New rules: Everything you need to know about travel between France and the UK

Travel rules between France and the UK
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP
As the British government brings in strict new travel rules, here's what you need to know about travelling between France and the UK.

The French government has announced a new testing requirement for all non-EU travellers – including the UK – from Saturday, December 4th.

From this date, the rules will be as below with one exception – all travellers, vaccinated or nor, will require a negative Covid test in order to enter France. The test must have been taken within 48 hours of travel and cannot be a lateral flow test.

From the UK to France before Saturday, December 4th

If you are not vaccinated

France’s traffic light system differentiates between vaccinated and non-vaccinated travellers – find a full explanation of how it works HERE – the UK is currently on the amber list. 

Unvaccinated travellers are allowed into France for essential reasons only, meaning they have to fall into certain criteria.

You can find the full list of accepted reasons HERE but it is strict, with no travel allowed for family visits, visits for second-home owners or holidays. French citizens are permitted to enter, along with students, and EU citizens who are permanent residents of France or other EU countries and non-EU citizens (including Brits) who are permanent residents of France.

You will need to show a negative Covid test at the French border – this can be either a PCR or antigen test, but must have been taken within the previous 24 hours. This applies to all unvaccinated travellers, including French or EU citizens and residents of France. Children under 12 do not need to take a test.

READ ALSO Can tourists use the French health pass without a booster?

You will need to quarantine for seven days on arrival in France. This can be done at a location of your choice and there will be no police checks during the quarantine period. You are also requested to take a second Covid test at the end of your quarantine period. This applies to everyone, including French or EU citizens and residents of France.

You will need to complete a declaration stating your reason for travel – you can find the declaration HERE.

You will also need to sign a declaration stating that you do not have any Covid symptoms, have not had any contact with somebody who has tested positive and will abide by the quarantine requirement. The declaration is available HERE.

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From the UK and vaccinated 

You can travel to France for any reason, including holidays, with no restrictions. You do not need to quarantine nor do you need to provide a negative Covid test before travelling or after arrival, which is in stark contrast to the rules for travelling to the UK (see below).

You must only provide proof of vaccination and a declaration stating that you do not have Covid symptoms and are not a contact case, which can be found HERE.

To count as fully vaccinated travellers must:

  • Have received a vaccine that is approved by the European Medicines Agency – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca (including Covishield, which is now recognised by France) or Johnson & Johnson (known as Janssen in France) 
  • Be at least 7 days after the second injection for double-dose vaccines or after a single dose for those people who had previously had Covid-19
  • Be at least 28 days after the injection for people who had the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine

You can prove your vaccination status using an NHS certificate, in either paper or digital form or the EU Covid Certificate that you get if jabbed in EU countries.

Children – under 12s do not need to present a Covid test. Children over the age of 12 and not vaccinated will need to show a negative Covid test, but if they are travelling with fully vaccinated parents or guardians they do not need to prove a ‘vital reason’ for travel.

READ ALSO Can families with unvaccinated children holiday in France?

And if you’re still confused, the French Consulate in London has produced this handy flow chart for travel.

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Once in France, bear in mind that you will need a health passport to access certain venues – full details HERE. The NHS vaccination certificate is now compatible with the French health pass app.

The health pass is required for all over-12s.

And don’t forget that since the end of the Brexit transition period there are extra restrictions in place on everything from health insurance and visas to sandwiches.

READ ALSO What Brexit has changed for British visitors to France

From France to the UK

From 4am on Tuesday, November 30th, the UK government is bringing in new rules. These affect travel to England, wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The existing rules remain in place around the Passenger Locator Form, while unvaccinated travellers still have to purchase a Day 2 and Day 8 test and quarantine for 10 days on arrival.

But from Tuesday, a new requirement will apply for all vaccinated arrivals (including UK citizens and residents). They must do a PCR test for their Day 2 test (antigen tests are no longer accepted) and they must self-isolate until a negative result from the test arrives.

The self-isolation can be done at home or at the address of family/friends. Only arrivals from red list countries including South Africa face hotel quarantine. You cannot leave self-isolation until the test result arrivals.

You are permitted to travel by public transport to get from the airport/port/station to you quarantine address.

Since the summer, numerous readers of The Local have flagged up the slow and unreliable nature of many UK test providers – tests can only be booked from the list of ‘government approved’ suppliers from this list and NHS tests cannot be used for this purpose.

The Day 2 test must be ordered ahead of travel – without a booking reference you cannot complete the Passenger Locator Form which is required to board all transport to the UK.

The test can be taken “on or before day 2”, so you can take it as soon as you arrive in the UK.

You can find the Passenger Locator Form HERE. But beware of technical glitches with the form in recent weeks.

There are three options for tests;

  • Home tests – these test packs are sent out to the address where you will be staying. You do the test at home and then post the sample to the lab, who email you the results when ready. There have been problems with test kits for some providers not arriving at the address given, while others take up to 10 days to email out the results – even for people who have paid extra for a quick-results service.

  • Test centre tests – this involves booking in advance at a test centre near where you will be staying – people self-isolating are permitted to leave the address and go to a test centre. It can be hard to find a test centre near you, especially if you are outside London. The test centre then posts off the sample to the lab and you wait for the results by email, again this can take several days to arrive. 
  • Airport tests – it is compulsory to have booked the Day 2 test in advance, but if you want to avoid long waits for results, many airports now offer PCR tests with rapid results, in around three hours in some cases. However these are expensive and likely to get more expensive in the coming days as the UK government does not have any kind of price cap on testing. 

Other things to be aware of

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided by the French health pass / EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in France – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK and still have to quarantine.

You are only permitted to use a test provider from the list of government-approved firms – find that HERE and find our guide to the Byzantine world of Day 2 tests HERE.

Anyone over the age of 4 needs to take a test on day two of arrival in the UK.

If you are staying less than two days in the UK, you still need to book the Day 2 test, but are allowed to leave quarantine in order to travel out of the country.

Find further information on UK travel rules HERE.

And a word of warning – once you are in the UK if you are pinged as a contact case you may have to self-isolate for 10 days as the NHS Test and Trace programme refuses to recognise vaccinations administered outside the UK.

Member comments

  1. As a double vaccinated (Pfizer) Brit expat planning to travel from France to England, one accepts that rules are to be followed. BUT looking at a wider view, does a negative PCR test mean one is negative for life and a positive PCR test mean positive for life? If not, for how long either way before one’s infectious condition turns to neutral (or unknown)? If the negative time is limited, what is the point if a negative test can become worthless medically or epidaemiologically, so one can spread one’s infection wherever one goes? I don’t want to be awkward but let’s get real.

  2. I have been contacted twice by NHS Test and Trace since returning from France on Monday. I had someone turn up on the doorstep yesterday and phone me demanding to know why I wasn’t there and answering the door. It seems that NHS Test and Trace have not updated their software to reflect the rule change to reflect the change in France’s status from ‘Amber plus’ to ‘Amber’. Alternatively they might just be a complete and utter shambles.

  3. I’m just discovering that on the locator form it says this “You will need to provide a contact address while in the UK and a Day 2 test booking number.” Well I guess I will book but never show up.

  4. Strange, my recent comment doesn’t show up. I was wondering if I go to the UK for just two days if I need to book the test. Would seem not.

  5. The french government have a policy of only giving one shot of vaccine if you have had covid. This is the case for me. I have a EU health passport but I am worried that the UK will not accept this as fully vaccinated as they have stuck with a 2 shot policy regardless of if you have had covid in the past. Any advice?

    1. I think you’ll be fine since other EU countries have also done this initiative and they have been letting them in. I am in the same boat as you – but if you have the EU covid passport I think it’s absolutely fine.

  6. Only 3-4 weeks between the two Moderna shots in France. I’ve had AZ and had to wait the full 12 weeks.

  7. Taken from the uk government website

    If you’re travelling to England for less than 10 days
    If you’re travelling to England for less than 10 days, you will need to quarantine for the whole of your stay.

    You must still book your day 2 and day 8 travel tests, even if you will no longer be in England on the dates of the tests.

    You only need to take the tests if you’re still in the country on those dates.

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