France introduced new travels rules for people going to and coming from the UK on December 18th, banning all non-essential travel and introducing a mountain of paperwork for people who wanted to make the journey.
This led to widespread confusion and panic as people rushed to cross the Channel to join their loved ones over the holidays.
We put out a survey to ask those readers who are eligible to travel how the rules are being applied at the border.
Overall, 65.8 percent of respondents said that the rules themselves were clear and 63.2 percent said border authorities are enforcing the rules as they are written.
Here’s what else you had to say:
Documentation is key
Overwhelmingly, you wrote in to tell us that the key to making the journey successfully was to have all the right paperwork – and to arrive well in advance of departure time.
Clara Cronin, who was travelling from France to the UK, wrote in to tell us that travel was “Fairly easy as long as you have all the necessary paperwork, and you need a lot of it.”
“The paperwork was a nightmare,” added said Harri Ritchie, who has travelled in both directions since the new rules came into place.
“It does take a lot of organisation & time sorting all these things out in advance, but so long as you work through it methodically and leave enough time to get everything sorted then my experience on arrival at the airport was very positive,” said Simon Hale, who travelled from the UK to France.
Ben McPartland, the managing editor of the Local Europe, came back to France from the UK after eating an obscene amount of mince pies with relatives over Christmas.
“The British border police didn’t seem too fussed but the French border guards were checking everything – at least from those going through in British cars. They were asking for all the paperwork. So the advice is, make sure you have it all and arrive well in advance,” he said.
You can read our complete guide to the paperwork you need for France-UK travel, in both directions, HERE.
Testing is a pain
Under the new rules, everyone travelling from the UK to France must take an antigen or PCR test no more than 24 hours before departure, vaccinated or not.
People travelling from France to the UK, vaccinated or not, are required to do a Covid test no more than 48 hours before departure. Vaccinated travellers are required to do a PCR test on or Day 2 of their time in the UK – and must remain in self isolation until the negative test result arrives. Unvaccinated travellers must take a Day 2 and Day 8 test and quarantine for 10 days on arrival. You can read more about these rules HERE.
That means that you need to take at least two tests while in the UK – one after arrival to let you out of quarantine and another to allow you to board transport out of the UK.
Jo Tait, who lives in France, had been in the UK for her son’s wedding and returned with her husband after the new rules were passed. One of her children was unable to make it to France to join the rest of the family for Christmas.
“It’s been a nightmare and cost a fortune in PCR tests,” she said. “Thank goodness France doesn’t charge.”
“Booking a test was the most stressful part of arranging my trip ,” said Robert Darke, who also travelled from the UK to France.
Some of you did provide some useful tips for the Day 2 testing following arrival in the UK.
“We had PCR tests at a lab in St Pancras and got our results the following day so we only really lost a day in quarantine,” said Sarah Jackson.
“Had a drive-thru PCR test for 5 of us at Collinson LGW on arrival: four results arrived by email two days later, one result never arrived. Took 45 mins to test five of us at 1pm UK time,” said James Langley.
“It took 90 minutes to complete the tests and paperwork to upload to the Eurotunnel website and then probably an extra hour at the tunnel but it all went smoothly,” said Jo Todd who was travelling from the UK to France.
Ben McPartland noted that for Eurotunnel users, even if you have to upload proof of a negative Covid test in advance, there were further checks on arrival at Folkestone. “We had to park up and go to the Covid-19 check point and show all our documents along with everyone else it seemed,” he said. “That took about 30 minutes, then getting through passport control was another fairly long wait.”
Sydney Cormack, who is British but lives in France and has a carte de séjour, recommended not immediately showing proof of French residency to border guards when travelling to the UK.
“French border officials said that as we had a carte de séjour we would be treated like French citizens despite being UK passport holders. They asked us for evidence of owning property in UK but we don’t have any assets in UK as we live permanently in France,” he said.
“I believe the problem has arisen from the translation of the French form and the definition and relevance of country of origin. We did manage to persuade them to let us go to UK. I would suggest that you don’t show your carte de séjour unless they ask for it, but that may lead to your passport being stamped.”
The list of ‘essential reasons’ for travel for exiting France says that people can travel to their ‘country of origin or country of residence’ – however several people reported border guards telling passengers that they needed to show proof of residency in the UK, not merely a British passport.
This appears to have been a misunderstanding of the rules by individual officers in the early days of the new travel rules.
Others complained that you have had your passports stamped by French border officials, despite owning a carte de séjour. This is an issue that we have raised with the UK Ambassador to France who has promised to follow up with the French authorities.
Once back in France you are required to quarantine for 10 days – although this can be shortened if you test negative 48 hours after your arrival time.
You need to provide a quarantine address in advance to French authorities, and several readers reported that police turned up at their homes to check they were quarantining.