February holidays in France - what are the rules and the official advice?

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February holidays in France - what are the rules and the official advice?
Winter walks on the beach at Biarritz. Photo: AFP

The two-week February school holiday is traditionally a time when people in France travel and visit friends or relatives, so what is allowed under the current rules?


February 13th marks the second tranche of the February school holidays, when schools in zone C break up, followed by schools in zone B which break up on February 20th, with holidays running until March 8th.

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Usually in France this is a time for people to travel and see friends and relatives, while schools often run trips to ski centres or foreign countries. Italy is a popular destination and the high number of February holidays in Italy this time last year was one of the factors credited with the rapid spread of the then-new Covid virus from Italy to France.

Obviously this year, things will be very different. So what is allowed under the current rules and what does the government advise?

Prime Minister Jean Castex earlier in the month said: "We have chosen not to limit travel between regions. Such a measure would have been justified if the circulation of the virus was very uneven between regions. This is not the case."

He also praised people who over Christmas took great care with testing and health protocols and therefore avoided a post-Christmas spike.

However the French government can and does rapidly introduce new rules if the health situation deteriorates, so keep an eye on our homepage here for the latest.

READ ALSO Third lockdown 'not inevitable' says French government spokesman

International travel

Travel into France is heavily restricted so for most people a trip to France will not be possible.

If you want to travel from outside the EU, including the UK, then pretty much forget it - France's borders are closed to all travel from outside the EU apart from a small list of exemptions for really vital travel. This does not include holidays, family visits or visits from second home owners. Full details of the rules HERE.

If you are within the EU or the Schengen zone there is no need to prove that your journey is essential, but there are quite a few rules and requirements in place. Plenty of EU countries have testing and or/quarantine requirements in place for all arrivals from France, while to enter France from an EU or Schengen zone country requires a PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours and a sworn statement that you have no Covid symptoms. Full details of the rules HERE.

Advice - both French and European leaders have asked people to cut their international travel to a minimum.


Domestic travel

But what about those already in France who want to visit friends or family in another part of the country or just enjoy a change of scenery?

At present there are no limits on travel within France so you can travel to another part of the country.

Ski lifts will remain closed throughout February, which will rule out skiing for most people (unless you are a cross-country skiing enthusiast) but travel to ski resorts is allowed to do some hiking or just drinking in the mountain scenery.

The train network is running a normal service and all train tickets are fully refundable up to a couple of hours before travel. 

Travel to France's overseas territories such as Guadeloupe and Martinique is not allowed for tourism or family visits.

Visits to family/friends 

France is not on lockdown so visiting family and friends is allowed. There is no formal limit on gatherings within a private home but people are advised to keep gatherings to a maximum of six people, plus children.

Gatherings of more than 10 people in public places are not allowed and public events such as festivals or concerts are not going ahead. Markets are allowed to operate.

Advice - while there are not many rules around visits, there is a lot of government advice, with government spokesman Gabriel Attal on Wednesday generally asking people to limit contacts as much as possible.

As mentioned above the 'rule of six' limits gatherings in private homes to six, although this is a recommendation rather than a rule.

If you are travelling, particularly if you intend to meet anyone in a high-risk group such as the elderly, the advice is to self-isolate for eight days before travel if possible and get a Covid test.


Other rules

As well as the travel specifics, there are a host of other rules still in place, including the 6pm to 6am curfew. This applies across France, one of the exemptions for being out after curfew is air or rail travel, so if your train doesn't get in until 6.30pm that is allowed, but you will need a curfew attestation form and your tickets to show to police in the event of being stopped. Otherwise you will have to stay in at night.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry warned that there will be no 'general tolerance' for people travelling by car to their destination to break curfew.

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Bars, restaurants, cafés, gyms, pools, theatres, cinemas, museums and most tourist attractions remain closed.

Masks are compulsory in all indoor public spaces and around 400 local authorities, including all France's larger towns and cities, have also made them compulsory in streets and parks. 

Advice - everyone is asked to practice les gestes barrières, keeping 2m distance from other people, avoiding handshakes and kisses, washing and disinfecting hands regularly and sneezing/coughing into elbows.


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