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‘We’ll be on the first plane out’ – the Americans keen to visit France again

The long-awaited announcement of the resumption of tourism into France from the USA came with several conditions including a compulsory 'health passport' for all travellers, but that doesn't seem to be putting people off making travel plans.

'We'll be on the first plane out' - the Americans keen to visit France again
Photo: Ian Langsdon/AFP

When laying out the four-step plan for the reopening of France from lockdown, president Emmanuel Macron included one date of particular significance to Americans – from June 9th, travel can again restart from all non EU countries.

IN DETAIL: France’s calendar for reopening after lockdown

However there were several caveats to this announcement

  • Later stages of the reopening could be postponed if the health situation deteriorates
  • France is currently on the US State Department’s ‘Level 4’ list of countries travel is advised against due to the health situation
  • Travel will only be possible with a health passport, showing that the traveller is either fully vaccinated or has had a recent negative Covid test

So have these conditions put off American travellers?

Well certainly not the readers of The Local who answered our survey, whose answers to the question ‘will you travel to France once it is possible?’ mostly ranged from ‘yes’ to ‘hell, yes!’.

READ ALSO Who can travel to France as the country lifts its lockdown?

Travel plans

Of the people who answered our questionnaire, 86 percent said they intend to travel to France again as soon as possible.

California resident Jordan said: “I booked my flight as soon as I saw the news. I might kiss the ground when I get to return in June! It’s been way too long.”

Elaine and Bill Parker, of Colorado, said: “Yes!!! We already have an apartment booked for June in Paris, rescheduled from last September when we had to cancel.

“We have both shots, will be happy to get tested as well as get health passes.”

Gail, of Austin, Texas said: “We are vaccinated and are more than happy to obtain the health pass. We have already purchased our tickets for the summer to avoid rising prices and will be on a plane as soon as they open the borders!”

Bill Hebert, of Dallas, Texas, said: “We’ll be happy to be back, because we haven’t been able to visit Paris for about 18 months now. We miss France and we miss spending time in our apartment in the Marais.

“We would also like to spend a vacation in France hiking in the French Alps, but our trips have been cancelled or postponed due to COVID. Once France is re-opened, we’d like to reschedule those trips.” 

The Herberts were among many people who were rescheduling trips that had to be cancelled over the past year.

Connie, of Clinton, Maryland, said: “I had to cancel three trips I had booked before March of 2020, and I can’t wait to return! I’m booked for September.”

Dr Meg Allyn Krilov, of New York, added: “We had originally rented an apartment in Paris for May and June 2020 as I had studied in Lille and Paris is one of my favourite places. The pandemic upended those plans.

“Now that we can travel again, we can’t wait to go back and enjoy the most wonderful city in the world!”

Concerns

Of the people who do not plan to travel straight away, the most common reason given was concern about the health situation in France, which is emerging from its third wave but still has a high rate of cases with severe pressure on hospitals in some areas.

The Paris area, always popular with tourists, currently has the highest infection rates in France.

Christina Zorbas, of New York, said: “Paris is my favourite place in the world, and after numerous long stays in the city, I’d also like to enjoy the beaches in the south during the summer.

“I do have concerns, however. The Île-de-France region still has high rates of infection. Also, as someone who has been fully vaccinated (Pfizer), a large percentage of the French population won’t be vaccinated when I arrive. In addition, allowing those who are unvaccinated to enter the country puts not only myself at risk, but also the French, worsening the country’s COVID rates.”

The health passport itself was also cited as a reason for not visiting – with 13 percent saying they did not want to get vaccinated and another 13 percent saying they believed the concept of vaccine passports are unfair.

Full details of exactly how the health pass will work have not yet been revealed, but the pass will have options to upload either a vaccination certificate or a recent negative Covid test.

READ ALSO How will France’s ‘health passport’ work?

Doug Tennant, of Florida, said: “I am fully vaccinated and anxious to get back to France. I am grateful for the Covid passport. My concern as an American is how will my CDC vaccination card be loaded unto the pass or will I be able to use my actual CDC vaccination card?” 

Other reasons given were practical – people who need visas for their visit were unsure when processing would start again while some people who had cancelled several trips already over the past year decided to wait until things were more certain before booking again.

Others wanted to wait until things like cafés and museums have fully reopened while a small number were put off by French health rules including mask-wearing.

Kate Gooderham, Florida: “We plan to travel in September. We will want to be sure places are open so we can freely travel and won’t be locked down!”

Reasons for visiting

While the majority of people who answered were travelling for holidays, there was also a significant number of second-home owners and people who had family members in France who they have not been able to see in more than a year, since travel from outside the EU Bloc was suspended in March 2020.

Maine resident Janet Caner said: “My son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter live in France. I have not been able to visit them since October. I will be on a plane the minute the borders open.”

Denise McCauley of Ann Arbor, Michigan, also plans to travel as soon as possible, saying: “I can’t wait to see my grandson in Vincennes!”

Lynn Crosby, who usually splits her time between Los Angeles and Paris, simply added: “I haven’t seen my husband in over a year!”

Fiona Engebretson, of Washington, is particularly determined to get here, saying: “We bought a house near Eymet in January of 2020 and planned to move permanently to France this summer for retirement.

“We’ve had a two-year plan to make it happen and we’re going to do it no matter what.”

Many thanks to everyone who took the time to answer our questionnaire, it was lovely to hear from so many people keen to return to France. You can find the latest on the travel situation in our Travelling to France section.

Member comments

  1. The question remains: When will Long-stay visitor visas be available again. If the Local can find a definitive answer to that question, you will be idolized.

  2. I agree with Baw– an article on this and resident visas for Americans would be great. I have a flight out on June 9th and hope they accept the CDC card (I am bringing other verification as well). An article–as soon as you know- regarding how to upload for the pass would be good too.

  3. I am curious to see if the French will take their normal grandes vacances in August or will they keep their businesses open for the much missed tourism.

    1. August is sacrosanct for the French (like Christmas for Britons and Americans) – and ‘la joie de vivre’/family-time always comes ahead of business. Therefore, I would not count on this August being any different from any other in terms of smalltown stores, public builidings, etc being closed for the month, usually with a hand-written note on the door saying: “En congé, bonnes vacances à tous, réouverture le 31 août”. On the other hand, tourist-linked businesses should be open for business ‘as usual’ (most COVID restrictions due to be removed on 30th June).

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TRAVEL

6 European cities less than seven hours from France by train

Looking to travel outside of France this summer, but want to avoid flying? Take advantage of France's excellent high-speed train network to explore Europe.

6 European cities less than seven hours from France by train

Train travel has all sorts of advantages – it’s better for the environment and journeys usually end in the centre of the city you want to visit, rather than in an airport several kilometres away.

The journey time is of course longer, but this isn’t always a bad thing – take some time to relax, drink in the view (and some decent wine that you can bring on board with you – no 100ml liquid limit on trains), enjoy a good book or binge on a box set and the journey becomes part of your holiday.

Here’s our pick of the European cities that have direct train links from France, with all journeys coming in at under seven hours. We’ve provided a price guide, but obviously prices change depending on when you travel and when you book.

Paris to Munich

There are typically at least 10 direct trains taking the 684 km trip from Paris to Munich each day. On average, the journey takes about seven and a half hours, but the fastest version of the journey can be as little as five hours and 45 minutes. 

How much? Prices depend on the season and time of day, but the average ticket cost is €105. 

Are other transportation options more affordable? By plane, Google Flights says that the average cost is between €55 to €150. In contrast, however, the flight time is about an hour and a half. If you were to drive, it would take eight hours and 48 minutes. At the time of writing, this trip would cost between €135 to €165 euro for fuel.

Screenshot from Google Maps of a journey from Paris, France to Munich, Germany

Paris to Turin/Milan

On a typical day, nine trains run from Paris to Milan – going through Turin on the way for an alternative Italian destination. Though the average route time is seven hours and 51 minutes, the fastest train can get you to mainland Europe’s second fashion capital in just six hours and 54 minutes.

The latter part of the route – up through the Alps passing beautiful villages and snow-capped peaks – is also particularly scenic.

How much: The average cost for a train ticket is €92, though a ticket can reportedly cost as little as €19 if you book in advance.  

Flights cost between €60 and €150, with a flight time of about an hour and a half. For other transportation options, you could consider taking a bus. This journey would be around 12 hours, and an average bus ticket would cost approximately €52. 

By car, the journey would be closer to nine hours, and the average cost of fuel would come out to between €151 to €185.

A screenshot of google maps for a journey from Paris to Milan

Paris/Lyon/Marseille to Barcelona

There are multiple French cities with a direct rail link to Barcelona. If you leave from Paris, the fastest journey can take as little as six hours and 44 minutes, and the average cost is €238.

From Marseille, it would take four hours and 32 minutes, and the average cost is €115.

If you leave from Lyon, the fastest travel time is five hours and five minutes.

This is another journey that offers great views of southern France and the Pyrenees.

How much: Rail Europe says that these tickets, when bought 30 days in advance, will cost around €104, in contrast to €88 (usually) if booked 7 days in advance.

If you are trying to get from Paris to Barcelona and you want to avoid train travel, the most affordable option you can do is fly from the budget airport (Beauvais). The least expensive flights from Paris to Barcelona are typically between €50 to €155. 

On average, a bus ride from Paris to Barcelona would be about 14 hours and 15 minutes, with average tickets costing around €80. If you want to take a road trip and drive yourself, you would likely pay approximately €176 to €216 (depending on the car you drive). 

If you are looking to go elsewhere in Spain, and you’re willing to travel a bit longer by train, the journey from Paris to Madrid is about nine hours and 38 minutes.

Screenshot of Google Maps from Paris to Barcelona

Lille/Paris to Amsterdam

Heading from France to the Netherlands is pretty easy. You can leave from Lille (average fastest time being two hours and 45 minutes) or you can leave from Paris (average fastest time also being three hours and 19 minutes). If you’re coming to/from the UK both the Paris and Lille trains give the option of a connection to the Eurostar.

How much: If you take the train from Lille, the cost is on average €107. Whereas, the cost from Paris is €144. 

To fly to Amsterdam from Paris, the least expensive flights usually fall between €85 to €125. Taking a bus to Amsterdam is quite affordable with average prices being at €47. The time to travel by bus from Paris to Amsterdam six hours and 25 minutes. From Lille, the bus time is shorter and also less expensive: travel time is about three hours and 26 minutes, and the average ticket costs €17.

Driving from Paris to Amsterdam is about €92 to €113 in fuel costs, and the travel time is about five hours and 46 minutes.

A screenshot from Google Maps showing the journey from Paris to Amsterdam

Paris to Frankfurt

The shortest train trip from Paris to Frankfurt is three hours and 38 minutes, with the average trip taking about four hours and 20 minutes. There are about 15 trains that make this journey per day.

How much: The average cost for this journey is €40, which usually stays the same if you book with a week of advanced notice, according to Rail Europe’s website.

If you would prefer to fly, the average cost for the ‘least expensive flights’ fall between €115 and €315, with a flight time of about an hour and 15 minutes. If you take the bus, on the other hand, the travel time is seven hours and 45 min, with the average ticket costing around €44.

Driving from Paris to Frankfurt takes a little over six hours, and in terms of fuel it costs typically between €80 and €98. 

A screenshot of the journey from Paris to Frankfurt from Google Maps

And if you want to plan ahead for next year, there will soon be a new sleeper train from Paris to Berlin, as well as from Paris to Vienna!

READ MORE: Paris-Berlin high-speed train ‘possible next year’

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