What you should do if you get sick in France

Useful tips about French medicine, hospitals and pharmacies

What to do if you fall sick in Paris

If you are going on a trip to France or planning to move there, it might happen that you get sick. If that happens, we hope this article will provide you with some useful information.

The most important thing to have before your visit is proper medical insurance, as you may need a doctor’s services at the most unexpected moment. If necessary, highly qualified specialists will provide you with assistance and all (or part) of the costs will be reimbursed by your insurance company. So choose your travel insurance carefully and read the terms of the contract. Also do not forget to set aside 300-500 euros in case of emergency.


Emergency situations

What to do if you fall sick in Paris

In case of urgent need, call 112 for the emergency service. It will provide emergency assistance in case of a threat to life and health. This number is toll-free and will even work from a locked cell phone or sometimes when there is no signal. This number works throughout Europe.

If the situation is serious, but not critical, you must first contact your insurance company at the telephone number indicated on the insurance contract. You will be asked about your issue and you will be provided the coordinates of the nearest medical institution or doctor the insurance company has signed a cooperation agreement with. The coordinator can refer you to the nearest doctor or hospital, and if necessary, call an ambulance.

If you are asked to go to the doctor or hospital but you are not able to move around, be sure to inform your coordinator. If transportation is not included in your insurance, you can still call an ambulance. However, you will probably have to pay it out of your own pocket. The approximate cost of transportation is 70 euros.

If you can move on your own, then an ordinary taxi can be a cheaper option.

If you find yourself in a hospital after having lost consciousness, show your insurance as soon as you can (within 48 hours after the incident) in the emergency room. The staff of the medical institution will contact the insurance company on their own.

Helpline phone numbers in France:

Ambulance (in French SAMU) - 15
Police - 17
Fire brigade (Pompiers) - 18

Firefighters in France are usually contacted not only in case of fire but also in case of other critical situations such as a gas leak, accidents or a life-threatening condition in a public space.

Emergency dental care (Paris) - (+33) 01 43 37 51 00
Emergency in case of poisoning - (+33) 01 40 05 48 48


Calling a doctor to your home in France

Calling a doctor in France

If you do not feel well and you are not sure about the need for hospitalization, you can call a doctor to your home or hotel. The doctor will make a medical check-up and advise to do next. This service is available in almost all French cities and is provided by an organization called SOS Médecins. Before calling a doctor be sure to check whether your insurance company covers such costs.

Phone number of the SOS Médecins is 3624. Paris - (+33) 01 47 07 77 77.

The cost is usually around 50-70 euros.


English-speaking doctors in Paris and France

english speaking doctor in France

Unfortunately, many doctors can't speak fluently English, so if you are not a French speaker or if the issue is too specific, it might be complicated to communicate about it. This website to find English speaking doctor in Paris is the perfect tool if you are not at ease with the French language.  Mobidoctor is a user-friendly platform that helps you to find online consultations with English-speaking doctors in France, with prescriptions for just 29 euros. The service is available 365 days a year and consultations can be done within minutes, which is perfect for urgent care.


Visiting a doctor in France

If you are not afraid of the language barrier, ou can also get an appointment with a doctor on the www.doctolib.fr website. Again, the main thing is to have good insurance that will fully or partially reimburse the cost of a doctor's appointment. Consulting a doctor or a general practitioner can cost from 25 to 80 euros or more. It may also be necessary to urgently make blood tests or an ultrasound etc. All procedures are paid separately.

After examination, the doctor will give you a form called feuille de soins. It will be needed for further treatment, and will also serve as a prescription for the purchase of drugs in a pharmacy.


English-speaking hospitals in the Paris region

In these two hospitals, you are sure to find English-speaking staff. 

The American Hospital, 63 Boulevard Victor Hugo 92202 Neuilly, Tel. 33 (0) 1 46 41 25
The British Hospital, 3 Rue Barbès 92300 Levallois, Tel. 33 (0) 1 46 39 22 22

 Of course, in other hospitals too, some or most of the medical staff will likely speak some English.


Carte Vitale / Mutuelle

The French healthcare system is considered one of the most effective in the world. In France, there is a system of compulsory health insurance: for all French citizens and people with a French residence permit, medical insurance is mandatory. With a so-called Carte Vitale you can pay for most medical services, procedures, drugs, and hospitalization. The state reimburses 75% of the cost of all services, the remaining 25% is paid by complementary health insurance which is called mutuelle (which are compulsory for workers in France).

If you are an employee or student in France, you are entitled to mandatory insurance and you will have a Carte Vitale.


Pharmacies and drugs in France

Pharmacies and drugs in France

Pharmacies in Paris are easy to find by the green cross sign. Pharmacists working in Paris pharmacies are highly qualified and have the right to give medical advice. Therefore, before visiting a doctor, you can seek advice from a local pharmacy. However, many drugs in pharmacies in Paris are sold strictly by prescription. If you have a prescription in another language, you can still go to the pharmacy. The main thing is that the pharmacist can understand what kind of medicine you need, for that it should be written in the Latin alphabet.

Many pharmacies are opened from 9:30 AM to 7 PM, while on Sundays they are mostly closed. If you need medicine urgently on a Sunday or holiday, you can buy it at an emergency pharmacy open around the clock. Their list can be found in any pharmacy, hospital, police station or fire service, as well as in a hotel. An open pharmacy is easy to identify by the lights of their green cross on.
Here is the list of emergency pharmacies in Paris by district (in French).

Buying medicine in France

There is also a new special home drug delivery service organized by a group of pharmacies: Aprium Express. Within two hours, you will be delivered the necessary medication even with a prescription. In fact, buying prescription-only medicine online is not possible in France, except if the delivery is organized by pharmacies themselves, which is the case with this service. An order can be made on their website. First, the courier will come to your place to take your Carte Vitale and mutuelle (if you have those) and prescriptions for medicines, send a request to the pharmacy and deliver the medicine within two hours. It's pretty convenient when you are sick and cannot go outside to get your medicines. The service is available in Paris and is also developing quickly in other French cities such as Toulouse, Le Havre, Lille...


Useful vocabulary

Not all doctors in France speak English, so you may need help with translation. You can contact your embassy and ask for help with the translation. You will either be referred to an English-speaking doctor whose contacts are in the embassy, ​​or they will send an interpreter if the situation requires it. In any other case, you can use Google Translate, sign language or learn a few basic phrases in French. Here are a few words and expressions that could be useful if you get sick:

how to see doctor in Paris

We also put some vocabulary about beauty products, because as you may know already, in French pharmacies there are often parapharmaceutical products such as skincare or dietary supplements.

If you want to get to know more about this topic, see our article here. We hope that you won't eventually need this article during your trip to France! Be healthy and bon voyage !


Author - Olga Andrianova

Photographs - O'bon Paris team