Covid Testing – not to be sniffed at!

Update to information on changes to entry rules

Arrivals to France

From Saturday 4th December: those travelling from outside of the EU (including UK) to France must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) before departure. This applies to all travellers whether fully vaccinated or not.

Please note, to enter France from a non-EU country (including the UK), self-administered tests are NOT ACCEPTED.

Arrivals to UK

From Tuesday 7th December, all people aged 12 years and over must take a PCR or LFD COVID-19 test 48 hours before they travel to England from abroad. This will apply whether you qualify as fully vaccinated or not.

Covid testing seems to be a staple part of everyday life these days. Whether you’re worried you’ve caught it, or need to prove you haven’t, chances are many of our noses will be swabbed before too long.

But do you need a PCR or an antigenic? Is it available at the pharmacy or specific Covid centres? How and when will you receive the results? How long are they valid? What if it’s positive?

Here’s our P-O guide to all things test AND scroll to the bottom for an exclusive discount offer on travel tests and certificates, no matter which way you’re travelling.

covid test


The RT-PCR test is the gold standard in Covid tests.

There are currently two methods.

In the first case, the RT-PCR test is done in the form of a nasopharyngeal swab (nose to you and me!). A long cotton swab is inserted high in the nose to collect a mucus sample. The procedure lasts just a few seconds but may cause some discomfort.

The second case is applied for repeat testing (for example in schools) or for individuals unable to undergo the nasal swab. Here a saliva swab is taken.

Regardless of the type of swab, once collected, the sample is sealed and analysed in a laboratory.

The time delay for obtaining the results obviously depends on the lab but most aim to provide results within 24 hours (often much less!).

Since the 29th November 2021, a negative RT-PCR test result is only valid for 24 hours to establish the pass sanitaire for access to restaurants and other venues. It is valid for 48 hours for international travel from amber/green listed countries (24 hours for red list).

test covid


The tests antigéniques are a quicker alternative to the RT-PCR. Although they detect the antigens that produce the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it can only determine if the person is infected at the time of testing.

Antigen tests are intended as a simple diagnostic guide and cannot replace the RT-PCR test in determining the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 genome.

Like the RT-PCR test, it consists of a nasal swab lasting a few seconds.

Unlike the RT-PCR test however, results are available in just 15 to 30 minutes, allowing a much quicker track and trace of positive cases.

Because they do not require such detailed analysis, antigen tests can be done in a much wider number of locations: pharmacies, physiotherapists, midwives, dentists, etc…

As with the RT-PCR tests, the antigen test is valid for 24 hours for the pass sanitaire and 48 hours for international travel from amber/green listed countries. Please note, certain countries/travel operators require the RT-PCR test.

test covid


While waiting for your results, the French government encourages you to isolate at home, although this is not enforced by law.


If your test is negative, you should continue to respect the gestes barrières (social distancing, hand washing, opening windows etc.).


If your test is positive, you will be contacted by the French track and trace team, to create/complete the list of contact cases.

Contact cases are people with whom you did not respect the gestes barrières 48 hours before the onset of symptoms or 7 days before in the absence of symptoms.

You will be asked for the name, date of birth (where possible) and contact details for each person.

You can ask to remain anonymous if you wish.

You must also self isolate for 10 days, counted from the first day of symptoms or from the positive test result if a-symptomatic.

You should take your temperature twice a day during isolation and only take paracetamol to ease symptoms. You should continue to take your regular medication as normal.

If on the 10th day, you have a fever, you must continue to self isolate until 48 hours after the fever passes.

If your symptoms worsen, you should contact your GP. If you experience respiratory problems, call emergency services on 15.


Practical info

You can find the complete list of test centres in the Pyrénées-Orientales here. Scroll down to the ‘FILTRER’ section and then tick which test you want. The list of addresses will show underneath the blue box.

Both the RT-PCR and antigenic tests are completely free for French residents but also for non-residents identified as contact cases.

You will be asked for your carte vitale / attestation de sécurité sociale and photo ID.

For non-French residents, you can access a free test if it is of a medical nature. You must present a prescription or the SMS/email identifying you as a contact case.

All other tests for non-French residents must be paid for (43,89€ for RT-PCR and 25€ for antigénique).


Travel to/from UK

In order to travel abroad from the UK, you will need evidence that you have tested negative for COVID-19 at the appropriate time before travelling.

If you are travelling to the UK, you must also book a Day 2 test in advance.

P-O Life readers have shared their experiences, and mentioned coming up against difficulties during the process.

To make your life easier, we have researched and found a reliable test provider, Zavamed, whose Day 2 tests are accepted by all major airlines and airports, as well as Eurostar, Eurotunnel and ferry travel providers.

What’s more, you can get 10% off the usual price using the promotional code below when booking online using the above links.


Please note, to enter France from a non-EU country (including the UK), self-administered tests are NOT ACCEPTED.

pass sanitaire


  1. Be careful to see how your test result is confirmed by the test provider. I used Randox, whom I had previously found reliable. But they require you to download their app, which is long process. I managed it after four attempts. My wife gave up. After all this, the app was defective and I could not upload my result. According to Randox’s website there is no alternative means of registering the result. They did not respond to requests for help. Fortunately, no-one asked me to prove the result, and a subsequent nhs test, which I registered online, was negative. Do not use a provider whose product requires an app.

  2. Great info and hopes that many will read it and be clear that they could be carriers even with vaccinations and should mask and distance STILL. Yes, it has been a long haul, but it won’t end until all are jabbed.

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