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How do I get a Covid-19 test in France to return to the UK?

A test is required 72 hours before departing France on return to the UK. We explain how you can get one and how much it will cost

26 May 2021
A mobile Covid-19 test centre in France

The French government is planning to offer free tests to tourists this summer but further details have not yet been announced Pic: JeanLucIchard / Shutterstock

Reader question: We hope to visit our second home in July in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and we know that we must have a negative Covid-19 test taken 72 hours before returning to the UK. Do you know where and how we can book a test that meets the UK requirements?

A negative Covid-19 test is currently a requirement for anyone entering the UK from abroad, including from France.

The test must be taken within three days (72 hours) of departing from France and the results must be in English, French or Spanish.

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. 

Rapid antigen tests are readily available in many pharmacies around France. You can walk in and book an appointment. However, you would have to ask if the tests being used meet the above standards.

Otherwise, the safer bet is to book a PCR test at a laboratory or at certain airports. 

All Covid-19 tests in France are free for people living in the country. 

This is not always the case for non-residents. Some laboratories charge people who are not in the French healthcare system.

Prices range from €30 to €70. 

For a previous Connexion article we asked several French labs their policies on PCR tests for those not in the French health system, 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”.

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. 

The Connexion checked the map to find our reader’s nearest testing centre and found a Eurofins laboratory in Digne-les-Bains.

We called the centre and were told that people who do not have cartes Vitale (French health insurance cards) can be tested but will have to pay €50.84 for a Covid-19 PCR test.

The laboratory advised booking online.

Sante.fr provides the laboratories’ phone numbers and you can book an appointment by calling directly, but staff may not speak English. 

Booking online

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. 

Tests at airports

Some 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. 

There may be a fee for people who are not in the French healthcare system. 

Free tests for tourists

France’s European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune stated on May 15 that Covid-19 tests would be free for tourists coming to France this summer, including for second-home owners. 

However, no further details have been announced regarding how this works. 

PCR tests to be free for tourists visiting France this summer

Read more:

Explained: Covid-19 rules for travel to and from France

How to claim back money in France for a Covid test taken abroad

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