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TRAVELLING TO FRANCE

What you need to know about UK quarantine if you are travelling from Europe

From June 8th, the UK has introduced a compulsory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals to its shores - here's what you need to know about the rules if you are travelling from Europe.

What you need to know about UK quarantine if you are travelling from Europe
Photo: AFP

Unlike most European countries, the UK has had no border restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, but from Monday, June 8th, it has introduced a quarantine for all international arrivals.

There are still no restrictions on who can enter the country and no requirement to prove that your trip is essential, but if you are going to the UK – the country with the highest Covid-19 death toll in Europe – from a European country from June 8th you may be subject to quarantine.

Here's what the rules say:

Online form

If you are travelling into the UK you will need to fill out an online form before your arrival, giving your travel details, contact details and the address where you intend to self isolate. Failure to have a filled-out form on arrival in an airport, port or Channel Tunnel terminal could net you a £100 (€112) fine.

The rules apply to everyone entering the UK, both British citizens and foreigners.

Self-isolation

The quarantine obliges people to self-isolate at the address provided for 14 days. You are allowed to take public transport to get to your final destination, although people are asked to use private transport where possible. Masks are not currently compulsory on public transport in the UK, although they will be from June 15th.

While self-isolating you are allowed to leave the address to shop for food. You are not allowed to receive visitors, but if you are self-isolating with friends or family members, they do not need to self-isolate.

Exemptions

There are quite a few groups of people exempt from the restrictions and they include

  • Lorry drivers and other delivery staff
  • Medical professionals engaged in the battle against Covid-19
  • Foreign officials travelling for work, such as the French police officers who work in British ports
  • Anyone travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man
  • Seasonal agricultural workers

British Home Secretary Priti Patel. Photo: AFP

Fines

You can be fined £100 (€112) for not filling in the form or up to £1,000 (€1,120) for breaching self-isolation conditions, while foreign nationals who breach conditions could be deported.

However there is a fair amount of confusion on how this will actually be enforced. The British home secretary Priti Patel, when announcing the measures, said that local health officials would be in charge of enforcing it and could make spot checks, but there has been little detail revealed on how this would work in practice.

The fines will only be enforced in England, as leaders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have yet to say whether and how they will enforce the rules in their jurisdictions.

How long will it go on for?

When announcing the quarantine, Patel said that it would be reviewed every three weeks, which takes us up to June 29th. The policy has been pretty unpopular domestically and is also subject to a legal challenge from airlines Easyjet, Ryanair and BA owner IAG.

Does it affect travel out of the UK?

France has announced that it will take “reciprocal measures” against any country imposing a quarantine, which means that from June 8th, all arrivals in the France from the UK will also be subject to a 14-day quarantine. However in France the measures are voluntary and will not be subject to checks or enforcement.

If you are travelling from the UK to Europe, be sure to check the border restrictions on the country you are travelling to – many European countries are still limiting travel to essential journeys only until at least June 15th.

 

 

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MONEY

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting France

Ever wondered how to avoid paying exorbitant roaming fees when travelling in France? There are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by a big bill.

How to avoid huge 'roaming' phone bills while visiting France

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country than you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but non-Europeans need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with “Three” for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in France. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in France.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:

Orange Holiday

This is one of France’s largest and most reputable telephone companies. The “Orange Holiday” SIM card exists specifically for tourists. At €39.99, you will get a SIM card that will enable you to make and receive calls and texts from a French phone number. You will have unlimited calls and texts within Europe, as well as two hours of calls and 1000 texts outside of Europe (for messaging people at home, for example). You will also have access to 30GB of data in Europe. 

The initial plan is valid for 14 days, and begins as soon as you begin calling, texting, or surfing the web. In order to get this SIM card, you can go into any Orange store and request it. Some supermarkets and airport kiosks might also carry this SIM card.

SFR

SFR is another well-known French phone company. Their pre-paid SIM card is called “La Carte,” and they offer several different options based on how much internet, calling, and texting you want access to. The basic plan is for 30 days and starts at €9.99 a month, which includes a €10 credit. Once the card is in your cellphone, you can add on a top-up option as needed.

You can buy this SIM card either online or in an SFR store. 

La Poste Mobile

This is the French phone company that operates in conjunction to the post office. What is especially convenient about this SIM card is that you should be able to get it at any post office in France. Plans range from €5 to €30 based on the number of days and the amount of calling, texting, and internet you are looking for. 

Bouygues Telecom

Finally, Bouygues Telecom also has some offers for prepaid SIM cards. Their plan, the “My European SIM” is especially made for tourists. It costs €39.90 and allows you unlimited calling and texting in France and Europe. The plan offers 20Gb of data. You can plan ahead for your trip by ordering this card online, but you can only activate it once you arrive in France.

The card actually comes along with a tourist guide (offered in 10 languages) and a map of Paris Metro.

Contract

Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in France, it is important to be sure you are buying a pre-paid SIM, rather than accidentally signing up for a monthly plan.

Some mobile phone carriers offer very affordable monthly plans, which might look appealing to tourists. However, these plans will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, and many involve complex processes, including sending a registered cancellation letter (in French), in order to cancel the plan.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.

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