France ends free Covid tests for tourists

Foreign tourists and visitors are no longer be eligible for free Covid tests in France after the government scrapped free testing for non-residents, blaming a "lack of reciprocity" from other countries.

France ends free Covid tests for tourists
French residents can still get free tests for any reason, including travel. Photo: Thomas COEX / AFP.

Visitors who need a Covid test while in France – including a travel test to return home – may now have to pay for it. However, prices are capped at €49 for a PCR test or €29 for the rapid-result antigen test (known as a lateral flow test in some countries).

Tests for residents continue to be free, including tests for travel.

READ ALSO How tourists and visitors can get a Covid test in France

“It’s a matter of reciprocity, knowing that French people who travel have to pay for tests in most countries,” government spokesman Gabriel Atta said in an interview with Les Echos newspaper.

The French government had announced in May that tourists would be able to get tested for free, in order to make France an attractive holiday destination. Some holiday destinations are still planning to offer free tests at pop-up testing centres over the summer.

The government will also be distributing self-test kits at tourists destinations such as beaches and campsites over the summer, but most countries do not accept the results of self-tests for travel purposes.

Many countries require visitors, including residents who are returning from abroad, to take a Covid test before travelling. In the USA, Canada and the UK, there are currently no exemptions for travellers who have been fully vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated people no longer need tests to travel between EU or Schengen zone countries, as long as they show a European health pass.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about travel between France and the USA or Canada

Certain doctors have also been calling on France to charge unvaccinated residents for “convenience tests”, taken in order to travel or to enter certain venues such as nightclubs. But for now, people living in France will continue to be offered free tests for all purposes.

“Lots of French people are still waiting for their second vaccine dose, but the question will arise in September,” Attal said.

France is one of the only countries to offer free PCR tests – which can cost around €120 in Spain, £120 in the UK and €300 in Sweden – to residents for all purposes, including travel.

Member comments

  1. Quite rightly France will charge a reasonable price for visitors to access a PCR test. It would be nice if the UK would do the same instead of allowing the profiteering for private PCR tests to continue unabated. I read in the British press today that the government wants ambassadors to pull out all the stops to enable travel when the British school holidays start when all that is needed is some reciprocity in the approach. Bovine Boris is to dense to realise this however. Nothing new there.

  2. As an American, in January when I needed a PCR Covid test to fly to the USA i paid over 62€ at a public testing site where I live. As I don’t participate in the French health system I was charged. Which is fine with me. So I don’t know which foreigners were accorded free Covid testing as that. Was not my personal experience

  3. I read today that even if vaccinated Americans will have to get tested every 72 hours to enter most indoor places? Is this true? Museums etc.
    We have our CDC cards but have not been able to convert them to green pass but planned on having them with us at all times to show proof.
    Thank you.

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Drought-hit Mont Blanc shuts shelters to dissuade hikers

Authorities in the French Alps said Friday they had closed down two popular mountain shelters used by Mont Blanc climbers because of potentially deadly drought-related rockfalls.

Drought-hit Mont Blanc shuts shelters to dissuade hikers

In a year marked by drought and heatwaves, rockfalls and gaping crevices have made access to the top of Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest mountain, even more difficult and perilous.

The mayor’s office in the Mont Blanc village of Saint-Gervais, said climbers were in “mortal danger” from rocks and shards coming loose because of dry weather and dropping from a height.

“All day long, we still see climbers going on the mountain range, all the time, as if this was Disneyland or the Parc Asterix,” said Saint-Gervais mayor Jean-Marc Peillex, in reference to two popular theme parks near Paris.

Hikers had been advised since last month to stay away because of the danger, but “they just don’t give a damn,” he told AFP.

READ MORE: ‘To pay funeral costs’ – Why Mont Blanc mayor wants to charge climbers

The closure of the two mountain shelters — Gouter with 120 overnight spots and Tete Rousse with 74, as well as a base camp accommodating up to 50 people — was to “show clearly that there is no accommodation available”.

The authorities had warned for weeks that falling rocks were a danger, he said, adding that crossing the Gouter mountain corridor represented “a mortal danger”, he said.

Nevertheless, 79 people stayed at the Gouter shelter Thursday night, he said.

The shelters will remain shut until normal weather conditions return, the mayor said, probably not before early September.

Peillex had warned Wednesday that Saint-Gervais would require a deposit of €15,000 from each hiker, saying the sum represented the average cost of a rescue operation and a funeral.

He was, however, advised that French law offers no basis for such a move.

A lack of snow during the winter has laid bare vast areas of greyish glacier — yellowish where sand dust from the Sahara has accumulated — riven with fractures on the Mont Blanc.

The heat did the rest, causing the fragile snow bridges to melt that make it possible to cross the crevasses, as well as leading to landslides.

Following several heatwaves, France is in the grip of severe drought, blamed by scientists on climate change.

On Friday, 100 municipalities across the country were without drinking water, Environment Minister Christophe Bechu said.

Calling the drought “historic”, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne called a crisis meeting Friday to seek solutions.

Scientists say human-induced climate change is amplifying extreme weather — including the heatwaves, droughts and floods seen in several parts of the planet in recent weeks — and say these events will become more frequent and more intense.

The international community has agreed that climate change poses an existential threat to human systems and the natural world.