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Flights, trains and ferries – what transport services are running to France?

As France lifts its travel restrictions (at least for travel within Europe) transport companies are increasing services. Here's a look at what is running.

Flights, trains and ferries - what transport services are running to France?
All photos: AFP

France reopened its borders to travel from within Europe on June 15th and since then transport companies have been gradually increasing services as demand rises.

Travel into France from any country in the EU or he Schengen zone is now completely unrestricted, with the exception of the UK.

The UK has imposed a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals, including those from France.

In response France has imposed a quarantine on arrivals from the UK, but this is voluntary and will not attract enforcement or fines. There are also quite a few exemptions.

READ ALSO Who will be quarantined on arrival in France?

Travel from outside Europe is still restricted to essential travel only until at least July 1st.

READ ALSO Will Americans be able to travel to France from July?

So now that restrictions are lifted, how can you actually get here?

Channel Tunnel

The tunnel has been open throughout the lockdown, as it is a major carrier of freight traffic but it has also been running limited passenger services throughout.

The passenger services are now running hourly although the terminal buildings are still closed.

If you are travelling from France to the UK you will need to fill in a quarantine form before you travel.

Pre-booked journeys until September can be cancelled for free.

Eurostar

The Eurostar has also been running throughout the lockdown, but with very limited services – just train one a day for most of the lockdown.

Until July 8th, the Eurostar is only stopping at London, Paris and Brussels with no services to Ashford, Calais, Marne La Vallée (for Disneyland Paris), Lille or the Netherlands. For the remainder of the summer there will be no Eurostar services to Lyon, Avignon or Marseille, although French domestic services are running to those cities.

Masks are compulsory when on the train and in the station and are also compulsory in French, Belgian and UK stations and there is no onboard catering.

Ferries

During the lockdown Brittany Ferries was running freight services only but has now announced that passenger services will restart from June 29th. This will be a gradual return to service with fewer sailings and restrictions on passenger numbers – find more information here.

P&O ferries are still running passengers services, currently around five sailings per day on UK-France routes.

Passengers are offering free alterations on their tickets, but not free cancellations.

DFDS is also running passenger services, although bars and restaurants onboard are closed. Face masks are compulsory on board.

Flights

BA and Air France/KLM are still running flights between UK to France, the majority of them to/from Paris. Ryanair and Easyjet have both announced that they intend to resume international services from July, having restarted mainly domestic routes in France and the UK. 

Driving

With the borders open and an earlier requirement for quarantine in Spain now scrapped you can once again driver over the border from Spain, Andorra, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg or Belgium.

Restrictions in France

Once you get to France you will find that most of the lockdown restrictions have been lifted, including the 100km travel rule.

However there are still some restrictions in place, in addition to the general health advice on social distancing and hand washing and masks are also compulsory in many places.

READ ALSO The 9 lockdown rules you still need to follow in France

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READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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