. If you need urgent PCR test results, some private labs offer the option to get your test results within 2 hours. Some testing centres deliver antigen test results within 15 minutes.

7. You’ll get your test results in English if you request them to be in English for travel purposes.

If you need a COVID-19 test for travel we recommend you to click on the button below:


If you're a tourist in Barcelona we recommend you check our pages below to learn more about how you can get a refund from your home country Health Insurance or Travel Insurance for your COVID test in Barcelona.

Where to get a medical prescription to have your PCR or antigen test expense covered by your Insurance Policy

French visitors: how to get a refund from the French Social Security for PCR tests undertaken in Barcelona


Conclusion:

You can get a free COVID-19 test in Barcelona if you’re registered with the Spanish Social Security or have a European Health Insurance Card as long as you do not need the test results to travel. However, if you need to get a coronavirus test to travel you should get tested in a private lab of Barcelona to be able to choose your COVID-19 test and get your test certificate in English within 2 to 48 hours.

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