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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.

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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‘Book now’ – rental cars set to be scare and expensive in France this summer

Thinking about a French road trip this summer? You'll want to plan in advance, as hire cars are getting harder and harder to find and prices are skyrocketing.

'Book now' - rental cars set to be scare and expensive in France this summer

With life returning to near-normal, pre-Covid conditions, tourism is booming. France is set to be a popular holiday destination this summer – but renting a vehicle could cost you a lot of money. 

Why the price hike?

The quick answer is that demand is high.

At the Bordeaux-Mérignac airport, Michel Reillat, the CEO of rental company Loca’Malin told FranceInfo that “In July and August, there is no possibility of renting cars, since they are all booked.”

He explained that “reservations began very early, from February, with 30 to 40 percent of the cars already rented for the summer.” Reillat said he ordered about fifty additional cars, but even if this will be insufficient to meet the high demand.

However, rising demand is not the only answer.

During the pandemic, several rental companies sold large portions of their stock (up to 40 percent in some cases) to compensate for the loss brought on by Covid-19. This means that many rental companies are currently operating with shortages.

Are prices high everywhere?

Prices have seen the highest increases in places like the Basque coast, the South-West, and Corsica. Biarritz, for instance, where a weekly car rental is now on average €505 per week, has seen its average rates increase by 96 percent, according to car rental comparison website Carigami. 

The website published a list ranking cities based on affordability for car rentals, and it also allows you to compare which parts of the country are the cheapest for renting cars.

Where can I get affordable prices?

Based on the Carigami list, heading North is your best bet to avoid breaking the bank. A week’s rental in Lille will cost you €292 on average, according to the site. Though this still represents an increase from last year, it’s only 12.7 percent (small in comparison to Biarritz).

Two other cities that might allow you to book a vehicle for less than €300 a week are Clermont-Ferrand and Mulhouse.

If you want to go further south, Valence is a good compromise, Aix-en-Provence, and Marseille are better options than Nice (which is averaging at €496 per week). 

Finally, the other cities listed for having “reasonable” pricing are Rennes, Brest, Lyon and Nantes. Even so these cities, Brest in particular, have still seen significant increases from years past.

The other key thing is not to leave it to the last minute, as prices will only rise.

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