Getting your eyes tested for glasses

My wife needs a new glasses prescription as hers is out of date and she does need a new pair of varifocals (progressives). We normally buy our glasses from a specialist place we have used for many years in the UK. Unfortunately, she will have precious little time to get an eye test done in the UK next time we are there in just over a week.

So - I’m wondering if she should get an eye test here in France. I understand you usually have to go to an ophthalmologist. Is this expensive? (We don’t have insurance that covers this). We’ve only got a week befoer we travel, too. Otherwise we will have to squeeze in a visit to SpecSavers.

Yes you must go to an opthalmologiste who is a specialist and can detect eye problems that an ordinary opticien is not trained for nor covered by insurance. The Opthal will give you a thorough eye exam and then an ordnance for glasses which is usually valid for the next three years before you re-do an eye test with them again. They can also arrange for any surgery like cataracts etc. The cost is set by the cabinet and as I never pay, I can’t tell you but it won’t be too expensive, probably about €40. Getting an appointment maybe difficult, some areas have 8 months plus waiting time. To be honest I would get it all done in the UK as you won’t get an rdv here before you leave and then when you come back, sign up with a specialist for the next time.

Depends, ours is 60-80€.

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I really would suggest you/your wife pull out all the stops to get it done in UK while you are there… if at all possible…
As has been suggested… delays here can be rather long…

However, it it can’t be done, then it can’t be done…
and you’ll lneed to get your skates on, to ask for an appt in France… “as early/soon as possible”

either way… best of luck.

I completely agree with @Shiba and @Stella. Wait times for an ophthalmologist here are usually more than a month.

My husband recently discovered he probably has a cataract and our nearest optho with room to see him for even the initial consult is over an hour’s drive from home and needed a six week wait. I would also add here a caveat that not all opthamologistes are thorough.

Our first 6 minute opthamologiste visit completely failed to look into why my husband had such a huge difference in vision between eyes. It was the optician at the glasses shop who used multiple pieces of equipment over half an hour and said he was fairly sure there was a cataract but we would have to visit the opthamologiste to be sure. Needless to say, a new one.

Another small warning is that the lenses, especially all singing and dancing (progressives, tinting etc.) are more expensive in France than in UK. If you can manage a trip to SpecSavers UK, then it would.

Good luck!

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Yes - this looks like the best strategy. I can book an appointment for her online at a Specsavers near where we will be staying.

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Yes, we get our glasses from a specialist (and great value) online vendor and they have one high street store in the UK and we visit them for alignment/fitting, which is important for varifocals.

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We waited 3 months for an ophtho appointment an hours drive away and when I saw the prescription given, it was so different to my previous, 1 year old from theUK, that I asked him if he was sure. He seemed to take it as an insult. When I got the glasses, they were unusable. Although only reading glasses I could only see things within 10cm of my eyes. Fortunately, we got a new, very good ophtho centre here a few years ago and they are very good.

I wondered whether anyone had had any experience with SymOptic? They have a national partnership with Intermarche amongst others and as I understand it they turn up in a van like mobile blood/ screening vans in supermarket car parks, an optho does a free test, gives you the results (or perhaps sends them to you later), and then presumably heavily hints for you to buy glasses through them but you’re free to take your prescription elsewhere. I thought it was potentially an incredibly useful alternative given waits for appointments can be very long, but I just read about it somewhere so wondered whether it was what it suggested or if there were significant negatives or such.


Symoptik sounds very interesting, Kirstea, but that looks like a website where they are offering their services to companies rather than individuals - unless I’ve missed a link somewhere on the site.

Do you know how to discover where they are operating and how to make an appointment?

We recently went to our local centre for glasses and had our eyes tested, not as thorough as the UK, but we ended up with a pair of varia focals and a pair of reading glasses for 1€. All done within two weeks.

Here you go,

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I bought my last pair of progressive glasses from Ecouté Voir under the Macron scheme for cheaper glasses. Got a nice pair of current trendy metal glasses plus a pair of progressive sunglasses for a total of under €200. My previous to cataract surgery for both eyes in 2021 glasses which were progressive and computer tint plus reactolite for the sun cost over €700. Won’t do that again! The cheap glasses are OK, you don’t get the fancy tint for computer work but you can afford to buy a couple of pairs and change them more often for that price.

I used to pop into spec-savers on day 1 of visit to UK, and pick up glasses on day 6/7 before I left again. However the 2 for 1 cheap deals are no longer so cheap, and don’t visit so much, I went to french opthalamo last time €46 euros and very thorough. Identified that as well as developing cataracts (which I knew) I also have the start of a retinal membrane which is similar, but not the same.

Then went to local high street optician here and got 100% santé progressive lens for €200 plus second pair for 1€. To which I added polarising and hardened sun lenses for an extra €50.

All in all cheaper than a trip back to UK.

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I thought that you needed a prescription from your Doctor in order to go and see an Opthalmologist for an eye test,or is that not the case now?

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We just booked. With a doctor’s prescription you can go straight to an optician, but don’t get the full range of tests.

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Don’t think it’s ever been such.
I’ve always booked an appointment with an Opthalmologist, my way of thinking is why go to a Dr if you have tooth ache or think you need reading glasses.

Same here in 30 odd years of seeing french eye doctors, never had to go to a normal doctor first, just made appt with the opthal direct. I have done the same with an upcoming appt with an orthopaedic surgeon too, no ordinary doctor involved except to get an ordnance for the xray done first.

Err, well it can be. If you don ‘t want the full range of tests and just think a minor adjustment to glasses’ prescription needed then can go to optician with doctor’s prescription (€25-17.50=€6.50).

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I can confirm it… our Doc wrote the scrip… and off I went …
Our local Opticien checked my existing glasses, thus reading the previous “diagnosis”.
Then he tested my eyes and cross checked the results… hurrah.

My lenses are quite complicated, but all that was needed was a straight-forward amendment so no need to go to a Higher Authority… :wink: