EXPLAINED: Where and how to get a Covid-19 test in France

Whether you are concerned about exposure or need a test for travel purposes, here is how to go about it in France.

EXPLAINED: Where and how to get a Covid-19 test in France
Photo: AFP

France has hugely expanded its testing programme since the start of the epidemic, when it came in for heavy criticism for a shortage of tests.

In the week before Christmas, three million tests were carried out in a single week and Prime Minister Jean Castex says that France is now the country with the widest testing programme in Europe.

Broadly, there are four paths to testing – through a prescription from your doctor, through the track and trace programme, a walk-in centre or getting an antigen test at a pharmacy.

Testing has now been greatly increased in France. Photo: AFP


If you have symptoms and are worried about your health, your first port of call should be your regular doctor.

Don't go to the surgery, call or set up a téléconsultation (online consultation) to avoid infecting others.

The doctor will then give you a prescription for a test and information about testing labs in your area. You will need to make an appointment for a test at the laboratory.

If you are just visiting France or are not yet registered with a doctor this is not a problem – you can simply find a médécine géneraliste in your area and arrange an appointment, French GPs do not require you to be registered with their practice.

You can find details of local doctors online, or download the app Doctolib which as well as searching for the nearest médécine géneraliste to you also lists the languages spoken by the doctor, so you can find an English-speaking medic if necessary. 

While you are waiting for your appointment and test you should stay indoors as much as possible and wear a mask whenever you go out.

If your test is positive you will be contacted either by your doctor or by an Assurance Maladie employee who will ask for a list of everyone you have been in contact with recently. 

Test and trace

If you have been in contact with someone who tests positive for the virus you will be contacted and invited to take a test. If you are called by a contact tracer then you do not need a prescription for the test, but will still need to make an appointment at your local testing facility.

If you have downloaded the TousAntiCovid app you may receive an alert saying that you have been in contact with an infected person. The app will send you a QR code which you can use when booking an appointment with your nearest testing facility.

While waiting for the test, you should self-isolate and wear a mask whenever you go out.

A drive-through testing centre in Plabennac, Brittany. Photo: AFP

Walk-in test centres

As well as the formal routes to testing outlined above, there are also a large number of walk-in testing centres.

Some of these are pop-up walk-in or drive-in sites, wile others are based at medical centres now offering tests on a walk-in basis.

Some walk-in sites only offer tests to people with symptoms, while others test anyone.

Walk-in centre sites are listed by local authorities for the area, or on the regional health authority (ARS) websites.


All the above routes give you a PCR test – the nasal swab that is sent to a lab for analysis and the results sent to you later (usually within 48 hours), however many pharmacies are also offering antigen tests.

These are also antigen nasal swabs, for which the results are given on the spot and usually take 15 minutes.

Most pharmacies offer these on a walk-in basis, but some ask people to make appointments.

If you are having a test for travel reasons check the rules of the country you are going to, as not all destinations accept antigen tests.


For ease of booking, you can use the Doctolib app, which will show a list of testing centres in your area and give you the option of booking a test there. Just pay attention to the conditions that each centre lists though – some do not do testing for travel purposes.

READ ALSO What health precautions to expect when you land at a French airport


Testing is free to anyone registered in the French medical system.

If you do not have a carte vitale you can still get a test, but you will have to pay for it. The PCR test is usually €54 while the antigen test is €33. You may be able to claim these costs back on travel insurance, depending on your policy.

Member comments

  1. I got a test when I arrived at Orly airport over the weekend but still havent received mu results. Any ideas where I can contact to follow-up?

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New Covid wave in autumn ‘virtually certain’ say French experts

The head of the government's new health advisory body says that a surge of Covid cases when the French head back to work after the summer break is virtually certain.

New Covid wave in autumn 'virtually certain' say French experts

Immunologist Brigitte Autran, president of new government health advisory body the Comité de veille et d’anticipation des risques sanitaires (Committee to monitor and anticipate health risks) which has replaced the Conseil scientifique, told Le Parisien that “the Covid epidemic is not behind us” and said that the French would have to get used to “living with” the virus.

The Covidtracker website currently shows that the virus is in decline across France, with the R-rate currently at 0.7 – any figure lower than one indicates that the number of infections is falling.

Autran, whose appointment as head of the new body was confirmed on Wednesday, said that the most likely scenario was for a “new epidemic peak in the autumn”, when people return to work after the summer holidays.

“Will it be due to a new variant or the return of cold weather?” she said. “We are not soothsayers, but it is almost certain that there will be a wave.”

“Today, we must go towards living with it,” she added, reintroducing the French to an expression previously used by President Emmanuel Macron and several ministers.

“This does not mean accepting the deaths or the severity of the disease,” she went on, pointing to the fact that health authorities in France still have “levers to activate” to fight the virus. 

Despite the fact that nearly 80 percent (79.6 percent) of people over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated against the virus, she said that, “unfortunately there are still too many people who have not been vaccinated or revaccinated.”

And she said the new body would work with the government to improve the public’s access to drugs, such as Paxlovid, and vaccines.

Vaccination is still open to anyone who has not yet had their shots, while a second booster shot is on offer to certain groups including over 60s, pregnant women, those with health conditions or people who are in close contact with vulnerable people.

EXPLAINED Who qualifies for a second Covid vaccine booster shot in France?

The French government in August voted to end to State of Emergency that allowed it to impose measures like travel bans and lockdowns, although further restrictions could be put in place if cases rise again and parliament agrees.