French gites, bars and restaurants: When can they reopen?

Tourism businesses of all types in France have been hit hard by lockdown, and not all have clarity on when they can reopen.

French gites, bars and restaurants: When can they reopen?
Photo: AFP

Tourist businesses in France were suspended by government order from March 15th – two days before the lockdown began – and with home-working not an option, people working in this sector have had little choice but to sign up for government financial help and count the days until they can start trading again.

As the lockdown starts to be lifted, some types of businesses can begin operating again, but for many the future is still not clear.

Cafés and bars were ordered to close the weekend before the nation went into lockdown. Photo: AFP

Gites, camp sites and B&Bs

These type of businesses are allowed to open in the first phase of the lockdown lifting, from May 11th, provided they can ensure appropriate social distancing measures for customers and staff.

International travel into France is still heavily restricted so there won't be any foreign tourists, but people in France are now permitted to travel up to 100km from home.

The Prime Minister when announcing the measures said “now is not the time for weekend trips” but it seems that many people are not quite taking him at his word.

Some gite and B&B owners, particularly those within 100km of big cities like Paris, have reported a surge in bookings as people desperate for a change of scene and some fresh air book in for a couple of days.

Olivier Sergirac, who runs a gite and two chalets in Yvelines, close to Paris, says he has been booked out since the lockdown lifted.

He told France Info: “As many people can work remotely, since it's encouraged, I think a lot of people come to get some fresh air, take in the green spaces, with their laptop and a few files.”

Looking ahead to the summer, we don't know when either the international restrictions or the 100km rule will be lifted – both depend on the virus situation.

However French people are being encouraged to take holidays in France this year, both to avoid international travel and to help the tourist businesses.

Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne, when asked about holidays in July and August, said: “This is not the time to buy a ticket to go to the other side of the planet.
“We can recommend that French people enjoy our beautiful country for the next holidays, which will also help the tourism sector.”

READ ALSO When will I be able to travel to France again

Bars, cafés and restaurants

For the moment these stay shut, and a decision will be taken at the end of May on when and how they can reopen. However, restaurants and cafés are allowed to offer a takeaway service.

The hospitality industry – which employs one million people in France – has been lobbying for a tax exemption for 2020, cancellation of rents for six months and at least a partial covering by the state of operating losses. 

Chef and French TV star Philip Etchebest has previously warned that without government help up to 40 percent of France's bars, cafés and restaurants could never reopen after the lockdown.

For bars and cafés – particularly the crammed Paris café terraces – reopening while practising social distancing is likely to be very difficult.

The mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo has proposed closing off entire streets to vehicles to allow cafés to expand their cramped terraces out into the street.

Speaking after a video call with the president and representatives of the tourist industry, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said: “It is very hard financially. It is a psychological shock that you cannot under-estimate for the 246,000 restaurant establishments in France.

“We will be there at the moment they open and in the months to come.”

In the meantime, anyone running a tourist related business could be eligible for the government's financial aid packages, which have now been extended to cover May as well as March and April

Banner ad


Museums, galleries and tourist sites

This is a mixed category, since some smaller museums and galleries are permitted to open from May 11th, if they can ensure appropriate social distancing for visitors and staff.

Larger museums and tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower, which usually attract millions of visitors every year will remain closed until at least phase 2 – which begins on June 2nd – and possibly longer.




Member comments

  1. As much information as can be provided about international travelers wanting to return to France is appreciated — please keep us updated! We have loved ones we are unable to visit with no exceptions to speak of enabling us to see them.

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


EU delays passport scan system and €7 travel fee until 2023

Two major changes that were due to come into force in 2022 for travellers entering the EU - an enhanced passport scanning system and the introduction of a €7 visa for tourists - have been delayed for a year.

EU delays passport scan system and €7 travel fee until 2023

Although both the EES and ETIAS schemes are still due to be introduced in the European Commission has pushed back the start dates for both until 2023.

It comes amid a chaotic summer for travel in Europe, with airports struggling with staff shortages and strikes while some crossings from the UK to France have been hit by long delays as extra post-Brexit checks are performed during the peak holiday season. 

The two separate changes to travel in the EU and Schengen zone were originally due to come into effect in 2020, but were delayed because of the pandemic. Now the EES system is expected to come into effect in May 2023, while ETIAS will come into effect in November 2023. 

The EES – Entry and Exit System – is essentially enhanced passport scanning at the EU’s borders and means passports will not only be checked for ID and security, but also for entry and exit dates, in effect tightening up enforcement of the ’90 day rule’ that limits the amount of time non-EU citizens can spend in the Bloc without having a visa.

It will not affect non-EU citizens who live in an EU country with a residency permit or visa.

There have been concerns that the longer checks will make transiting the EU’s external borders slower, a particular problem at the UK port of Dover, where the infrastructure is already struggling to cope with enhanced post-Brexit checks of people travelling to France.

You can read a full explanation of EES, what it is and who is affects HERE.

The ETIAS system will apply to all non-EU visitors to an EU country – eg tourists, second-home owners, those making family visits and people doing short-term work.

It will involve visitors registering in advance for a visa and paying a €7 fee. The visa will be valid for three years and can be used for multiple trips – essentially the system is very similar to the ESTA visa required for visitors to the USA. 

Residents of an EU country who have a residency card or visa will not need one.

You can read the full details on ETIAS, how it works and who it affects HERE.

Both systems will apply only to people who do not have citizenship of an EU country – for example Brits, Americans, Australians and Canadians – and will be used only at external EU/Schengen borders, so it won’t be required when travelling between France and Germany, for example.