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Traveling to France during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

CNN Staff

If you’re planning to travel to France, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The basics

France has some of the most stringent Covid-19 restrictions in the world. Although it reopened to visitors over summer 2020, the country has been put back into lockdown twice since then. After tentatively reopening from a less restrictive third lockdown, France has seen Covid cases steadily rise yet again, which has led to some restrictions being re-introduced.

What’s on offer

The historic boulevards of Paris, the fashionable sweep of La Croisette in Cannes and the rolling lavender fields and vineyards of Provence. France remains one of the world’s most enduring tourist destinations.

With superb food, even better wine and landscapes and cities to satisfy every kind of traveler, it never disappoints.

Who can go

On November 26, France suspended flights from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini due to the emergence of Omicron, a new Covid-19 variant.

Although a number of cases of “concern” have been detected in the country, as of November 30 just one person, located on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion, has tested positive with the new variant.

Aside from those from the destinations mentioned above, fully vaccinated travelers from any country of departure can enter France without submitting a PCR test.

To be classed as fully vaccinated, travelers need to have had two doses of one of the four EU-approved vaccines, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. The second dose must have been administered at least two weeks prior to travel.

After initially declaring that travelers administered with Covishield, the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India, would not be considered as fully vaccinated, authorities have since announced that they will be recognizing this vaccine.

France currently has a traffic light system for non-vaccinated visitors, that separates countries into categories — although travel from countries on France’s red list is advised against.

As of November 12, a number of destinations have been “placed under surveillance,” which means even tougher restrictions for non-vaccinated travelers.

Those traveling from Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia must now provide a test taken less than 24 hours before arrival.

Meanwhile, non-vaccinated travelers from “green” countries are required to submit a negative Covid-19 PCR test result taken within 72 hours of departure.

Non-vaccinated travelers coming from destinations designated “amber” will have to provide a “compelling” reason for their visit, as well as submit a negative Covid-19 PCR test result taken less than 48 hours departure, or 24 hours for those from the UK. In addition, travelers must spend seven days in mandatory quarantine on arrival.

Those who’ve previously contracted Covid-19 can present a certificate of recovery dated more than 11 days and less than six months before the date of arrival instead of a negative test result..”

Non-vaccinated travelers on France’s “red” list can only enter if they have a valid reason, and are required to submit a negative Covid-19 PCR test result taken within 48 hours of departure and go into mandatory quarantine “supervised by security forces” for 10 days.

All non-vaccinated travelers entering France must provide a sworn declaration indicating that they have no Covid symptoms and have not been in contact with anyone with a confirmed case of the virus within two weeks of their trip.

As of November 1, non-vaccinated travelers arriving from the UK to Paris on board the Eurostar will be required to take a Covid-19 test on arrival at Gare du Nord. Those who test positive will be subject to a mandatory 10-day quarantine.

The country has also introduced a health pass (“pass sanitaire”) that stores digital versions of users’ vaccination certificates, proof of a negative PCR or antigen test, or evidence of having recently recovered from Covid (provided they’ve tested positive more than two weeks ago and less than six months ago). The time limit on test results was reduced from 48 hours to 24 hours on November 29.

From January 15, adults who were administered with their last vaccination dose before January 15, will need show receipt of a booster injection in order to extend their health pass.

The pass, which can be accessed via the French Covid-tracker app TousAntiCovid or as a QR code, was approved for use for summer travel from July 1.

Paper versions of the documents will still be accepted, along with photo identification.

What are the restrictions?

As stated above, a traffic light system is now in place for non-vaccinated travelers, with different rules depending on whether the country they’re traveling from has been designated green, amber or red.

From November 12, a number of destinations have been “placed under surveillance,” which means non-vaccinated travelers arriving from any of these countries must provide a test taken less than 24 hours before arrival.

At present, fully vaccinated travelers are permitted to enter France without restrictions.

What’s the Covid situation?

France has been one of the hardest hit countries in Europe, with nearly 7.8 million cases and 120,112 deaths as of December 1. Cases were soaring earlier in the year, with 117,900 new cases reported on April 11 alone. Although the number dropped considerably lower in the following weeks, with 2,664 new cases being tallied on July 2, they soon began to rise again, with country registering over 100 deaths from Covid-19 for the first time since June on August 17. In October, the number of weekly cases rose for the first time since mid-August, while the amount of people hospitalized with the virus was increasing. There were 225,062 cases in the week leading up to December 1.

Nearly 105 million vaccination doses have been administered in the country as of December 1.

France relaunched its test and trace app in October. TousAntiCovid is available for iPhone and Android devices.

What can visitors expect?

President Macron had been cautiously easing restrictions in the country after going into lockdown for a third time, and many measures have been lifted. But the discovery of the new variant has led to some being brought back in.

Domestic travel restrictions were lifted on May 3, meaning residents are permitted to travel within the country again, and the national curfew has been lifted.

Restaurants, cafes and open-air terraces reopened for outdoor service on May 19, with a maximum of six people per table, and nonessential shops have also opened their doors again.

Spectators are allowed back into arenas, and museums, monuments, theaters, auditoriums with seated audiences can reopen with a maximum capacity of 800 people indoors and 1,000 outdoors.

Gyms reopened on June 9, while indoor dining has resumed at restaurants and cafes, with establishments operating at 50% capacity indoors. Nightclubs are allowed to reopen from July 9. The Eiffel Tower has also reopened for the first time in nine months.

On July 26, French parliament approved a bill that will make it a legal requirement for residents to use the health pass, which stores proof of vaccination, negative PCR tests or evidence that the user has recently recovered from Covid-19, in order to access cafe terraces, restaurants, cinemas, theaters and other culture and leisure activities, as well as trains and airplanes. This legal requirement now applies to everyone aged over 12.

The government has since announced plans to extend the health pass measures to July 2022.

On November 16, two French administrative regions announced outdoor mask mandates for a number of towns due to rising Covid-19 cases.

Masks are mandatory outdoors in 12 towns In the department of Ariège, located in the south of France, until December 15, while the central departement of Loir-et-Cher has stipulated that masks must be worn outdoors in three of its towns, along with public gatherings.

Throughout the rest of the country, masks are currently only mandatory in crowded places outdoors such as markets and stadiums. However, they are now mandatory in public spaces indoors and on public transport once again.

As of November 15, face masks are also mandatory in elementary schools once again.

Useful links

French government official site

Advice for foreign nationals planning trips to France

Tous Anti Covid app

Covid-19 official advice

Our latest coverage

Read more about how France has imposed new Covid-19 restrictions and how feminist street art is becoming commonplace around Paris.

In other developments, the European country has passed a law protecting the “sensory heritage” of its rural areas, and its future for sleeper trains looks bright. Want to know what it feels like to try to become French? CNN’s Channon Hodge gave it a go back in 2008.

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Joe Minihane, Julia Buckley and Tamara Hardingham-Gill contributed to this report

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