France Ends Free Covid Tests for Tourists

Foreign tourists and visitors are no longer be eligible for free Covid tests in France after the government scrapped free testing for non-residents, blaming a “lack of reciprocity” from other countries.

Visitors who need a Covid test while in France – including a travel test to return home – may now have to pay for it. However, prices are capped at €49 for a PCR test or €29 for the rapid-result antigen test (known as a lateral flow test in some countries). Tests for residents continue to be free, including tests for travel.

“It’s a matter of reciprocity, knowing that French people who travel have to pay for tests in most countries,” government spokesman Gabriel Atta said.

The French government had announced in May that tourists would be able to get tested for free, in order to make France an attractive holiday destination. Some holiday destinations are still planning to offer free tests at pop-up testing centres over the summer.

The government will also be distributing self-test kits at tourists destinations such as beaches and campsites over the summer, but most countries do not accept the results of self-tests for travel purposes.

Covid test as travel requirement

Many countries require visitors, including residents who are returning from abroad, to take a Covid test before travelling. In the USA, Canada and the UK, there are currently no exemptions for travellers who have been fully vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated people no longer need tests to travel between EU or Schengen zone countries, as long as they show a European health pass.

Certain doctors have also been calling on France to charge unvaccinated residents for “convenience tests”, taken in order to travel or to enter certain venues such as nightclubs. But for now, people living in France will continue to be offered free tests for all purposes.

“Lots of French people are still waiting for their second vaccine dose, but the question will arise in September,” Attal said. France is one of the only countries to offer free PCR tests – which can cost around €120 in Spain, £120 in the UK and €300 in Sweden – to residents for all purposes, including travel.