Travel to France: What to expect when arriving at a French airport

As travel begins to open up more people are flying to France, but with countries around the world offering widely varying health protocols, what can passengers arriving in France expect?

Travel to France: What to expect when arriving at a French airport
Junior transport miniser Jean-Baptiste Djebarri inspects the temperature controls at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. Photo: AFP

France has gradually reopened its borders since June 15th, with all travel from within the EU, UK and Schengen zone now permitted plus travel from the 12 non-European countries on the EU's 'safe' list.

Some limited travel is permitted from countries such as the USA, which are not on the safe list, but for the moment tourism from those countries is not allowed.

READ ALSO When will Americans be able to travel to France again?

And as more passengers begin to travel, airlines – which grounded virtually their entire fleets during the lockdown – have begun to expand their services.

So if you are flying into France, what can you expect at the airport?


France is not operating any compulsory quarantines at present.

French ministers had imposed voluntary quarantines on arrival from the UK and Spain in reciprocity for those countries quarantines, but now they have been lifted there are no restrictions on arrivals from Europe.

For arrivals from outside Europe you will be given information about carrying out a 14-day quarantine at a location of your choosing. This is voluntary and there are no checks in place.

You will see lot of signs reminding you to social distance. Photo: AFP

Temperature screening

Both Paris' Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports have temperature screening on arrival, set up in the luggage area using thermal cameras.

Passengers who record a temperature of above 38C are invited to proceed to a second temperature check, done with a contactless thermometer. If that too shows an elevated temperature, the passenger will be given information on how to access a Covid-19 test. 

Covid-19 testing

Both Paris airports have pop-up testing centres within the airports and passengers arriving from a country where the virus is circulating are invited to get tested.


The testing is voluntary – although strongly advised – for most passengers but for arrivals from these 16 countries were the virus circulation is still strong testing is shortly to become compulsory. Test results are sent out by email within 48 hours.

The test is free.

Bordeaux airport is also offering free testing in the arrivals lounge of the airport, as is Lyon.

Free testing at Bordeaux airport. Photo: AFP


Masks are compulsory in all French airports and on all forms on public transport, including taxis and Ubers.

Once you get into France, masks are compulsory in all enclosed public spaces and not wearing one can net you a €135 fine.

READ ALSO When and where do you ave to wear a mask in France

Businesses and tourist operators in open air spaces are also within their rights to require visitors to wear a mask.

Hygiene gestures

Within French airports and all public spaces you will find hand gel dispensers and signs reminding you to keep at least 1m distance where it is possible to do so.

You will see floor signs marking our 1m distance and some seats will have signs saying they are not in use, in order to space out people in the seated areas of the airport.

The French government also advises that people do not shake hands or do la bise (the French double cheek kiss greeting), to wash their hands regularly and to cough and sneeze into their elbow.

READ ALSO The heath rules and guidelines that tourists in France need to know about

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Revealed: The best cities in France to be a student

Every year, QS best student cities releases its ranking of the world's most student-friendly locations. This year four French cities made the list.

Revealed: The best cities in France to be a student

As a student, some cities are more attractive than others. Each year QS rankings assess 140 cities around the world based on what they have to offer students in terms of their affordability, quality of life, the opinions of former students who studied there, as well as general desirability, employer activity, and how many students live there. 

This year, for the 2023 ranking, five French cities – Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, and Montpellier – made the list, with Paris making the top 10. 

Paris, Lyon and Toulouse have been listed in the ‘best cities’ ranking for several years, but this will be the first year for Montpellier. In order to be included, the population must be a minimum of 250,000 people and the city must be home to at least two universities that have been listed in the QS World University Rankings.

READ ALSO 8 ways to save money as a student in France

This year, France’s cities have moved up in the list. Across the board, two factors improved: “student mix” and desirability. The former measures what proportion of the city is made up of students, as well as the diversity of students and the inclusivity of the city and country for students, while the latter measures general questions like safety, pollution, and how appealing the city is to respondents.

On the other hand, affordability and “student voice” – the rating students gave the city’s friendliness, sustainability, diversity, etc, as well as how many students continue to live there after graduation – went down this year. However, affordability has decreased across the board in student cities around the world. 

France’s cities

Paris – The French capital came in 8th place worldwide and remains an extremely attractive destination for potential students. Paris is home to nine institutions ranked on the QS World University Rankings, and scored well with employment prospects.

The city came in seventh place for “employer activity” this year. The ranking said this is due to Paris graduates being “highly respected by employers” and that “there are lots of international firms based in the city’s business district which frequently hire skilled graduates.” In the student survey, the prospect of being surrounded by “beautiful monuments, history and culture” was appealing, as well as Paris’ nightlife. 

READ ALSO These are the culture shocks you will experience as a foreign student in Paris

Lyon – The gastronomy centre of France ranked 45th in the world, scoring well in terms of “student mix” and affordability. Lyon was credited for low tuition fees for international students. In surveys, students reported enjoying the ‘diversity of students from across the world’ in Lyon.

Toulouse – La ville rose in France’s south west moved up eight places in the ranking this year. Making it into the top 100, Toulouse came out at 78th. Toulouse was praised for its cost of living, as the city offers significantly lower average costs for rent – for example, a one bedroom apartment in the city centre an average of €712 per month, compared to €1,410 in Paris.

Montpellier – This year was Montpellier’s debut on the list, ranking 199th. The city performed well for its first year, especially in terms of affordability – ranking 35th.  

What about the non-French cities?

An overall trend is that cities are becoming less affordable for students.

In terms of rankings, London, held onto its first place spot, which it has had for the past four years, while Seoul and Munich tied for second place. The other European cities to make the top 10 list were Zurich (4th) and Berlin (6th).