France is one of the only countries to offer free PCR tests – which can cost up to €120 in Spain, £100 in the UK and €300 in Sweden – to residents for all purposes, including travel.
But now that is being extended to tourists who visit the country over the summer.
The French government hopes the free testing will make the country an attractive tourist destination, and will also allow it to welcome back tourists while staying safe.
Announcing the new policy, Europe Minister Clément Beaune told radio station Europe 1: “We need and we want to continue to be the first tourist destination in Europe and the world, in safe conditions.”
Last summer, there were many pop-up testing centres in tourist resorts that offered free tests, but free testing for all non-residents was not systematic throughout the whole country.
The minister did not clarify exactly how the free testing would work for non-residents.
At present some testing centres offer tests for free while others, particularly pharmacies, charge customers – a fee which residents of France can reclaim 100 percent via their carte vitale.
Testing prices are capped in France at €54 for PCR tests, €38 for the rapid result antigen tests and €6 for home-testing kits. All countries accept the results of PCR tests, but not all accept the results of antigen (called lateral flow tests in some countries) or home-test kits so check which type of test your home country requires.
The EU is also working on its own app or the ‘digital green pass’ which aims to launch in June, and will have options to upload either a vaccination certificate or a recent negative test, with a third option of a medical certificate for people who have recently recovered from Covid-19. France’s own ‘health passport’ app TousntiCovid is compatible with the EU app.
However until the apps are launched, even fully vaccinated travellers have to follow the rules on testing and quarantine.
There are also efforts to offer free tests in more European countries. “The European parliament is asking for tests to be free everywhere in Europe, but I can’t say if everyone will agree on this,” said Beaune.
Les tests #pcr seront gratuits cet été pr les étrangers qui viendront en vacances en France. C'est 1 élément d'attractivité dit @CBeaune sur @Europe1 ds le grand rendez vous d'@aurelherbemont. Qd on sait que c'est 100 € le test en Espagne pr 1 famille la gratuité peut être 1 +
— Emmanuel Duteil (@EmmanuelDuteil) May 16, 2021
June 9th is the first date of France’s reopening calendar that involves the health pass, but it could be postponed if the health situation deteriorates.