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TRAVEL

5 million cheap train tickets go on sale as France lifts travel restrictions

As France lifted rules limiting travel for leisure and tourism purposes, national rail company SNCF released 5 million rail tickets for prices up to €39.

5 million cheap train tickets go on sale as France lifts travel restrictions
Train travel plunged with the Covid-19 restrictions imposed this spring, and many will be eager to visit friends and family in other parts of France this summer. Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

SNCF on Monday launched its summer sale campaign aimed at boosting train bookings as France’s 10 kilometre-rule restricting travel disappeared.

The chief of the rail company, Christophe Fanichet, told French daily Le Parisien that the goal was to “respond to the expectations of the people in France, who now want to go away.”

READ ALSO 10 of the best Covid-compliant activities in France this summer

The offer included 5 million tickets in total capped at €39 maximum on the high speed TGV Inoui trains, low cost Ouigo trains and regional Intercité trains, covering 3,000 destinations over the summer holiday period, according to Fanichet.

While the trips included journeys as late as August 29th, the offer will only remain in place until May 19th, the date when France enters its second reopening phase, if the health situation permits.

IN DETAIL The calendar for reopening France after lockdown 

Furthermore, the rail company will put on sale a special offer for children under 12 years old, with summer holiday tickets sold at €8 between May 4th and May 15th.

All these tickets will be exchangeable and fully refundable until three days before departure, which is the policy for the summer holiday period.

SNCF’s last year relaxed its policy on exchanging tickets due to the health situation and allowed customers to cancel or change their journey up until departure.

Those cancellation policies would expire on May 9th. From May 10th until August 29th the new rules will take effect, meaning travellers cancelling later than three days prior to their journey would be paying the standard fare.

SNCF said it was planning to increase the number of trains running in the months to come, reaching an 80 percent service on its TGV high speed trains compared to the 40 percent currently.

The third lockdown, albeit a partial one, left rail company SNCF in dire straits. The rule restricting travel over 10km to essential errands only sent train bookings plunging, and only 5 percent of the TGV high speed trains were fully booked in April, according to Le Parisien.

Travellers coming into France from other countries within the EU must bring with them a negative PCR Covid test taken less than 72 hours before departure. Full rules on travel into France HERE.

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TOURISM

Tourism minister: Book your French ski holiday now

France’s ski resorts will be open for business this winter, tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne has promised - but no decision has yet been taken on whether a health pass will be required to use ski lifts.

Skiers at a French Alpine resort
Photo: Philippe Desmazes / AFP

“This winter, it’s open, the resorts are open,” Lemoyne told France 2’s 4 Vérités programme.

“Compared to last year, we have the vaccine,” he said, adding that he would “invite those who have not yet done so to [book], because … there will soon be no more room.”

And he promised an answer ‘in the next few days’ to the question of whether health passes would be required for winter holidaymakers to use ski lifts. “Discussions are underway with the professionals,” he said.

The stakes are high: the closure of ski lifts last winter cost manufacturers and ski shops nearly a billion euros. 

This year ski lifts will remain open, but a health pass may be necessary to access them. The health pass is already compulsory for après ski activities such as visits to bars, cafés and restaurants.

COMPARE The Covid rules in place at ski resorts around Europe

Many town halls and communities which depend on winter sports have found it difficult or impossible to make ends meet.

“It’s time for the French mountains to revive,” Lemoyne said, pointing to the fact that the government has provided “more than €6 billion” in aid to the sector.

Winter tourism professionals, however, have said that they are struggling to recruit for the winter season.

“Restaurant and bars are very affected,” by the recruitment crisis, one expert told Franceinfo, blaming a lack of urgency from authorities towards the winter holiday industry.

“We are all asking ourselves what we should do tomorrow to find full employment in the resort,” the expert added.

Post-Brexit visa and work permit rules mean that ski businesses have found it difficult to recruit Brits for short-term, seasonal positions.

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