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France introduces (another) new Covid health pass system for non-EU visitors

Since the introduction of the health passport in France, visitors who were vaccinated outside the EU have needed to convert their vaccine certificates to a format that is compatible with the French system. This has been a complicated process and now the French government has introduced yet another new system.

Police check health passes at a café in France.
Police check health passes at a café in Bordeaux. Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP

From emailing to online forms to visiting pharmacies – obtaining the necessary QR code to operate the French health passport has been a complicated process for visitors.

Now the government has introduced another new system – the fourth since the health pass came into use in August and a replacement for the online portal – and this time tourists will have to pay to get their code.

Here’s how it works:

Who?

This applies to anyone who was vaccinated outside of the EU, Schengen zone or the UK.

Anyone who was vaccinated in a non-EU country like the USA needs to get a French QR code before they can use the health passport that is required in order to access venues including bars, cafés, tourist attractions, theatres and long-distance train travel.

People who were vaccinated in the EU and Schengen zone can use their own country’s vaccination codes, thanks to the EU digital health pass.

People vaccinated in England, Scotland and Wales also have codes that are compatible with the French system, thanks to a separate agreement.

French citizens who were vaccinated outside the EU have their own online portal to use.

In order to apply for the French code you must be

  • Over the age of 12
  • Fully vaccinated with either Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines

Those vaccinated with Sinopharm or Sinovac can get a French code if they have had a single top-up dose of either Pfizer or Moderna.

Those vaccinated with Sputnik or any other vaccines not recognised by the WHO need two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna before they are accepted as fully vaccinated in France.

Why?

The health pass is now compulsory to access a wide range of venues and if you cannot prove your status as fully vaccinated you face having to either take a €22 Covid test every three days or avoid all bars, cafés, cinemas, tourist attractions, gyms, leisure centres and long-distance trains.

How?

The new system is a really a throw-back to the very first system, only a little more formalised.

Previously tourists and visitors were told to email or apply online in advance of their trip to get their code, but now codes can only be issued by pharmacies.

This means that tourists will have to wait until they have arrived in the country and then sort out the necessary code, which is available on a walk-in basis from pharmacies.

Not all pharmacies offer this service, visitors will have to go to a participating pharmacy and, as the map below shows, there are not many of these and they are heavily concentrated on cities, especially Paris.

You can find an interactive version of the map HERE to find the closest pharmacy to you.

Once at the pharmacy, you show your original paper vaccination certificate and your passport and the pharmacist will give you a QR code. The code can then be scanned into the French TousAntiCovid app and this creates the health pass.

Find full details on how the health pass works HERE.

Charles de Gaulle airport

If you are coming to France by air and you are flying into Charles de Gaulle airport, there is a pharmacy at the airport that offers this service. 

It’s called Pharmacie Bonassoli, but it does not operate 24/7.

How much?

Previously the swapping service was free, but now pharmacists can charge up to a maximum fee of €36.

Why the change?

The process for tourists and visitors from outside the EU to get the necessary code has never really worked very well, and The Local has received dozens of emails from people who were unable to get the code, or who waited weeks for their application to be processed, leaving them without a pass on their holidays.

Most of the rollout of the health pass has gone very (some might say surprisingly) smoothly, but this areas has definitely been a weak spot.

The most recent system was an online application form, but many people reported that it took weeks to get their code so it was probably understaffed.

By moving the task back to pharmacies the government has at least provided a service that is accessible on a walk-in basis, and hopefully more pharmacies will sign up to the scheme in time.

What if you are still waiting?

If you already applied online for the code and are still waiting, the government says that existing applications will be processed.

However if it has not arrived by the time you get to France, you can also go to the pharmacy to get your code.

Other options

If this system doesn’t work out for you there are a couple of other options. 

The health pass also works with a negative Covid test, so you could take regular tests. Tests are available on a walk-in basis from virtually all pharmacies in France and for tourists cost €22 for an antigen test or €44 for a PCR test. Both types work with the health passport.

We’ve also received anecdotal reports of foreign vaccine certificates, especially the American CDC card, being accepted as proof of vaccination by staff at bars or cafés. However, this is not officially recognised.

French vocab

Pass sanitaire – health passport 

Attestation de vaccination étranger or Certificat de vaccination étranger  – Foreign (ie non-EU) vaccination certificate

Code QR (pronounced coo-aire) – QR code

Conversion de certificats de vaccination étrangers en format européen – Conversion of foreign vaccination certificates into a European format (this is the formal name for this service, so look out for pharmacies offering this)

Bonjour, pouvez-vous tranformer mon certificat de vaccination étranger en un QR code français pour le pass sanitaire ? – Hello, can you swap my foreign vaccination certificate for a French QR code for the health pass?

Member comments

  1. Just wondering, I fly back to USA on Jan 2 2022, I know I need a covid test within days, so is there a excepted test that I can get back same day on the 3oth, because I know no one will be working new year’s eve or new Years day, and which site does it, thanks for any information

  2. Hello

    I have always booked the covid tests (depistage) via the doctolib.fr website – it is very simple. I do not know if you need an antigen or pcr test. The former is very quick with immediate results (and code) on the spot. I have also had PCR tests at labs where a morning’s test has always resulted in an emailed result by the evening. I would think the pharmacies will be working on New Year’s Eve but I can understand that you may prefer to have it done before that date! Hope this helps.

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DRIVING

Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

France's Ministry of Transport has announced that toll-fees will increase in 2023. Here is what motorists in France can expect.

Péage: Toll rates for motorists in France to increase in 2023

With French motorists already expecting increases in fuel prices starting in January, the cost of travel on many of France’s motorways will also increase in 2023.

Toll rates on the main routes across France are set to go up by an average of 4.75 percent starting on February 1st, according to an announcement by the Ministry of Transport on Friday.

These rates already rose by two percent in 2022. 

While the increase is still lower than the rate of inflation (six percent), motorists in France can still expect driving to become more expensive in 2023, as the government does away with its broad-scale fuel rebate (€0.10 off the litre) at the start of January.

As of early December, the French government was still discussing plans for how to replace the fuel rebate. The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, told Les Echoes in November that the government was considering a targeted, means-tested “fuel allowance” for workers who depend on their vehicles to commute to and from work. 

How much will I be affected?

The degree to which drivers will experience increased costs depends largely on what kind of vehicle they use, in addition to how far you plan to drive on the toll-road. 

Vehicles are broadly classified as follows:

Class 1 (Light vehicles): these are cars and minivans. This class also includes vehicles pulling trailers with a combined height of no more than 2m and a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of less than or equal to 3.5 tonnes.
Class 2: Large utility vehicles and camping cars
Class 3: Heavy goods vehicles, coaches, other 2-axle vehicles, motorhomes taller than 3m
Class 4: Vehicles taller than 3m with a GVW greater than 3.5 tonnes
Class 5: Motorbikes, sidecars, quad bikes, three-wheeled motor vehicles 

The next determining factor for how significant the price rise will be depends on which company is operating the road you use, and there are several different companies that operate toll-roads in France. 

Each year, toll (péage) prices in France are adjusted and re-evaluated for the following year on February 1st, following discussions between the government and the main companies that operate the French freeways. The fees are in part used for road maintenance costs. 

To estimate the cost of tolls for your next French road trip, you can use the calculator on this website

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