French ski resorts celebrate as British tourists allowed to return

French ski resorts reacted with delight on Thursday after the French government announced an easing of travel restrictions on the UK, allowing British tourists to return.

France's Courchevel ski resort.
France's Courchevel ski resort. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

A blanket ban on non-essential travel from December 18th caused British holiday-makers to cancel planned trips at the end of the year, particularly skiers who head to the Alps over the holidays.

However, on Thursday France announced a lifting of the rules, which were originally put in place due to the spread of the Omicron variant in the UK.

“The wide circulation today of the variant in both countries has led the government to make the following changes,” a statement from Prime Minister Jean Castex’s office said.

From Friday, January 15th all vaccinated travellers entering France from the UK will have to show only a negative PCR or antigen test taken 24 hours before their departure.

Unvaccinated travellers, however, will have to provide a “compelling reason” to travel such as a family emergency, and will have to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in France at an address that must be registered with security forces.

Find a full breakdown of the rules for travel in both directions HERE.

The opening of the border will allow British winter-sports enthusiasts to return to the French Alps.

READ ALSO What are the Covid rules in French ski resorts?

“Thousands of people head there for ski breaks at this time of year, so this will be a huge relief for customers with holidays booked there for the next few weeks, who have been waiting anxiously for news,” the ABTA, which represents British travel groups, said in a statement.

Alex Sykes, flight operations manager at the UK-based Mark Warner travel operator, told AFP that he was “very relieved and very happy to get operational again, starting this weekend.”

“We’re hoping this is the last of the disruptions this winter season,” he said.

Gilles Delaruelle, chief executive of the Courchevel resort in France, told AFP: “We’re expecting a wave of bookings for February and March.”

French Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said last week that stays in the Savoie and Haute-Savoie areas, where most resorts are located, were down by 10 to 20 percent over the Christmas and New Year period compared with 2019.

Lemoyne said on Thursday that Britons accounted for around 15 percent of all visitors to French ski resorts, and even more in some of the biggest high-altitude stations.

“The decision this morning will enable them to recoup some of their losses, I hope,” he told the TV5 Monde channel.

Eurostar, the operator of train services between the UK and France, also welcomed the change, saying it would increase the number of services in the weeks ahead.

The boss of cross-channel ferry group Brittany Ferries, Christophe Mathieu, said he hoped it was “the last border closure of the Covid crisis.”

Member comments

  1. The thing I still can’t work out is whether a 12-18 year old with a single vaccine dose will be able to continue with the daily antigen test to access ski lifts. My fully boosted daughter and son in law arrive on 29th January with my 13 year old grandson who has only had one vaccine. As he has not reached the 12 week wait, the UK will not give him the second dose until early February which is too late for their departure. Any suggestions or clearer advice would be greatly appreciated. Maybe the authorities at the resorts will know? Thanks John

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French rail tickets for the summer holidays go on sale in March

Those looking to plan ahead for summer holidays can mark their calendars, as French rail tickets for the May-September period will go on sale in March.

French rail tickets for the summer holidays go on sale in March

France’s national rail service SNCF will gradually open ticket sales for the summer holiday period starting in March, according to French daily Le Parisien.

Train travel is becoming more and more popular in France with SNCF enjoying a bumper year in 2023 with 122 million passengers. Trains for peak times such as the weekend that French schools let out for the summer holidays tend to book out early.

The first tranche of tickets for high-speed InOui rail services – concerning the period running from May 23rd to July 5th – will go on sale on March 7th on the SNCF website.

As for the Grandes Vacances, or the summer holiday period once pupils are out of school, tickets for journeys between July 6th and September 11th will go on sale on March 13th.

This period will also encompass the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Most of the events will be concentrated in Paris, but there will be some matches and competitions in other cities across France.

READ MORE: Hotels, tickets and scams: What to know about visiting Paris for the 2024 Olympics

For those looking to travel by the Ouigo budget service, ticket sales for the period from July 6th to December 2024 will go on sale on March 6th.

Depending on the region, the local TER trains open their sales period three to five months before the desired date of departure.

Finally, those looking to travel on the Inoui high-speed rail lines to travel from France to Spain or Italy can begin purchasing tickets for the summer holidays, as they went on sale on February 26th.

READ MORE: 9 new train routes in France in 2024

How can I buy tickets?

You can purchase them on the SNCF app or online using the SNCF Connect website. You can also purchase them at French train stations at the kiosks. There are also third-party websites, such as Trainline or Omio, but they may charge a separate processing fee in addition to the ticket.

How can I save money on train tickets?

Early booking may get you a good deal, and SNCF offers regular deals particularly around peak travel times such as summer and Christmas. Downloading the SNCF app will get you advance notification of sales.
If you live in France, you might consider investing in an ‘avantage’ rail card which can get you discounts depending on your situation. These include the under-27 youth card, the ‘adult’ card for 27-59-year-olds and the senior card – they cost €49 to buy and entitle you to discounts of up to 30 percent for yourself and a friend.

READ MORE: How to find cheap train tickets in France