SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

TRAVEL NEWS

LATEST: Should I cancel my trip between France and the UK this Christmas?

After spending last Christmas under full or partial lockdown, many people have booked trips to spend the festive season with loved-ones this year, but with both France and the UK tightening travel restrictions, would it be wise to cancel? We weigh up the risks.

LATEST: Should I cancel my trip between France and the UK this Christmas?
Photo: Frederick Florin/AFP

For some, it’s holidays, but for others Christmas trips mean spending time with loved ones who live in another country – something that has been difficult to do over the past 18 months.

But with both the UK and France tightening up travel rules and domestic restrictions, many are now contemplating cancelling their trips.

Indeed many people who planned to head to France from the UK will simply have to cancel their trip after the French government banned all non-essential travel meaning tourists and second home owners are now barred from entering the country.

But what about British residents in France who plan to travel to the UK? Is it time to cancel the trip or continue on knowing that opportunities to see loved ones are severely limited.

Is travel even allowed?

Under French government rules travellers heading to the UK, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, must also have an essential reason to do so. The main group covered under “motifs imperiéux” to travel to the UK are British nationals returning home.

Initially it was unclear whether the French partners or children of British citizens would be able to visit the UK over Christmas. However, on the attestation that travellers are required to sign before departure, one of the motifs imperiéux says that this is allowed. 

French residents of the UK are also allowed to go there. 

As for returning to France from the UK, French-based residents are covered by the essential reasons of travel, so they will be allowed into the country under the new rules announced.

What’s the government advice?

The French government has made it clear on its latest announcement.

“The government calls on travellers who had planned to visit the United Kingdom to postpone their trip,” read a statement on Thursday.

But that’s easier said than done when many have spent hundreds on travel and tests in the UK and face losing all that money if they cancel – not to mention the fact they also lose the opportunity to see loved ones.

What about the restrictions?

From testing to quarantine and potential checks from the police, here’s a rundown of the restrictions and hurdles in place.

Paperwork

All those travelling to the UK must fill in a passenger locator form prior to travel with personal details, destination address where they will self-isolate and importantly a booking reference number for day 2 PCR tests. 

All travellers to the UK are also required to fill in this form before departure. 

And under new rules those returning to France will also have to fill in an online form with personal information although no many details have been released. 

Testing

Both countries have introduced extra testing requirements for all arrivals, although the detail of the rules is different.

UK 

On Saturday December 4th the UK re-introduced the need for pre-departure tests for all travellers whether vaccinated or not.

These tests, which were scrapped only weeks ago, must be taken within two days of travel to the UK. They can be PCR or antigen tests and come into place from 4am on December 7th onwards.

If you’re travelling into the UK you also must pre-book a Day 2 test and this must be a PCR test. However, in a change to the rules you must now self-isolate until you get the results of your Day 2 test. Self-isolation can be done at home or at the home of a friend or family member, but obviously rules out socialising for the period of quarantine.

The UK has also changed the rules for children which means children 5 and over must self-isolate until their negative result is confirmed.

READ ALSO How to book that Day 2 test

The test itself is ‘on or before Day 2’, so can taken as soon as you arrive, but they key is that you cannot leave quarantine until the results come in.

The problem with this is that the UK Day 2 testing system is chaotic and since the summer numerous readers of The Local have complained of pre-booked tests either never reaching them or the results taking up to 10 days to arrive. 

One option to avoid this appears to be taking a rapid-results test on offer at most UK airports – which offer results in as little as three hours – although these are rarely found for less than £100 per person. 

France – New rules were introduced on December 16th, and come into effect on Saturday December 18th. 

For travel to France from UK all passengers must take a pre-departure PCR or antigen test within 24 hours of their boarding time. 

Not all test providers give the results certificate with QR code required for entry to France, so you usually need to book a specific ‘travel test’ or ‘fit to fly certificate’ in order to get the required certificate. If you’re outside the big cities, be prepared to travel to find a reasonably-priced test provider.

After much confusion about whether self-administered tests are valid for travel to France, the French consulate in London confirmed that they are, as long as the results are confirmed by a lab and the travel certificate provided contains all the relevant info such as time and date of test, as well as the name of the lab. If in doubt you are advised to contact your test provider. There’s more info in the link below:

READ ALSO: Can travellers to France from the UK get a self-administered home test?

And what happens if you test positive in the UK?

This is the question that many concerned travellers will be asking themselves. You won’t be able to return to France without a negative test so you will have to have a place to self-isolate in the UK. This may be easy for some, but more difficult for others if there is no obvious option – or if understandably your family are not keen on the idea of you isolating with them.

Quarantine

As well as having to isolate in the UK until you get your day 2 test results France has also imposed obligatory quarantine for all arrivals from the UK.

Everyone arriving in France, vaccinated or not, will have to spend ten days self-isolating upon arrival – this period has been extended after the government initially announced a seven day mandatory quarantine. It will be possible to leave self-isolation after 48 hours if you test negative.

Source: France Diplomatie

All travellers from the UK will have to sign up on an online platform before their departure to France. They must mention where they will be staying. Law enforcement authorities will check at the address you have listed to ensure you are not breaking quarantine. 

Health pass

UK – the UK does not require a health pass for everyday activities such as going to a restaurant or gym, but proof of vaccination may be required for large events (indoor venues with more than 500 people and unseated outdoor venues of more than 4,000 people). Nightclubs are also set to introduce a health pass as a condition of entry. In this case, a French vaccination certificate is accepted.

France – in France, however, the use of the health pass is widespread to access a range of venues including bars, restaurants, cafés, cinemas, leisure centres, gyms, and long-distance train travel – find the full list here

Those who are fully vaccinated can use a vaccination certificate for the health pass. For residents of France, the pass will soon require a booster shot in order to stay active, but this is not – at present – the case for visitors. The NHS app and certificate is compatible with the French health pass.

Health passes are required for everyone older than 12 years and two months and everyone – including 12-18-year-olds – must have had two doses to count as ‘fully vaccinated’. This can pose a problem for UK-based teens, since the UK is at present offering only one jab to most under 18s.

Those who are not fully vaccinated to French standards need a negative Covid test in order to use the health pass, and the test must now be no more than 24 hours old. 

EXPLAINED: The new rules for the French health pass

Masks

UK – the UK has reintroduced some mask rules in recent weeks, including on public transport, shops, cinemas, theatres, shopping centres and places of worship. The rules apply to all over 11s, but it is possible to declare yourself ‘exempt’ from mask-wearing under certain conditions.

France – France has also tightened up its mask rules, and they are considerably stricter than the UK’s.

The mask is required on all public transport and all indoor public spaces, even those covered by the health pass. It is also required in some outdoor spaces including sports grounds, large gatherings, markets and ski lifts.

Many local authorities have also introduced their own mask rules making them compulsory in other outdoor areas. The French mask rules have no exemptions for medical conditions and failure to wear a mask correctly – covering your nose and mouth – can net you a €135 fine.

Lockdowns?

We’ve looked at the rules in place now, but is it likely that extra rules – even a return to lockdown or curfews – could be introduced over the festive period?

This is obviously difficult to predict and depends on what happens with case numbers in the days to come and whether the Omicron variant is as dangerous as some fear.

France – the French government says that at present the measures that it has – masks, the health pass, ramping up the booster shot programme – are enough to contain the situation without the need for a lockdown.

The head of the advisory Scientific Council says that Christmas is safe ‘if we are careful’ and advises that people take extra measures such as limiting social gatherings and working from home where possible – these are not official government recommendations however.

The Prime Minister has announced a meeting on Monday, December 6th to examine whether extra restrictions are necessary.

UK – the UK government is under a lot of political pressure not to impose a Christmas lockdown after last year when a last-minute lockdown had to be imposed over the festive period as cases soared.

The government has brought back mask rules and expanded the booster shot programme. In recent days it has been offering advice around cancelling large parties and avoiding crowded situations. However, these are guidelines rather than rules.

The UK government has scheduled a review of all existing Covid rules on January 5th. 

Remember that travel rules can change rapidly, keep up to date with all the latest in our Travelling to France section.

Member comments

  1. Do you have where it states that the home kits cannot be used for entering in France? I’ve read that before, then the French Embassy in the UK did not specify that anymore, and we went with one for my kid of 13 in October that was made at home and it was fine. I was wondering, bc Collison’ has a great rate and they ship to your house…. thanks for the info.

  2. I am travelling through France to Italy would the new restrictions I.e. ban on non essential travel apply ?

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

TRAVEL NEWS

Strike forces SNCF to axe trains across France on eve of summer holidays

Rail services across France will be disrupted on Wednesday as unions walk out in a dispute over the cost of living, national train operator SNCF has confirmed.

Strike forces SNCF to axe trains across France on eve of summer holidays

Nearly a quarter of TGVs will be cancelled on Wednesday, the day before France’s schools break up for the grandes vacances, SNCF forecast, as the CGT, Unsa, SUD-Rail and CFDT unions demand wage increases in the face of rising inflation.

Three trains out of four will run as scheduled on the Northern TGV Inoui, Eastern and Atlantic axes; while four out of five services and two out of three Ouigo trains will operate on the South-East network. 

READ ALSO Planes, trains and roads: France’s timetable for 2022 summer strikes

International traffic – such as Eurostar, Thalys or Lyria – should run “almost normally”, according to SNCF Voyageurs. 

Intercité and regional TER services, however, will be heavily affected by the walkout. Just one Intercité train in three will run, while all overnight services except for Paris-Nice will be cancelled, and three out of five scheduled regional TER services will not run.

Commuters in Ile-de-France, meanwhile, should prepare for the following regional services to be hit on Wednesday.

Transilien Lines H and P: One train in three will operate

Transilien Lines J, L, N, R, U: One train in two will run as scheduled

RER B, C, D, E: One train in two will run.

T4: One tram will operate every 15 minutes

The strikes, coming so close to the start of the grandes vacances – the first big getaway of the summer is expected this weekend – will concern those looking forward to their holidays. 

SNCF CEO Jean-Pierre Farandou insisted in late June that upcoming holiday departures were “not threatened” despite the threat of walkouts and said that the number of railway workers would be increased.

“We have put the issues on the table, we try to build a balance, because increasing wages is one thing, but there is also an economic issue: it costs and we must be careful about the impact on the price of tickets, for example,” he told broadcaster Public Senate. 

“It is necessary that at the end of the year, the company remains balanced so that it does not cost the country.”

READ ALSO When – and where – to avoid driving on France’s roads this summer

SHOW COMMENTS