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What you should know about travelling in France this Christmas

As lockdown lifts people in France can travel over the holidays to see friends and family. So what do you need to know about travel under the new rules?

What you should know about travelling in France this Christmas
Traffic predictions for the Christmas holidays can help those planning a drive avoid the heaviest jams. Photo: AFP

What are the rules for travelling?

When France eased its nationwide lockdown on December 15th, the country's inhabitants were once again allowed to freely travel around within the country, although while respecting the strict nighttime curfew.

Those travelling by train, plane or other long-distance services post-curfew hours will however get a curfew exemption, as long as they show their ticket and correctly filled out curfew form to police in the event of a check.

“By car, it's recommended to drive between 6am and 8pm,” French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told BFMTV.

The government has previously said police will be lenient during checks if those driving to their destination arrive after curfew hours, but only if they fill out the curfew attestation stating their reason for travelling and their destination.

READ ALSO: What are the rules under France's new nationwide curfew?

 

The same rules were put in place for international travel, although several other countries have their own in place for arrivals from France, including quarantine and compulsory testing – find out more here.

Face masks remain compulsory on flights and ferries as well as inside all airport, train stations and other public spaces in France, as well as on the street in most of the larger towns and cities.

What kind of services are running?

Inside France, French rail company SNCF has been running on a normal service as of December 15th and all train tickets remain fully reimbursable until January 4th.

For a look at what travel services run internationally, click HERE.

READ ALSO: Who will be able to travel to France this Christmas?

 

Are people actually planning to travel?

It seems like it. SNCF has sold 3 million tickets, the transport minister said on Wednesday, this is more than 1 million tickets above last year’s sales numbers – although transport strikes gripped the country last Christmas and only half the normal services were running.

 

Which days will be the busiest travel days?

School holidays begin this weekend, although the French government has said parents can keep children home from school on Thursday and Friday. This is to achieve the recommended eight days of self-isolation before travel to see relatives, especially those in high-risk groups such as the elderly.

However Bison Futé, the French government-run site that monitors traffic levels, has predicted traffic levels to remain pretty much at a normal level until December 23rd.
 
“The main traffic difficulties are expected on Friday around the large cities but moving around on the big roads should be possible without too many problems,” Bison Futé said.
 
The Paris region especially would see traffic intensify on Friday, the 18th, though only for those departing from the area.
 
Photo: Bison Futé
 
From Saturday until Tuesday 22nd included, Bison Futé predicted the traffic levels to remain as usual across France. On December 23rd the Paris region will become clogged in both directions, but most heavily in the direction of those leaving the capital.
December 24th will be slightly busier than usual in the Paris region (yellow level), while the 25th and 26th will be green across the country.
 
Then, on the 26th, things will ramp up slightly in the northwestern part of France.
 
Photo: Bison Futé
 
 
 
 
Photo: Bison Futé
 
After that Bison Futé has predicted green traffic levels all over France until the 31st, when the Paris region again will be heightened to yellow level, although only for those leaving the capital.
 
Finally, on January 2nd, the Saturday before schools reopen on the 4th, the whole country will see intensified traffic in the return direction, before returning to a normal levels on Sunday.
 
 
Photo: Bison Futé
 

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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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