My experience getting a COVID-19 test in France

Jun 26, 2021

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I traveled to France at the beginning of June when the country reopened to American tourists. I spent a few days in Paris before taking the train down to Nice for a week at the beach and had an excellent time in both cities.

But every good trip must come to an end, and anyone traveling to the U.S. from abroad is still required to carry a negative COVID-19 test. This can be a PCR or antigen rapid test so long as it was taken within 72 hours of departure.

One of the most common questions I’ve gotten since writing about my trip to France is how to get a COVID-19 test before returning. So in this article, I’ll show you where you can get a COVID test in France and show you my experience getting tested.

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Where you can get a COVID-19 test in France

A COVID antigen test
You’ll find PCR and antigen rapid testing centers around France. (Photo by Aimur Kytt/Getty Images)

COVID-19 tests are easy to find in France.

You can get an antigen test at most major airports around the country, including Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG), Paris-Orly (ORY) and Nice (NCE). You can get an antigen test the same day of your flight or a PCR with a two- to three-day turnaround.

Make sure to check the airport’s website for testing hours and other need-to-knows. Show up early if you’re getting an antigen rapid test the same day of your flight. You should have results within 30 minutes, but budget an hour to be safe.

You’ll also find COVID-19 testing booths around French cities. I saw these near central Metro stations in Paris and outside of the main train station in Nice. Hours can be sporadic, though, so I don’t recommend relying on a pop-up.

COVID testing pop-up outside of the Nice train station
Pop-up COVID-19 testing clinics are placed around French city centers. (Photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy)

Walking into a French pharmacy is the most common way to get a test. Many pharmacies offer antigen tests free of charge to foreigners and residents and promise results in 30 minutes. This is how I was tested in Nice and had a seamless experience.

Check Google Maps for local testing centers. Then, call or check their website for details on availability and testing hours. You can also walk in at a local pharmacy if you’re already out-and-about.

Related: Traveling soon? Here’s where you can quickly get a COVID-19 PCR test for travel

My experience getting a COVID-19 test in France

I searched for an antigen rapid test the day before I left for the U.S. I had planned to get tested at a pharmacy throughout the trip and had a good feeling about it — most pharmacies in Paris and Nice had testing signs in the window, so it was easy to know where to look.

Pharmacy sign in Nice, France
(Photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy)

I walked around Nice’s city center and stopped by two pharmacies. One didn’t offer tests, and the other was “too busy” to guarantee a test for me. Thankfully, I stopped by a third location down the street and was greeted with a COVID-19 testing sign right outside the pharmacy.

COVID testing sign outsider of pharmacy in Nice, France
(Photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy)

Once inside, there was a sign to register. I was greeted by a friendly employee who asked for my passport and phone number. She filled out a registration form and told me that a nurse would administer an antigen rapid test in 15 minutes.

COVID testing sign inside pharmacy in Nice, France
(Photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy)

I waited inside the store and — like clockwork — was approached by a nurse in 15 minutes when it was my turn.

Pharmacy interior in Nice, France
(Photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy)

The test was administered in a closed-off portion of the pharmacy. The whole process was quick — I was swabbed in one nostril almost immediately after sitting down. While uncomfortable, it wasn’t nearly as annoying as tests PCR tests I’ve had in other countries. I was told I’d have results in another 15 minutes.

COVID testing booth at a pharmacy in Nice, France
(Photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy)

I waited outside of the pharmacy and was greeted by a different employee –15 minutes later. I was handed a piece of paper with my negative test results and was on my way quickly. I was never asked for payment.

French COVID test

The result page had a QR code that can be scanned into France’s TousAntiCOVID app. You can use this to enter large events that require proof of vaccination or a recent COVID-19 test.

COVID test in the TousAntiCOVID app
(Screenshot courtesy of the TousAntiCOVID app)

I brought the paper certificate to me when boarding my flight back to New York-JFK. The gate agent looked over the test and let me on board without issue. The test wasn’t checked at the U.S. border.

Related: What happens if you test positive for COVID-19 and can’t fly back to the US?

Bottom line

COVID-19 testing in France is straightforward if you know where to look. I recommend looking for a test at least 48 hours before your flight boards to ensure you find a testing center in time for your flight back to the U.S.

Feature photo by Andrew Kunesh / The Points Guy

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