How and Where To Get a Covid-19 Test in France (and is it free?)

 

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How and Where To Get a Covid-19 Test in France (and is it free?)

Getting a Covid-19 test in France is easy, with test centres and pharmacies offering appointments and walk-in tests all around the country. However, whether or not you need to pay will depend on your residency and vaccination status. Here’s what you need to know.

Where Can I Take a Covid-19 Test in France?

Covid-19 tests (dépistage COVID-19 or simply ‘test Covid’) are offered at pharmacies, test centres, private practices, and clinics all around the country. Sante.fr, the French government’s health website, maintain a full list of ‘lieux de dépistage COVID-19’ (covid test locations), which you can search for here. Simply choose your department from the drop-down menu, and you will find a full list. You can also search by test type.

Many airports and large travel hubs have test centres on-site, so if you need a test for travel, be sure to check this first – they will normally be listed on the airport website.

You can equally search or make appointments for a Covid-19 test on Doctolib. You will need to download the app or open the website on your desktop, set up an account (you don’t need a Carte Vitale, and you don’t need to be a resident for this), then search for “dépistage Covid”.

If all else fails, you can call your French doctor or simply pop into your local pharmacy – chances are they offer Covid tests, but if not, they will likely be able to advise you on the closest test centre.

Do I need an appointment?

It depends upon the type of test and where you take it. The most commonly offered tests in France are PCR tests (un test PCR) or Antigen tests (un test antigénique), and many pharmacies and drop-in centres only offer the latter, so be sure to check if you need a PCR.

For PCR tests, these are normally only performed in test centres, and an appointment is typically required (but not always, so it’s worth checking). The nasal swab will be sent off to a lab, and you will receive your results by email or text message within 48 hours.

For Antigen tests, you often don’t need an appointment – these tests are most commonly performed at pharmacies and pop-up test centres, which will often advertise ‘sans rendez-vous’ (without appointment). If it’s not advertised as being possible without an appointment, it’s a good idea to call ahead and check – most pharmacies will fit you in the same day, even if they don’t allow drop-ins.

For those used to the UK testing system, where Covid tests for travel need to be pre-booked and appointments can fill up quickly, rest assured that Covid tests are very easy to come by in France. You are unlikely to have to travel far or wait very long.

You don’t need to go through your French doctor to get an appointment – you can book directly with the centres, either by calling up or using an online booking service such as Doctolib.

Can I take a home test?

Home-testing kits (un autotest) are available to purchase from some pharmacies, but they are not as frequently used in France as in countries such as the UK. These Antigen tests can be taken at home using a nasal swab, and results are given within 15 minutes. Note that these tests are not accepted for travel purposes or to activate the Health Pass.

Do I need a travel or ‘fit to fly’ test?

Note that all tests in France are issued with a scannable QR code, so you don’t need a special test for travel purposes as in some other countries (such as the UK). However, be sure to check whether you need a PCR test or whether an antigen test is sufficient, as rules vary depending on your destination country. Antigen tests conducted in France are within the accepted criteria for travel to the UK.

Who Pays for a Covid-19 Test in France?

Covid-19 tests are available to anyone who wants one in France; however, not everyone will be able to get a test for free. So, who has to pay and how much are they?

Covid tests for French Residents

Vaccinated

All Covid tests for fully vaccinated residents are reimbursed with your Carte Vitale – including tests for ‘convenience’ reasons such as travel. You must present your vaccination certificate, ID, and Carte Vitale.

Unvaccinated

Covid tests for unvaccinated residents are free if you have Covid symptoms or are a contact case – but you will need to contact your French doctor for a prescription in order to claim. All ‘convenience’ tests for the unvaccinated (including for travel purposes or to activate France’s Health Pass) must now be paid for by the individual.

The full rules can be seen here (in French).

Covid tests for travellers

If you are not resident in France (regardless of whether you own a second home or are fully vaccinated), you will need to pay for your Covid test in France. Similarly, if you are resident in France, but do not have a Carte Vitale, you will need to pay – however, you may be given a ‘feuille de soins’ (a receipt) with which you may be able to claim a reimbursement from your health insurance.

How much is a Covid test in France?

Prices are capped at €44 for a PCR test and €22 for an antigen test.

Home-testing kits are not covered by your Carte Vitale (except for certain healthcare workers) and cost a maximum of €5.20 per test.

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FrenchEntrée's Digital Editor, Zoë is also a freelance journalist who has written for the Telegraph, HuffPost, and CNN, and a guidebook updater for the Rough Guide to France and Rough Guide to Dordogne & Lot. She lives in the French countryside just outside of Nantes.

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