Returning to UK from France: How to get a French Covid test

As the UK opens up for residents to take foreign holidays again from May 17, it is important to note that a test prior to leaving your destination country is required for return to the UK

7 May 2021
By Liv Rowland

All UK travellers will be asked by the UK government to have a Covid-19 test before returning home once leisure travel resumes – a point to remember if you will be coming to France on holiday or visiting a second home.

England’s ‘traffic light’ system for foreign travel will vary in its requirements depending on the destination country’s colour code, however one consistent requirement is a so-called ‘pre-departure test’.

This is already a requirement for coming into the country and is set to continue.

It will also apply to residents of France seeking to visit the UK.

The UK rules state that the test should be done in the three days prior to coming back, for example, if you will travel to England on Friday, you must take the test on the Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

Acceptable kinds include PCR tests or antigen tests (this is also confirmed by the French consulate in London) however the government site linked to above states that if the test is not PCR the test certificate should mention the device that was used to do the test, and the test must meet certain efficiency criteria.

Antigen tests are widely available from French pharmacies and the town pharmacy in Dinard (Ile-et-Vilaine), place du Général de Gaulle, told The Connexion its antigen tests are acceptable for England and are charged at €30 to those not in the French health system.

However another pharmacy we spoke to, Selarl Capa in Nice, stated that it provides antigen tests free to everyone.

You can find pharmacies and other locations offering antigen tests at this link

If you want to take a PCR test in France, these are usually done in private testing labs, though some towns also have their own municipal facilities.

To find the latter, where tests can often be done without an appointment, you should check the website of the French town where you will stay. Otherwise, you can locate test labs by French department here, or see the map feature at the link provided above for antigen tests but click to filter your research by test virologique (RT-PCR).

In the information shown for the lab you should click modalités d’accueil and check if an appointment (rendez-vous) is needed or not.

Where an appointment is obligatory this is sometimes booked via a website, or in some cases it may be made by phone.

Antigen test results are usually available the same day, whereas a PCR test result is usually available in 24-48 hours. Results are typically accessible by internet or email.

We asked several French labs their policies on PCR tests for those not in the French health system people, with varying results.

One lab group in the Alpes-Maritimes said tests are charged at around €55-70, a second lab in the same department said they are free but a doctor’s prescription is required.

A third, in Charente-Maritime stated its tests are free, while another in Brittany said they are “around €50”.

Bearing in mind that some labs, and even certain pharmacies, ask you to book in advance for Covid tests, it is worth checking where and when you will do your test in good time before your departure date for return to the UK.

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