Opticians in France do not come under the French healthcare service and they do not conduct eye tests as a general rule although they can in some circumstances. You need to check when you make an appointment if an eye test can be conducted on the premises.
Eye tests and treatments are carried out by an ophthalmologist – called an ophtalmologue or ophtalmologiste in France – who can give you a medical prescription for glasses which you then take to the opticians.
How do you make an eye test appointment in France?
If you want to arrange an eye test in France you can find an ophthalmologist via the French Yellow Pages directory (pagesjaune.com).
You can apply direct to an ophthalmologist for an appointment – it is not necessary to go through the doctor for a referral.
Ophthalmologist’s charges vary according to the consultation you receive but expect to pay a minimum of €30 which is the official rate of which you can expect a 50% reimbursement if you are registered with the French healthcare system. Often the cost will be higher than this.
If you have voluntary (“top-up”) insurance you may receive some or all of the rest of the cost back but it depends on the level of cover you have.
Reimbursement for spectacles is minimal unless for children or in specific circumstances such as low income; there may be some reimbursement for contact lenses but laser treatment is not covered at all.
How do I buy a pair of glasses in France?
If you have voluntary insurance (and most people in France do), check if your insurer has a list of recommended opticians, you may get a discount for lenses and spectacles and a better all round level of recompense.
When you purchase your glasses you will receive a written estimate of the cost – ask if this is not offered. You can then shop around to see if you can do better elsewhere.
An optician should provide you with a written estimate of the cost, and you would be well advised to seek two or three estimates before making a final decision.
Glasses can be quite expensive in France, some people buy them over the internet and many UK expats return to the UK for eye tests to avoid a possible wait and to buy glasses where substantial savings might be made.
Some areas have a long waiting list to see an ophthalmologist to get a prescription – up to a year is not unusual so book in advance if you know you need regular check-ups.