Health Care Tips for Travelers to France

France is one of the top travel destinations all over the world. Millions of people visit this great country and its capital. France has also a great health system and it is open to everybody. Care is not restricted and you are guaranteed care regardless of your capability to pay or pre-existing situation.

If you have to have medical treatment and don’t speak French, ask the provider who is treating you if they speak English. Many doctors and chemists do, although mostly in bigger cities.
Be sure to check with your provider at home before your trip to determine treatment abroad. If necessary, consider buying travelers health insurance as primary or minor coverage. Note that most travel insurance covers occasions like trip cancellation and lost baggage, not only health care costs.

Write down all the pieces of important information and keep it in your wallet during your journey. That should contain your name, address, the place where you’re staying during your journey, emergency connections, and any important medical circumstances or prescription medications that you’re taking that health care provider might need to be conscious of if treating you.

All the numbers listed will work from any phone in France. If using a pay phone, you don’t need a phone card to dial them. If you can’t find a functioning pay phone, go into a pharmacy and they’ll call emergency services for you.

Lastly, French medical care providers don’t provide a lot in the way of bedside manner. There’s not a lot of hand-holding so don’t be too worried if the health care provider isn’t showing a lot of sympathy. It can be off-putting for those who aren’t used to it, but it’s a different health care system. Patients are expected to be pro-active, so don’t be afraid about asking questions and getting detailed explanation, if necessary.

SOS Médecins

If you are traveling and have a medical issue, you can call SOS Médecins. They will come to your hotel or apartment 24 hours a day and their vehicles are armed with what they call “sophisticated medical material”. This is not emergency services but they will treat you for many other illnesses. To reach them, day or night, call 3624. You will need to tell them which départment you are in. Paris is 75.
SOS Médicins is composed of doctors who are on-call, and the price is around €50-70 for the visit. You will have to pay in cash or by check (in euros) at the time of the visit. The doctors are French but when you call, you can ask if they have an English-speaking doctor. It’s not guaranteed, but many French doctors do speak varying degrees of English.


There are thousands of pharmacies in Paris and their staff is trained to attend to a variety of minor medical needs. In France, pharmacists can also estimate your situation, treat some illnesses, and make the appropriate calls (such as calling an ambulance). And you’ll get a better response if you show up in a medical care if they call for you rather than if you just showed up.

If the pharmacy is closed, they usually list on the door another pharmacy in the neighborhood that’s open 24hours a day.

Emergency Numbers

SAMU provides ambulances and emergency medical care. That number is 15.

If you have an emergency or need other medical help, you can also call 18, which is the fire department. They are trained to treat a variety of emergencies and can coordinate medical care and ambulance service.

There is also an EU-wide emergency service number, which can be reached by dialing 112 from anywhere in Europe. Because it is an international organization, you will almost certainly reach someone who speaks English.


If you have to go to the hospital, the ambulance will take you to the closest capacity, or to one that specializes in what bothers you. The centrally-located Hotel Dieu, located next to to Notre Dame, is well-regarded.

Contrary to common belief, health care is not free in France and you will be presented with a bill at the end of your cure, which you’ll be estimated to pay before you leave. (French inhabitants get reimbursed by the system for a variable percentage of the fees.) If you come from the United States, the sum will likely be much less than you’d pay back in the states. If you are not in the French system, they should give you a feuille de soin, a amber-colored receipt noting the treatment, the presence physician, and the costs.

On the far western edge of Paris, in Neuilly, is The American Hospital, which is a private capacity and you will need to pay for the services at the time of cure. They advertise bi-lingual staff, but in my one experience there, not all personnel speak English. They also have a dental health center as well.
If you are paying out-of-pocket, your bill will likely be quite a bit higher here than in a French community hospital & dentists ( dentiste de garde ). However they do understand American-style health insurance actions and repayments, and you may feel more relaxed here.