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France travel: How do foreign visitors get Covid test to return home?

France has u-turned on a previous decision to make Covid tests free for tourists. You need a test to return to countries such as the UK and US

A pre-departure Covid test is required for entry to a number of countries around the world, including the UK and US. This requirement applies both to visitors to France returning home and to French residents visiting the countries.

For both the UK and US either a PCR or antigen test is acceptable and there are several options for obtaining one of these in France – the main point to remember is to plan ahead so as to have it within the correct time frame for the country you will be going to.

You can check requirements for countries for departures from France at this link

What do tests cost?

The UK and US require that you take a test in the three calendar days before departure, for example if you travel on Friday you must have a test on the Tuesday to Thursday. For the UK this applies to those aged 11 or more, for the US, aged two or more.

For French residents tests are currently free, though this is set to change in the autumn.  

Tourists are only covered if you need one for a medical reason and have a prescription, or if you have been identified as a Covid ‘contact case’ by French authorities. In this case tests should be free at the point of delivery if you have an Ehic/Ghic health card or are from a non-EU country with a reciprocal healthcare deal with France.

Otherwise you will have to pay – announcing the end to free tests for tourists for non-medical reasons, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said they would cost €49 for a PCR test and €29 for an antigen test.

The latter is often the fastest and simplest alternative, as results can be available in 15-30 minutes after the test. A PCR test can take from 24-48 hours, or sometimes more, usually with the results available on the internet or by email.

Where can I get tested?

Antigen tests are commonly available in pharmacies, the simplest option. You can walk in and request or book one. If a given pharmacy does not provide the service they may be able to tell which ones do in the area. Nurses can also administer them.

You can find a location for an antigen test at this link by searching with the test antigénique option 

If you want a PCR test these are commonly carried out at private blood testing labs, and locations can be found on the same link provided above but click to filter your research by test virologique (RT-PCR). You can also locate test labs by department at this link

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.

Many towns have also set up municipal testing facilities. Check locally with mairies or on their website.

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