We had a good flight from Miami to Madrid and arrived 40 minutes early. Things were looking up for us at first.

We had booked a COVID-19 test at Madrid Airport

We had booked an appointment for a COVID-19 test upon arrival in Madrid, and we were going to spend two nights there. Why? If you are vaccine-free, there is no requirement to enter Spain. Visitors to Oman must be tested within 72-96 hours of travel.

We thought we could take care of this in Spain. The testing center at Madrid Airport had a price of 79 euro for a test with results guaranteed in 12 hours. It was possible to make an appointment. It is sad that this is considered a deal, but it is cheaper than in Florida.

We ended up getting tested at Madrid Airport, but not in the way we wanted.

We got selected for a rapid antigen test upon arrival

While we went through immigration at Madrid Airport, there is a separate health screening area where they check your vaccination status and look at your health attestation form. They asked where we were arriving from, and when we told them Miami, they put us both in a holding pen and told us we had to be tested for coronaviruses.

This isn't an official requirement, but I guess they have the right to randomly select people for testing. It wasn't random because they seemed to be selecting people from Miami. Four more people joined us, all of them from the Miami flight. I suppose I can't blame them for singling out people from Florida.

We were taken to a testing center after about five minutes.

Heading to Madrid Airport COVID-19 testing center

We were given rapid antigen tests after being brought into separate rooms. I have taken more COVID-19 tests than I can count, and this one was probably the most intrusive. I'm pretty sure it poked my brain.

We were told to sit in the waiting area. We were told 15 minutes later that we were negative and could leave.

Madrid Airport COVID-19 testing center waiting area

It wasn't a big deal, but it did eat up our time savings from an early flight arrival.

Our actual COVID-19 test didn’t go so well

The COVID-19 testing center that we had booked an appointment at was located in the departures hall of Terminal 4. Madrid Airport is an adventure to navigate.

Madrid Airport Terminal 4 departures hall

I imagined a calm testing center where we would be helped at our appointment time since we had pre-paid. I found a scene with dozens of people lined up and no organization.

The testing center is mostly used by people leaving on flights the same day, and a lot of them were panicked and didn't realize they needed a test to travel. Oops.

COVID-19 testing center Madrid Airport

We stood there for about 15 minutes and not a single person was helped. A friendly woman came out and said that the system was down and that they couldn't do any tests.

Huh? I asked how long the system had been down. She said 30 minutes. She shrugged her shoulders when I asked if there was a timetable for when the system would be fixed. She said that once the system was back up, those with appointments would be helped first, which caused a riot among those who didn't have appointments and had flights to catch.

We weren't sure what to do.

  • On the one hand, we had already pre-paid for our tests, and just wanted to get the testing behind us; the fact that they have an on-site lab also gave us the best odds of getting results in a timely manner
  • On the other hand, we had no indication of when things would be fixed, and for all we knew we could have been there all day long and still not gotten tested

We would wait another 30 minutes to see if things resolved themselves, and then we would leave. We were using the chat feature for our hotel to ask if they could set up a test for us. There is something to be said for the convenience of someone coming to your room and taking care of the testing.

They said they could have someone in our room within an hour, but after waiting for 30 minutes things weren't looking better. The last thing we wanted to do was spend hours in a line with people who were angry. After 30 minutes, we decided to head to our hotel.

Bottom line

The arrival experience in Madrid wasn't what we expected. We did get a test at Madrid Airport, but not the one we signed up for. When we arrived, we were selected for a rapid test, but the actual test appointment couldn't be honored because the system was down.

I suppose I'm at least grateful that we weren't immediately flying out and missing our flight because of this, unlike many other people. I have to go through the process of trying to get a refund for our pre-paid testing fee.

How long did you wait in line at the testing center?