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Swiss residents crossing border to France for ‘cheaper Covid tests’

As coronavirus screening is no longer free in Switzerland, some residents of border areas get tested in France.

Some Genevans drive a short distance to France to get tested for coronavirus
Since October 11th, people from Geneva drive to France (here at the Thonex border crossing) to save money on Covid testing. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini /AFP

Residents of Switzerland’s border regions often do their shopping in neighbouring countries to save money, as the cost of food and other products is cheaper abroad.

Now this phenomenon, known as “shopping tourism”, has been taken a step further, with a number of people from Geneva and surrounding areas cross the border to get their Covid tests in France.

Since October 11th, when the Swiss government stopped covering the cost of Covid tests for most people, some residents of Switzerland “have been crossing the border to get tested cheaply in France”, public broadcaster RTS reported.

Even though prices for screening in Switzerland vary, with some testing centres and pharmacies charging less than others, it is still cheaper in France, according to RTS.

READ MORE: How much do Covid tests now cost in Switzerland?

For instance, in Switzerland, most places charge 134 francs for PCR and 47 for a rapid antigen test.

In French pharmacies, people who are not vaccinated or who do not have a doctor’s prescription have been paying about 47 euros for a PCR and 27 an antigen test.

As of Friday, October 15th, this has been capped at €44 for PCR and €22 for antigen across the country. 

And French test results are valid in Switzerland for the Covid certificate.

French tests are also valid for international travel.

Switzerland decided to start charging for tests to save money, as the cost of screening is estimated at four million francs per day.

If the tests were to remain free until January 24th, 2022 – the date when the Covid certificate requirement expires – they would cost the federal government around 770 million francs.

However, tests remain free for people who have Covid symptoms, children up to 16 years of age, visitors to health facilities, those who can’t be vaccinated for health reasons (and can prove it with a medical certificate) and, until the end of November, those who have had the first dose of the vaccine and are waiting for the second shot.

READ MORE:Switzerland ends free Covid testing: Everything you need to know

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COMPARE: What are the Covid test requirements around Europe for child travellers

Travel is opening up around Europe, but most countries still have testing requirements in place for adults. When it comes to under 18s, however, the rules vary widely on who is exempt and who needs a test.

COMPARE: What are the Covid test requirements around Europe for child travellers

Travel within the EU and Schengen zone will in theory become easier from July 1st for those who are fully vaccinated with the introduction of the EU-wide Covid-19 certificate.

For those who are not fully vaccinated, or those travelling from outside the Bloc, testing will remain a part of crossing borders for some time to come.

But while the rules on tests for adults are fairly standard, the age at which children require tests varies from newborn babies and two-year-olds to 18.

Here’s an overview from countries covered by The Local, as well as from elsewhere in the EU and the UK.


Austria has strict testing requirements for entry from most countries, but children under the age of 10 are exempt.


Belgium has an exemption to its testing requirements for some residents, but otherwise testing is required. The age exemption for children is 6, the same as in neighbouring Germany.


Children under 7 who arrive in Croatia will be exempt from testing requirements.

Czech Republic

The rules on testing depend on which country you arrive from but in general children under 5 are exempt.


Denmark has recently relaxed its requirement for travellers from certain countries so that they no longer need a 'worthy purpose' to enter the country. However entries from certain countries still need a negative test, and the cut-off age for children is 15.


Children aged under 12 are exempt in Finland.


The exemption age for children arriving into France is 11. Under 11s are exempt from the testing requirements, all other non-vaccinated travellers or arrivals from countries not on the green list, must present a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours, or an antigen test taken within the previous 48 hours.


In Germany under 6s are exempt from testing requirements, as well as fully-vaccinated adults from certain countries.


Children under 5 are exempt from testing requirements on arrivals.


Children under 5 are not required to show a negative Covid test to enter Ireland, but most other travellers are.


Pretty much everyone entering Italy needs a negative Covid test with only children aged two or under are exempt.

READ ALSO: Italy will bring back quarantine rule for UK arrivals ‘if necessary’


Children under 13 years age are exempt from testing requirements when arriving in the Netherlands.


Entry to Norway is still tightly restricted for non-Norwegians with tests required for most people, but children under the age of 12 are exempt from pre-travel tests, although under most circumstances they must be tested at the border.


The Polish rules have no formal exemption for children, meaning that in theory even newborn babies would have to be tested in order to enter the country.


Only children aged two or under are exempt from the testing requirements in Portugal.


Children under 13 travelling with their families are exempt from testing.


Since June 7th, Spain no longer requires a negative test for all arrivals, including fully-vaccinated travellers from non-EU/EEA countries such as the US. Where tests are required, the cut-off age for children is now 12.


Sweden's testing requirement is only for adults, so all under 18s are exempt from having to provide a test.


Switzerland exempts under 12s from the testing requirement.


Most entries to the UK require a test, but children under the age of 11 are exempt.