How do I get a Covid-19 test in France to return to the UK?
We explain how much tests cost, where to get one and which tests are accepted
A mobile Covid test centre in Bordeaux, France Pic: JeanLucIchard / Shutterstock
All travellers from France to the UK, whether vaccinated or not, need to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test within three days of travelling and present the negative test result to the relevant travel authorities.
It can be a PCR test or a rapid antigen test, as long as it meets certain standards, the UK government states.
What kind of Covid-19 test is accepted?
The UK government website states that the test can be either a PCR test or an antigen test as long as it meets the performance standards of ≥97% specificity, ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml.
Most rapid antigen tests offered officially in French pharmacies will meet this standard and The Connexion has not had reader feedback that any do not comply.
You can read our article explaining what we discovered about this here: Do antigen Covid tests in France meet UK standards for return travel?
It is also not clear how airline or travel authorities will be able to check if an official rapid antigen test issued by a pharmacy in France meets UK standards.
The UK rules also mention several points about what should be included on the test certificate including your name, which should match the name on your travel documents, your date of birth or age, the name of the test provider and their contact details and details of the device used for the test if it was not PCR. The latter, notably, is not always included automatically, so we would suggest also mentioning this point.
The test must be taken in the three calendar days (72 hours) before the day of departure from France and the results must be in English, French or Spanish.
How much do Covid-19 tests cost for tourists in France?
The tests will cost up to €29 for rapid antigen tests and up to €49 for PCR tests. However, some private testing clinics may charge more. Some places, such as nurses’ clinics, may also charge less.
Where to get a Covid-19 test in France
Rapid antigen tests are readily available in many pharmacies around France. You can walk in and book an appointment. The availability of Covid-19 tests is usually advertised in the pharmacy window.
Finding a test centre
The easiest way to find a place to get a Covid-19 test is through the government website sante.fr. Simply type in the department you are in and you will see a list of all laboratories offering tests.
There is also a map of all the testing laboratories with the relevant contact details.
Please note that the search feature on the map does not always function. You may be better zooming into the area you live in to find your nearest testing centre.
Sante.fr provides the laboratories’ phone numbers and you can book an appointment by calling directly, but staff may not speak English.
Tests at airports
Several airports in France, such as Orly and Charles de Gaulle in Paris and Nice airport, offer Covid-19 testing services.
You can check the website of your nearest airport to find out if you can get a Covid-19 test there.
You can also book an appointment through Doctolib.fr without a social security number. You just need to sign up for a free account. You will then need to provide your address, postcode and town.
Type in “test” to the search bar and then choose the option “dépistage COVID-19 test PCR (prélèvement naso-pharyngé)” from the dropdown menu to find appointments.
It is also possible to book Covid-19 tests online through the tool Covid Express. However, this requires you to have a valid French social security number.
If you are staying more rurally in France, it could be worth checking the website of your local mairie, which may have information on the nearest Covid-19 testing centre.
What is the process of getting a Covid-19 test
The UK requires travellers to get a nasal Covid test before entering. France does offer in-the-mouth saliva tests, but these are not accepted by the UK.
PCR and rapid antigen tests are both done by nasal swab. The person doing the test will put a long cotton bud up one or both of your nostrils to take a sample.
If you get a rapid antigen test in a pharmacy, you will usually receive your results there after around 30 minutes.
If you choose to get a PCR test at a private clinic, they may either send you the results, or send you a code that you must plug into their website to access the results.
You can ask for a certificate with a QR code compatible with France’s Covid-19 health pass scheme. These are not automatically supplied.