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Can travellers to France from UK get a self-administered Covid test?

Anyone entering France from the UK whether vaccinated or not has to undertake a Covid test within 48 hours of boarding. But are home or self-administered fit-to-fly tests allowed?

A man takes his own nasal swab sample.
A man takes his own nasal swab sample to make a Covid-19 self-test at the "Maison des Associations Stephane Hessel" in Trouville-sur-Mer on August 12, 2021. Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

Please note, this is an old article – find the latest here.

Before you read on, you should be aware of an important change to French entry rules for travellers coming from the UK.

From December 18th arriving from the UK into France must have a “imperative motive” for travel, this essentially means that tourists and people without French nationality or residency are barred from entering France. Residents of France or French nationals however are free to travel. All arrivals face a mandatory seven day quarantine that can be left early if travellers present a negative test 48 hours after arrival. 

All travellers from the UK will have to sign up on an online platform before their departure to France. They must mention where they will be staying. Law enforcement authorities will check at the address you have listed to ensure you are not breaking quarantine. 

All travellers from non-EU countries – whether they are fully vaccinated or not – currently require proof of a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of departure to enter France.

Travellers must show proof, in either digital or paper format, of a negative result to travel companies and/or border control. 

While France has clarified that antigen and PCR tests are valid for entry, it’s not been clear to travellers whether they can book one of the many self-administered home tests on offer in the UK.

What’s behind the confusion?

For those who live in France part of the confusion stems from the UK’s testing system which is privatised for anyone needing a test for travel purposes.

Almost any pharmacy in France will offer antigen tests that provide a certificate and QR code that can be used for travel. But in the UK, finding an appropriate test site requires a lot of research.

Many companies are not clear about whether their self-administered tests are valid for France, although some are, such as this one, which clearly states the home test on offer is “not suitable for France”. But it doesn’t explain why.

What do the authorities say?

The UK government site for entry rules into France says clearly: “Self-administered tests are not accepted.”

This seems to make it appear pretty clear that any test required for travel to France must be carried out by a professional at a designated test site or laboratory.

But the French embassy in London suggested something slightly different with these words of warning:

“Please note that self-administered tests, the results of which are not certified by a laboratory (eg tests provided free of charge by the NHS), are not authorised for travel.

“The NHS says it will not be providing tests for travel. It is therefore necessary to resort to private companies offering a similar service.”

This suggests that certain self-administered tests, the type you do at home and then post to a lab for analysis, are valid for entry into France – as long as the testing company provides a travel certificate to prove this.

This is the case for all PCR tests. But for antigen tests it’s less clear.

Some companies offer home test kit antigen tests and say you only need to send photo of the negative test result along with proof of ID to get a valid travel certificate. It’s unclear if these travel certificates would be acceptable for entry.

Many UK-based Covid testing companies also send you a home test to be carried out during a guided video call by a professional. If the result is negative, the company will send a travel certificate, which they say can be used for boarding. In reality, it’s not clear if these would be accepted by travel authorities. 

So we contacted the French consulate in London who helped clear things up, for the most part.

We asked them if self-administered home tests, whether PCR or antigen tests were valid for entry into France if the results were verified by a lab?

They replied “yes, we can confirm that is the case”.

When asked about the self-tests that companies say can be verified with a photo of the negative test or a video call the consulate replied: “This may depend on the (travel) certificate issued, in this case you can contact the test provider.”

When we asked more details about what info the travel certificate needed to contain, the consulate confirmed that details such as the type of test, the name of the laboratory, full names and date of birth and of course the time and date of the test, would need to be on the certificate.

So ultimately while certain self-tests are authorised, not all are, so it’s probably wise to check with your test provider that the certificate provided contains all the relevant details for travel to France.

And if that’s not possible, which is often the case, then you should probably get an on-site test to avoid any doubt.

What’s clear is you can’t just arrive at the border with a negative self-test kit in your hands and expect it to be accepted.

If you search for a ‘Fit to Fly’ test and specify France as your destination, you will normally be directed to companies performing tests that should meet the standard for travel to France. 

One final thing is to check you get the results on time. Be warned though there are many tales of flights being missed whilst passengers wait for results.

Travellers to France must also sign an official declaration ‘on their honour’ – the form is here – stating that they accept that further testing can be performed on arrival in France, and that they have no symptoms of Covid-19.

As well as a negative ‘fit to fly’ certificate, unvaccinated travellers – who can only enter France for ‘essential reasons’ – will be instructed to self-isolate for seven days, and will also need to complete an official declaration stating their reason for travel – that declaration is HERE.

TIP: The French embassy in London says those who are travelling to the UK for very short periods (although this doesn’t apply to many given the need to self-isolate until the result of day 2 PCR test comes through) can use their pre-departure PRC or antigen test to return to France if it is still within 24 hours of when the test was carried out.

Get in touch with us if you have had any bad experiences with getting tests to travel to France. Email [email protected]

Member comments

  1. Travelled by Eurostar last Monday. Had a LFT, verified by a lab, received an email from them confirming it was negative. This was accepted by Eurostar and the PAF at St Pancras.

  2. “We have spent days pouring through the complex question of whether self-test Covid kits can be used for travel to France” – “poring”, please, not “pouring”

  3. Can someone please explain the EASIEST least expensive way* to return to France from England via Eurostar; I have homes in both countries and am a Brit with a Titre de Sejour.
    * To get tested. Last time I was there – November, I did not need a test to return.

  4. Pingback: Anonymous
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‘A European exception’: How tourists are flocking back to France after Covid

France is looking forward to a strong summer for tourism as homegrown holidaymaker numbers are boosted by the return of international travellers after two years of Covid-19.

'A European exception': How tourists are flocking back to France after Covid

In February, revenue from international tourism in France “came close to those of 2019”, according to tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.

At €2.7 billion, revenues for the month were up €1.5 billion compared to last year – still down eight percent compared to 2019, before the pandemic, when France’s tourism sector represented 7.4 percent of GDP and 9.5 percent of jobs.

According to Lemoyne, France is “very well positioned” as the “number one destination for travel in Europe for Americans, Belgians, Italians and Spaniards”.

The French, for their part, are “a European exception”, the minister said, pointing out that 60 percent plan to remain in their own country over the holidays.

“With a domestic base that will remain very strong and the return of international customers, this means that we are in for a summer season that can be very, very dynamic,” he said.

But Didier Arino, director of the Protourisme consultancy, warned there could be trouble ahead.

“It is not the market that is going to be problematic, it is the cost of production of tourist stays, competitiveness, the suitability between the prices of products and purchasing power,” he said.

“The players are all increasing their prices, and right now it is going well because people want to enjoy themselves. But we are reaching the limit of what is acceptable for many customers.”

Globally, international tourist arrivals worldwide have more than doubled, up 130 percent in January 2022 on the same period last year, according to the latest UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) figures. 

In Europe, tourists are heading to France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Iceland, but still not in the same numbers as before Covid.

Worldwide, there have been 18 million additional visitors, the UNWTO said, “equivalent to the total increase recorded over the whole of 2021”.

In 2019, global tourism revenues reached $1.48 trillion. That figure dropped by almost two thirds due to the pandemic the following year.

But UNWTO also highlighted how the Omicron Covid variant put the brakes on the rise, with international arrivals in January 2022 still 67 percent lower than before the pandemic.

Larry Cuculic, general manager of the Best Western hotel company, is optimistic. “I travelled earlier this week and I can tell you that the airports, the international terminals in the US are very crowded and there is a demand or an interest in travelling to Europe, because for several years we couldn’t do that,” he told AFP. “We miss going to Paris, Rome and Berlin.”

Travel by Chinese tourists, the world’s biggest spenders before the pandemic, is also severely affected by China’s zero-Covid policy. But travel analyst ForwardKeys has indicated that the second quarter of 2022 still looks “more promising for international travel in the world than the first quarter”.