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How to find a doctor in France when you’re sick or injured

Finding a doctor in France isn’t hard if you know what to do. Here is how to find a doctor in France if you get sick or need emergency medical care.

Doctor visits are very affordable. About 23 euros a visit
Doctor visits are very affordable. About 23 euros a visit

Imagine needing to find a doctor in France while on vacation. 

Maybe you suddenly feel ill after eating a bad escargot. Or maybe you slipped on a banana peel and sprained your ankle at the Eiffel Tower.

Either way, you need to find a doctor — but how do you find a doctor in France?

Accidents can happen when you least expect it, even when on vacation. That’s why it’s always a good idea to be prepared so you know what to do.

In this article, we’ll go over useful things tourists and newly arrived residents should know about finding a doctor in France should you ever need medical attention.

We’ll also cover some basic medical phrases you should know, such as how to say” I was sick in French” and “It hurts here.” These will be indispensable in letting the French doctors know what ails you. 

How to find a doctor in France

When we moved to France back in 2011, the challenge of figuring out how to navigate our new life was fun and exciting.

Then my husband got sick. It was the kind of sick that leaves you flat on your back, and we weren’t prepared. We had no idea how to find a doctor in France. We were unsure how the French health system worked or how to get the medical help we needed. 

It was a stressful situation, not knowing the answers to so many questions.

  • Do we go to a hospital?
  • How do we find a doctor’s office?
  • Do we call a doctor and make an appointment or walk into a random French doctor’s office?
  • Will our travel insurance cover our visit?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Will it be expensive? 

And on and on and on. We eventually figured out how to find a doctor in France using different options. 

Start At The Pharmacy for non-urgent medical issues. 

Green pharmacie sign with cross in France

As the old saying goes, all roads lead to Rome. There’s more than one way to get the medical help you need. 

Unless you’re bleeding from your eyeballs or mortally wounded, you might be better off going to a French pharmacist instead of wondering how to find a doctor in France.

Pharmacists in France have the authority and qualifications to give general medical advice beyond what pharmacists in the US or Canada are qualified to do.

For example, pharmacists in France are trained to diagnose mushroom poisoning and can even help you identify if those wild Mushrooms you picked in the forest are poisonous.

French pharmacists can also diagnose and prescribe medication for certain common illnesses, including achy joints, allergies, gastrointestinal issues, sprains, eye infections, the common cold, minor skin infections, cuts and abrasions, etc. 

How to find a pharmacy

Pharmacies are easy to find and abundant in France.

One distinguishing feature of pharmacies in France and some other European countries is that they have a large green cross hanging out front, which is often lit up or blinking. However, If you’re in a small town, there’s a slight chance you may not be able to find a pharmacy because only towns with more than 2,500 inhabitants are allowed to have pharmacies. (source). In this case, you should just head to the town doctor or the next biggest town with a pharmacy. 

You can also search for a nearby pharmacy using the French website Doctolib. See the section below about Doctolib.

Pharmacies are usually closed on Sundays.

Pharmacies are usually closed on Sundays due to cultural norms and regulations. The idea behind this is to give workers a designated day of rest and to protect their work-life balance.

However, each region designates a rotating schedule of on-call pharmacies, called a”Pharmacie de Garde,” that take turns staying open during weekends and holidays.

To find an on-call pharmacy open on Sunday in Paris, you can visit this site or use the widget below. You can also download the app onto your phone for iOS or Android.

If you need to find a Pharmacy open on Sunday in another area of France, use this site

How to find a doctor in France and make an appointment

General practitioners

If you need medical care in France, it’s usually best to start with a general practitioner unless your condition is life-threatening. A general practitioner can evaluate your situation and refer you to a specialist if need be. 

General Practitioner (Médecin Généraliste)

The first thing you need to know about doctors’ offices is how to identify one when you’re walking down the street.

In large French cities and many towns, doctors’ offices are usually private practices located in converted apartments without any clearly marked signs that can be easily seen from afar. Their entrances often blend in with other local businesses, making them hard to find. 

big green doors to a doctors office in Montpellier

For instance, in the image above, the big doors to the right of the store is the entrance to a General Practitioner in Montpellier. Where’s the signage? Well, if you look closely, you’ll see a small gold plaque on the wall to the left of the door that has the doctor’s name, their specialty and the words “cabinet médical,” which means doctor’s office in French. 

Some general practitioners only take walk-ins.

Some doctors in France only take walk-ins. It’s hard to know which ones do unless someone tells you because it’s not usually advertised.

Here’s how it works with walk-in clinics

Doctors in France: waiting room at a hospital in Montpellier France

Our first three doctors in France didn’t take appointments; it was a love-hate relationship. 

  • The good part is you can walk in and get seen that same day.
  • The bad part is that it’s first-come, first-serve. 

You show up at the doctor’s office. Sometimes, there’s a doorbell you have to ring to get buzzed in.

There may or may not be a receptionist, but chances are there won’t be one. In this case, you walk straight to the waiting area and take a seat.

If you get there and see a waiting room filled with people, it might be a while until it’s your turn to see the doctor. Figure about 20 minutes per patient. Sometimes, you get lucky, and only two people are waiting.

The doctor will come in after each patient and ask for the next patient. The first come, first served is on the honour system, so make a mental note of who comes in after you. 

Making an appointment online using Doctorlib

find a doctor in France and make an appointment using Doctolib

DoctoLib is a well-known French healthcare booking platform and my go-to method for scheduling appointments with healthcare providers, including doctors, dentists, physical therapists, gynecologists, therapists, specialists and more.

You may be able to get a doctor’s appointment that same day or the same week. However, some specialists like dermatologists and eye doctors may not have openings for months. 

To find a healthcare provider using Doctolib, you’ll first need to create an account.

  • Type the type of healthcare provider you’re looking for in the search box: generalist, therapist, etc.
  • Enter your location, city or postal code to find someone near you. 

Don’t forget that the Doctolib site is in French, so you’ll need to know the name of the type of healthcare provider you are looking for so you can type it into the search box. 

Healthcare provider names in French 

  1. General Practitioner – Médecin Généraliste
  2. DoctorMédecin
  3. DentistDentiste
  4. PharmacistPharmacien (male), Pharmacienne (female)
  5. PediatricianPédiatre
  6. GynecologistGynécologue
  7. PsychiatristPsychiatre
  8. PsychologistPsychologue
  9. OphthalmologistOphtalmologiste
  10. Orthopedic SurgeonChirurgien orthopédiste
  11. DermatologistDermatologue
  12. NeurologistNeurologue
  13. PhysiotherapistKinésithérapeute
  14. RadiologistRadiologue
  15. MidwifeSage-femme
  16. OptometristOptométriste
  17. PodiatristPodiatre
  18. HomeopathHoméopathe
  19. AcupuncturistAcupuncteur (male), Acupunctrice (female)
  20. GeriatricianGériatre

Use Doctolib to find a doctor in France who speaks English

If you need to find an English-speaking doctor in France, a Chinese-speaking doctor or any other language, you can use the filter by language spoken. 

For instance, in the screenshot below, I selected from the drop-down menu “Langues parlées,” which means language spoken. Then, choose “Anglais.” to find doctors who speak English. Don’t forget to select the type of doctor you would like to see. 

Screenshot of doctor lib showing how to choose English speaking doctors in France using their website
Screenshot of Doctor Lib showing how to choose English-speaking doctors in France using their website


Five more ways you can find a doctor in France

 1) Search “Annuaire Santé” online healthcare website

amelie site to find a doctor in France: http://annuairesante.ameli.fr/site-find-doctor

Annuaire Santé” is an online directory with information about healthcare professionals and facilities in France, such as doctors, dentists, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and more. It’s run by the French government’s social security agency, Assurance Maladie (Ameli).

You cannot make appointments using this site. However, you’ll get the contact information and a handy map with all the available healthcare providers and facilities in your area. 

2) French hotel concierge or landlord

If you’re staying in a hotel, ask the concierge for help finding or recommending a doctor. If you’re staying in a rental like Airbnb, call the owners to see if they can recommend someone. They may also have a booklet of handy information within the Airbnb. 

3) Tourism Office:

Find the nearest tourist office and ask them for a list of doctors. Tourism offices usually have staff that can communicate in English, especially in cities and tourist areas.

4) Ask a pharmacist or shop owner:

Pharmacies are everywhere in France and are very knowledgeable about local doctors. Alternatively, try asking small shop owners along the road. 

5) Google:

Type “Find a doctor near me” in Google and start digging through the results.

Other useful things to know about seeing a doctor in France

How much does it cost to see a doctor in France?

If you need to see a general practitioner, it will cost between 28 € and 30. Although this is rare, some doctors in France don’t accept credit cards, so bring cash just in case.

How To Get A Prescription Filled

If the doctor gives you a prescription (ordinance) for medication, take it to any pharmacist/chemist. 

What to do if you have a medical emergency in France

cell phone on red background with EU emergency number displayed which can be used in France and all of the EU

If you have a severe or life-threatening emergency, you should go to the nearest hospital or call the emergency numbers in France.

For medical emergencies or an ambulance: Don’t call 911 in France

If you have a medical emergency and you can’t get to the hospital, there are two numbers you can dial. They are 112 and 15. But I recommend using 112. 

Dial 112: Universal emergency phone number

112 is the universal emergency telephone number in France and all EU countries, such as Spain, Italy, and Germany. It’s the equivalent of the emergency number 911 in the United States and Canada. When you dial 112, you’ll be connected to the appropriate emergency services, such as police, fire, or medical assistance, depending on your specific situation. 

112’s call center is designed to efficiently coordinate and quickly dispatch the appropriate medical assistance to your location, whether for medical assistance, police, or the fire department.

If you don’t speak French well:

In many European countries that use the emergency number 112, operators who answer calls may be trained and have the ability to communicate in multiple languages, including English, especially in tourist-heavy areas. However, the availability of English-speaking operators can vary from one region to another.

If you speak little to no French, you should communicate your medical emergency in basic English using simple phrases. 

  • “Emergency” or “Please Help!”
  • “Accident” or “Medical issue”
  • “Police” or “Fire”
  • “My Location” or “My Address”
  • “Ambulance, please.”
  • “Hospital, please.”
  • “Doctor” If you think you need a doctor rather than an ambulance, you can ask for one.
  • “I am hurt,” and say the name of the injury.
  • “I’m sick.”
  • “I can’t breathe”
  • “Chest pain
  • “Allergic reaction”

Dial 15 Samu: Urgent medical aid service

French ambulance with two paramedics standing in front

15 is the local number for (SAMU) Service d’Aide Médicale Urgente, which means “Urgent Medical Aid Service.” Samu is specific to medical emergencies and illnesses, including dispatching ambulances, providing medical advice over the phone, and coordinating the response to various health-related crises. 

Although it’s good to know this number, I recommend dialling 112 as a tourist because it gives you access to all emergency services, including the police and the fire department, not just Samu. 

Also, as I mentioned earlier, “112” works throughout many European countries, whereas dialling “15” in other countries will not work. 

I wrote a whole article about all the important French emergency numbers you must know when travelling in France and the EU. 

Tips if you don’t speak French:

Getting sick in France or anywhere while travelling will be stressful, especially if you don’t speak French.

According to our doctor, French doctors usually take some medical classes in English as part of their medical training, but that doesn’t mean you should expect them to speak English fluently. It would be like someone going to an English-speaking country and expecting them to speak French, Spanish or Chinese.

Be prepared to explain your symptoms if the doctor doesn’t speak English.

Learning a few basic medical phrases in French is important to help communicate your needs and symptoms. Here are a few ways you can go about 

  1. Use Google Translate and translate your symptoms into French. Write them down and bring the paper when you see the doctor. My husband did this when we first arrived in France before he learned to speak French.
  2. Bring someone who can translate.
  3. If you have a smartphone with data, download a speech-to-speech translator app to translate your words on the fly. I did this in Thailand to communicate with my Thai aunts.

How to say your “Sick” in French and other useful medical phrases 

here are a few general medical terms that might come in handy. 

Remember to say Bonjour first before you launch into speaking French. It’s considered impolite in France not to. 

Hello, we need to find a doctor urgently. Bonjour, nous avons besoin de voir un médecin au plus vite. C’est urgent.

I’m not feeling well. : Je ne me sens pas bien.

Hello, I need to make an appointment with the doctor: Bonjour, Je voudrais prendre un rendez-vous avec le médecin.

I have a headache—J’ai mal à la tête.

I have a stomach ache—J’ai mal au ventre.

I need a doctor. J’ai besoin d’un médecin.

Hello, where is the nearest pharmacy? Bonjour, où est la pharmacie la plus proche ?

I have a fever. J’ai de la fièvre.

I need medicine for [specific symptom]. J’ai besoin de médicaments pour [symptôme spécifique].

I’m allergic to [mention your allergy]. Je suis allergique à [name of your allergy].

It hurts here: J’ai mal ici –> [zhay mahl ee-see]

  • Sick: malade –> [mah-lad]
  • Doctor: un médecin–> [uhn med-sen]
  • (GP) Gernal Practitioner: Médecin généraliste—>[uhn-med-sen zhen-ay-ra-list]
  • Medical clinic/office: le cabinet médical–>[Luh- Ka-bee-nay  Med-ee-kal] Not to be confused with “les cabinets,” a formal way to say WC, toilettes or restrooms.
  • Doctors office: le cabinet du médecin —> [Luh- Ka-bee-nay  Med-sahn] 
  • Medicine: médicament—> [meh-dee-ca-mawhn]
  • Pharmacie : Une pharmacie –> [oon farm-ah-see]
  • Prescription: Une ordinance –> [oon or-dee-nawnse]

Wrapping up, how to find a doctor in France

Finding a doctor in France can be a bit of a hassle, but having the right information and resources can help make that process smoother.

Just make sure you do your research and have all your paperwork in order. With this in mind, you can feel confident that you’ll be able to find a qualified doctor in France when you need one most. 

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image for pinterest about finding a doctor in France

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog annieandre.com for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.


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