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How tourists and visitors in France can get a Covid test

In most cases Covid tests are no longer required for travel, but if you're visiting France and you develop symptoms, here is how to access a test.

How tourists and visitors in France can get a Covid test
Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

Covid tests in France are very easy to access, but if you’re not a resident of the country then you may need to pay.

Here’s how to get a test in France:

Test types

There are three types of Covid test available in France

  • PCR test (un test pay-say-eyre) – a nasal swab test performed in a testing centre with the swab sent off to a lab for processing and the results emailed out later (usually within 48 hours)
  • Antigen test (un test antigénique) – also a nasal swab, but the results are given on the spot within 15 minutes of the test being taken. These are available in pharmacies and pop-up testing centres, most of which do not require an appointment. These tests are referred to as lateral flow tests in some countries
  • Home-testing kit (un autotest) – available from pharmacies, there are also nasal swab tests that you can do at home. This is the same process as the antigen test, but you do it yourself and get the results within 15 minutes

Most countries no longer require a negative test for travel reasons, but if you do need a travel test, check carefully with the country that you are travelling to whether a PCR or antigen test is required. Most countries do not accept home test results.

READ ALSO The French vocab you need to get a Covid test

How to get one

You can get a test for any reason in France (including travel), there is no limitation of tests to only those with symptoms or contact cases – although some testing centres are reserved for priority cases – and there are quite a few different methods of booking one.

You can find antigen tests at most pharmacies in France. Look out for the sign dépistage du Covid (Covid testing) or test Covid-19 in the window and if the sign adds sans rendez-vous then you can get the test on a walk-in basis.

Most pharmacies offer testing without appointments, but some, especially the smaller ones, require appointments in advance. You can usually just walk in and make your reservation.

You will also see pop-up testing centres, especially in cities or resort towns. These are often just a small tent or gazebo on the street where you can go in and get a test, usually an antigen test but some offer PCR tests. These have been scaled back a lot since the height of the pandemic, but they do still exist – especially in big cities and tourist destinations.

If you need a PCR test you will probably have to book in advance, although some pop-up centres do offer PCR tests on the spot. You will usually go to a specialist Covid testing centre, a medical lab, health centre or doctor’s office. You can book direct by phone with most of these if you know where they are, but the easiest way to find your nearest centre is online or through a phone app.

The French public health website sante.fr has a page HERE where you enter your location and select the type of test you want, giving you a list of centres near you with details on how to book (online, by phone etc).

If you have a smartphone, the medical app Doctolib allows you to book appointments. Simply download the app and create a profile, the search dépistage Covid, choose between PCR or antigen tests and enter your town or postcode. You can book via Doctolib online as well.

The app gives you a list of centres near you that have appointments, and you can book via the app. If your booking is at a doctor’s office or medical centre the app also shows you a doctor profile which includes information on languages spoken, so if you need an English-speaking doctor you can find one.   

If you’re in a tourist area it’s likely that staff at the testing centre will speak a bit of English, but check out our handy guide to French testing vocab HERE.

How much?

There are fixed costs for tests. Residents can get these reimbursed via their carte vitale but tourists or visitors will have to pay. Pharmacies and testing centres accept either cash or debit cards.

  • PCR test – €44
  • Antigen test – €22

Both PCR and antigen tests give a formal certificate of results with a QR code as standard, so there is no need to request a special travel test or a fit-to-fly certificate. 

Self-testing kits are available in pharmacies and these everyone has to pay for – the price is capped at €6, although lots of pharmacies are selling them for considerably less than this. You can buy as many of these as like, there is no limit and in most places availability is no problem.

Positive

If your test is positive, you will need to self-isolate.

The self-isolation period depends on your vaccination status and subsequent negative tests – full details HERE.

France no longer requires the health pass for access to everyday venues such as cafés, tourist sites and gyms, but you may be asked to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test if you are visiting a health centre or hospital for non-emergency treatment.

Member comments

  1. Same here – Found a testcenter in Veynes (Hautes-Alpes) and booked a time (in person) – Free as well…

  2. Hi from Haren in the Netherlands,
    I do have a question -? – I
    Have a 12 & 15 year old boys and we plan to travel into France in July/ August for the summer Holidays. We wanted to know what is the current situation with our Children?
    Both my wife and I are fully vaccinated with Jaansen & Fizer vacs.
    Thankyou in advance
    Chris
    A very happy member of Local.FR

  3. Thank you for the informative article.
    Question: are the results from a ‘self test’ kit sufficient for access to cafes and restaurants?
    Thanks.

  4. In Seine-Maritime (76) very few places seem to offer lateral flow tests without appointments, many pharmacists offering them only do so in restricted hours (i.e. not all the time that they are open) and next to none on Sundays. So if you need one for travel (eg to the UK) best to make an appointment in advance.

    Also note that it is no longer possible to complete passenger locator forms on the ferry (which you could do last year). Although the UK authorities only require the passenger locator to be completed prior to arrival at the UK border, ferry companies will refuse boarding unless you have completed it when you go to check in (DFDS were doing this in Dieppe yesterday). This is apparently because they can get fined if they carry people to the UK who have not completed the form they (as well as the passenger) can get fined.

  5. I am wondering if they take a test on Dec 30th, do the labs work over the holiday? need results for Jan 2 flight to USA.

  6. Since they require a 3rd shot for over 65’s, do they offer that third shot to tourists who are already in country?

  7. This was the drill at Nice airport – great people but not organizationally streamlined -you had to watch, observe and decode the drill, it was not obvious – – they got it done – but: (1) have a QR code reader applet on your phone because (2) they want a formulaire filled out with vitals it pops up after scanning their QR code posted – – I was coaching the English speakers that the Social Sec number was for FR people, so ignore it – (3) that they collected your email and phone does not mean they email or phone the results you must wait for that, (like 20 minutes) you get a paper, stamped (see ‘7’). (4) stand in line with the passport, pass sanitaire, the vitals formulaire, pay. (5) they give you another form to take to the testing side. Stand in line again. (6) they test you. (7) wait for the paper copy. Voila. But panic as the witching hour of 20h ferme neared, and was exceded even. They worked hard, individually, but no one person was in charge.

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READER INSIGHTS

Readers reveal: The best beaches and coastal resorts in France

The Local asked readers for their top tips for places to visit along the French coast and we were overwhelmed with suggestions for beautiful beaches, off-the-beaten-track villages and lively resorts.

Readers reveal: The best beaches and coastal resorts in France

The Local has been seeking out France’s best coastline in recent weeks, after a disagreement on an episode of our Talking France podcast where Editor Emma Pearson defended La Vendée as home to the best (and most underrated) coastline in the country, while journalist Genevieve Mansfield fought for Brittany. 

To settle the debate, The Local asked its readers to share their favourite place to go on France’s shores, and the results are in, along with exclusive recommendations:

Brittany wins

Almost half (48 percent) of those who responded to The Local’s survey about the best part of France’s coastline voted for Brittany. 

Where to go

Several people recommended the Morbihan département.

Angela Moore, said her favourite part of this area was the islet between Vannes and Lorient, which is home to romanesque chapel and the Etel river oyster, a delicacy in the area. 

Others chose the Morbihan for its “lovely little coves, wonderful beaches and seafood,” as well as for boat rides in the gulf. Meanwhile, some pointed out Carnac, as a spot to visit, as the town is known for its prehistoric standing stones.

Some preferred travelling further north in Brittany, and they recommended the Finistère départment.

Rebecca Brite, who lives in Paris’ 18th arrondisement, said she loves this part of France for the overall atmosphere. Her top recommendation was to “Go all the way to the Baie des Trépassés and stay at the old, traditional hotel-restaurant of the same name. Pretend you’re in the legendary kingdom of Ys, swallowed up by the sea on this very site.”

The other part of Brittany that came highly recommended was the Emerald Coast (Côtes d’Armour) – specifically the Côte de Granit Rose.

The Mediterranean coastline

The Mediterranean remained a very popular vacation spot for readers of The Local, with almost a third of respondents claiming it as their favourite part of the French coastline. From sailing to cliffs and architecture, the Mediterranean had a bit of everything according to The Local’s readers.

Cassis and the Calanques were among of the most popular responses for where to go and what to see in this part of France.

One respondent, Gini Kramer, said she loves this part of France because “There’s nothing like climbing pure white limestone cliffs rising right out of the sea. The hiking is spectacular too.”

Some counselled more lively parts of the riviera, like the old port in Marseille, while others suggested the quieter locations.

David Sheriton said he likes to go to the beaches of Narbonne: “It’s a gentle slope into the sea so great for the (grand)children.” He said that the area does have a “few bars and restaurants” but that it does not “attract the party crowds.” 

In terms of beautiful villages, Èze came recommended for being home to “the most breathtaking views of the French coastline,” according to reader Gregg Kasner.

Toward Montpellier, Dr Lindsay Burstall said that La Grande Motte was worth visiting, for its “coherent 60’s architecture.” Burstall proposed having “a chilled pression au bord de la mer while watching the world go by…”

Meanwhile, three readers listed locations near Perpignan, and all encouraged visiting the area’s “pre-historic sites.”

Sally Bostley responded that her favourite areas were “between Canet-Plage and Saint-Cyprien-Plage” and she advised visiting “Collioure, Banyuls with the aquarium, Perpignan, nearby prehistoric sites, Safari Park, Prehistory Park.”

Other parts of the coastline

Though these locations may have received less votes overall, they still stood our in the minds of The Local readers:

Normandy did not receive as many votes as its neighbour Brittany, it is still home to unique attractions worth visiting. The WWII landing beaches “plages de débarquement” came highly recommended, along with cathedrals and abbeys in the region, like Coutances in the northern Manche département.

Reed Porter, who lives in Annecy, likes to go to Êtretat when he visits Normandy. He had several recommendations, starting with “les falaises!” These are the dramatic cliffs overlooking the ocean.

Porter also suggested visitors of Êtretat head to “the glass stone beach” and the “old town” for its architecture. If you get hungry, there are “oysters everywhere all the time.”

Basque country was also highlighted for its proximity to the Pyrenées mountains. Maggie Parkinson said this was the best part of France’s coastline for her because of “The long views to the Pyrénées, the pine forests, the soft, fresh quality of the air, the many moods and colours of the sea – gently lapping aquamarine waves to thunderous, crashing black rollers churning foam onto the shore.”

A huge fan of the area, Parkinson had several recommendations ranging from cuisine to “cycling the many paths through the tranquil pines, visiting Bayonne, the Basque Country and the Pyrénées or northern Spain (for wonderful pintxos).”

She said that she loves to “[chill] on the endless, wide sandy beaches or [rest] on a hammock in the park” or “[catch] a local choir sporting blue or red foulards singing their hearts out to traditional or rock tunes.”

Similar reasons were listed in favour of Corsica as France’s best coastline, as it is also home to tall mountains with beautiful views over the water.

If you are looking to visit Corsica, Paul Griffiths recommends “having a good road map” and then “just [driving] quietly along the coast and over the mountains.” He said that this is “all easily doable in a day” and along the way you can “find beautiful beaches, lovely towns with good restaurants – especially Maccinaggion and Centuri – to enjoy one day after another.”

Finally, the preferred coastline location for The Local’s France Editor, Emma Pearson, also got some support by readers, with one calling La Vendée an “unpretentious” and “accessible” place for a vacation.

Respondent Anthony Scott said that “Les Sables d’Olonne and Luçon both epitomise the spirit of Vendée.” He enjoys the “inland serenity and historic sites, beautiful beaches and inviting seashores” as well as “traditional appetising meals.” He also noted that the area is “not too expensive.”

READ ALSO Brittany v Vendée – which is the best French coastline?

Many thanks to everyone who answered our survey, we couldn’t include all your recommendations, but feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below.

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